Beacon Patrol (photo by Kamio)

Beacon Patrol Game Overview – Secure the North Sea Coast

,
Reading Mode

Everyone’s been talking about the fun and addicting cooperative tile-laying Beacon Patrol game this past month! Introducing designer Torben Razlaff, both designer and artist for the game.

In Beacon Patrol, you are a captain of the Coast Guard entrusted with the task of the safety of the North Sea coast. You must thoroughly and efficiently explore the seas and its various lighthouses and beacons.

Beacon Patrol Game Components

The game comes in a small rectangular box, suitable for its contents, with dimensions roughly 9″ x 5″ x 2″. It has a simple cardboard insert to separate the wooden boats and propellers from the tiles.

  • 1 Beacon Patrol HQ Tile – the starting tile
  • 4 Wooden Ships – blue, red, gray and black
  • 54 Base Set Tiles – tiles depicting land, sea or both
  • 9 Movement Tokens – Circular propeller tiles – blue on one side, red on the other
  • 9 Expansion Tiles – Expansions included in the game are Windmills and Piers
  • 4 Reference Cards – in each player’s color
  • Instruction booklet
  • 2 Discovery Tiles – * These came with the game for pre-orders, now available on the Pandasaurus store
Beacon Patrol layout (photo by Kamio)
Beacon Patrol box and components (photo by Kamio)

Theme and Artwork

Like the boat colors, only four colors are used – a ton of blue, accents of red, fluffy white clouds and seafoam, and black outlines. The red accents make it easy to know where to focus your exploration, as these tiles feature the lighthouses, buoys and other special tile that score more points. The designer, Torben Ratzlaff, also created the artwork, which is bold and colorful, definitely eye-catching.

During the course of the game, you’ll be laying tiles down and navigating a mazelike labyrinth of an archipelago along the coastline of the North Sea. You’ll move your little patrol boat around islands, checking in on lighthouses and other safety features. The theme makes sense and goes well with the game mechanics as you literally create the map you play on.

Beacon Patrol – How to Play Solo

Objective

Your objective is to explore as much of the sea as possible, focusing on lighthouses and beacon buoys. At the end of the game, you’ll score the explored tiles on the board.

Tiles are considered “explored” if connected to other tiles on all four sides/edges. Diagonals don’t count. Explored tiles with the red lighthouses and buoys will gain you additional points, so make sure to focus on them!

Setup

The initial setup for a fresh game takes under 2 minutes, depending on how well the tiles are organized. The replay setup for a repeat game is about 1-2 minutes.

  1. Place the Beacon Patrol HQ tile in the middle of your play area.
  2. Choose a player color and take the matching Ship (and, if needed, the player aid).
  3. Place your ship on the Beacon Patrol HQ tile.
Beacon Patrol HQ start tile (photo by Kamio)
Beacon Patrol HQ start tile (photo by Kamio)
  1. Take 4 Propeller movement tokens and place them with the blue side up.
  2. Take 3 tiles and place them face side up.
  3. That’s the end of the setup. Your boat is ready to explore!
Beacon Patrol - start of turn 1 (photo by Kamio)
Beacon Patrol – the start of turn 1 (photo by Kamio)

Gameplay

Choose one of your three available tiles and place it next to the tile your Ship is currently on. There are five tile placement rules. You’ll quickly catch onto them.

Tile Placement Rules

  1. Ship Adjacent: The tile your ship is currently on is your “current tile”. You can place a new tile on a vacant space orthogonal (not diagonal) to your current tile. In map terminology, your new tile will be placed directly north, south, east or west.
  2. Correct Orientation: Each tile shows a black arrow pointing up. You must make sure you place the tile with the arrow pointing upward. This isn’t Carcassonne, where you place tiles every which way!
  3. Matching Edges: Make sure the side of your new tile matches the side of your current tile. It will be either a water or land edge.
  4. Required Movement: When you place your new tile, you must move your ship onto it. The movement is free and doesn’t require a Movement Token.
  5. Move by Water: Ships can only move via water, so the new tile must be connected to your current tile by a water edge!
Beacon Patrol - place a tile, move your boat (photo by Kamio)
Beacon Patrol – place a tile, move your boat (photo by Kamio)

Next, place your other two tiles. You can use your four blue Movement tiles to gain an extra movement per tile. Turn a blue tile over to its red side to indicate you used it for movement.

If you can’t or choose not to place a tile, you can discard it to gain an extra movement or save one for your next turn. Each tile you discard means one tile that won’t contribute to your final score, so decide wisely.

Here is what your first turn may end up looking like. Don’t forget to use your Movement propellers. Yes, even in the first few moves, moving can be beneficial!

Once you’ve used all tiles (whether placing, discarding or saving), this turn is over.

Beacon Patrol end of turn 1 (photo by Kamio)
Beacon Patrol end of turn 1 (photo by Kamio)

Subsequent Turns

At the start of each subsequent turn, flip all Movement tiles back to blue and draw back up to three tiles. So, if you decide to save a tile on your last turn, just take two new tiles. Repeat the gameplay turn.

Beacon Patrol start of turn 2 (photo by Kamio)
Beacon Patrol start of turn 2 (photo by Kamio)

What to Focus On

As you go, you’ll be attempting to ensure all the safety lighthouses and buoys are explored and fully surrounded to get the best score. Since the lighthouses grant three points if fully explored, you’ll want to focus on them, but they are on land, so it can be easy to lock yourself out of the other side of the island. Be sure to make convenient waterways around the islands! The Beacon Buoys floating in the sea score 2 points if fully explored, so pay attention to them as well.

Don’t be afraid to use your Movement Propellers to move around the map, discarding precious tiles if you think it will gain you more points to explore another area.

Beacon Patrol midgame
Beacon Patrol Game Overview – Secure the North Sea Coast 16

Game End and Scoring

The game ends once the last tile is placed or discarded. Sit back and admire your map!

Scoring

Starting from the top, go row by row and total the points scored from explored tiles. Remember, they must have tiles on all four sides to be counted as explored.

  • Explored tiles with a Lighthouse (including the Beacon Patrol HQ tile): 3 points
  • Explored tiles with a Beacon Buoy: 2 points
  • All other explored tiles: 1 point

The rulebook has a chart that will tell you how you did. If you add expansions, you’ll be expected to score more points, so another score chart is on the back of the instruction booklet.

How Does it Compare to Multi-player?

Beacon Patrol is a cooperative game with a solo mode. For true solo play, there are just a few differences:

  • You start out with four Movement tiles instead of 3 like in the multiplayer game.
  • You may keep one tile in your hand for the next turn.

With a multiplayer game, players can trade tiles once per turn, which is handy. For this reason, you might choose to play solo multi-handed so you can have more boats to cover the map and more tile trading options.

First Solo Beacon Patrol Games

My solo games take an average of 20 minutes on the dot. The first few games were consistently in the 30s, but now my average is in the 40s. My best score with expansions is currently 52. I have not gotten the best ranking of Cartographers yet.

Mini Expansions

The game includes the Windmills and Piers expansions in the base game. After your first couple of games, it is nice to include these expansions.

Windmills

There are five Windmill tiles; the Ocean Windmills stand in open water. They use the strong sea winds to help provide power to the towns of the North Sea and across Northern Germany. If you fully explore a windmill, you will score 1 point, plus an additional point for every open ocean tile adjacent to it. Open ocean tiles can also include other windmills, beacon buoys, the Beacon Patrol HQ tile, the ocean Discover Tile, and pure ocean tiles. So a Windmill can score 5 points maximum.

Beacon Patrol ship on open seas (photo by Kamio)
Beacon Patrol ship on open seas (photo by Kamio)

Piers

Piers can score a ton of points! If a Pier is “fully explored” on all four sides, it will score 1 point, plus an additional point for every building on the island it is connected to. The island itself does not need to be fully explored.

Beacon Patrol - pier expansion (photo by Kamio)
Beacon Patrol – pier expansion (photo by Kamio)

Discovery Tiles

If you have the two Discovery Tiles, I suggest adding them after your first few games! If you didn’t get them with your game, I think it’s worth it to purchase them. There are two tiles, one land and one ocean. If you fully surround an empty space with either land or water, you immediately add the appropriate Discovery Tile to the middle!

Beacon Patrol Discovery Tiles (photo by Kamio)
Beacon Patrol Discovery Tiles (photo by Kamio)

Since you only place these in an area that already surrounds the tile on all four sides, it is considered fully explored. These Discovery Tiles will count as 3 points each, so it’s a nice way to grab some extra points and fill a hole in your map.

Discovery Tiles - land tile (photo by Kamio)
Discovery Tiles – land tile (photo by Kamio)

Note: For the Water Discovery tile, your boat does not move onto it. And, of course, your boat cannot move onto land at any time.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Nice and relaxing game
  • Like Cartographers, you end up with a unique map you made!
  • Quick to learn
  • Easy to setup
  • Yet, it is still a fun challenge!

Cons

  • There’s not really much to say for cons, but it can be easy to forget to turn the propellers over when you move and then not be sure how many moves you have on the next turn.
  • Scoring at the end can take some time.
Beacon Patrol - red boat (photo by Kamio)
Beacon Patrol – red boat (photo by Kamio)

Beacon Patrol – free Steam demo game

Want to try a free online demo of the Beacon Patrol game on Steam? It plays super smoothly and gives you the base game’s feel. The demo seems to be a full game; it just does not include any expansions. The online game is set to launch in 2024, so be sure to add it to your wishlist if you try it and enjoy it!

Here are some screenshots of my online play.

Beacon Patrol Steam Demo - endgame (photo by Kamio)
Beacon Patrol Steam Demo – endgame (photo by Kamio)

I ended up with a score of 48, which makes me a Navigator, a pretty nice score! The time took the same time as my average – 20 minutes.

Beacon Patrol Steam Demo - Navigator score! (photo by Kamio)
Beacon Patrol Steam Demo – Navigator score! (Photo by Kamio)

Beacon Patrol Game – Final Thoughts

Beacon Patrol is a fun little puzzle that can be completed in about 20-30 minutes. It’s relaxing and chill, yet so many strategies to keep in mind. Add the expansions after your first game! They offer more little challenges.

Have you had a chance to play Beacon Patrol? Have you reached the score of Cartographer yet?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *