Seasons is a dice game – and a card game. It’s about ancient wizards competing for glory and power – by making jewelry and summoning furry woodland creatures. As such, it is unlike anything I’ve played before, and in the best of ways.
Seasons is a game about planning and building. Each turn, you roll dice in order to collect elemental energies of fire, earth,water and air. You use that energy to create tools, summon familiars, and synthesize crystals. These crystals are especially important, as the wizard who can synthesize the most of them through cards and energy at the end of three “years” is the winner. The problem, however, is that the energy you need may only be available during a certain season – and when time is limited, waiting could cost you the game.
The game is mechanically simple. Roll dice, collect elemental energy, play cards/gather crystals. There’s some randomness based on what the roll reveals. There’s also the potential for your plan to be ruined as the player before you took the die, and therefore the resource, you needed to play your card. But it’s pretty straightforward – except for all the little details that make strategizing complicated.
What season is it? Because while every element is available regardless of the season, some are in drastically short supply. What year is it? You can’t very well get a card you set aside for year three if it’s year two. Who took that card you saw in the draft?
You’re always engaged on the other players’ turns, even though there is next to nothing you can do to stop what they’re doing. They will make whatever it is they have been trying to make. They’ll get whatever bonuses or crystals they’ve been building towards. You can only craft an engine that will get you more crystals and bigger benefits
The game’s theme can be described as “the greatest wizards of all time gather together in a three year competition to see which of them is the strongest.” If you put that description in the context of the majority of games in either the tabletop or video game arena, you probably have images of fireballs and earthquakes running through your mind. Perhaps great beasts being summoned to do battle on the field of war.
While there may be a beast or two involved in this competition – there isn’t any battle. It’s competitive, but cards that destroy the work of your competitors often are just as destructive to you.
Rather than focusing on offensive tactics, this game is focused on acts of creation. To go after the other players’ cards might hurt them, but it doesn’t help you. While you need to be aware of what’s going on around the table, you do yourself a disservice when you focus on the other players. You need to carve an engine out of the ether that will create crystals by the bushel. In the end, that’s all that matters for victory.
Maybe it’s my own history as a role player, or maybe it’s just that I get caught up in an interestingly crafted world, but the theme speaks to my enjoyment of the game as much as the mechanics. The wizards these players embody have spent a lifetime attuning themselves with ultimate power. They have more important things to do than attack each other. They are about the business of creating something wonderful. I imagine all of them getting drinks at the tavern after the final tallies have been taken to celebrate victory and talk about what they will be making next – because there is always the next tournament.
It is an old adage that says it is easier to destroy than it is to create. This game asks players to grab hold of this philosophy and choose the hard road. Acts of destruction often come at a cost to yourself. Yet, if you can gather a large pile of energy and use it to build great and miraculous contraptions, it will only get easier to grow that pile further.
In Seasons, the players are asked to speak into the void and build something that has never been seen before. When everything is done, the only thing that remains is a a collection wonders and the stories of tournaments past.
What will you build next year?