The appeal of some tabletop games lies in their theme. In others, it’s in the puzzle-like complexity of their interlocking systems, whilst for others still it’s in the opportunity they provide to work with friends to beat the games themselves. The appeal of Lotus lies in nothing so much as its charm.
This is a light, but delightful, game that looks fantastic on the table and has just enough interesting features to hold the attention of more experienced gamers for its reasonably short playtime. (The designers specify 30 minutes.)
Playing the Game
Designed by Jordan and Mandy Goddard and published by Renegade Game Studios, Lotus is a simple game for 2-4 people. Players start with a hand of four cards drawn from their individual player decks, with each showing a petal from one of five different types of flower. On your turn you can play a number of these cards, meaning you add your petals to those of the same type already on the table, causing the flower to ‘grow’, or start to grow a new flower. When you choose to do the former, you place your card in such a way that it overlaps those already out allowing the picture of the flower to be slowly built up. The person who adds the final petal card to a flower can ‘pick’ it, which is to say collect the cards and count them towards their points total at the end.
A simple area control mechanic is added to this process of set collection. The cards played from player decks have on them either one or two guardian symbols specific to individual players. When a flower is completed or ‘picked’, the player with the most icons on that flower also scores victory points or can choose to forego these in order to gain a special power. Players also have extra guardians – small wooden tokens in the shape of insects – that they can add to any flower to help gain control of it.
The rulebook adds a little flavour text and story to the game. However, at its heart, Lotus is a straightforward set collection card game that is not entirely unlike the family card games you might have played as a child. What sets it apart is its overall aesthetic and, most strikingly, the overlapping card mechanic.
Lotus looks fantastic. The design of the petal cards is colourful, the iconography is straightforward and the markings to show where the next petal sits are clear. The wooden guardian tokens are just adorable, whilst the box art by Chris Ostrowski is fantastic.
The petal card mechanic is undoubtedly what makes Lotus successful as a game. Building up each flower card by card, petal by petal, is a simple, stylish and effective way to see a set working towards completion. It also plays to the general thematic, as players watch the flowers ‘grow’ on the table. In fact, this mechanic is so effective that the designers are re-implementing it in their new game, Gates of Delirium, at the request of Renegade Game Studios themselves.
Lotus is a delight to play. It's also quick to learn. There are only a few different actions you can take in any one turn. However, gaining the special powers frees this up a bit. The rulebook is clear and straightforward too. In short, Lotus makes a pretty filler between more complex endeavours on game day. It is equally suitable for those less familiar with modern board games and card games, and is perfect for families or those looking for a calmer gaming experience.
Depending on your play style, the game can feel a little like multiplayer solitaire at times. There is, though, a slight ‘screw over’ mechanic in the game. It's possible to swoop in and complete a flower that another player has patiently grown over a few turns. In fact, it is often preferable to complete a flower given the opportunity, even if you don’t control it. Your rival will get the five points for controlling it with their guardians, but you will potentially get the same number of points or more for the picked petal cards, mitigating the potential loss at game end.
Lotus has a moderate amount of replay-ability. There is a risk that games fall into the same pattern, with players following similar tactics to each other. For instance, when the first flower you control is completed it makes sense to refuse the victory points in favour of the special power that allows you to increase your hand limit to five, and then next time to get the power that allows you to play a higher number of cards from that enlarged hand. This is, perhaps, more likely in two-player games, where game play choices are more targeted.
For a simple game with a quick set-up and short play time, Lotus takes up a reasonable amount of table space. However, it’s so pretty it probably won’t matter to you. It is, though, worth pointing out that whilst Lotus plays like a filler game you wouldn’t want to try playing it on a journey, or on a café table.
It is also worth highlighting one area where Lotus’ presentation is lacking. Whilst the box art is gorgeous and the production values and component quality generally high, the box insert – as is so often the case in modern board games – is poor. Featuring the same art as the box sides, this folded cardboard insert is ill-suited to holding the cards in place. In fact, its shape doesn’t particularly relate to the game at all.
Final Thoughts on Lotus
Lotus is a charming card game that looks beautiful on the table. With only a few actions available to the player, it is an accessible game that can be used as a gateway for those less familiar with modern gaming. The overlapping petal mechanic is superbly executed and is perfectly suited to the theme, as you watch flowers ‘grow’ before your eyes.