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Thematic Inspiration for Lanterns: The Emperor’s Gifts

We have just released the expansion Lanterns: The Emperor’s Gifts. The inspiration for its theme came from looking at traditional Chinese gardens.

Lanterns: The Emperor's GiftsWe have just released Lanterns: The Emperor’s Gifts, the first expansion to Lanterns: The Harvest Festival, to participating retail stores for the holiday season. The expansion was designed by Jason D. Kingsley, who has done graphic design work for multiple Foxtrot Games products. He pitched the core mechanisms for the expansion to us (a new kind of currency that could be spent to activate powerful new actions), and we wove those mechanisms into the theme of the harvest festival.

The spark for the expansion’s theme came from looking at traditional Chinese gardens. Many gardens contain pavilions, open structures that give visitors a shaded place to rest and view the surrounding beauty. Many gardens have lakes and ponds with networks of bridges and pavilions. These pavilions fit nicely into the lake setting of the base game, as a thematic way for festival participants to get a better view of the lantern display.

Heart of the Lake Pavilion, Dunedin Chinese Garden

Heart of the Lake Pavilion, Dunedin Chinese Garden

The pavilions also gave us a way to incorporate some Chinese architecture into the game. The top-down perspective of the tiles prevented that in the base game, but the pavilions as wooden game pieces add height to the board and allow us to display some beautiful elements of that tradition.

Early in the process, we decided to call the new currency “gifts from the emperor” — something more valuable than favors. We incorporated as many elements associated with the emperor in imperial China as we could:

Emperor's Pavilion - Gift Token - Emperor Cards - Emperor Dedication

Emperor’s Pavilion – Gift Token – Emperor Cards – Emperor Dedication

  • Yellow is the color associated with the emperor, and all the new components: the gift tokens, the emperor’s pavilion, the emperor cards, and the emperor dedications.

  • The printed components are illustrated as yellow silk embroidery to mimic a styleDragon Robe, Qing Dynastyfound in robes and tapestries that adorned the emperor and the palace walls.
  • The number 5 is also historically associated with the emperor: that’s the number of available emperor cards and the number of lanterns required to make a new emperor dedication.

We kept the rules for matching on pavilions and earning gifts the same as the rules for matching on platforms and earning favor tokens, to make them as easy as possible to learn. You earn these gift tokens by building and matching on pavilions, and you can then spend the gifts on the special actions. They feel familiar to those already familiar with the base game. But the rules for building them add some new depth; players start the game with a small supply of pavilions that they can choose to build on the tile they place on their turn.


The expansion is now available in retail stores participating in the early release program. (If your local store is not participating, let us know.) After the full retail release on January 4, the expansion will be widely available in stores and online.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. In Lanterns: The Harvest Festival, at the start of your turn, how do you acquire the #4 Honor Token in the “Favor to Honor” method?

    1. @Tom Spirito – That token represents 4 points. If you have 4 points in multiple tokens (for example, two of the 2-point tokens), you can exchange them for a 4 point token at any time. There’s no way to get 4 points in one turn using the “Favor to Honor” method.

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