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 the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every 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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Sunday, 25 March 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Seikatsu

Game: Seikatsu

Publisher: IDW Games

Designer: Matt Loomis, Isaac Shalev

Year: 2017



Seikatsu is a 'game of perspective'. Each player has a pagoda and must create the most beautiful view of rows of matching flower types from their own perspective in the shared Japanese garden. Whilst filling the garden, flocks of birds will also be created and koi ponds may be dotted around the garden, further enhancing the view.

Seikatsu is a beautiful abstract tile-laying game, perfectly designed for three players but also playable with two. It also includes a four player team game and alternate solo rules in the box.




Gameplay

In Seikatsu each player is assigned to one of the 3 sides to the board and given a hand of 2 face-down tiles. Each tile has 2 features, a bird, and a ring of flowers, these correspond to in-game and end-game points respectively. On your turn you will place a bird from your hand onto the main board, if this tile is touching another bird of the same kind then you will score 1 point for every bird of that type in the group. After laying a tile you will draw a new tile from the back to refill your hand, ready for the next turn. If you instead played a fish pond then you will choose which of the birds next to it that it counts as, it's important to note that it only counts as that bird type when you play it, fish points do not add to bird groups in the long run. This will continue until the board is completely filled with birds, at which time final scoring begins.

The two player game where only two pagodas are active.
When the game is ended each player will score bonus points based on flowers. Each player has a side of the board from which 7 lines may be draw across the board, increasing in size as they near the center. On each of these lines you will count the most common flower type (with ponds counting as wildcards), scoring exponentially more bonus points for larger lines of one flower type. Combine these with the points scored during the game to get a final score.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

Seikatsu is an extraordinarily pretty game. The art is beautiful, the tokens are chunky and feel good to play with. Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn't live up to the looks. Seikatsu is a game that should be a competitive abstract game, giving you constant tough decisions about whether it's best to match flower for end game points or birds for rewards now. Unfortunately, in my experience, most of this decision is taken away by simple luck of the draw. A hand size of two means that the game can be won simply by the player who was lucky enough to have the tiles that suited them. Rarely does one player get very far ahead on points during the game as there aren't enough different bird species to break up the groups.

Very often you will place a bird to score 5 points, only to have your opponent place the same bird to make six, to which you will reply by placing another of the same kind for 7, followed by them scoring 8 from a fish pond. It's very hard to get far ahead during the game unless your opponent is unlucky enough to not be able to jump on your emerging bird groups. As a result, the game becomes more about who can score the best runs of flowers, while this does encourage long term planning on where to place your birds to help yourself/attack your opponent, it's also true that the higher echelon of points are most commonly available to the person who had the best fortune on drawing fish tiles.

Perhaps the game would be noticeably improved by adding the third player, but as a two player game the choices are two obvious, and too luck dependent to make a good game for me. Instead Seikatsu has ended up being yet another so-so filler game, one that stands out for it's high component quality and art design rather than it's gameplay.


Fi’s Final Thoughts

We have only been playing Seikatsu as a two player game, and two player abstract games are often not the best for Amy and me because she is normally consistently better at games with spatial planning. Seikatsu is good for us in this regard because most of your decisions are instant rather than long term. However, this is definitely also a negative for the game because it's often very obvious where it is best to play you pieces, so decision making is limited and luck of the draw becomes a bigger factor.


In principal Seikatsu gives you the opportunity to decide if you want to place a tile for end game points or immediate points from the birds no, or indeed if you want to play it just so that your opponent doesn't build up a strong flower pattern for the end game, but we just haven't found that these decision points feature very often when we are playing.

I think Seikatsu is a beautiful looking game and it is pleasant to play, but just not interesting for us. I can see it being a perfect fit for introducing parents, grandparents or perhaps a non-gaming partner into the hobby. It's quick, simple and visually appealing, so I think it would be an enticing game to start with, but you would soon want to move on to something with more interest.


The Good
  • Component quality and the graphic design of the board are a really high standard.
  • We find the game to be a really relaxing 10-minute filler.
The Bad
  • The game is affected by luck of the draw.
  • The decisions in the game seem very simple.
The Verdict
5.5/10 In spite of some flaws, we actually enjoy the experience of playing Seikatsu - it's relaxing and fun to play. We feel like there's a lot of luck, but it only lasts 10 minutes, so it's not a big deal for us.


Seikatsu was a review copy provided to the Board Game Exposure reviewer collective.

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