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[Review] Seasons

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tomvasel
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Joined: 03/23/2011

I always have mixed feelings about the game of Rummy. I’m not a big fan of the mechanics; I’d rather play a trick-taking card game; but it’s a game I’m fairly good at, and who can resist playing one of those. In recent years, there’s been a rash of Rummy variants, and Seasons: the Calendar Rummy Game (Dust Bunny Games, 2004 - Rob Martin) is one of those. The main unique difference in this game, besides the theme, is that each player has their own specific deck. There are quite a few other variations and changes to the basic game, to add a “calendar” theme to the game.

After playing the game, I will say that game play is (mostly) smooth, and that the fact that each player has their own deck is certainly unique. I really didn’t enjoy the game that much, however, because of a few things. Firstly, the game was fairly complex for a rummy game, and even though the rulebook took great pains to carefully explain all the rules, I still felt a bit overwhelmed when playing it and found it difficult to teach. Secondly, a card game should never take upwards to two hours, and Seasons was frankly just two long. Thirdly, I did not like that each player had a complex score card and found the scoring long and unwieldy. Perhaps after many multiple playings, the game would run a lot smoother. Sadly, I don’t know that I could play an extremely long (for a card game) rummy variant enough to where everything is second nature just to like the game.
I wanted to like the game; it’s colorful, bright, and sounds like a lot of fun - I just haven’t had much with it yet.

Each player (up to four) takes a deck that has a backing for a specific season of the year, each in a different color: spring - green, summer - orange, autumn - brown, and winter - blue. Each deck has the same composition - fifty four cards: 12 cards (one for each month) in one of four suits (comets, moons, planets, and suns); two wild cards, one “happy birthday” card, and four holiday cards (Spring Break, Summer Vacation, Harvest Moon, and New Years). Each month card has a specific background, showing which season it is part of, with four months (March, June, September, and December) having split backgrounds, as they are part of two seasons. Each deck is shuffled, and players are dealt twelve cards from their own deck. The top card of each deck is turned over to begin a discard pile, and the player with fewest points starts each round.

On a turn, a player must draw one card. They may take the top card from their own draw pile; or the top card from another player’s draw pile, if the card was originally from their deck. The player also has the option (and must do so, if their draw pile is depleted) of drawing the top card from any player’s discard pile, or can even take one card from within the discard pile; but only if they can immediately play it, and they must add all the cards on top of that card to their hand. After that, a player may lay down a “meld”, or add cards to a set or run melded by themselves or another.

Melds can be either a “run” or a “set. A run is four or more cards from the same suit that are in consecutive order. (i.e. “5-6-7-8”, or “11-12-1-2”). A wild card can take the place of any month, and a holiday card can be played in its proper location. (for example, the Harvest Moon holiday card is played between the September and October cards. A set is four or more cards of the same month with a Wild card or a Happy Birthday card taking the place of one of the cards, if necessary. When a player “lays off” (adds card to) a meld, they may add to anyone’s meld on the table, although the cards they put down stay in front of the player playing them. Once a card is laid down, they cannot be moved. Cards can only be played down that continue a run or a set, and cannot be inserted into the middle of a run.

After playing down cards (optional), a player must discard a card from their hand, and must discard the card to the deck of the person who originally had the card. When one person gets rid of all the cards in their hand, they “go out;” as long as the last card they get rid of is discarded, not laid down. As soon as one person goes out, the round ends immediately, and scoring occurs. Each player scores negative points for every card left in their hand: twenty-five for wild cards, ten for holiday cards, and five for month cards. After that, players get one point for each card “captured” from another player. Players then score cards for the runs and sets they have in their own scoring area. Thirty points are given if the player has a run that forms a complete year, and ten points for each complete season. Each holiday card played scores the player ten points, and each month card five points. A birthday card is not worth any points on it’s own, but adds two points to each card in the set or run it’s included in. Players also score two bonus cards for month cards that match “their” season - shown on their card backs. Again, players score an additional bonus point for each captured card. All cards from the player’s hand and scoring area are then added to the player’s draw pile, even those stolen from other players. As long as no player has reached 365 points (366 in a leap year), the game goes into another round. When a player does reach this point total, they win the game!

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: The box is really nice, having an excellent plastic insert that holds all four decks easily. The box and cards have very colorful artwork that reflect the themes of the seasons (at least in a good portion of the world). The colors and pictures on the cards all help relay this theme, and I was tremendously reminded of a school calendar (I see them all day.) The cards were of good quality, and they were very easy to distinguish from one another; the colors helped distinguish the decks and the suits, but weren’t necessary. The score pad was also included, and was very detailed; but a half sheet of paper for each player can take up a lot of room on the table.

2.) Rules: The rules come in a very colorful book on eleven colorful pages complete with glossary. Almost everything was very clear, except for the part about laying down cards - and everything was extremely simplistic - although I think that the format was a little odd. After typing these rules, I realized that they were not that difficult, especially when compared to some complex “German” games. But for a Rummy style game, I found that the rules just didn’t come naturally to people. When I taught the game to fairly competent learners, it took a while for them to pick it up; and even though the four decks is an ingenious idea, it confused a lot of people.

3.) Four decks: Even though the execution is a little confusing, I did like the strategy in having four decks. I could really do poorly in a round, but steal quite a few cards from other players, so that I would do much better in the following rounds. The decks are easy to separate, and I thought that the idea of having each player represent a different season was a nice touch.

4.) Rummy: The four deck idea, and the month artwork and theme can really make it seem that the game is an extreme Rummy variant; but it’s not that much different. I still think that I prefer the Mystery Rummy series to this one, however; even though the bright and cheerful theme is up my alley. I like bright and cheerful games - read my reviews to find that out - but two hours of one is a little long.

5.) Problems: I think the packaging for the game is a bang-up job, but the score sheets should have been done a little better. They’re too big and bulky to use for four players, and I don’t like games where I spend almost as much time scoring them as I do playing them (with the exception of Lightspeed). All the different point values made for a lot of neat tactics and strategy but slowed the game down considerably. Having to explain again and again the rules to players confused by the myriads of cards and bright colors got a little tiresome also.

6.) Fun Factor: I think that there’s a fun game in there - I really do, but I’m not sure I’d get to it until my fifth game or so. I like board games more than card games, but a good, quick-to-learn card game can be a lifesaver in many situations. A two-hour, complex scoring card game just isn’t that much fun. Perhaps Seasons is a fun game, I was just too busy figuring out what was going on that I didn’t notice.

I hate to zap a game, especially the first game of an up and coming new company. And I really enjoy the way that Dust Bunny Games have taken great pains to put out a top-notch quality product. Everything from the box to the rulebook screams high quality. I just hope that their next game is less confusing and more fun. I’m not sure I’ll ever play Seasons again; unless I’m stuck with a group of Rummy fanatics who want something more, because I have so many games that I’m not sure putting hours upon hours into a simple card game is worth it. Save your money on this one; if you really want a Rummy variant, get the Mystery Rummy #4 - my personal favorite - it’s a lot more fun, and much more simple.

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games.”

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