Review – Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky

Lanterns Dice. Renegade Game Studios, 2019. Chris Bryan, designer. Jason D. Kingsley, John Shulters, and Beth Sobel, artists.

Lanterns Dice box, with fireworks tiles displayed around it.

I’m not sure exactly why, but Em and I have, as the kids say today, been sleeping on roll-and-write games. Maybe it’s because so many seemed to come out at the same time, like it was a new fad. I mean, that never stopped us from playing deck-builders, so I dunno.

Anyway, Em has been wanting to try out the Lanterns-verse for a while, so when we saw Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky for sale at Barnes & Noble, we grabbed it and decided to dip our toes into the roll-and-write waters.

What’s Going On Here?

In Lanterns Dice, you play as an artisan, tasked by the Emperor with decorating the palace lake with colorful lanterns. Players take turns rolling 4 dice into a tray and choosing which die to claim, while the other players get the dice that are now pointed at them. You then fill in a half-square on your pad, which represents your part of the lake. Some lake sections have symbols that give you gifts, or “tokens” that you can check off to activate special moves. Some lake sections feature platforms that let you immediately fill in an adjacent half-square. There are also boats on the water, and you get bonus points for surrounding a boat without filling in any of its space.

At the end of your turn, you have the opportunity to place a fireworks polyomino over matching shapes you’ve filled in on your lake for extra points. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins.

What’s Good Here?

A Lanterns Dice player sheet.

Lantern’s Dice is pretty easy to learn. I think we read the book once (and watched a video), then quickly and started playing with very few questions. Like most, but not all, roll-and-writes (coughROME&ROLLcough), it’s pretty simple, but not in a bad way. You’re rolling some dice and filling in a little triangle each turn, but there is some strategy as to which die you pic, which die you let each opponent have, which valid triangle you cross off…for such a small game, each choice actually gives you a lot to think about.

Also, as you probably already noticed, the game is pretty. I’ve seen some roll-and-write games that just did not look appealing, but this one is nice to look at. Maybe less so once you’ve scribbled all over it, but still, it definitely gives you something to look at, which is good, because you’ll be looking at your individual sheet a lot.

I also love the dice tray. It has just enough room for the 4 dice to sit perfectly, and it is shaped so that when you point one die towards yourself, the other three are pointed orthogonally from you. This makes it easy to see which die goes to which player, which is important if you are laying to keep certain dice results away from certain players.

What’s Not So Good?

Lanterns Dice dice tray.

Well, the dice tray does have it’s shortcomings. It is easy to roll the dice and have them not quite all slide into place, making you tap the tray to jostle the dice. However, that tap you give the tray might change the result of the other dice. I think that if the walls of the tray were just a little steeper, maybe they would settle more easily.

Also, while there is strategy involved, Lanterns Dice might be just a little too light for my tastes. I mean, I’ll definitely play it when Em wants to, but The Isle of Cats is a heavier cover-the-spaces-strategically game that doesn’t take that much longer to play.

Also, and this is a thing with all roll-and-writes, there are finite player sheets. Obviously, I could (and probably will) laminate some and use a wet-erase marker, but it’s just something that gives me anxiety (which is also why I don’t play legacy games*)

What do I think?

I’m new to roll-and-writes, so I can’t say how this compares, but Lanterns Dice is fun enough that I’m definitely willing to try more of these. It’s a just-slightly-more-than filler game, and for that length of game, it offers more strategy than I would have expected.

6/10 Victory Points

*Except Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion, but I’m using a photocopy of the map and taping on copies of the locations.

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