Today is the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, an inspiration for the game’s “harvest festival.” I posted the PnP and a press release to BGG.
Countdown: 22 days. Today is the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the two cultural inspirations for the “harvest festival” in the name Lanterns: The Harvest Festival. I uploaded the latest version of the print-and-play to BGG today, and I posted a press release this evening. I also sent an email to Eric who runs the BGG News blog, and hopefully he’ll include us in a new-game roundup post before the campaign launches.
Before posting the press release, I updated the description on BGG and the short preview on Kickstarter:
BGG: The harvest is in, and the artisans are hard at work preparing for the upcoming festival. Decorate the palace lake with floating lanterns and compete to become the most honored artisan when the festival begins.
When I first started working on the game, the Mid-Autumn Festival was my primary cultural inspiration. (I even wanted to call the game Lanterns: The Mid-Autumn Festival, which didn’t quite roll off the tongue and wouldn’t be familiar to most of our audience.) I think the story of how the connection to the other festival evolved is worth writing down.
When I started working to Beth (the artist), I imagined the tiles would have streets and buildings and other architecture. To get the perspective so that the tiles could be rotated in any direction, the scenes had to be illustrated from directly over head. The beautiful examples of Chinese architecture I had pinned would essentially look just like squares from directly over head. I had put a number of water scenes in the Pinterest board, and Beth kept asking about and recommending a water scene instead. The first sketch she sent over on water looked amazing, and we went with it.
When we started blind play-testing, the theme was tied to the idea of a market. (Players decided how to decorate the lake, and then the lantern cards were essentially purchase orders to go buy those lanterns at the market.) We got a number of comments from testers that the theme felt too business-y, and some others said that they weren’t really sure what the cards represented or what they were doing thematically.
One great tester wrote up a lengthy idea for changing to a festival from a month before, the Ghost Festival. He had some great ideas, and the idea of lanterns floating in the water was more closely tied to that festival than the Mid-Autumn Festival. (Lanterns float away down the river in that festival, so it’s not exactly the same idea.) Overall, the tone of that festival was a bit more serious/somber and less festive/celebratory than I wanted for the game, but I liked the idea of dedicating sets lanterns much better than buying them from a market. That changed the lantern cards from something like a purchase order to something more like a receipt.
At Gen Con, I demoed the game to someone with a Ph.D. in Chinese. She loved the game, and she talked with me about how the thematic elements could be tied in a little more closely with Chinese culture. I learned about filial piety, a key virtue in Chinese culture, and we decided to tie victory points to that. Players demonstrate their filial piety by dedicating sets of lanterns they place to their ancestors. (This filial piety is a tough concept for us Westerners to grasp, and she recommended we loosely translate it as “honor.”) Emphasizing filial piety tied the game more closely to the Ghost Festival, and I asked her this over email:
“I suppose our ‘harvest festival’ in the game is a bit of a mixture of those two festivals now, some of the themes from Ghost Festival (water, dedicating to ancestors) in the context of the Mid-Autumn Festival (festive celebration).”
“I like the mixing of the fall festivals and the way the lanterns float on water. It works for me. It’s elegant, it’s referential without being targeted so much that it’s limited, and it’s culturally appropriate.”
These new thematic elements are reflected in the video script I posted a couple weeks ago, and they are now also present on BGG and on the Kickstarter page.