Campy Dragon Lanterns

Campy Dragon Lanterns

This week I was able to play some new games and visit some old friends. We were able to play Thanos Rising: Avengers Infinity War again, which was nice. But enough with the old stuff, on with the new.

Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky

Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky

The first game of the evening was Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky from Renegade Game Studios and designer Chris Bryan. Based on Lanterns: The Harvest Festival, Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky is a roll-and-write mutation of the original. To be upfront, I wasn’t a fan of the original game. Probably because no matter how pretty it looks, it’s unnatural and dangerous for fire, surrounded by the thinnest paper ever created, to float on water.

In Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky, players roll a set of chunky colored dice and choose which color lanterns to fill in on their score sheet. Players can earn gifts (represented by little coins on the player sheet) to perform special actions, fill in additional lantern spaces, and create powerful combinations. Finally, players cover completed shapes with polyomino firework tiles to score extra points.

Players are supposed to be artisans decorating the palace lake, but it never felt like that, and I never got immersed in this game.

I felt like I was playing alone, and the gameplay on my board wasn’t very captivating. Only the last few turns of the game had exciting choices to make, and the rest felt too wide open.

I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who will love this game. Renegade Game Studios added thematic elements to a game that could have easily been an abstract roll-and-write game with colors. It just wasn’t for me. I’d rather play something like Welcome To…, which admittedly has less player interaction, but the choices I’m making seem far more important. And like every self-centered gamer, I need a game to revolve around me.

Ex Libris

On to an old favorite, Ex Libris, or as I like to call it Dewey Decimal System: Fantasy.

In Ex Libris, from Renegade Game Studios, players are librarians collecting books to assemble the ultimate library of fantastical proportions. Players acquire classic tomes with the help of their assistants and an ever-changing cavalcade of worker placement locations. The librarians need to pay close attention to the prominent works coveted by the village, alphabetic order, shelf stability, and banned texts — nothing like throwing in a little McCarthyism into a fantasy game about books. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times Monster Manuals are destroying our youth.

Ex Libris is a fun game of exciting worker placement choices with in-depth spatial set collection. The artwork is colorful, and the book titles are punny. It’s crunchy, accessible, and the theme puts it over the top. I wonder if that’s why it made our list of High Five games from Renegade Game Studios?

Campy Creatures

Campy Creatures

Campy Creatures, from Keymaster Games, has fun with movie monster tropes we love from classic cinema, including mummies, werewolves, and a giant gorilla that looks kingly.

Players are mad scientists unleashing their beasts into the wild to capture the blood of sweet precious mortals. It’s pretty much the story of Taco Bell.

The gameplay is simple. Each turn, you’ll secretly select one of the nine monster cards in your hand. Players reveal the chosen cards simultaneously, and the player with the highest value card will choose from the available mortals.

Naturally, each card has a unique ability that may break some of these simple rules because some of the mortals you capture give negative points, which is bad. The player with the most points at the end of three rounds wins the game. Throw in a Clash-O-Meter to break ties, and you’ve got yourself a tidy little bluffing game with simultaneous selection and set collection.

As regular readers know, I love the artwork from Keymaster Games, and this game is no exception. When artwork is this good, games are more fun. Games with thematically stellar artwork pull you into the world of the game, and you can lose yourself. I’m so into this game, I’ve stopped shaving because I think I may actually be a werewolf.

It’s a simple game, I know, but fighting over teenagers is a delight. That may have sounded inappropriate, but if you play the game, you’ll know what I mean.

Dragon's Breath

Dragon's Breath

Lastly, this week, I was able to play Dragon’s Breath with the girls. No, this isn’t the game about waking up, breathing on a loved one, and making them guess what you ate the night before.

Dragon’s Breath, published by HABA USA, consists of a stack of rings filled with colored gems. Each turn, players guess which colored gems will fall when removing the top ring. Players collect all of the gems of their selected color. The player with the most gems at the end of the game wins.

As always, the production from HABA is top-notch. The game comes with a chunky dragon marker, fancy colored gems, and translucent rings. The board acts as a hidden gem collector for each player and makes cleanup a breeze.

Both of my older girls (ages 8 and 4) love this game, and I like it too. It’s competitive for everyone. Seriously, I try to crush them every game! I’m amazed at how well my 4-year-old is getting at predicting which gems will fall, but I’m also disturbed at how well she can remove one of the rings without letting any gems fall onto the board. It’s either her tiny fingers or I’m raising a future cat-burglar.

Dragon’s Breath is minty fresh and a joy to play. I highly recommend it for families with younger players.

Doug Doug Kotecki is the Chief Curator at Tabletop Game Gallery, and even though his brain tells him not to, he still loves Taco Bell.

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