Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Seasons- An Awesome and Pretty Game About Something

I typically enjoy games that fuse theme with mechanics well. That's probably a holdover from my miniatures gaming background. I can recognize the cleverness of games like Tsuro or Gosu but they can't hold a candle to theme in my mind. There are always exceptions, Dominion for example, or Dixit. And now Seasons.

Seasons is described as a game in which competing spellcasters rack up points in a contest to see who can be the best wizard of some fantasy land full of competitive spellcasters. The cards and components are stupendously attractive. Each spell and magical item is depicted in fabulous euro style cartoon artwork. The dice are solid and huge. There are a few kilos of cardboard counters and play aids and they're all sturdy and colorful.

There are many factors in the game's favor. They play is extremely fast with very little downtime and few chances for a player to stare paralyzed by their choices. I found myself with enough time to plot and plan well enough but almost never did I find myself sitting and waiting. The rules themselves allow for some strategy, you certainly improve your game with experience, and players can come back from defeat with inspired play and a bit of luck. The entire game can be finished in a bit more than an hour.

The main drawback to Seasons is that it's almost impossible to describe thematically. In concrete terms players take turns picking what sort of resource they will gather each turn. They can then turn in resources for victory points, save them for later, or spend them on "spells" which lead to more victory points, improve the player's game overall, or hurt the other players. Now all this is accomplished via "crystals," "power cards," "seasons," and "energy."

I've played this game several times and won once. I still have trouble remembering what a crystal is versus energy and power cards leaves me cold as I call the things spell cards. When we read the rules for the first time I watched three experienced gamers flail like prehistoric apes in front of the monolith. Ironically the game itself is actually pretty easy to play but for whatever reason the theme is like a blow to the head.

I recommend Seasons as a fun medium weight game. I like any game that you can come back from behind to win at. Further, while you can discomfort the other players it's on the whole pretty non confrontational. The rules are solid and the components pretty. Just don't be put off by the terminology. Set it up, start playing, and it'll all fall into place.

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