Seasons (Board Game)
Publisher: Libellud / Asmodee
Release Date: August 2012
MSRP: $49.99
Number of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 45 minutes
Age Rating: 14 and up
Product #: 2012-1/SEAS01/CHP001
ICv2 Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Designer Régis Bonnessée has gathered together a curious hodge-podge of familiar game mechanics in Seasons, the latest board game from the Libellud design house and Asmodee.  Seasons features card drafting, dice-based resource management, and card combo strategy, fusing these familiar mechanics together to create a quirky but fun game experience.

Summary:  Two to four players assume the role of sorcerers in an unnamed fantasy kingdom, brought together to peacefully compete over twelve seasons (hence the name of the game).  The competition centers on the summoning of magic items and familiars, each with its own unique powers.

The game is split into two phases.  First is the "Prelude," which is the card drafting part of the game.  Each player draws nine power cards (magic items and familiars), chooses one to keep and passes the rest.  This continues until all players have kept nine cards.  Players then must divide their cards into three equal parts: one for each of the three years of the competition.

Once the Prelude is complete, the "Tournament" begins.  This phase is divided into a series of rounds.  Each round begins with one player rolling special dice, based on the current season (winter, spring, summer, or fall).  Each player in turn chooses one of these dice, which may award magic energy, crystals (victory points), or new power cards in some combination.  Once the dice are chosen, each player in turn takes actions, collecting and spending magic energy to summon power cards and using their card abilities.  In a clever twist, the unclaimed die rolled at the beginning of the round determines how many months pass before the next round.  Players can use this to affect how quickly the game will end.  The player who has the highest total of crystals and power card values combined wins the game.

Originality:  Seasons borrows a number of familiar game mechanics that have been around for a long time, such as card drafting, collecting resources to play cards, and card ability combos, so most of what you find here will feel familiar.  But, these elements are brought together in a novel way, giving the game a fresh feeling.  One unusual feature that I find particularly appealing in a game of this type is the total lack of targeted attack cards.  The cards that can hurt an opponent affect all of your opponents equally, preventing players from ganging up on or singling out an opponent for abuse.  This helps keep the game friendly to the end.

Presentation:  The game is packed with bright, friendly, cartoonish artwork from French artist Naïade (Xavier Gueniffey Durin), well supported with clear, easy-to-read icons and graphics.  The artwork on the cards is a tad luxurious, taking up nearly three-quarters of the space, which has the unfortunate side effect of making the text on the cards small and hard to read.  The cover art is striking and attractive.  The dice are large (25mm if I'm not mistaken) with large, easy to read and intuitive icon.  The game tokens are similarly large and readable.

On the downside, the scoring track is laid out in a bizarre fashion that makes it difficult to easily count your score, which is frustrating.  The game features a custom-designed tray, but design flaws here make it less-than-perfect: it is hard to get your finger into the slots to extract the tokens, and some components bounce around loosely.  But these are minor issues that do not detract from the game play in the slightest.

The rulebook, unfortunately, is arranged poorly, making it difficult to look up rules during play, and we had many questions in our first couple of games.  On the plus side, it does have a very complete and informative listing of all of the card effects in the game, which did answer almost every question we had.

Quality:  As mentioned before, the game's main component, the dice, are excellent: large, solid, and easy to read.  The tokens and boards are also top quality and the game cards are excellent. The rulebook is full-color and glossy.  The game box feels a little light for fifty bucks, but there really is a lot of nice stuff inside.

Marketability:  Asmodee has a reputation for producing high-quality "Euro style" games with family friendly themes and images, and Seasons is no exception to this.  The graphics are excellent, the components are very good, and the game design is innovative and engaging.  Fans of games such as 7 Wonders are likely to find a lot to like here.

Overall:  At first look, Seasons seems to try to do too many different things.  Players have to balance a number of different elements, which is almost impossible the first couple of times you play.  There is a very high luck factor in the game as well, as some of the cards are demonstrably superior to others, and a lucky player can get more than his fair share (though the card drafting in the Prelude does help to reduce the chances of this somewhat).  The dice also add a lot of randomness to the game, and a poor die roll can leave your strategy in the dust.  As a result, Seasons has a mean learning curve that will take a bit of work to overcome.  Those who stick with it, however, are rewarded with a game that offers a lot of strategic options and high re-playability.  I give this game 3 out of 5.

--William Niebling