#170 – Seikatsu

Box

Base price: $40.
1 – 4 players.
Play time: ~30 minutes.
BGG Link
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 5

Full disclosure: A review copy of Seikatsu was proved by IDW Games.

Alright, let’s roll back around to another IDW game. This one’s gonna be a good mix of two things that you’ve seen before, around here: kind-of-abstract games and games that involve birds in some capacity. That said, I think the only bird game I have is Ice Cool, maybe? Unless you count Near and Far‘s pack birbs.

But I digress.

In Seikatsu, you are tending a garden near one of the pagodas you are in charge of. Unfortunately, you share this garden with your opponents, and all of you are competing to have the best view from your pagoda, kind of like Topiary. You want to plant flowers that will attract flocks of birds without ruining the aesthetics of your view. As one does. Will you be able to have the best view of the garden?

Contents

Setup

Alright, the first thing to get out is the board:

Board

Your first point of order is to orient the board so that each player faces a pavilion. If you have one or four players, well, I’ll cover that later.

  • In a two-player game: Use only the blue and pink pavilions.
  • In a three-player game: Use any pavilion you want.

Place the Scoring tokens on the 0 on the board:

Scoring Tokens

Now, take the Koi Pond tiles:

Koi Pond Tiles

Set them aside for now, and add the other tiles to the bag:

Other Tiles

Draw one tile from the bag for each player you have and place them on the pavilions matching each player.

Add the Koi Pond tiles back to the bag and mix it around — you should be ready to start! Give each player two tiles to have in their “hand”, and keep them face-down.

Setup

Four-Player Setup

At four players, you’ll basically play the two-player game, but in teams. The setup changes mildly, as well. Put a tile on the blue flower and the pink flower, and then put a tile on either side of the green flower, but not on the green flower. Then, each player gets two tiles and you’re ready to start:

Four-Player Setup

Solo Setup

For a solo game, you’ll do pretty much the same thing as you do for a three player game, except you keep the Koi Pond tokens.

When you draw tiles to set up the initial placement, make sure that all the flowers are different colors. If they’re not, discard and redraw tiles until they are. Put the discared tiles back into the bag.

Gameplay

Gameplay 2

So, in a two-, three-, or four-player game, you pretty much play about the same way. On your turn, you play a tile from your hand to any empty space on the board that is adjacent to an existing tile. 

Once you do, you score a flock bonus. Essentially, for every bird of the same type as the bird that you just placed that is also adjacent to the bird you just placed, you score 1 point. Also, score a point for placing the tile.

If you place one of the Koi Pond tiles, it counts as any bird, but only when it’s placed. On subsequent turns, it’s just … a fish. I suppose you just got confused the first time you saw it.

Draw a new tile from the bag at the end of your turn. Play continues until every tile has been played.

End Game

Gameplay 3

Once the last tile has been played, the game is over. Now, you’ll score the columns of flowers, next. From each Pavilion, you should have columns of flowers extending away from the Pavilion. Each row scores points for the number of flowers in the largest group of flower of one type in that row. Note that the flowers do not have to be adjacent to each other in order to score. You score each column seperately and as follows:

  • 1 flower: 1 point
  • 2 flowers: 3 points
  • 3 flowers: 6 points
  • 4 flowers: 10 points
  • 5 flowers: 15 points
  • 6 flowers: 21 points

For this step, Koi Pond tiles count as whatever flower you’d like. Each player may score a Koi Pond tile as a different flower, if they so choose.

The player with the most points wins!

Solo Game

The solo game is a bit harder. You will still be playing very similarly to the regular game, but instead of two tiles in your hand, you’ll only have one. Also, when you play, you must play adjacent to your previous play. This means you run the risk of locking yourself in with no legal moves. If you do so, the game immediately ends and you move on to scoring without filling in the empty spaces. Note that that might make your board look like this:

Solo In Progress

When scoring, you score your columns for your Pavilion, as normal. However, you’re competing against the game, which scores the other two Pavilions’ combined value. Ouch.

I didn’t mention flock scoring, as that changes based on your difficulty level:

  • Easy: You score flocks as normal.
  • Normal: Ignore flock scoring during the game.
  • Hard: The game scores your flocks, not you. Ouch!

If you can exceed the game’s score, you win!

Player Count Differences

I haven’t really played it at four — it’s got a similar vibe to Apotheca or Santorini where I don’t think the team variant is really my personal truth or style. At one it’s pretty solid, and the variable difficulty is nice. At two it’s very strategic and at three it’s a bit more chaotic since it’s going to be harder to control as many of the columns as you’d like.

If you like team games, give it a whirl at four. Otherwise it’s pretty good at any player count.

Strategy

  • Eyes on the prize. You gotta remember that making columns of flowers is usually pretty good. Even better, it blocks your opponents, so I generally try to get those over flocks, when I can. Naturally, if a really good flock presents itself (4+ points) then I might consider that, but in general I go for the lines. In most games your opponents won’t let you get a full six tiles in a line, but you should be able to get five at least once or twice.
  • Don’t be afraid to use the Koi Ponds, but be smart about it. Do not put the Koi Ponds in a way that you give your opponent a 6th tile in a row, and definitely do not put the Koi Ponds such that they line up for an opponent. That gives them way too much flexibility. Instead, try to play your other tile for as long as you can (unless you can use it to finish up a column). This lets you have some flexibility on where you use it.
  • That said, don’t wait too long. There will come a point in the game where you are forced to play your remaining tiles. If you’ve held on to the wrong tiles for too long, then you’ll get stuck with having to place that Koi Pond tile perfectly … for your opponent. That’s great for them. So kind of you.
  • Make sure to block your opponents. If you can keep them to two colors of the same type per column, you’re doing really well. That should knock them down a peg or two when it comes to calculating the endgame points. That said, they’ll also be trying to block you, since your success is specifically their failure.
  • (Solo Mode) Try to avoid limiting your options. Remember, you must play adjacent to your last-played tile. This means that if you’re not careful, you may end up playing in a long line which may only help the other “player” wreck you. You cannot stop unless you cannot make any more legal moves, so be careful about how you place and what open spots you’re leaving.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Pretty easy to learn. You just place tiles and you collect adjacent bird points and you’re trying to make lines of flowers and disrupt your opponents’ lines. Those are all reasonably easy things to wrap your head around, I suppose.
  • Plays quickly, but strategically. It’s a quick game. Even faster if you’re playing solo.
  • The perspective aspect of the game is interesting, to me. It’s neat to have to consider how you making lines that help you might be helping your opponents, or vice-versa. You need to definitely think about the endgame if your hope is to win (or at least not get crushed).
  • The art style is quite nice. It’s on that nice list of “peaceful” games with Tokaido, Herbaceous, Lotus, Topiary, Planetarium, Sol, and a bunch of others. Definitely on the more relaxing end of games you could play as opposed to, say, Magic Maze. The art here conveys a nice sense of “this is a nice place where you can set up a garden and just … relax.” Always good to see that, occasionally. Would also make a really interesting app.
  • Pretty transportable. If you ignore the box and just take the tiles in the bag and the board, you can take it pretty much anywhere. It’d be kind of nice to make a paper copy of the board that folds up super small — then you could even fit this game in a Quiver or something.

Mehs

  • Not a really good storage solution for the tile bag. It just kind of lays on the top, listlessly. Even a tiny like, area to tuck the bag in would have been nice.

Cons

  • The purple and pink flowers are very similar. Almost difficult to tell the difference between them. I’ve played a few games of this where I’ve had to ask the player if they wanted to put a purple flower in their pink column, only for them to realize that they mistook the flowers. It would have been nice if that were more clear.
  • The insert is … a lot. I understand that you need to make the box big enough to accommodate the board, but the box is easily 2x the volume it needs to be to hold all the pieces. It’s a bit frustrating, even compared to games like Splendor that have literally almost nothing in the box.

Overall: 8 / 10

In Progress

Overall, Seikatsu is great! I’ve had a lot of fun with it and it’s a game I’ll regularly recommend if we have a few people sitting around and we’re looking for a short-but-not-filler game. The board is nice, the pieces have a nice heft to them, and it’s a quick, smart game. I’m a big fan of the box art — the purple against the white is quite striking. The rest of the box I’m not as high on, mostly due to the size relative to the contents, but that’s a thing that I generally get pretty testy about on both ends (though I’d argue a box that’s too big is better than a box that’s too small). That aside, it’s an interesting game with a nice peaceful theme, and I’d totally recommend checking it out!

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