[Review published on Winter 2013 Issue of Gamers Alliance Report]
It is unusual nowadays to read game rules and say “Wow! This is really new! I have to check to see if it really works!” But this happened to me reading the rules to Seasons. The designer, Régis Bonessée, is already known for at least two games: Himalaya, back in 2004 (which started as a print & play game called Merchants of Empire [or Marchands d’empire in the original French] and featured in the Fall 2003 issue of Gamers Alliance Report), and Fabula, 2010. These two games and Seasons have only one thing in common: very innovative game design.
Two to four players fight to be the best wizard. They will battle and conjure for three years, each year consisting of four seasons. You get as many points as the crystals you own (which are tracked on a scoring board) and points for power cards you have played into your array. Finally you lose points for power cards still in your hands and if you have used any of the four bonus “powers” available. (These special powers may be used no more than three times during the game. The four bonus powers allow you, without going into the details, to change energy types, transmute energies better, increase your invocation level by one or draw more cards. But using these powers comes with a cost. The first time you use one, you will lose 5 points, the second time 7 more, the third time an additional 8 [so it will be a -5, -12, and -20 in total in the final scoring.) The winner will be the player who has amassed the most points by the end of the third year.
In preparing for this magical contest, players have to select (by drafting) nine power cards that will drive their strategy in the second part of the game. The second part (actually where most of playing time is spent) is a succession of rounds made of rolling season specific dice, choosing a die and then, in turn order, taking actions. But before going into details concerning the draft, let me quickly explain how the main part of the game works.
The first player rolls dice according to the current season and the number of players (one die more than the players in the game). Then, in turn order, each player selects one die and then, again in turn order, acts according to the one or more icons on the selected die. Dice can give you energy and crystals, let you increase your “invocation” power (the ability to play more cards to your array), draw new cards and “transmute” (change energy into crystals). Energy appears as four different types (air, water, fire and earth) that are more or less common according to the different seasons. Energy is mainly used to play power cards but it can also be converted into crystals (victory points) using the transmutation action.
Every turn, there will be a die left over that will determine how many steps (from 1 to 3) the time clock will move along its circular track. Every season has 3 spaces so a year will have 12 and the game will end when the clock has moved 36 spaces or more. This usually means something near to 15-18 roundsWinter 2013 Issue of Gamers Alliance Report]