Some say there is really nothing new under the sun. That may be true.
But for gamers willing to see the larger picture and look at the expanse of Seasons, they will find a game full of variety and strategy while not sacrificing a simple, elegant design.
Seasons was designed by Regis Bonnessee for Libellud Games. It is distributed in the United States by Asmodee Games. It isn’t overstating the facts that Seasons is the runaway leader as the 2012 Game of the Year.
To sit down and have the game explained is a somewhat daunting experience. There are power cards, four types of energy, a unique set of dice for each season, crystals to be collected (ultimately to determine the winner of the game) and individual player boards. All of these elements are put into motion is such a cohesive, logical game engine that even first-time players will complete a game in about 60 minutes.
Munch of the play revolves around a circular game board, which keeps track of the seasons and the year (the game is played in three of them) and also provides a chart to gauge exactly how many crystals can be obtained for each type of energy through a process called Transmute.
Players gather energy, crystals or power cards and the ability to play cards from the symbols on the dice rolled. Players will choose which die to claim from two or more options each turn so they are never just stuck with what is on one die face. That helps limit the amount of luck necessary to implement a strategy.
After each gamer has selected a die, they, in turn, will do the things allowed by the die they have chosen as well as any cards that are in play. They can cash in energy for crystals or spend that energy to bring power cards from their hands into play.
Those cards really hold the key to victory and the way they come to be in your hand is one of the really smart choices that Bonnessee made in this game. There are some pre-selected sets of cards that should be chosen and given out for new players. But once that stage has been passed, a drafting mechanic is used to pick cards.
The cards are shuffled and nine are given to each player. The players will pick one card and pass the remaining eight to the left. Then the process is repeated until each player has picked nine cards. The game is played in 12 months and four seasons per year for each of three years. Once a player has gotten nine cards, he or she will assign each card to a year. So that player will have 3 cards to start the game, 3 more to come when year 2 begins and the final three for year 3.
This system, again, allows luck to play only a minor role in the outcome of the game.
As the game progresses, more cards come into play, giving the player more strategic options. The die not chosen each round controls how quickly time will pass. The leader can sometimes pick a die with the idea that the one left behind will advance the months more quickly. Someone trying to catch up may want to select so that time crawls.
When all three years have passed, players will count up the prestige points on the cards they still have in play and those will be converted into crystals at a 1:1 rate. Unused cards in hand subtract from the crystal total. The player with the highest crystal total is the winner and is the new Archmage of the kingdom of Xidit.
Seasons can be played by 2 to 4 players and is suggested for ages 14 and up. I believe that kids as young as 11 or 12 could understand and play this game.
Seasons was well received at GenCon, selling out in minutes the games that were specially shipped to the convention.
This is truly one of the great games for this Season or any Season. Each fantasy tabletop gaming fan should find an opportunity to try Seasons.