Tag Archives: Seasons

Could It Be Magic – Seasons review (again!)

So, let’s talk about Seasons. Again.

The Judge has already had his say right here, but as this is a game that’s garnering a fair bit of buzz, I thought I’d put down my thoughts as well. Following its release a few weeks ago at GenCon, this new release from Libellud (the folks who brought us Dixit) is being more generally distributed by Asmodee, and copies are already in short supply. However, does it live up to the hype? You’ll see soon enough; first though, a quick run through on how it works…

It’s a relatively straightforward thing – one player rolls a bunch of dice and everyone at the table chooses one in turn, leaving one remaining. You follow the instructions on the dice you selected, taking elements (made up of earth, air, wind and fire), scoring points and possibly ‘transmuting’, which is pretty much selling your elements back for points. Should there be a star on the dice you choose, you also get to move a space up your summoning track, meaning you’re allowed to play cards from your hand.

The cards are where the meat of the game lies. Each player begins with nine but must split them into three sets of three. As the game continues through three years, each of which is divided into four seasons using differently balanced dice, you’ll get your hands on more and more cards. These can get you points, more elements to use, mess about with the rules in your favour and – of course – screw over your opponents. Once the third ‘year’ is completed, the points that you’ve scored throughout the game are added to those shown on all your cards in front of you, the whoever has the highest score is victorious. Just like you’d expect.

Getting near the end of this one… it’s going to be close.

Except the whole game feels like a lot more than just the sum of its parts. Seasons is an incredibly enjoyable game that, despite looking rather cutesy and light, is actually very deep and requires a surprising amount of brainpower. This isn’t one to break out with a bunch of newbies – experienced gamers shouldn’t have too much an issue but if you’re not used to This Kind Of Game it can melt the brain. As more and more cards come out in front of you, there’s a need to perform a fair bit of administration all the way through your turns – keeping track of the changing seasons, scoring bonuses, getting free elements… there’s a LOT to maintain.

The trick to victory is two fold – picking the right dice at the right time will help, of course, but learning the combinations of cards will be the true path to glory. It’s suggested that you use set lists of cards (as outlined in the instructions) for early games that really work well together, but once you’ve got to grips with how everything works, you can bring in more hardcore cards as well as drafting your selections at the start of play. It really adds an extra element of strategy to your game once you begin doing this – will you horde all the cards that will boost your points or summon as many as you can that will tie your opposition up in knots?

Production throughout is excellent. The art is fantastical and beautiful in equal measures, really capturing the dreamlike atmosphere that you’d associate from the company that is famed for the Spiel des Jahres winning Dixit. Thick punch tokens and playmats, sturdy cards and some of the most gloriously chunky dice I’ve seen in any game mean that Seasons will happily stand up to lots and lots of plays… the question is what will wear out first; your game or your friends?

You see, Seasons is definitely going to divide gamers. If you’ve read Stuart’s review, you’ll already know that he thinks it’s a great game – as long as you’re only playing with two. Personally I don’t mind all the extra admin required in a game involving three or four people, but I can see that the additional time involved would annoy a lot of people. The side of the box says you should be able to get a game done in 60 minutes, but after nearly twenty plays I’ve not come close to that – even with only a single opponent.

Learning to play Seasons takes only a short while – actually getting good at it requires a much longer time investment. If you’ve had any prior experience with something like Magic: The Gathering or the Pokemon CCG you’ll be at a slight advantage early on, sure – in fact, any game that encourages learning combos and prioritising the cards you’re working with will be useful. With the extra levels of gameplay involving the dice and dealing with managing your collection of element, you’ll have to pay more attention than if you were playing a more basic card game, but if you’re looking for an entertaining yet challenging way to spend your time, Seasons comes highly recommended. Just don’t expect it to be a speedy experience, especially if you’ve got more than two players – settle in for at least ninety minutes and just enjoy the thing.

Seasons is available now for around £40, though Gameslore currently stock it for £32.99. Designed by Regis Bonnessee with art from Naiade, it’s published by Asmodee and Libellud. Between two and four people can play, but remember, you’ll be there for at least an hour…!

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A Kind of Magic – Seasons review

Stuart Platt, the only games reviewer out there who’s as at home with a figure four leglock as he is with a d20, returns to pass judgement on the new hotness from Libellud and Asmodee, Seasons… is it up to his most exacting of standards?

Now, I like Seasons.  I have played it extensively at BoardGameArena.com  (an excellent portal for online boardgaming by the way) and was thrilled when my shiny new copy landed on the doorstep.  This intro sounds like a massive BUT is forthcoming (which it is); first though, let’s focus on the good stuff.

The game is glossy and shiny to the n’th degree.  The art and excellent iconography of the cards, dice and central play board capture a sense of light fun – wizards and spells, summoning familiars and artefacts.  It’s all thoroughly lovely! This would, of course, be for nought if the game mechanisms weren’t up to scratch.  Thankfully, there’s a load of interesting stuff going on.  Firstly, players draft a set of nine cards – a la 7 Wonders for instance, and then separate those into three sets of three.  These will be released to players’ hands as the game clock ticks through the seasons into years one, two and three.

Seriously, it’s a beautiful game to look at, as you’d expect from the folks who originally brought you Dixit.

The cards are the meat of the game – providing victory points (referred to as crystals throughout), special abilities and some ‘take that’ powers which hurt your opponents.  From the selections you draft, the aim is to create an array of cards that combo together and empower each other. How do we cast these spells and summon these familiars? Well, each turn players select a resource die from a pool rolled each turn. It would be remiss of me not to shower these beautiful creatures with special praise.   Large, chunky, satisfying beasts – despite the pretty colours, these are MEN’s dice! There is no squinting at miniscule icons like you have to with Quarriors.  Here, everyone at the table can easily read what each dice provides – be that resources (Wind, Water, Earth and Fire), Crystal VPs or a Summoning point that increases the number of cards you can have in play at any time.  Some dice even offer an ability to directly trade in resources for Crystals – very useful as there are strict limits on the number of resources you can store at any one time.

Each round, the seasons clock ticks onwards (with some resources scarcer and more valuable at various times) as players make the best of what is available – including the hands of cards they set up at the beginning of the game.  At the end of year 3, points are totalled – any cards NOT played are worth negative points – and the winner is the person with the most crystals.

Close up on one of the player boards. That is one terrifying looking rabbit.

Sounds great right? Well it is…BUT! [I was waiting for that – Michael] it all falls apart with more than 2 players – but why?

First of all, the game length extends greatly. Players have some control as to the pace of the game – an icon on the remaining die indicates how far the seasonal clock ticks round – but with three and certainly with four, this medium weight game goes that little bit too long.  I like the flow.  I like how the cards are released over the three years.  However, that final year REALLY drags with the full contingent of players sat around the table.

Secondly, there’s a lot of admin to deal with. “Each new season I get a resource… OK…  and I get a crystal… Ok… and so do I… but then I take 4 crystals off all of you.  Ok…  oh, but it’s also the end of the year, so I need 3 more resources… I’ll just work out what I need… [LOUD SNORING NOISE]…”  The cube shuffling and admin that the online implementation handles so well is such a ball-ache on the tabletop.  With two it’s tolerable.  With four it’s thoroughly unpleasant.

Finally, there’s the “take that” element.  The pendulum effect of cards that directly hurt your opponent and help you work well in a 2 player environment – like Magic the Gathering, it works very well as a duelling card game.  With four, not only is the admin a pain, but the swing it causes almost makes the rest of the game seem redundant.  Taking ‘4 crystals’ from every opponent every turn, for instance, just grinds things to a halt.

So, I am both very enthusiastic and bitterly disappointed by Seasons.  It does so many things well.  If I was the cynical sort, I’d suggest that this was designed as a two player game but converted to become more commercially attractive. So do yourself a favour – get yourself a copy and play it with two.  If you must play with more, do it online.  The bits are great though…

Seasons is available now and was designed by Regis Bonnessee, with art by Naiade. Published by Libellud and Asmodee, between two and four can play (though you’ve read Stuart’s views on games with more than two). If you’d like a copy, Gameslore have it in stock for £32.99 – a bargain!

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