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Kick-Ass Game Review – Seasons

seasonsIt’s about time I got my hands on a copy of Seasons. It’s been high up on the list for more than a year now. I first played it at GenCon in 2012, and thought it was easily one of the best games at that show (though in all fairness, I didn’t exactly try them all, since I was working the whole time). But the game sold out almost immediately, and I didn’t manage to get a review copy until last month. So finally, after having played the game dozens of times at conventions or with copies owned by other people, I can tell you why you should go get a copy for yourself.

I met Regis Bonnessee, the designer of Seasons, at that GenCon where I first played his game. After playing the game once, I had the opportunity to ask him if he did a large variety of drugs. He is French, and so he did not entirely understand my question, which makes sense because really, who asks people if they do drugs? But if you see Seasons, and someone explains the rules of the game, you’ll be able to understand why I thought mind-altering substances must have been involved in the game’s development.

You’ve got this circle in the middle of the table that tells you what season you’re in, and that determines how many crystals you can get if you transmute energy, and also tells you what color of gigantic dice you roll. You roll one more die than you have players – four players, roll five dice – and then pick dice with pictures of fire and water drops and shrubbery. And you use these dice to power the cards in your hand, which do a variety of cool things but are also worth a bunch of points at the end of the game.

So the basic description of Seasons is weird enough, but you should see the components. They look like they were designed by Salvador Dali on an absinthe bender. Honking big dice, cardboard circles with pictures of elements, this wild round thing in the middle of the table like a twisted Ouija board, and a big stack of cards with some seriously trippy art. There’s a rabbit with bugged-out eyes who looks like he’s tripping balls. There’s an hourglass in the middle of a sand castle built on top of a sundial. And there’s a potion of dreams, but I have no idea what that picture is supposed to be.

Basically, you’ve got a game with all these weird moving parts, and lots of cards with oddly beautiful art, and it just does not look like all these things should go together unless you are hallucinating. But once the rules are explained and you finish your second or third turn, everything will start to click and you’ll see that Seasons only looks odd because you’ve never played anything like this before. It’s weird because it’s unfamiliar, but it’s brilliant because of how well it all works.

The basic goal is to earn the most points, which you get by playing cards. Most of the cards are worth something at the end of the game (unless you have not played them, and then they count against you). Many of the cards give you a way to score points during the game, and exploiting these cards is critical. The dice you choose will give you energy tokens, which you can turn into points, but you may also need them to play more cards. Some of the cards give you energy tokens, which you can use to play more cards, which you can play to get a better exchange rate for your tokens.

What happens, then, is a seamless and captivating synergy, where you’re playing just the right card at just the right time to get just the right effect. At the beginning, when you’re short on resources and can’t play anything at all, this can be hard to see. But when the end of the game comes, and your one quick action turns into a series of triggers and counter-actions that balance against each other to produce an amazing chain of effects, you’ll wonder where Seasons has been all your life.

You know that sort of zen-state you get when you’re playing Magic and everything is coming together, when you’ve got just the right combinations at just the right time and the game feels like a well-oiled machine? Seasons is a little like that, but where that only happens in Magic if you’re lucky, it happens in Seasons every time you’re good enough to make it work. You have so much control over your own plays, and there are so many cards that can counter your opponents (and then cards that can counter those counters) that the skilled player is going to get that rush of seeing everything working, and he or she is going to get it every game.

Regis assured me that no illegal pharmaceuticals were involved in the creation process of Seasons, and once I got a few plays under my belt, it became obvious that no stoner could have invented something that works this well. Seasons is an exceptional game, one that you’ll want to master, and then buy all the expansions, and play with a bunch of people to try out different strategies and different cards. It provides that mental challenge that I crave in a game, where every decision is tricky and you’re constantly shifting your strategy to accommodate changing conditions. It is brilliant without being deliberate and easy enough to learn that you can teach new people in minutes (though if you’re any good, it will take them hours of practice before they can beat you). It’s original and exciting, plays great with any number of players, and will keep you coming back for more.

Summary

2-4 players

Pros:
Original and brilliant
Cunning strategy that has to shift on the fly
Every decision counts, but rarely will one decision completely destroy you
Looks amazing

Cons:You cannot lick the dice to get high

Coolstuff has a good price on Seasons. You should buy it.

BUY SEASONS, NOT LSD

4 Responses to “Kick-Ass Game Review – Seasons”

  1. Jerry M says:

    Been on my wishlist at CSI for awhile. I should pull the trigger on it sometime.

  2. And it’s still the most played game on boardgamearena! I played there more often than on our table. That’s why i traded the game:) But still – such an amazing game!

  3. Cephalofair says:

    Yeah, I absolutely love playing Season on BoardGameArena. On the table, the game can get a little fiddly, dealing with everyone’s crystal count and such, so playing it online allows you to cut through all that and just enjoy the fantastic mechanics.

  4. Nate says:

    “You know that sort of zen-state you get when you’re playing Magic and everything is coming together, when you’ve got just the right combinations at just the right time and the game feels like a well-oiled machine?”

    I have experienced this often while playing Dominion. Usually after my third bourbon.

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