Recent Vintage Review: Seasons

   Posted by: Jim   in Board games, Reviews

(Part of a series, reviewing games I played in September 2013 at That Board Gaming Thing.)

Designer: Régis Bonnessée
Publisher: Asmodee
Players: 2-4
Playing time: 60 minutes
Age range: 12+

(Image courtesy of duchamp@BoardGameGeek)

One of the more recent trends is to combine game mechanics together from a variety of games. Seasons is an example of such, combining role selection and resource management with a simple Magic the Gathering-like card game. As a further wrinkle, the role selection is done via dice rolls, and you build your initial deck via card drafting. While described this way it sounds like a mish-mash of mechanics, it combines quite well to create a pleasant and fresh-feeling game.

The theme is that you are participating in a three-year contest to see who is the best wizard in the kingdom of Xidit. As you pass through the seasons of each year, certain energy resources (earth, air, water, fire) will become more available, and others less available. These can be spent to play cards, or converted into crystals (the rarer the energy type during that season, the better the conversion rate), which can be used as points, or can also be used to bring cards into the game or perform other effects.

The game begins by drafting your starting deck. Nine cards are dealt out to each player. Everyone simultaneously chooses one card from their set and passes the remainder to the player on their left. This continues until each player has chosen nine cards. This is further divided into three subdecks of cards, each of which becomes available during the three “years” of the game.

Each round begins with the start player rolling the seasons dice (which are huge, colorful and gorgeous) — there is a different set of dice for each season, which control which type of energy is available. Each face of the die has a different set of actions: you can collect a particular kind of energy, transmute energy into crystals, score points directly, increase the number of cards you can have in your tableau or draw new cards. So each player in turn chooses one die which will give the actions they can perform on their turn. There will always be one die remaining — that will control how far the seasons marker progresses at the end of the round.

After that, each player in turn takes the actions available on their die. After that they can play any cards they like in front of them, as long as they can pay the cost in energy or crystals and it doesn’t exceed their current tableau size. Once all players are done, the season marker moves forward by the amount indicated by the remaining die. If the season marker passes the year marker, you can take the next deck you set aside and add it to your hand. The game ends after the marker crosses into the fourth year.

The end goal is to become the player with the largest number of crystals at the end of the game. There are a variety of ways to achieve this — you can try to transmute more energy than other players. Or you can play cards that allow you to steal energy from other players when they perform certain actions. Or you can play cards with a high point value. Usually you’re going to go for a variety of these, though in the game I played at That Board Gaming Thing the woman who won was behind in crystal count for most of the game, and shot ahead at the end by playing a large number of high value cards.

I have mixed feeling about Seasons. It’s suggested that for your first play that you use a subset of the cards and honestly when we did that I found that game rather dull. But when I played at That Board Gaming Thing, we used nearly the full set and it was far far better. That said, it still has the problem that players who are familiar with the cards will have a huge advantage over players who don’t (common to many games that can chain card effects). If you don’t set up your initial three hands well, you can find yourself stuck and trying desperately to catch up in years two or three — which is not fun. So I can see why it’s suggested you start with a simpler set of cards for new players, but again, I found that dull. Still, I’d certainly play it again, and recommend it for those who like games such as Dominion or Magic, and are looking for something in the same vein but with a different twist.

Final Verdict: Borrow

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 at 11:15 pm and is filed under Board games, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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