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Beacon Patrol

Torben Ratzlaff's Beacon Patrol is a light solitaire or cooperative tile-laying game for up to four players. You will score at the end of each game for each 'fully explored' tile (ie: each tile fully surrounded on all four orthogonal sides). In the basic game, fully explored lighthouses score 3 points; fully explored buoys score 2 points; and other fully explored tiles score 1 point. Players are competing not against each other but against the game - treating it as a puzzle game where the objective is to maximise your collective score.

You each have a hand of three tiles (just two apiece if you're playing with four players) and you place one orthogonally adjacent to your ship meeple and then move the ship. You can repeat this process for all three of your tiles, but you will also have 2-4 movement tokens that you can spend to move your ship further. You'll sometimes have to do that even to make an adjacent placement as ships cannot sail on land and so you can't connect tiles by a land mass side (ie: you need to sail round to a sea edge in order to connect).

It looks super easy but 'exploring' is harder than it looks. As the central tableau grows, so does the distance you're likely to have to move to make a legal tile placement. If the distance exceeds the amount permitted by your movement tokens, and if other players can't offer you a suitable tile swap, then you'll end up having to discard rather than use tiles. The more tiles that get discarded rather than deployed, the harder it will be to end up with a decent end-game score.

This Pandasaurus edition is an attractively presented package and it incorporates a couple of mini-expansions that offer optional additional ways to scoring. If you include the Windmill tiles in your game, you can score 1 point for each fully explored windmill plus an additional point for every open ocean tile orthogonally adjacent to it (ie: tile showing no land). Fully explored Piers tiles score 1 point plus an additional point for every building on the land mass connected to the Pier. Because these mini expansions add additional ways to score, the rules raise the bar for ranking your score: 36-45 is considered a middle-ranking score without the expansions but with both expansions the same ranking requires a score of 56-65 points...

Beacon Patrol works at all player counts, tho' from our plays at Board's Eye View we enjoyed it most as a solitaire and two-player game. Tho' it can be quite challenging to do well, it's a puzzle optimisation game that can be enjoyed as a cooperative family game by children as well as adults.

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