Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Lotus (Renegade Games)

I am not the type of person who stops and smells the roses. I generally plow through life, and I don't slow down to admire all the beauty around me. It also doesn't help that I am not an outside person at all. So because of these factors, I won't always notice newly bloomed flowers or all the colors in nature all around me. The designers of the card game Lotus must have had people like me in mind when they created it, because a game might be one of the only ways I'd take the time to slow down and observe the flowers. Lotus is a game for 2-4 players, ages 8+. It takes about 30 minutes to play and retails for $30.

1. Have each player select a Guardian/color - Yellow Butterfly, Green Caterpillar, Red Ladybug, and Blue Dragonfly
2. Prepare the Petal Cards (Player Decks). In a two-player game, you use the full deck. In a three-player game, you remove one of each type of Petal Card, making sure the cards removed only have one stamp. And in a four-player game, you remove two of each type of Petal Card, again making sure the cards removed only have one stamp. Then, have each player thoroughly shuffle their player deck.
3. Take the Wildflower Deck, shuffle it, and place it face down. Then draw the top four cards and display them face up in the center of the table.
4. Give each player two Guardians in their selected colors.
5. Set aside all of the silver-colored Elder Guardians, Scoring Tokens, and Special Power Tokens. (Note: Divide the Special Power Tokens into types to form three stacks.)
Game Play - Each player draws four cards. Then, the starting player must perform two of the following actions. (Note: You can perform the same action twice, and perform these actions in any order.)
1. Play Petal Cards - Play one or two Petal Cards from your hand on a single flower in the Lotus Garden.
2. Exchange Petal Cards - Exchange one or two Petal Cards from your hand, placing them on the bottom of your player deck. Draw a matching number of cards from the top of your player deck.
3. Move a Guardian - Move one of your Guardians to any incomplete flower in the Lotus Garden. (Note: This move can occur from your personal supply or from another flower.)

At the end of your turn, you must draw back up to four cards, but you can draw cards from your Player Deck, the visible cards from the Wildflower Deck, or some combination of both.

Once a flower reaches its number of petals (indicated in the upper left of the Petal Cards), players determine who has control of the flower. This is done by adding the Guardian symbols on the Petal Cards and the Guardians placed on the flower. The player with control may either take a Scoring Token, which is worth five points, or a Special Power Token, which will provide the player with a power for the rest of the game. (Note: You may only have one of each of the three Special Power Tokens.) The player who completed the flower, collects all the Petal Cards, which will be worth one point each at the end of the game. The last round of the game is triggered when a player draws the last card of their player deck. Everyone (including the person who triggered the last round) gets one final turn. Incomplete flowers are claimed by whoever has control of each flower, and final scores are tallied.
Lotus is a very pretty card game that takes the simple action of playing cards/Guardians to create a somewhat meaty decisions of hand-management and area control. The decisions don't seem like they would be that complex, but you have to carefully decide which cards to play each turn. Do you play one or two petals to a flower, and risk your opponent completing the flower and getting all the petal points? Do you complete a flower you don't have majority control, foregoing a bonus token or scoring token, just so you can deny your opponent majority and completion points? These are decisions you will constantly be running through your head.

Apart from the simple and inviting nature of the rules and game play, two things make this game very family-friendly. The first thing is the artwork. The colors on these cards pop, and the flowers themselves are so life-like. After a few turns with people playing cards, it will look like the flowers are actually blooming on the table. The little wooden meeples are cute and tiny as well, which is something you don't normally say about bug-shaped items. The second thing which makes this a good family game is that you can pay it competitively or cooperatively. Sometimes, you feel like a game where it's every man for himself, and sometimes you feel like playing a game where you can work in tandem with a partner. This game provides both options, and the cooperative variant is a good way to teach both new and younger players.

I wasn't sure I was going to like this game at first, as it doesn't seem like it would be my cup of tea. However, after a few plays, the game really grew on me. (Pun intended) If you are looking for a breathtakingly beautiful game that is fun for kids, adults, new gamers, and experienced gamers, then you'll want to pick up a copy of Lotus!

This game was provided to me for free by Renegade Games in exchange for an honest review.