Game Night: Seasons

This post is part of the Game Night Carnival in which RPG bloggers talk about some of their favorite board games. There’s a link to the Game Night homepage at the bottom of the article.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Washington DC and was fortunate enough that my trip coincided with the Labyrinth Game Store’s open board game night. Upon entering the store and making my way to the game tables, I overheard a few patrons talking. “Is that Seasons?” said one. “Yeah, I hear [the owner of the store] is totally addicted to this game right now.”  So I thought to myself, “Well, I need to try this game then.” And I did. And I found out why the proprietor loves the game so much.

First, a little disclaimer. I’ve only played Seasons once, and with a few other first-timers, so I may have missed some of the finer points of gameplay in this post. However, I had so much fun playing the game that I wanted to share the experience, and encourage you to go out and buy this new game – it’s a good one.

Seasons is a new game from Asmodee, the makers of Dixit. It is not, however, anything like Dixit, except in the sense that both games are really fun. It’s hard to categorize Seasons. It’s a resource management game in the tradition of Eurogames, a dice rolling game with flavors of drafting mechanics, and a strategic card game all rolled into one. I think that the potpourri of mechanics that work so seamlessly together is what makes this game so stinking fun.

So, how does the game work? Before gameplay starts, you get 9 cards and have to divide them up into groups of 3. The first 3 you can use immediately, but the other two groups you have to set aside, and will be added to your hand in “years” two and three. (The years are marked by the time cube making a full circle around the seasons wheel.)

Then gameplay begins. The first player rolls some dice, depending upon what season it is. So, if the time cube is on winter, the player rolls the blue dice. Each die has several sets of symbols on the faces – some symbols give you resources (fire, water, plants, etc.) that let you lay cards down. Some symbols give you victory points. Some increase the number of cards you can have on the table, and some let you turn resources into victory points. So, the first player (the roller) looks at the dice and decides which die he wants. Then each other player takes a die in turn as well. Once everyone has a die, the roller gets the resources and other “stuff” on his die face. He lays cards (if he can) and might do other things based upon cards that are already on the table. Then play passes. Once all the players have “played” their die, the time cube advances, and the next player rolls.

There is really a ton of strategy to this game. It starts before a single die is rolled – you need to decide which cards you want in front of you soonest, and which effects you don’t mind delaying until the end of the game. Because I was learning the game, I just randomly put my cards into piles. In retrospect, there were some great effects in my cards that I would have benefited greatly from had they been in play longer. (Basically, any effects that say “Every time such and such happens…”)

Then there’s the strategy of which die to take – do I need more resources? Should I up the number of cards I can have out? Maybe I just need a small pile of victory points, and nothing else? This is compounded by the fact that each set of dice has different resources on them. For example, on the spring dice, plants come up a lot. Not on the winter dice. So plan ahead.

And finally, there is the strategy of when to use the effects on your cards. Some are one shot deals, while others have ongoing or triggered effects. Planning and paying attention to your adversaries wins the day.

To those of you who run out and buy the game, and then curse me because you find it a little complicated: I would say stick with it. When we were learning the game, I made the comment that we should “pick a less complicated game next.” However, by the end of the game, we were all in agreement that gameplay is actually quite simple and smooth.  Of course, as always, it’s best to have someone teach you if possible.

The only vaguely negative thing I have to say about Seasons is that it only supports up to four players. But if you’re doing a game night because you don’t have enough people for D&D, well, that’s probably all you have anyway.

I can’t say it emphatically enough. Go get this game. It is fun.

Game: Seasons
Players: 2-4
Time: 45 min – 1 hour
Type: Defies categorization

For more articles in the Game Night Carnival, visit here.

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