Seasons Review

 

 
‘We are finally here, dear Lewis.’ ‘I, I see, Master, I see. I’m excited. Really excited!’ The two strange looking creatures walked through the tall trees, slowly approaching the brightly coloured tents, huddled together in a small opening in the middle of the dark forest . ‘We are going to beat them this time, dear Lewis. I know it. I feel it.’ Lewis rubbed his eyes, straightened his jacket and looked up to his master. ‘I know, I know. Haven’t slept for days. Weeks maybe, I cannot really remember, Master. No, I cannot.’  His master, a tall, tawny looking mage with bright green eyes and pink hair was looking, absentmindedly, into the distance. Lewis took his pendulum out of his front pocket and tossed it, nervously, from one paw into the other. ‘You are going to win, Master. I’m sure of it.’ The rabbit whispered to himself.   
Overview:
 
What you get for your money:
In the box are: 1 small game board, 1 crystal track, 4 player boards, 16 player cubes, 8 library tokens, a season cube and a year cube. You also get 20 custom Season dice, 100 cards, 64 Energy tokens and the rules.
 
How do you play the game:
In Seasons you are a sorcerer ready to battle other wizards in a three year tournament. A competition with a prize: the title of Archmage of the kingdom of Xidit. You call upon the earthly elements, magical items and powerful creatures to defeat your rivals.
 
  
The tournament and the game takes three years, there are four seasons in one year and there are three months in one season. Sorcerers use four elements (types of energy) for their magic: air, earth, fire and water. These elements are abundant during one season and scarce during another. At the start of the game every player gets a player board and some cubes. These are to indicate the advancement on several tracks. The first track is the crystal track. Crystals are, first of all, your points, but you can also use them to pay for cards during the game. The second track, depicted on your player board, is the summoning gauge track. This simply indicates how many cards you can have in front of you. The last track is the bonus action track. You can use these actions four times during the game, but you will lose points doing so. 
 
 
Seasons is a card and dice drafting game. The card drafting happens at the beginning of the game. Every player will receive nine cards, choose one and pass the rest to the next player until you have nine cards in your personal stack. You divide these cards (not randomly) into three stacks of three cards, one for the first year, one for the second year and one for the third year of the tournament. Then the game can begin.
 
 
Every round, the first player rolls the season dice belonging to the season you are in. Blue dice during winter, green during spring ,yellow during summer and red during autumn. You roll one more die than the amount of players. Then, every player picks one die and places it in front of him. A die can offer you several actions. When the die depicts a droplet, a fire, a feather or a leaf, you may take the corresponding energy token. You can only can have seven energy tokens at any time in your supply. A die can also show a number. When, you’ve chosen that die, you receive that amount of crystals. A die can also have a ‘take a card’, ‘increase your summoning gauge’ and/ or ‘Transmute energy tokens’ symbol on it. Transmute energy tokens simply means transforming energy tokens into crystals according to the chart that is present on the game board. When a energy type is scarce during a season, you will get more crystals than when it’s very abundant.  
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After the dice drafting phase, every player, starting with the first player, has the option to summon power cards from their hand. To do that he must pay the right amount and type of energy tokens or crystals and have a high enough summoning gauge. There are two card categories, namely Magical Items and Familiars, and these can have three types of effects: an immediate, a permanent or an activation effect (this card effect is triggered by discarding something, for instance). Magical items are beneficial to the player who summons the card. Familiars, magical creatures, are ‘screw you’ cards and can have an effect on more than one player, like steal from a person or opponents must give you something when they want to summon cards. Besides the effect, cards also give you points at the end of the game.  
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When every player finished their turn, the round ends. Do you remember that I said that there is one more season die than the amount of players? That last die, the one nobody chose, is important at this moment. On every side of a season die you can also see one, two or three pips. That is the amount of months the season token will move forward. When the year changes because of that, every player has access to the three cards from his year two (or three) stack. When three years are over, the game ends. You get crystals or points according to the crystal track and the cards in front of you. You get negative points for every card that you have left in your hand and according to your bonus track.
 
 
The one with the most points gets the title Archmage and wins Seasons.
 
Review:
Gameplay
You need to play this game more than once.
 
“It’s a 35 Euro game! You better be playing it more than once you money wasting tw..”  Calm down, man. I’ll try to explain. The first time I read the rules, looked through the cards and then played this game, I thought it was quite difficult. The rules state that, as a first timer, you can skip the card drafting phase and play with pre-constructed decks. That didn’t help at all. I didn’t know which strategy to pursue, couldn’t create order in the chaos and I really, really had no clue what I was doing.
 
I had fun, a bit, but most importantly I found out some important stuff. Stuff that helped me appreciate the game more, later on. One of the things I found out is that in Seasons the types of cards you have are important, but the moment when you summon them is equally or even more important.
 
You probably are able to summon every or most of the cards you’ve chosen at the beginning of the game. That will not be the problem, but to get the most out of these cards in terms of powers and rewards, you have to summon them at the right moment. You have to look at your energy supply, you have remember the cards your opponents have and you need to crawl into their heads and try to figure out what they want to do and when. When you know these things or think you know, you are able to play your card at the most advantageous time.
 
Example. I have an example. There is a familiar card, Lewis Greyface, and when you play that card you gain exactly the same amount of energy tokens as one of your opponents. This card is useless when your opponents have no or very little tokens. Or when they have a lot, but you have too (remember, you can only have seven tokens at any time). Another example! The ‘Hand of Fortune’ card gives you a discount of 1 energy token when you summon other cards. Not very handy when you’ve put it into your year three stack. These are simple examples, but you probably won’t think of less obvious ones when you play Seasons the first time.
 
Like I said, Seasons is all about timing. It’s not a very strategic game, as I first thought. Sure, you will have some sort of strategy in mind when you choose your cards, but I think it’s more a tactical, deal with problems and opportunities that arise at that moment, game. The dice are random, so you don’t always have the things you need at the time you want summon cards. Other people will screw you over, steal energy or crystals. So, yes, keep the bigger picture in mind, because of the timing aspect, but think of the game as a constant action-reaction- action-reaction- action-reaction sequence.
 
You only will get these ideas and mechanism if you play this game more than once. The game will still be quite chaotic, but less overwhelming, the second or third time. You now know, at least, what might happen during the game.
 
The basic mechanisms are, once you’ve become acquainted with them, quite straightforward. There are some card effects that need a reading or two, but it’s not rocket science.
 
It’s a fairly fast pacing game. Pick a die, get energy, crystals, move some counters and play one or more cards. Next player. The nice thing is you have control over the pace. You choose the die that will not be chosen. Do you want the year to go by fast, leave a die behind with three pips. Do you want to have another Winter turn, because you really need the water energy tokens, choose a die with one pip to be left behind. The years will go as fast or as slowly as you want. That’s a very neat way to manipulate the game.
 
It’s also very easy to manipulate your opponents. There can be a lot of direct interaction, a lot of ‘screw you!’. You thought you had a plan, well not anymore! You want to summon a card, first give me crystals. This is the main reason, the only reason basically that this game is chaotic. With more than two players, there will be multiple different or the same Familiars on the table. So, in that case, when you want to do stuff, you might have to pay him a crystal and her a energy token. Plus, with more players, the drafting phase is different. With two players there is only one card you haven’t seen. With more players, there are more unknowns (not loads more, but still). With more player there are more surprises, more chaos.  
 
Theme
There’s a big difference whether you look at theme superficially or substantially. Superficially this game is pretty thematic. You are a sorcerer, influencing the elements with a flick of the finger. You use powerful amulets and summon dangerous creatures from realms beyond our imagination to fight other sorcerers. A cool idea and it looks good too. A lot of wizardy flavour with nice symbols and lovely magical pictures on the cards, tokens and dice.
 
But when I look at the ‘Why? ‘. The real mechanism behind these cool pictures and the integration of the magical theme into the mechanism, I can’t really justify why most of the familiars or magical items do what they do or need what they need.
Looks
I think this game looks stunning. The card illustration are really beautiful. The colours are bright. They did not choose standard player colours. Not your standard red, blue, green and yellow, but orange, grey, purple and green. OK, they have used green, but it’s a lighter green. It’s something different. The dice are big. It’s like a tiny earthquake when you roll them. They are the reason your downstairs neighbours moved out. The reason your kids cannot sleep.
Quality of the components
The quality is good. Nice sturdy, plastic, custom dice. Good quality cardboard pieces. The cards aren’t linen, but there’s not that much shuffling, so I’m OK with that.
Fun
I really like Seasons. It’s a chaotic game, but it’s manageable. Especially with two players. The more players, the less control you have.
 
The timing element makes this game really interesting. You can manipulate the game and your opponents a lot by choosing or not choosing certain cards or dice. That, plus the card effects themselves and especially the effects of the Familiars, make this game very interactive.
 
You need to deal with the problems when they arise. Adjust and pay attention.
 
Another big plus, for me, is that the game plays fast. There is enough to think about, but it’s not too thinky.
 
And it looks cool. Very cool.
 
I would say it’s a medium to medium-light game, probably more medium level because it’s not a game that you pick up, play and immediately know what you’re doing. You’ll have to get into it.
 
In conclusion, I really recommend Seasons.
 
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