Full disclosure: A preview copy of Seasons of Rice was provided by Button Shy. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
It’s gonna be Button Shy for a hot minute. Or, rather, it was, since we covered Tussie Mussie, Star Maps, and Blood Royals in the last month. And Sprawlopolis: Beaches! Wow, it has been busy. Anyways, Seasons of Rice was another one of the Gen Can’t winners from Button Shy last year, so, let’s dig right into that!
In Seasons of rice, you’re attempting to expand your family’s paddies over two seasons: the Wet Season and the Dry Season, to try and ensure that your harvest will be plentiful. Naturally, your opponent seeks to expand their territory as well, so, there’s a conflict. Leverage the strength of your ancestors to be successful! Will your harvest be the most impressive?
Not much, here. The cards are double-sided, with Ancestors on one side:
And Paddies on the other:
Deal each player two cards; have them choose one to be their chosen Ancestor. Flip the other face-up. Deal the remaining cards to each player and you’re ready to start!
The game takes place over two seasons as you grow your rice paddies, trying to earn more points. At the end of the second season, the player with the most points wins!
In general, there are four ways you can score in Seasons of Rice. One of them is usually via your Ancestor, which has specific conditions on the card.
Another is Rice Paddies. Generally, they’re comprised of squares surrounded by paths, and they score as follows:
Homes on a completed Rice Paddy add +1 to the size of the paddy per house. Similarly, when a Rice Paddy is completed, you can score Farmers, who score based on how many Farmers are on a given paddy:
|Number of Farmers||1||2||3||4+|
And finally, you score Buffalo. Every buffalo on a paddy when it’s completed scores 2 points. If they’re on incomplete paddies at the end of the game, you lose one point per buffalo that’s stranded.
Finally, score 1 point per closed paddy you have at the end of the game.
During the wet season, you build up your family’s rice paddy landscape. Play is simultaneous. Choose two cards from your hand. Add one to your landscape, and discard the other to the center to await the Dry Season. As with most games, you have to make sure when you play that you match spots so that trails connect and there aren’t trails running directly into rice paddies. However, you can leave gaps between spots in a paddy, if you’d like; they just won’t score.
Once you play your two cards, trade hands with your opponent. When you’re down to one card, play it, and then the Dry Season begins, starting with the player with fewer points.
During the Dry Season, you have fewer options, but you’re gonna do your best! Following the same scoring rules as the Wet Season, you may, on your turn, take a card from the center row and add it to your landscape. After the last card is played, the game ends.
End of Game
Once the cards are played, the game ends. Give players extra points for completed paddies and the penalties for stranded buffaloes. The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
None! It’s a two-player game. I wouldn’t be surprised if a solo mode eventually emerged, but it’s currently only two-player.
- Try to stay your hand until the Dry Season. Being able to go first can be huge, if you can get it together.
- Naturally, don’t wait too long with too many open paddies, though. You need to close paddies to try and get points, and you need points in order to win. If you have too many large, open paddies you’re going to run the risk that you may not be able to close them all, and that can cost you a lot of points in the long term (or, at least, you’ll miss out on points you could have earned). Don’t forget to close things up before it’s too late.
- If your opponent is trying to wait until the Dry Season, try to help them out. Start throwing cards in that row that don’t have nice endpoints; start adding cards with weird corners. Just make it challenging for your opponent to close all their nice little rice paddies. Or, better yet, force them to start making giant ones; anything with 7 or more squares would be a lot of wasted point potential. That’s always nice. It’s also good if you can help give them a lot of buffalo that they have to place on open paddies, stranding them (and costing them points, long-term). You should be prepared to do a little bit of hate-drafting. Not so much that you lose, but definitely some.
- Houses are helpful, to a point. Again, you don’t want to build a 5-square plot with a house or two on it, but it’s not a bad idea to have some on 3-squares or 4-squares. It’s very useful!
- If you can complete multiple plots in one turn, it’s a good idea to go for it. Just make sure that doesn’t negatively impact your ability to go first in the Dry Season, if that’s a thing you’re shooting for.
- You really need to score like, 5+ points on your Ancestor card. What I usually tell people is that there is an Ancestor card that will just give you 5 points, so if you can’t outpace that then you’re not doing a particularly good job, you know? No offense, of course.
- Remember that paddies with gaps cannot score. There’s no point attempting to fill them up; you’ll only end up disappointed. Also, they’re just not very aesthetically pleasing.
- Don’t underestimate Farmers. If you get enough of them, you can score some serious bonus points.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I really do like this whole “blocks on the front, scoring conditions on the back” thing that Button Shy is doing. I’m a big fan. I think it does a nice job of giving you a lot to work with (via the variable scoring) and creating a lot of opportunity for a small number of cards.
- The art is very pleasant. It’s very green! Makes for a very nice-looking area once you’re done.
- The diagonals thing is also nice. It’s fresh!
- The two-phase version of the game is rather nice, as well. I like that you have dwindling options over the course of the game, but you can try to set up your later turns for success (or dump a bunch of not great cards there so that you can really mess up your opponents).
- Naturally, very portable. Always nice for a Button Shy game, but worth mentioning regardless.
- Plays quickly. Once you get on top of your game, you can usually play a game of Seasons of Rice within 5 or 10 minutes, which is awesome.
- A few of the scoring cards strike me as a bit odd? It’s odd that there’s an Ancestor who just straight-up gives you 5 points and a different Ancestor that gives you 4 points but only if you have the most farmers? I suppose there’s likely some balancing that I’m not taking into account (not actually a game designer), but it definitely appears strange on the surface.
- It’s also not always clear when something is a gap or when something just … lines up weird. I think that’s just the breaks of rectangular cards, but what can you do.
- The various scoring differences add maybe a smidge of extra complexity to the game and make things harder to remember. Farmers score just slightly differently than paddies, which all score differently than buffalo. It’s not that bad, but it does make things hard to remember for new players; keep the rulebook handy your first few games.
- No very good way to keep score. I think a token or two included will be helpful; as it stands, I usually just use the BGStats App to keep track between rounds. It’s not the worst, but it certainly is a tiny bit annoying every game.
Overall: 8.5 / 10
Overall, I quite enjoy Seasons of Rice! It’s everything I like in a Button Shy game: major spatial component, variable scoring options, bright art, portability, decently easy to learn, and a fun theme. Honestly that’s kind of what I generally like in a game regardless of publisher. This one in particular shines for me because it’s pretty quick and games with a major spatial component tend to be closer to my heart. That’s not to say I prefer it to Sprawlopolis (although I might be inclined to bump this up a bit if a solo component emerges), but I definitely have been enjoying it, given that I think we played it six times in our first session of it. The nice thing about the variable scoring configurations is that they push you to come back and try it again, to see if you can do better with a few variables changed. That’s a fun part of gaming for me, and I think Button Shy has a lot of good sense about the titles that they pick up. I value that kind of consistency, and it makes me excited to see what they come up with next. If you’re looking for another solid wallet game with a fun spatial component and bright art, I think Seasons of Rice is definitely it, and I’d recommend checking it out!