October 2, 2022

Classic Reviews ~ Seasons

Brant Guillory, 25 August 2022

“Hey man! I need a new kind of game to play.  Help me out and let’s design one together, OK?”

“Sure!  What kind of game do you want?”

“Well, I’ve been a huge Magic: The Gathering fan for about five years now, so I definitely want something with some deck-building in it.  But collectible games are getting such a bad rep that there’s no way we’re going to make any money off of it, so I’m thinking something like Dominion, where the cards all come in the box, y’know?  But still magic and wizards and sorcerers and stuff.”

On #TBT, we bring you the occasional classic article – an older review or analysis piece we wanted to rescue

“OK, so kind of Magic: The Gathering, but all in one box?  That’s intriguing.  But how do we make it not so obvious that it’s just Magic-In-A-Box, or, maybe ‘Mox’ for short?”

“Well, I’ve been thinking about this, and there’s other games like the new Warhammer Fantasy Role Play and Quarriors that have these custom dice with all sorts of different symbols on them, where the symbols determine what you get to do each turn, so that might be cool.  It would mean that we could replace Magic’s mana cards with some kind of roll-dice-get-mana action or something.  And we can do cool colors, too.”

“I like that.  People love rolling dice.  Well, except those snooty Eurogamers who don’t believe in randomness.  But if you can put buckets of dice in there, you’ll definitely get anyone who loves a wargame to come running!  But that just gets the mana distributed, and it doesn’t really tell you what kind of mana you have.”

“I know, I’m still working on that.  Do you think if we just change the colors that we can keep Wizards of the Coast from suing us?”

“I have a better idea.  Instead off five colors of mana, let’s just do four colors.  It makes the card design sooooo much easier, and we can even do the four colors tied into the four elements of earth and water and fire and air.”

“Dude, that’s great!  I love that idea!  So we only have to design cards for just four colors instead of five.  Plus, let’s try to design as many cards as possible that use more than one color of mana.  We don’t want anyone to get hosed on the wrong color now, do we?”

“So I’ve got another idea about that.  Lots of games let you trade two of something for one of something else, right?  What if we let players trade in their mana to swap colors?  They could cast anything they want and never get hosed.  They’d always have something they could play.  The only problem is that you’d get guys who would just hoard their mana…”

“… not if we only let them hold a certain amount at any one time!   Let’s give them some sort of little ‘mana track’ that they can tuck their mana tokens into and if they go over that, they have to discard them.  That should keep the hoarders at bay.”

seasonsReview-3
Each player has a mana track that also includes special abilities and the cost to use them. Cards in play are placed in front of the player.

 

“OK, so let’s recap…  we’ve got magical cards that cost mana to cast.  But we’re not going to play land cards to get mana, we’re going to roll dice for it.  And if they’ve got the wrong mana, we’ll let them convert it from one color to another.  So far, so good?”

“Yeah, I think so.  And don’t forget we don’t want people to have to buy a bunch of extra cards.  It’ll be like Dominion or those Game of Thrones card games where they can play it out of the box.  But how do you win?  Kill the other guys?”

“Nah.  If we put dice in there, and an elimination mechanic, we’ll never sell it to Eurogamers, and we need them to get this to market.  Somehow we’ve got to have everyone around ‘til the end of the game, so that means some kind of points track.”

“So we’ll give the players points for their cards, and then subtract points if they use things like the mana converter, to make them take care of their resources?”

“That’s cool.  And we can give them some other neat little things they can do that save them points if they don’t use them, like extra mana storage or something.  It’ll be like the stations in Ticket to Ride Europe – if you don’t use them, they’re worth points at the end.”

“And then we’ll have cards that manipulate the points for all the players as the game’s going.  But do we want the players to have to use their points to make things happen, too?  So it’s like En Garde or the old Vampire CCG where they have to use their ‘life’ – their final points – to cast things?  Plus we can have the players target each other, too.”

seasonsReview-2
The scoring track keeps up with points, in “crystals”, that can be manipulated by cards that are cast.

 

“Now we’ve got two different tracks for players to keep up with – we’ve got points, and we’ve got mana.  What else should we include?“

“Well, really, there’s three tracks to keep up with, because we’ve got those special abilities that are worth points, too.  So that’s another thing they’ll have to juggle.  Gamers are going to love this game with so many things going on.  It’ll make their heads spin.  And let’s make sure we put some little wooden cubes in there.”

“What for?”

“I don’t know.  We’ll use them on the scoring track or something.  Let’s just make sure we have cubes like all those other games – London, and Days of Steam, and heck, even Risk.”

“Hey, I just had an idea!  There’s four elements, right?  And four colors of mana, right?  Why no match each one up with the four seasons of the calendar and put a turn track in the game to give certain mana a bonus each turn?”

“That’s genius!  And with another track of things to keep up with, these players are really going to have to be on their toes!  You know what we could do with those seasons?  What if we made a separate set of dice for each season?  Maybe color-code them for the season, but with different mana on each set of dice?  That way you’re not just rolling buckets of dice, but you’re rolling a different bucket of dice every few turns?”

“Oh. My. Gawd!  That’s awesome!  This is going to be the coolest game. Evah!  We’ve got mana and seasons and dice and cool cards with fantasy artwork and, like five different tracks of things for players to keep up with and a points track…”

seasonsReview-1
The season track at the middle tracks turns and displays mana conversions. The dice are used basd on the season to roll and distrubute mana and/or other actions to the players.

 

“… a crystal points track.  This is going to be a game about wizards, right?”

“Cool.  A crystal track for the final points, with no elimination mechanic.  There’s something in here for everyone, man.  No way this game isn’t a hit!  We just need one more thing to make this game bulletproof.”

“What’s that?”

“Let’s put a rabbit on the box.  Gamers love critters, and you never see magic rabbits, right?”

“OK, that might be going a bit too far.  Don’t you think we’ve crammed enough into this game?”

“Yeah, I think you’re right.  We’ve got every good idea from the past 10 years in this game.  It’s got to be a hit, right?”

“I wonder how it’s going to play?”

seasonsReview-4
Overall, Seasons can make for a busy table.

 


Thank you for visiting The Armchair Dragoons as we delve into our personal archives and bring back some previous articles about games you might still want to check out.
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Brant G

Editor-in-chief at Armchair Dragoons

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