Seasons has been out for a little while now, but it’s just recently that I’ve been able to sink my teeth into it. This is my first impression (albeit a little late) of this interesting game.
In Seasons you play as a powerful wizard in the world of Xidit. You’ve been gathered to do battle in a three year competition to determine who will be the new Archmage of the land. The goal of the game is Crystals (points), but there are a lot of paths to get them.
Seasons is a drafting game. It begins with a card draft and throughout the rest of the game players will be drafting dice. The card draft really sets up the strategy for the rest of the game. Each player gets nine Power Cards, chooses one and passes on the hand. This repeats until everyone has drafted a full set of nine. Power Cards come in two flavours, purple Magical Items and Orange Familiars. Each card has either an immediate or ongoing effect and an end game point value. Once players have their nine cards they will separate them into three different hands of three. They get one hand to start with and the other two get added at then end of the first and second years of play.
Seasons starts in the winter of the first year of the competition. Each season has it’s own unique dice and when you change into a new season, the dice you roll change as well. The start player rolls the dice (always one more than the number of players) and chooses the one they want. Players then in turn order get to pick from the remaining dice, leaving one left over. Then in turn players can execute the actions available to them on their die, play out Power Cards or activate any Power Cards they have in play. The left over die will have 1-3 pips on it and that will advance the calendar or timer of the game.
Dice can provide a number of different rewards when you take them. Sometimes they give you straight up Crystals, extra Power Cards, Energy Tokens, summoning space or the ability to Transmute. Usually it’s a combination of those possibilities.
Energy Tokens are one of the currencies in the game. They can be used to pay for the cost of Power Cards or Transmuted into Crystals. There are four different types of Energy available, Water, Earth, Fire and Air, and they vary in rarity depending on the season. For example, you’re going to see a lot of Water and Air in Winter, but Earth will not show up on any die.
When your die gives you the option to Transmute you can turn any or all of the Energy Tokens in your reserve into Crystals. The return you’re going to get depends on the season that you’re in. The rarer the energy in that particular season the more Crystals you’re going to get. In Winter the Earth energy won’t show up at all, but if you have one in your reserve from an earlier round you can turn it into three Crystals. The relatively common Air and Water energies will only earn you one Crystal each.
Each wizard has their own player board that holds their Energy Tokens (to a max of seven) and monitors their progress on the Summoning Track. To be able to bring out a Power Card you must have the space for it. The Summoning Track indicates how many cards you can have in play. Your player board also holds a Bonus Track, which sounds really good and it can be, but it will also cost you end game points to use. The Bonus Track gives you the options of taking up to three special moves during the game. You can swap Energy Tokens, move up on the Summoning Track, Transmute at a better rate or draw more Power Cards. You can activate the Bonus Track up to three times during the game, but it will cost 5, 12 or 20 points. You want to make sure that the bonus is going to be worth it in the end.
The game is going to end after the timer passes the third year. Players will gain Crystals for all their Power Cards in play and lose points for their Bonus Track and any cards left in their hand.
Seasons is graced with some pretty nice components. The dice are colourful and over-sized and the art is pretty entrancing. The artist Naïade has created an immersive world. The land of Xidit comes alive with the Power Cards and you get a real sense of the history of this fantastical place. It is rated at 60 minutes, but I can see a game with experienced players going even faster. After the initial card draft play proceeds pretty quickly. So, who is this game going to appeal to? It’s a medium-weight game, that gives some solid decisions to the player, but also leaves a lot up to random chance. If you want your game to be completely deterministic, this is probably not a fit for you. With the drafting and card building, Seasons scratches the same itch (for me) as 7 Wonders. In my book that’s a pretty good thing.