Shine a Light


“Lanterns: The Harvest Festival”

designed by Christopher Chung, published by Renegade Game Studios

Create beautiful floating lantern displays and win the favor of the Emperor in this gorgeous tile-laying game. Players start with three lake tiles in their hand. You collect lantern cards as you lay the multi-colored tiles around the lake. Each player will collect a lantern card that matches the direction that they are seated around the table. Earn bonus cards by matching lanterns of the same color to tiles already on the table. Score points by dedications: turning in lanterns in different sets (four of kind, three different pairs, or one of each color) at the beginning of your turn. Earn favor tokens by placing lake tiles next to special platforms on some tiles, and use those tokens to trade in lantern cards for the colors that you will need. The player with the most points from dedication tiles after all the tiles are placed wins!

Tricky tile-laying strategies as you try to maximize the cards you get while avoiding giving your opponents the cards they need as well. Time your actions carefully, as you can only score points at the beginning of the round with your dedications, and the amount of points you earn from dedications decrease with each dedication. Another game of seemingly great beauty and serenity that ends up in cut-throat action as you watch your opponent invariably dedicate one turn before you can.

One Line Verdict: Simple and elegant gameplay allow for complex strategies in this beautiful game.

A Game That Blows Itself Up



designed by Kane Klenko, published by Renegade Game Studios

Work together to defuse the bombs that threaten your ship! In this cooperative dice-drafting game, cards represent bombs. You defuse them by placing the dice drawn from a common pool in whatever combination the cards requires: maybe a certain color or a certain number placed in a certain order. But be careful, you are working with your fellow players and you all draft from a common pool: don’t leave a player without a dice they can use or they will pay a penalty. Oh, and did I mention this was real-time with a 10-minute time limit? Frenzied action as players shout out what they need, what they can work with and what definitely doesn’t help them. Unfortunately, you will usually end up in the last case.

Basic, intuitive rules drive the action and the tension ramps up pretty quickly. A fun app also adds great thematic atmosphere to the whole affair.

One Line Verdict: Fans of real-time cooperative games should beam up to this one. Others watch the ship explode from a safe distance.

Zen Turf War



designed by Jordan Goddard & Mandy Goddard, published by Renegade Game Studios

Get your Zen on in this gorgeously illustrated card-game of flower building.  Build flowers by playing cards in a clever circular pattern. Each round, place up to two petal cards to build up to five different kinds of flowers of five different sizes.  Then claim those complete flowers as points. However, you can also “control” flowers through adorable little bug guardian tokens. Control lets you take a five-point token or to upgrade your abilities.

Don’t let the cover fool or zen aesthetic fool you: best comment about the game isn’t even mine, but from my son: “it’s a pretty game for what amounts to a brutal turf war.”