Too Bad The Post Office Isn't As Efficient As The Weather Service - Seasons Review

One thing that can grab me about any game is the quality of the dice. I like chucking dice as much as the next person, providing that the whole basis for the game isn't purely based on luck of what you roll - i.e. you need to be able to mitigate it. 

But rolling a basic six-sided dice with pips on it gets dull unless you make good use of them (see Alien Frontiers or Kingsburg for example). Custom dice however always look cool, I mean look at how Marvel Dice Masters is taking the world by storm lately. And of course who can forget the classic King of Tokyo or the recent Bang: The Dice Game, the murderer of its predecessor?

Seasons is a game which can almost be called "Magic The Gathering With Dice". You are archmages competing in a 3 year tournament showing off your skills and collecting crystals by playing power cards with different abilities and manipulating the elements with the help of an innovate timer mechanism and custom dice. Very popular in the gaming meta and being expanded each year so far, let's dive in.

"Libellud were also responsible for publishing Dixit - oh yeah you know the artwork will be good!"

Designer: Regis Bonnessee (2012)
Publisher: Libellud
# of Players: 2-4
Ages: 14+
Play Time: 60+ minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: 116/7.49
Dice Tower 2013 People’s Choice Rank: 41
Category: Dice & Card Hand Management Game
  
Don't Annoy The Guy Holding The Dice

Libellud (or Asmodee in some areas) are great for their component quality especially when it comes to colour. These publishers absolutely love striking colours in their game and this is no exception. The season timer is intuitive and striking as a centerpiece to the table and the power cards all feature gorgeous unique artwork, kind of like what Disney animated films would look like if given a severe budget increase.

"Aww man, just look at them, beautiful etched designs, easy to read, and HUGE!"

But the dice steal the show. There are 5 dice for each of the four seasons of the year (Summer, Spring, Autumn and Winter) distinguished by colour. Each dice is custom made and there are differences in the symbols and sides among all of the dice - I'm not sure if any dice in this game is actually identical to another one, it certainly isn't obvious without taking an in-depth look into it. But the first thing you'll notice is just how huge these dice are. Seriously these are the largest dice I've seen in a board game and they aren't just cheap plastic either, they're really solid and chunky to the point where they could be used as lethal bludgeoning weapons. Rolling these every turn is just a joy especially when the season changes as you then go "right, my turn and I get the cool blue dice now, yay!" . . . . . . or is that just me?

The only minor blemishes are that cubes are still used for point and timer tracking which detract from what is top quality. Also the crystal scoring track, however colourful it is, is far too small. You have to track changes in points frequently and trying to manipulate tiny cubes on a very small scoring track that goes up to 100+ becomes incredibly fiddly. And woe betide the person who accidentally knocks it during the game. . . .

"You can see how small this scoring track is, now try balancing four tiny cubes on it"

Simplicity And Complexity

The rules themselves are not complex at all. The first phase of the game is drafting 9 power cards for each player, a mechanic I wasn't expecting to see, but a welcome one, drafting is a popular way to deal starting hands. In addition you have to select three sets of three cards that become available to you in one of the three years of the game.

You roll the dice and then in turn, pick one of the dice you wish to use that turn. After all dice are chosen you resolve the effects ranging from gaining crystals (VP's) building up energy (water, fire, air, earth), transmuting energy into crystals and increasing your summoning power. After this you play power cards from your hand providing you have the energy to do so and enough summoning power to manage it.

After everyone has resolved their dice, the pips on the one die that is left over dictate how far the season timer moves which can change the dice to be used in the next turn and affect the rarity of energy elements (for e.g. it's impossible to gain fire in the Spring and air is less common).

"The rulebook is one of the best -  colourful, clear, concise and has full descriptions for EVERY card"

And that's all there is, rinse and repeat over the course of the game. So the general gameplay is simple, but there's a lot of tactics and decisions involved. In the drafting phase you have to choose your cards wisely and then decide which cards you want straight away and which ones you can afford to wait for in the long term. On each turn you have to make the best use of the dice that are rolled and hope that another player doesn't nick the dice you wanted. And it's not just a case of wanting certain types of energy or more summoning power, you have to pay close attention to the die that could be left over. You might need the game to remain in Winter for as long as possible to make the most of it, so you can't afford for the un-used die to suddenly shift the tempo into Spring. A lot of decision making is involved and helps to keep up the tension in the game.

Now there are some drawbacks with regards to this high level of decision making. Someone who is used to CCG's/LCG's (such as myself) will have a much easier time of grasping the cards in this game then a complete newbie will. In the base game there's only 50 unique cards with two copies each, but a new player will still have to read at minimum 10-18 different card powers in the draft phase of a two player game and potentially 25-36 cards roughly in a four player game.

"The artwork is LUSH across all of the cards, and I find them simple enough but some players will struggle"

Now you can for arguments sake simply deal out 9 cards to each player and keep things simple and I say that's fine for a tutorial game, but to get the full enjoyment you really want to be drafting. So the text reading at the beginning may be daunting to some, but in general the cards themselves aren't not that complex to understand and the rulebook does provide different deck construction guides to make life easier for the complete novice so good thinking on the publishers part there. But this game will take a few repeated plays to really grasp the full potential of the cards and that's before you start chucking in expansions.

Taking A Season To Play

The game is designed for 2-4 players and claims 60 minutes on the box. Now with 2 players, that's actually a very accurate claim. A game I just played last night in fact took 45-50 minutes including rules explanations with two of us which was a great length for an involved game. My friend has been used to card games though so there was a little advantage there, but even so, 60 minutes is about as long as a two player game should take.

With 3 players, the time starts to take a large increase in length. More drafting means more time spent and as the game goes on, the combos from the cards can be a lengthy process to resolve. However you should still be able to wrap up a game in 90-120 minutes easily which is still a good length and we're talking the lower end of the scale if all players have seen the game before.

However . . . . . . .with four players . . . . the time factor increases exponentially. Getting this game done in less than 120-150 minutes with four players is only possible with veteran players it seems. Never teach this game to 3 novices if you're hoping for a quick session. In fact the game just becomes less enjoyable as there can be a little too much downtime in general between turns especially if someone spends forever in AP mode deciding what order to resolve all his combos in. I therefore highly recommend that you only play this game with 2 or 3 players, it really shines with two, but even with three it's solid.

"This was a 4 player game - it took a while, let's just say that!"

Separating out the cards pre-game can also be a pain especially if you intend to tailor the deck construction for new players as suggested in the book. Get good at sifting through cards and you can keep this time down, but otherwise you'll probably be wanting to simply use all 50 different cards just to keep this part simple.

Verdict

The game is still popular to this day and it's going to be a keeper on my shelf. It's a very unique, innovative game with a lot of replayability and with the right people can be played really quickly. That being said, with the wrong people or with too many people this game can easily drag out far too long. I stand by my own personal recommendation to not play this with 4 players again. So have a think about the group you play with before considering the game - this would be ideal for gaming couples that I know for certain (a concept that is sadly missing for me. . . . . where's that violin?)

It's not that expensive to buy and you're getting a beautiful looking game with some of the best chunky dice I've seen in a game. It always gets a comment from on-lookers based on its visual appeal. I wish an alternative to using cubes for tracks could be done though, especially the scoring track which is a fiddly pain to manage sometimes. I figure this game would benefit from using dials instead - take a note from Fantasy Flight Games, dials are cool. . . . unless you play Relic then it's a bit extreme!

You Will Like This Game If:
  • You get a kick out of rolling chunky, custom dice, they are easily the highlight.
  • You're experienced with card games such as Magic - it's easier to grasp the power cards then.
  • You're looking for a more involved game for a small number of players, particularly for two.

You Will Not Like This Game If:
  • You generally play games with large groups of people (i.e. four or more) 
  • You play with AP players often - when combos get going, they will slow the game down.
  • You tend to struggle with games where you have to read the card text of multiple cards at once.







0 comments: