I have to be more intentional about how I use the word “pleasant” in my criticism. I often say it as a backhanded compliment. I suspect most people do. When I say Sirens is “pleasant,” I mean that it is fine. Nothing stands out, for better or for worse. The game is a smooth, featureless orb.
This is a profound disservice to “pleasant,” a wonderful word that I and others have unintentionally bled of all significance. “Pleasant” does not indicate an absence of any discernible feeling. It is not net-neutral. “Pleasant” is actively happy. It’s a walk in a park, or the feeling of a nice breeze. The little moments that remind you you’re here. “Pleasant” isn’t the euphoria of a great concert, something that burns short and bright. Pleasant is a slow burn, happiness sustainably sourced.
North Shore and Seven Years Ago
Beacon Patrol is a tile layer firmly in the tradition of Carcassonne, though it is noteworthy that Beacon Patrol is cooperative rather than competitive. You play as a group of patrol boats in the North Sea. Every turn, you attempt to place three tiles out on the board. There are two restrictions. The first is that you must place the tile adjacent to your boat, which moves onto each new tile you place. The second, pursuant to the first, is that you must connect the tiles by water. Boats aren’t good at traveling over land.
If you find yourself in a tight spot—it’s easy to get caught in an inlet—you have a limited number of movement tokens you can use each turn. Additionally, once per turn, you can trade a tile with another player at the table. Figuring out just the right combination of pieces to get everything in place and executing it is a tremendous source of satisfaction in Beacon Patrol. Somehow, the design maintains that tingle for the duration.
The goal is to surround as many tiles as possible, with a focus on tiles containing lighthouses and buoys. They’re worth extra points. At the end of the game, once all tiles have been placed or discarded, you add up your score, which brings us to my only criticism: scoring can be a little overwhelming at first. It’s just so much to take in.
Miss Over the North Sea
It is a funny cosmic coincidence that the release of Beacon Patrol lined up with the much-delayed North American publication of Mists Over Carcassonne, the first cooperative installment in the greatest of all tile laying franchises. Beacon Patrol was always going to be compared to Carcassonne, and there’s good reason for that. If you’ve played Carcassonne, you mostly know how to play Beacon Patrol.
That said, the differences between them—especially if we focus on Mists of Carcassonne—are illustrative. Mists is tense, and full of narrow escapes. Beacon Patrol never has that kind of tension. It is relaxed, even relaxing, without being lazy. You are lightly stimulated, gently provoked. You plan and you hope, but somehow those plans and hopes being thwarted doesn’t upset you. You roll with it. Figure something else out.
Because you have three tiles every turn, you’re not as subject to luck. That certainly helps. Because of tile trading, everyone is engaged. There’s almost—almost—as much satisfaction to be found in a teammate’s good turn as there is in your own. As the tiles spread across the table, it’s easy to find yourself lost in the world they suggest. Torben Ratzlaff, pulling double duty as designer and artist, has done a wonderful job.
A game of Beacon Patrol is simple and straightforward. There are no complicated rules. There is no heavy arithmetic to factor into placing tiles, no symbols to learn. Beacon Patrol is inviting, it is warm, it is gently joyous. Particularly with young players.
In a word, Beacon Patrol is pleasant.