Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over 18 months and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every other Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Summer never lasts long enough:- Seasons

Game: Seasons

Publisher: Libellud

Designer: Régis Bonnessée

The first rule of magic is know your environment, the second rule of magic is KNOW YOUR ENVIROMENT, the third rule of magic is don’t drink from your neighbours cauldron. Today we’ll cover rules 1 and 2. You can only draw upon the element which surround you, in a fiery desert you can cast fireballs galore, but in a frozen tundra you’ll struggle to conjure even a spark. The elements surround us, permeate us, but only as an extension of your environment, the biggest risk of casting a spell that uses fire when you are surrounded by cold is that you’ll take the element from your own body and that *will* kill you. Magic is dangerous, only immature amateurs would think of using it for games or tournaments! 

Seasons is a 2-4 player card game in which you play as 1 of 4 wizards taking part in a three year long tournament. The game includes a mix of drafting, dice rolling and creature summoning all on a background of via the changing of seasons across the three years you play.

Seasons starts with a drafting round, there’s nothing special about this drafting, you start with 9 cards, pick one, pass it on etc and you end with 9 cards, though hopefully ones that match you plans a bit better. Things then get interesting, the game takes place over 3 years and you will only get to have 3 of your 9 cards in any one year. You have to assign 3 cards to each year’s pile so you’ll have to take into consideration whether you are able to use them to full effect. There are some nice combos that you can pull off, such as cards with effects when you play them which combine well with cards that make you take a card back into your hand, or cards with ongoing effects which are nice to get out early as they can affect every card you play. You’ll come up with your own strategies quickly on what cards are best to play early or late but you can always get more cards during the game.

The game set up ready for drafting to begin, the board in the center tracks the passing of time, and depicts what elements are common/rare/missing.
The main game itself involves rolling dice (equal to the number of players +1) and then every player choosing which dice they want to take. There are 4 sets of dice, one for each season, and each set has 3 of the 4 energy types on them, 2 are common and 1 is rarer. For example fire isn’t available in spring, but is common in summer. The dice also include other effects such as being able to draw extra cards, increasing your summon gauge (which limits the number of cards you can play), flat out gaining some points or getting the ability to transmute. Transmuting is an interesting part of the gameplay and you can easily base a playstyle around it. If you have excess energy and you took a transmute dice then you can turn that energy into points. The best bit is that the value of points is based on its rarity in the current season; during the spring, when you can’t obtain it, fire is worth 3 a pop, but it’s only worth 1 in summer and autumn. There are plenty of cards that give you bonuses to transmutes, or allow you to transmute at the high rate even for common elements etcetera. 

After every player has chosen their dice and played any cards they want then the time moves equal to the number of pips on the rejected dice. The decision on which dice to take can often be as much about the time used as the goodies on the dice face. If you are desperate to stock up on a certain element type you may want to speed time to the relevant season and then slow time to a crawl so you can maximise your collection.

The 5 dice for each season, the number of dots is how fast time will move if that dice is left unchosen, the stars represent summoning power, the circles allow you to transmute, the rectangles allow you to draw power cards, the numbers are flat point gains and the other symbols are the different elements you get.
Seasons is full of complex dynamics, even when the rolls hate you there is still a get out of jail card in the form of a series of 4 special powers which you can use at the cost of end-game points. There is an underlying feeling of fairness in the game which I really appreciate, most of the really good combos are balanced in needing awkward element combinations or also helping your foes, but if you are clever then you can really get some obscene power towards the end of the game. Combine this with the art on the cards which I really don’t take enough time to appreciate and a core mechanic which is unlike anything I’ve ever played and I can’t recommend seasons enough. Sure it’s possible to have bad card draw/dice luck, but there’s enough chances in the game that it should average out, and if the fates really are hating you that much then I’m not sure you can blame the game


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