By: Kristen McCarty
I have always felt privileged to live in a place that experiences all four seasons. I love the falling leaves in autumn, the crisp white snows of winter, the refreshing newness of spring, and the lazy days of summer.
Seasons takes the ideas of the passing of the days and the abundance or scarcity of resources to create a beautiful new game.
The legendary tournament of the 12 Seasons is taking place. At the end of this 12 year competition the new Archmage of the kingdom of Xidit will be chosen. You are a wizard competing in the tournament using familiars, magical items, and spells to win the challenge and become the Archmage.
All of the component for Seasons are beautiful. I love the playful brightly colored artwork, the big chunky dice, and high quality cards, and the nice player boards. I also love the player colors. It isn’t just red, blue, black and green you get lime green, purple, orange, and gray! Gray can be a bit boring but it’s nice to see something besides the standard in the Seasons.
The first component is the Crystal Track. This shows the number of crystals possessed by each player. Crystals are not only the prestige points (victory points) in the game but also you activate some Power Cards.
The game board is nice, but small. It is divided into three zones. The first zone is the year track. A black cube is used to indicate which year is being played (1st, 2nd, or 3rd year). The game ends at the end of the third year. The season wheel is the second zone. Another black cube is used to indicate the season of the current round (three blue for winter, three green for spring, three yellow for summer, and finally three red for fall). The third zone is the energy transmutation chart. This shows how many crystals each energy type can be transmuted into with the appropriate action, depending on the season.
Each player receives four Sorcerer Tokens in their player color. These are used to show the number of crystals each player owns, on the crystal track, the level of summoning gauge of each player on their player boards, and the number of bonuses used by each player on their player boards.
I love the artwork and the functionality of the individual player boards. Each player’s board has three different zones. The first zone is he energy reserve. This is where players keep the energy they have acquired during the game. Y0u may store a maximum of seven energy. The second zone is the numbers from 0 to 15.
This is the summoning gauge that indicates the maximum number of power cards a player can have in play. The last zone is the bonus track. The bonus track allows a player to gain an advantage during the game. However, the player will lose prestige points at the end of the game. The circle under the dragon is where you can keep the dice you are using during your turn. You do not need to keep the punched out circle.
The Power Cards are the heart of the game. There are 50 different power cards, with two copies of each. These cards allow players to win prestige points at the end of the game and change the course of the game with their effects. These are divided into two categories: magical items and familiars. Magical items have purple top and bottom boarders. Their effects only benefit their owners. Familiars have orange top and bottom boarders, and their affects apply to multiple player
A Power Card is also divided into six zones. The first zone is the name of the card, such as Titus Deepgaze. The second zone is under the picture and this shows the summoning cost in energy / and or crystals
When there is a symbol that looks like a person, these indicate the cost of the card depending on the number of players. The third zone shows the effect of the card, once it enters play.
The fourth zone shows the number of prestige points the card is worth at the end of the game. The fifth zone is the game symbol and the card number. The cards numbered 1 to 30 are the basic cards, which are ideals for playing games with beginners; the cards numbered 31 to 50 are more complex cards. The last zone is the type of effect of the card, indicating when its effect is applied.
One of my favorite components are the big, chunky season dice. There are a total of 20 season dice, divided among the four colors. The blue dice are for winter, the green for spring, the yellow for summer, and the red for fall. At the beginning of each round, the dice corresponding to the current season are rolled. Each face of the die offers players one or more actions they can perform. They also allow player to determine how many spaces the season marker moves on the season wheel at the end of the round. The dice are nicely etched and easy to read.
There are also energy tokens in four different types: air, water, fire, and earth. These are more or less rare depending on the season. These tokens allow players to summon and activate some power cards and earn crystals through transmutation.
The last of the components are the library tokens. These are round disks showing Roman Numerals II and III. The library tokens indicate the power cards that refill a player’s hand during the second and third year of the game.
Set-up is pretty fast. You first put the game board in the middle of the table. The black year token is placed on the numbered “1” of the year track and the season token is placed on the space numbered “1” of the season wheel, as shown. The number of dice placed depends on the number of players. With two players place three dice of each color (chosen randomly) in the corresponding spaces. With three players, place four dice of each color, chosen randomly. With four players, place all five dice of each color.
Next, place the crystal track next to the game board and place the energy tokens next to the crystal track on the energy stockpile.
Next players need to choose the game’s difficulty level. If you are just learning the game you may want to start out at the “Apprentice Wizard” or beginner level.
Because choosing the nine cards you will use during the game can be difficult when you are learning the game there are sour pre-constructed sets of power card.
Instead of taking step 1 of the game phase, each player gets one of the predefined cards. The cards numbered 31 to 50 are returned to the box. Then each player begins the game at the “Constructing Your Deck” step of the prelude. The rest of the rules remain unchanged.
Players will more experience may want to try the “Magician Level” or the intermediate level. In this level players will first choose their nine power cards during the prelude from the cards numbered 1 to 31. Cards numbered 31 to 50 are not used.
Players with lots of experience will want to play at the “Archmage Level” or the advanced level. Players at this level will use all 50 power cards. Cards 31 to 50 have more complex effects than the basic cards.
After deciding on the difficulty of the game player will choose their individual boards and place them in from of them.
They will take the four sorcerer tokens in their color and place one token on the zero space at the bottom of the crystal track. One token is placed on the second zero space at the top of the crystal track. This token is to indicate hundreds when a player goes over 100 crystals. One token is placed on the zero space of the bonus track of the individual board. The last token is placed on the zero space of the summoning gauge on their board.
Each player then takes a Library I and Library II token. All the power cards are shuffled and nine are dealt face-down to each player. The remaining cards are placed next to the game board. These form the draw pile. If at any point the draw pile is empty, reshuffle all the cards in the discard pile. This cards form the new draw pile. The youngest player goes first.
Seasons takes place over two distinct game phases. In the first phase, called the prelude, the players choose nine power cards. These will determine their strategy for the second game phase. In the second phase, called the tournament, the players have three years to acquire as many prestige points as they can in order to claim the title of Archmage of the Kingdom of Xidit.
First Game Phase – The Prelude
1. Choose your nine power cards
Each player looks at the nine power cards which were handed to them. From these cards, they choose one and place it face-down in front of them. The remaining cards are placed between them and the player to their left. Once all players have done this, each player picks up eight cards given to them by the player to their right. Once again, they choose one, which is placed face-down in front of them, with the first card selected. Players repeat these steps until no more cards are left to be chosen. At the end of the phase, each player will have nice face-down power cards in front of them.
2. Constructing your deck
From the nine power cards chosen, each player should assemble three sets of three cards each. The first set forms the player’s hand, as it corresponds to the cards with which the player will begin their tournament.
The second set is placed under the Library I and Library II tokens and will be added to the player’s hand during the second and third year of the tournament. At any point during the game, the player may look at the cards.
Second Game Phase – The Tournament
The tournament takes place over multiple successive rounds, at the end of which the winner of the game is chosen.
1. Beginning of the round
A. Roll the Season Dice
The first player of the round takes the season dice corresponding to the current round’s season, as indicated by the season token, and rolls them.
B. Choosing your Season Dice
Each face of the dice is made up f one or more symbols. Each symbol corresponds to an action that the player will be able to take during their turn. From among the dice rolled, the first player chooses one and places it in front of them. Then, the player to their left does the same while taking one of the remaining dice. This is repeated until each player has chosen a die. There will be one remaining die on the table.
Because there’s always a number of die present equal to the number of players plus one, the last player of the round always has a choice between two season dice.
2. Players’ turns
Once each player has chosen their season die, each player takes their turn in order, starting with the first player and proceeding clockwise. A player may take as many actions as desired during his or her turn: perform the action(s) of their season die, summon / activate one or more of their power cards, and use one or more of their bonuses from their individual board.
A. Actions Linked to Seasons Dice
On their turn, a player may take the action(s) offered by the season die they’ve previously chosen.
Energy Symbol – If an energy symbol is present on the die chosen, the player gains the type of energy shown. The player takes from the stockpile, the number and type of energy shown on the die and places it (them) in their reserve. Depending on the season of the current round, some energy types will be more or less abundant. At no point can a player have more than seven energy tokens in their reserve.
If the player already has seven in their reserve and a new action would grant them new ones, they may keep only seven from among their tokens, and the decision must be made before taking new actions.
Number – Gain Crystals – When a number is present on the die chosen, the player gets as many crystals as the number on the die. That player moves their sorcerer token along the crystal track a number of spaces equal to the number of crystals earned. A player with the “gain crystals” action on their die cannot refuse to take them.
Star – Increase their summoning gauge – when the star symbol is present on the die chosen by a player that player increases their summoning gauge by one. this gauge indicates the maximum number of power cards a player may have in play.
Card – Draw a Card – When the card symbol is present on the die chosen the player draws a Power Card. The player can keep it in their hand or discard it. There is no limit to the number of cards a player can have in their hand.
Transmute Energy – When the transmute energy symbol is on the die chosen by he player they can transform one or more of their energy token in their reserve into crystals. They have until the end of their turn to do this.
In order to determine how many crystals each energy type can be transmuted into, the player checks he transmutation chart present on the game board. This shows, depending on the season, how many crystals each energy type can be transmuted into
The transmutation energy rate depends on the season and is thus separated into four zones. One ring corresponds to each season. The energy symbols present on the outer circle always transmute into a single crystal, the energy symbols present on the central circle into two crystals, and those present on the inner circle into three crystals.
A player who is using transmutation chooses the energy tokens they wish to transmute from their reserve. They then refer to the transmutation chart of the turn’s season, in order to decide how many crystals of each energy is transmuted. The player then moves their sorcerer token on the crystal track as many spaces as crystals earned. The transmuted energy token are discarded.
Remember, the transmutation action is valid until the end of your turn. You may transmute energy tokens from your reserve, take another action, and then preform another transmutation.
B. The Actions Linked to Power Cards: Summoning and Effects
1. Summoning a Power Card
The Power Cards have many effects on the proceeding of the game. In order to use their powers, they must be summoned, meaning brought into play. To do this, a number of criteria must be fulfilled:
- their summoning costs must be paid, meaning the player must discard the type and amount of energy and/or crystals required by a power card’s summoning cost.
- have an summoning gauge full enough to summon them. Thus, to summon a second power card, a player’s summoning gauge must be at least two
Once all these criteria have been met, the power card is summoned and is considered to be in play. This card is placed face-up in front of the player’s individual board. The player who has just summoned it then reads the effects to his or her opponents, so that all players are aware of its effects.
- multiple cards can be summoned during a turn, as long as the prerequisites are met
- a player can have the same power card in play twice the card’s effect is cumulative
- there is no limit to the number of power cards a player can have in hand
- if the effect of a power card breaks one of the game’s rules, the card’s effects take precedence
2. The types of effects of Power Cards
The types and effect of Power Cards determine at what time the effect of the card which has just been summoned must be resolved. There are three different options.
The “when entering play” effects – the cards effect trigger only when the card has just been summoned.
Permanent Effects – the effects of this card last for the remainder of the game, unless it is removed from play.
Activation Effects – the effects of the power card can only trigger when the card is activated by the player who owns it. It can activate at most once per round, as soon as it is summoned. To use the activation effect of one of their card a player must:
- turn the power card 90 degrees. The card so turned is straightened only at the beginning of the next round. A card already turned cannot be turned a second time in a given turn.
- pay the activation cost of the card. In order to be activated, some power cards require a prerequisite, such as sacrifice of a card. If you cannot pay the activation cost, you cannot use the effect, either.
Once these two prerequisites are met, the player can apply the card’s effects.
C. The Actions Linked to Bonuses
During the game, a player can use up to three bonuses. These actions offer extra advantages to the player. On the other hand, the player loses prestige points at the end of the game.
There are four types of bonuses.
Trade Energy – by using this bonus, you may trade two energy tokens, of your choice, from your reserve for two energy tokens from the stockpile.
+1 Transmute – By using this bonus, you can transmute energy tokens from your reserve. Refer to the season’s transmutation rate and add an additional crystal for each token transmuted. Thus, an earth energy token which would normally turn into three crystals during winter would transmute into four crystals with this bonus.
Summoning Gauge – by using this bonus, you can increase your summoning gauge by one.
Draw Two Cards – by using this bonus, instead of the “draw a card action from your season die, draw two power cards. Put one in your hand and discard the other.
A player can only use a maximum of three bonuses during the game. They can use the same bonus three times or use different bonuses each time. They can use all three during the same round or during different round.
Resolution order of actions of the player’s round
The “gain energy” and “gain crystals” actions on the seasons dice must be resolved before taking any other action. Once these actions are resolved, the players may perform the other actions in order of their choosing.
3. End of Round
When all of the players have finished their turns, it’s the end of the round.
Moving Forward on the season wheel and changing seasons
At the end of the round, the number of pips shown by the die that wasn’t selected by any of the players should be noted. The season token will move that many spaces forward. The distribution of all the game’s dice is identical: two faces with a one, two faces with a two, and finally two faces with a three. Thus, the speed of the game varies depending on the die that hasn’t been picked by the players.
At the end of the round, when the season token crosses the 3, 6, 9 and 12 spaces, a change in seasons occurs. The change of season may trigger the effects of some power cards.
Change of Year
When the season token moves from space 12 to space 1 on the season wheel, a change of year occurs. The year token in the middle of the board is moved forward one space. As the players enter the second or third year, they add to their hand the power cards stored under the corresponding library token. If a player still has power cards in their hand from the previous year, they keep those cards in hand and add the new cards that they have just gained.
Choosing a New First Player
The player to the left of the first player becomes the new first player. That player rolls the dice corresponding to the season indicated by the season token on the season wheel. A new round begins.
4. End of Game
The game ends immediately when the season token crosses the 12th space on the season wheel during the game’s third year. The players then total up:
- the total of their crystals. Each crystal is worth one prestige point
- the prestige points present on their power cards in play
From this point total the players subtract:
- five prestige points for each power card remaining in their hand
- any penalties present on their bonus track
Any unused energy at the end of the game are worth no prestige points.
The player with the most prestige points is name the new Archmage of the kingdom of Xidit. In case of a tie, the player who has summoned the most power cards wins the game.
Seasons is a beautiful game; the artwork is bright and whimsical, the components are of high quality, and set up on the table the game just looks inviting. Beyond the cuteness of the cards, you find a game that is both deep and fulfilling. I know some people really don’t like the Crystal Chart. Personally I like it; of course my hands are a lot smaller so they don’t knock the little cubes around. If it really bothers you I suggest using an alternative like stones or the crystals from Ascension with different sizes and values.
The rulebook is very well done. The pictures and text combined make for an easy read. Questions are clarified and there is even a quick reference at the end to help refresh your memory after you haven’t played the game for awhile. Every card in the game is also described. This is very helpful when you want to clarify the wording or just want more information on a certain card. Because they are all numbered it is easy to quickly find the card you want.
Another thing I like about the rulebook was the three difficulty levels. When we first played the game and didn’t know the cards, having the pre-constructed decks was useful. We didn’t have to spend a lot of time reading and rereading trying to decide which cards to take, we just needed to put them into three sets and play. As we became more familiar with the game we started drafting the cards. I really did enjoy the card draft. The game is more enjoyable with it. So when you are more familiar make sure you add this to the game.
The Theme of Seasons is Sorcerers gathered together to compete to become the Archmage. Truthfully, I’m not feeling it. It’s there as you play magic items and familiars but it still isn’t the most immersive theme I’ve ever played. This certainly doesn’t take away from the fun of the game.
The real fun of Seasons is the blending of different mechanisms to create a solid and elegant game. You have card drafting, resource management, hand management and a little bit of press you luck. With all these different mechanics you could end up with a mechanic heavy game that just feels like work. That doesn’t happen with seasons. All the mechanics works so flawlessly together you don’t even think about them as you play.
But you do need to pay attention to maximize your gameplay. You really can’t min-max in Seasons you need to do a little bit of everything or you will find yourself way behind. Finding a balance that works for you, the dice you choose, the cards you have, and of course what your opponents are doing is the key to becoming the Archmage.
Finding those card combinations that work well together is a lot of fun and it’s great to see when you plans fall into place. The game does favor experience and knowing the cards. So experienced player will want to make sure they are kind to new comers because you are at an advantage once you have played a few times.
Because there are dice involved there is luck involved in Seasons. I like that, I like rolling the dice and then using what comes up the best I can. No matter what die you choose, there is always something good you can do, it may not be exactly what you were hoping for, but there is still something positive.
I love that the dice are all unique. Because I play mostly two players this means that we can use the same cards but different dice and have a unique game every time. I enjoy this variability in games. It makes the game new every time.
While it hasn’t happened yet, I do worry that there could be a runaway leader in Seasons. There are times that I feel there is no way I can win because I am so far behind on the crystal track. But at the end of the game when I add up my points from my cards I get very close to the winner and have even won a few games. But I think the possibility of someone getting so far ahead of the other players is there.
There is a little bit of player interaction in cards 1-30, but you could play an entire game without affecting your opponents in any way. Cards 31-50 are definitely more complex and offer a lot more player interaction. So people who enjoy that will want to use a few of the higher cards in their game.
Overall I have really enjoyed getting to know and play Seasons. The game is beautiful, the game play elegant, and the dice rolling a lot of fun. Finding a balance and using card combinations is important to victory.
Designers: Régis Bonnessée
Artists: Xavier Gueniffey Durin
Publishers: Asmodee, Asterion Press, Libellud, Rebel.pl
Game Length: 60 minutes
Ages: 14 and up