Seasons, by Regis Bonnessee, is a game in which 2-4 players take on the role of wizards competing for the title of Archmage. This competition takes place over 3 years which are divided into the traditional four seasons of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. During the course of the game the players will summon mysterious familiars, powerful magical items, draw upon elemental energies, and transmute those elements into crystals in pursuit of the ultimate prize of being declared the Archmage of Xidit.
As I am sure that you can see, the box comes chocked full of goodies! The artwork is excellent, all of the cardboard pieces are thick and sturdy, and the action dice are massive and fun to throw. Seasons has gorgeous components that are aesthetically pleasing, intuitively functional, and seem to beg one to play with them. Even the interior of the box is well designed, and is molded in a fashion that fits all of the pieces in a snug manner. Truly, Seasons is a well produced game at all levels!
At the start of the game, each player is dealt nine power cards. Each player takes one and passes the remaining cards to the left. Each player then takes one of the eight cards they were passed and then passes once again. This process continues until all players pass their final card and are left only with the nine that they have selected. From these nine cards they will create three piles: Their opening three card hand, the cards to be gained at the start of the second year, and the cards to be gained at the start of the third year. It is through the summoning of these power cards and use of their various abilities that players will seek to gain the most prestige and earn the title of Archmage.
As I mentioned earlier, the game takes place over three years, with each divided into the four seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. The year is tracked in the middle of the wheel and the seasons are noted on the outside. Every round the active player rolls the appropriate action dice for the season the game is currently in, and each player then selects which action they wish to take. The active player chooses first and then the choices proceed clockwise. There will always be one more die than players and the remaining die is used to determine how far the season tracker advances around the wheel. All sides of the dice range between 1 and 3 in the number of pips at the bottom for this purpose. This mechanic can create some interesting decisions for players as there are times when a player wishes to choose one action but also wishes time to progress faster or slower. This extra element of temporal control allows for some creative tactical maneuvering as players try to drag out the game to catch up or push the pace in an attempt to end the game while leading. When the season of Fall ends in the third year the game is over and points are totaled to determine the winner.
Although I have only played a handful of games thus far, my initial impression of Seasons is almost entirely positive. I am always a sucker for a drafting mechanic, but I like it even more in Seasons as it sets a player’s strategy for the entire game. From that point forward it is the tactics that one employs to bring that strategy to bear that will decide the outcome of the game. Many games operate either on a mostly strategic (long-term planning) or a mostly tactical (short-term maneuvering) but very few combine both as successfully as Seasons.
So far, the only slight negative that I can see in Seasons is the radical difference between the two player game and games with three or four. The value of various cards increases or decreases with changes to the number of players which makes it very important to adjust one’s strategy accordingly. However, my primary problem with a higher player count is not with changes to strategy, but rather to the lengthening of the game. While strategic and tactical, Seasons is a relatively light game and as such benefits from a short play time keeping things fresh. As the player count grows, it can on occasion out stay its welcome causing players to lose interest if they feel the outcome has already been decided. I feel that it is still a good three player game, but I worry that it would bog down with four. Despite this mild misgiving, the wife and I have greatly enjoyed all of our two player games thus far.
In closing, I find Seasons to be and excellent two player game that I would caution against trying with three or four. The production value is high, it provides many interesting decisions, and most importantly Seasons is fun to play. My first impression is to strongly recommend Seasons as a unique gaming experience that I look forward to exploring further!
If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Seasons please consider Gryphon Gaming.