Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Seasons board game Review

A 2-4 player card and dice game Seasons does not lend itself to a single classification.  It is a constructed deck game using a drafting system (although the rules do come with some pre-made decks for beginner play) in which players use dice to fuel their cards’ casting requirements.  The object is to gain enough prestige points to become the new Archmage of Xidit during the tournament of the 12 Seasons in the Forest of Argos.  This is done through the casting of the spells players choose at the beginning of the game.  However players do not have access to all 9 cards they start with and must set aside 3 cards for the second and third ‘year’ of the tournament (a year ends after a full trip through all 4 seasons starting in winter).  How quickly this occurs is somewhat random and crafty play can both speed up the process or slow it down.

Each turn the ‘lead’ or first player rolls a number of coloured (blue for winter, green for spring, yellow for summer and red for autumn) equal to the number of players +1.  These dice have a variety of symbols and effects but boil down to a few key components - gain energy to cast spells, give the ability to transmute energy into crystals (which can power spells as well as be traded in at the end of the game for Prestige Points), increase your summoning gauge (i.e. the maximum number of spells you can have on the table in front of you), draw a card (which can be cast that same round) and finally determine how far the year advances (1,2 or 3 months each season having 3 months of course).  Players take turns selecting their die and when that is done then activate any spells or magical devices they wish to use.  Some things can be used multiple times while others are a ‘use once and discard’ type.  Still others affect other cards as they are cast most often gaining you additional crystal or energy.

Gameplay is fast paced and very easy to understand - the complexity of the game lies in the cards and how they interact with each other.  While the 4 plays we did used only the basic cards (number 1-30 the deck has 2 of each of these cards) a read through of the advanced cards (numbered 31-50 and again with 2 of each) show many similar interactions with only a few ‘red flag’ cards that might prove unbalanced in this author’s opinion. 

The ability of players to interact with each other and affect each other’s score is minimal.  Most of the cards are about building up your own points rather than tearing down your opponent (a common enough trait of most ‘euro’ games).  The tension and part we found most engaging was the dice selection as everyone is riveted by what is rolled.  While this may seem too random for some the variety of dice and symbols gives even the final player in the round a lot to think about in selection.  The cards have a simply huge variety of effects and benefits - far too many to name here and it is this where Seasons shines.  Scores can fluxuate a great deal throughout the game and even if trailing by large amounts no player is out of the running.  A great deal of thought and effort went into these and overall a very solid balance has been achieved.  Comments at our table were very positive and we enjoyed this aspect of the game immensely. 

The quality and durability of the components of the game is very impressive.  Beautiful artwork, vibrant colours and solid construction were very much appreciated by us and the game is a visual joy to look at while playing.

Not everything was positive in our experience of course.  A few things stood out as needing some kind of change/re-working.  First a ‘first player’ token of some sort is badly needed - while many hate them here it is really important as the first player gets the chance to select first from the dice rolled and we sometimes got confused as to who started a round (not helped by the fact some rounds simply flew by as everyone was engaged and ready to complete their turns right away!).  Second the colour choice for air (red) and fire (yellow) is simply wrong and led to far too much confusion.  We ended up called air ‘feathers’ (due to the feather symbol used) to try and help out with this.  Thirdly there is a glaring problem with the starting decks the rulebook recommends in that deck 3 is vastly more powerful than any of the others (in not only has a 30 point victory card but a way to cast it for free!  Our 4 player game was won with a total of just under 200 points) with deck 2 being a decided poor cousin to the other 3.  Lastly when we used the card drafting in our 2 player game it left a lot to be desired - one player didn’t like knowing all of the cards in both decks (he felt it would give an unfair advantage to someone more experienced) and the other felt it took away some of the fun in seeing what cards were going to show up in the game.

In the end though these negatives are far outweighed by the positives and we can recommend Seasons to anyone looking for a fun, fast paced card game (with a little dice rolling in it for good measure) that plays in 90 minutes or less.

Andrea, Todd, Dan and Jeff

No comments: