Seasons of Rice - Dastardly Review #121
Seasons of Rice is everything I love about Button Shy games. Lots of great game play packed onto 18 cards.
Corry Damey has created a fun, thoughtful, tile laying, point scoring, multi-phase game. And there is a ton of variation built into the design so each game plays a bit different. Add in bright, crisp art and clean, easy to read cards and rules..Seasons of Rice is going to become a classic game.
Button Shy's strength is consistently finding games that make the most of their standard game format: a heavy duty, folding wallet that fits easily in a pocket or backpack. The wallet typically holds 18 heavy duty game cards with rules on a folding piece of paper. A minimalist format that requires games to have strong game play and just be fun...exactly like Seasons of Rice.
What makes Seasons of Rice so darn good?
- A ton of variability between game plays by using both sides of the 18 cards with one side being your character (Ancestor) and the other being rice paddy maps.
- Aligning the rice paddy maps at a diagonal to card sides. This makes the
paddy maps and tile placement much more intriguing and unique.
- The art is bright and supports the game strongly.
- A score tracker system on the Ancestor cards so you just need a couple coins and you are good to go.
- The game is built around three phases (wet and dry seasons and end of game). The game play in each phase is quite different but both seasons result in building your rice paddy map. There are scoring opportunities with varying strategies in each phase. Just a ton of fun decision making.
- Scoring escalates to reward taking chances to complete larger paddies or including farmers, building or buffalo inside your paddies. Get too greedy though or get out maneuvered by your opponent and you might not get your paddy closed to score points.
Setup is super simple. Shuffle the cards. Deal two cards to each player. Each player picks from their two cards an Ancestor (character) to be and their starting tile for their rice paddy. Then the remaining 14 cards are dealt 7 to each player to form their starting hand.
Now the Wet Season starts!
During the Wet Season, players act concurrently. During a turn players:
- expand their rice paddy map by adding a single card.
- score any rice paddies that have been enclosed by paths.
- select another card from their hand and add it to the Dry Season row paddy face up (this row of cards is the source of cards for the Dry Season).
The players then exchange hands and repeat the same steps causing their hand count to go from 7 to 5 to 3 to 1. When they have one card left they simply expand their rice paddies and score any paddies that have been closed.
Now the Dry Season starts!
The player with the lower score acts first and picks a paddy tile from the Dry Season row, adds it to their paddies and scores any newly enclosed paddies. Play alternates in this manner until each player has selected, played and scored three times.
Now Final Scoring starts!
Players get extra points for each paddy they have enclosed and lose a point for each buffalo not safely enclosed.
Ancestors trigger additional scoring events in any or all of the phases depending on the Ancestor you selected. Your Ancestor's bonus can strongly influence your strategy.
Were you too greedy? Did your opponent block your well thought out plan? Or did you do the out maneuvering?
Seasons of Rice is a well rounded game that shows tons of careful design choices resulting in a fun, tile laying game that requires a surprising amount of thinking. We loved how game play varies from phase to phase. Seasons of Rice has high replayability, minimal setup time and a quick 15 minute game time.
The Good: Seasons of Rice earned a spot in my backpack due to the variability, decision making and good old fashioned fun packed into this small footprint. Each time we played Seasons of Rice the game felt much, much bigger than 18 cards.
The Bad: As it stands Seasons of Rice is a two player game. I will likely get two sets of the game and try combining them to support more players.
The Dastardly: If you pay attention during the Dry Season it is possible to make some pretty good guesses on what cards your opponent needs...then you have to decide whether to focus on growing your own point count or hindering your opponent.