Let’s start off on an honest note: I don’t play many board games. I also don’t review them. Beyond the classic of monopoly (which is now rightfully banned from my house) and a sneaky game of Articulate every now and then, I’m pretty much lost when it comes to the world of board games. So, buckle up and get ready for my attempt to give an in-depth view from a newbie’s perspective of a game called Seasons.
I’ll start with another confession, my group in class picked Seasons because it looked like it was going to be easy. We were wrong. It’s very simple and kind striking cover graphics didn’t prepare us for the feeling of dread that came with opening the box to find a million different, very complicated (and very beautiful) pieces.
The Good Stuff (The Pieces)
Seasons doesn’t actually have a million pieces, but it does have a high materiality. When you open the box, you are greeted with an instruction sheet, under which every aspect of the game has its own little space in a specially designed plastic holder. It’s nice.
It has 20 individually crafted dice, five for each season- red for Autumn, blue for winter, yellow for summer and green for spring. Each of these dies has six sides, each with a plethora of different symbols that you use during the game, but we’ll get to that later. There are two lots of 50 different kinds of cards (for the mathematicians out there that makes 100 cards). All of the cards are beautifully designed.
Each player gets their own board in which to keep a track of the goodies that they earn in the game, and a separate board to the side that tracks your crystals (which are actually called Victory Points, a fact unbeknownst to me). There is a main board, that helps you keep track of the passage of time, and tells you how to convert energy tokens to crystals. There are also little colour coded cubes that help you keep track of what’s happening on all the boards, it’s very elaborate.
Which brings me to the energy tokens. The cards, the boards and the dice are so beautifully crafted that it feels like they ran out of budget for energy tokens, and just used the pop-out cardboard circles you get in cup holders from Maccas. In any other game, I wouldn’t have batted an eye at them, but Seasons has such beautiful detail that these cardboard monstrosities just seemed cripplingly out of place. This being said they were still very functional, so I shouldn’t really complain.
The Game Play
The instruction sheet did the best it could. It was laid out nicely, but so are some book on quantum mechanics, it doesn’t mean the content is going to be easy to understand. Seasons main drawback is the steep learning curve that new players have to face.
When starting the game, more experienced players pick out 9 cards from the deck to use during the game, by picking a card and passing the rest along, continuing this until everyone has 9. For new players, the booklet suggests sets of cards to play instead. We did not do either of these things. Instead, we took a dive in the deep- possibly misguided- end and dealt out 9 cards each from a shuffled deck.
With everything in what we hoped was the right place, we began the game. The basic principle is that one player rolls the all the dice for whatever season you’re in, and going around the circle everyone gets to pick one die each. The dice has symbols on them telling you if you can redeem a prize (pick up an energy token), increase the number of cards you can play, and transmute your energy tokens to get crystals. The final dice has a number on it which tells the player how many days to move the counter forward in the ‘year’. The game has three years in total, each with four seasons.
There is very little confrontation in seasons. While some of the cards you have can affect other players during the game, but you only get three each year, and they’re costly to use. Thus, most people just do their own thing, meaning it’s the perfect game for families that have, for instance, banned high confrontation games like monopoly from their houses.
I would recommend Season even only for the beauty of its design, but it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted.