Game Buzz: Seasons

In this post, I’ll look at a game that was off my radar completely until I saw an image of the artwork on the front page at BGG:

image aby BGG user Siegfried

Seasons is a game for 2-4 players aged 12 and up that is coming soon from designer Régis Bonnessée and publisher Libellud.  Libellud is a French publisher that had a massive hit recently with the release of Dixit (Spiel des Jahres winner for 2010).   The game is about a three-year wizard tournament, the so-called tournament of the 12 seasons (though it actually only takes about an hour).  After recently talking about the reprint of Wiz-War, it will be interesting to see how this is different.

Bits – image by BGG user Siegfried

With a game of Seasons, you get a circular board that shos the year track, the season wheel, and the energy transmutation chart; a crystal track that shows the amount of crystals owned by each player; 20 dice in the four seasonal colors (blue for winter, green for spring, yellow for summer, and red for fall); four cubes per player color (sorcerer tokens) used to mark your crystals on the crystal track, your energy reserves, the maximum number of power cards you can have in play, and the bonus track that grants you special abilities but costs you points; 100 power cards (2 copies of 50 different cards); eight library tokens that mark your cards for the second and third years; and energy tokens representing air, water, fire, and earth.

After setting up the board, tokens, and dice, as well as choosing the difficulty level, you’ll begin the game.  The first part of the game is the card draft.  Each player gets nine power cards based on the difficulty – for beginners, there are four preconstructed sets; for intermediates, you’ll only be using power cards 1-30; for experts, you’ll be using all cards.  You select your deck using a standard draft – choose one, pass the rest, choose one, pass the rest.  You’ll then build your deck, making three sets of three cards each.  The first three cards will be available in the first year, the second set will be added in the second year, and the third set will come into play in the third year.

The rest of the game is the tournament.  You’ll begin a round by rolling the dice associated with the season.  From among the dice rolled, each player (beginning with the first) will choose one that indicates the action they can take on their turn (there will be one more die than players).  You then can take your turn and can perform the action(s) of your die, summon/activate power cards, or use one or more bonuses from your player board.  You can do as many actions as you want during your turn.

First, let’s look at the dice.  Several symbols may be present on one side of a die, and here’s what you may be able to do:

  • If there’s Air, Fire, Water, or Earth symbols, take the indicated number of energy tokens, placing them in your reserve.  You can’t have more than seven in your reserve.
  • If there’s a number, get that many crystals on the crystal track.  This and the energy option must be resolved before doing anything else.
  • If there’s a star, you increase your summoning gauge by one.  This indicates how many power cards you can have in play.
  • If there’s a card symbol, draw a power card from the draw pile (not your reserve).  You can keep it or discard it (there’s no hand limit).
  • If there’s a circle, you can transmute some of your energy tokens into crystals.  The transmutation rate depends on the season.

To summon a power card, two conditions need to be met: you need to pay the summoning cost, and your summoning gauge needs to be full enough to accommodate it.  You can summon several cards in a turn as long as you meet the criteria, and you can have two of the same card in play.  Some cards have effects that take place when entering play; some have permanent effects; some must be activated, and can only be used once per round.

You can use up to three bonuses during the game.  Each bonus will cost you VPs: -5/-12/-20 for using 1/2/3 during the game.  One bonus allows you to trade two energy tokens for two of your choice.  One allows you to add an additional crystal when transmuting.  One increases your summoning gauge by one.  The last one allows you to draw two cards instead of one.

After every player has taken a turn, the round ends and the first player rotates to the left.  You’ll look at the die that was not chosen, specifically at the number of dots (pips) on the face that was rolled.  You’ll advance the season token that many spaces.  If it crosses 3, 6, 9, or 12, the season changes.  If it crosses 12, a new year begins and you take the cards set aside for that year.  If it crosses 12 at the end of the third year, the game is over.  Add your crystals and points on cards in play, then subtract 5 points for each card still in your hand and any bonus penalties.  The player with the most points is the winner.

Since the art is what initially attracted me to the game, let me talk about that for a moment.  It’s absolutely gorgeous.  Take a look at this collage of images from the game that I put together:

collage of images from BGG by user Siegfried

Component quality does not make a game – USUALLY.  I’d say that the big glaring exception to this is Dixit, which I don’t think would be nearly as fun without the art.  And since Libellud is the producer of both, I’d say this one will continue that standard.  However, I also think there are a lot of mechanically interesting things going on here.  There’s an initial card draft followed by a bit of deck construction that gives you some say about when the cards will come out.  On top of those nine cards you know you’re getting, you can also draw more to put into play.  The -5 per card penalty at the end of the game will prevent people from hoarding, which I could see being a problem without the fix.

I like the idea of dice determining what you can do during a turn.  There’s some drafting going on there with these custom dice, and it seems like you’ll always be able to do something productive.  The symbols all seem very easy to follow, and the gameplay doesn’t seem very complicated.  The time element of the advancing seasons seems like it will be really cool as well, especially since the speed of the game is determined by the die no one wanted.

So, to recap: the art drew me in, but I think this looks like an absolutely solid game that has rocketed up my watch list.  Hopefully it will get some domestic distribution (I’m assuming with Asmodee) because I think it will be a huge hit.  Thanks for reading!

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4 comments

    • Well, like it or not, board games are a fantasy genre. If you cut out fantasy games, I think you’re seriously limiting the imagination. Personally, I think fantasy is a well that can continue to be explored for a while to come.

      • Yeah, and they will always have a place. The problem is that almost every new game now has a fantasy theme, which is a stopping block towards our hobby gaining credibility in the mainstream. Its reverting back to a “nerds-only” hobby.

      • I disagree. If every box had snarling orcs on the cover, maybe. But I think a game like Seasons is going to do more for the hobby than a trading goods in Renaissance Italy game. It’s attractive, it has interesting mechanics, and I think it will be easy enough to understand that people will want to play more. And I don’t think it’s fair to say that almost every game has a fantasy theme. Sure, there’s quite a few, but there’s also a lot of sci-fi (which I’d argue is more of a geek magnet than fantasy), horror (zombies are everywhere), wargames, mythology, historical, and literary/commercial tie in games. Personally, I don’t think theme is as important as making good games to draw people in – look at the rising popularity of Settlers of Catan. I know it’s not fantasy, but I think a game of that quality with an actual interesting theme would have a chance to do really well.

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