#586 – Seikatsu: A Pet’s Life

Box

Base price: $30.
1 – 4 players.
Play time: 15 – 30 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas

Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 3 

Full disclosure: A review copy of Seikatsu: A Pet’s Life was provided by IDW Games.

It’s not often you get to review a game twice, but here we are. Seikatsu, reviewed a while ago, and Seikatsu: A Pet’s Life, the recent re-release and retheme of the game. Why did they switch from birds to cute pets? It’s beyond me, but we get the games and we review the games. It’s a whole lifestyle, I guess. Without much more than that, let’s dig into this title.

In Seikatsu: A Pet’s Life, you got bored of watching birds and are now helping run the Seikatsu Home for Pets, where you move the cuties around to delight and hopefully get them noticed enough to get adopted or something (a great way to get a cute pet, if you’re looking for one). Naturally, as with all things, this cuteness is a matter of perspective, so, you’re going to have to do some fancy stuff with pillows if you want it all to work out. Will you be able to get a suitable angle?

Contents

Setup

Hm. So, this game has pretty much the same setup as vanilla Seikatsu. There’s the board, which, is a board, and the tiles:

Tokens

And some score markers:

Player Tokens

Set those up following my instructions from the previous review. Keep the Unicorns aside until you’ve set out the three tiles in the middle, then add them back. You should be ready to start!

Setup

Gameplay

Gameplay 1

Yeah, the same gameplay, too. See my Seikatsu review and just substitute unicorns for koi, pets for birds, and pillows for flowers.

Have some photos, though, for showing up:

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Player Count Differences

I’d wax a bit more poetic than my previous review of this game did, but only because that was like, 400+ reviews ago and I’ve learned how to add additional words to things if I want.

The thing is, the statements I made there still hold up. I really dislike learning games via a team variant, and the four-player mode is all teams. I didn’t like it in Santorini or Hats, and I’m assuredly not going to like it that much here, either. Maybe I’m a jerk, but being responsible for someone else’s score in a game that I can play without a teammate doesn’t really appeal to me all that much, though I understand why it’s useful (since it helps get the player count to 4). Beyond that, 2 or 3 isn’t that big of a distinction to me; as I mentioned last time I reviewed Seikatsu, I think that two players tends to allow for a bit more strategy (since you play more of the tiles over the course of the game) whereas three is more about weathering chaos than anything else. There’s something to that chaos, though, so I tend to enjoy this at either player count about the same.  No massive preference.

Strategy

  • Don’t trade low early-game points for even lower late-game points. That’s just a case of poor foresight. You want to try and maximize both where possible. This means occasionally leaving yourself openings and hoping that your opponent can’t capitalize on them. If you’re making 4+ points off of a placement, that’s one thing, but if you can make those points on placement and get even more from your line of pets, that’s even better.
  • Don’t help your opponents too much. This is the crux of the game, right? You would prefer to avoid giving your opponents sprawls of the same color pillows in a line (especially since too many of those can be a massive point bonus for them), but you gotta manage your own lines, as well. Watch out for your opponents attempting to stomp your lines. That can be pretty common (and you should repay that “kindness” in turn to them).
  • Specifically, watch out for Unicorns. They are very useful for all players, but placing a couple of them in a line really benefits whoever that line points towards. Hopefully, that would be you, but it’s decently likely to be your opponent if you wait too long. The problem is, if you play a Unicorn too early, you also give your opponent ample time to build up one long chain of color (since whatever they do, the Unicorn will match). Try to find a way to place it in a row so that it only trivially helps your opponent, rather than majorly. Using it to bolster a line of your opponent’s that’s only 2 or 3 of the same color is generally ideal, but that also will give them some motivation to extend it. That’s why I usually play Unicorns on the edges; at least then, worst case, it has an Upper Limit, score-wise (since there are only a few available edge spaces.
  • Yeah, you need to block your opponents. It’s not just about managing your scores; it’s about specifically trying to manage your opponent into the ground. Is it rude? Yes, assuredly. But you’re not here to make friends. You’re here to grind your opponent into the dirt with these adorable unicorn tokens. Probably? It’s hard to say from the aesthetic.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • It’s a very cute game. I love the new art, personally; it’s very cartoony. I’m also not a huge bird person (unless they’re flightless; love my ground birds). It makes the game very pleasant to look at, which is nice.
  • Pretty quick to learn. You basically just draw tiles and play them; there’s not much else to it. The key is learning the strategy of how to place tiles to maximize your points and prevent your opponent scoring, which is much more challenging. That takes a bit.
  • Also pretty quick to play. You can bust through a game in practically no time at all, which I appreciate. Especially at two players! You’re basically just plopping down tokens at high speeds.
  • I’m still pretty convinced if you could make a travel-sized version of the board this would be a great portable game. It does seem like an ideal travel game, if you shrunk it by 2/3s and made all the tokens magnetic, it could even be one of those car games that they used to make. I’m pretty sure I either had or saw magnetic Sorry, which, nice.
  • I do appreciate that the pets / pillows are easier to tell apart than some of the previous Seikatsu tiles. At least they are for me, someone with perfect vision and zero color vision deficiencies. I’m not sure how they play out for other folks, but my online tests suggest it’s not great.

Mehs

  • I personally hate learning games in “team mode”. I think that’s the toughest way to learn a new game. As a result, I typically would recommend starting with this at two or three. If you’re into team games, you can definitely play it at four, but I don’t think that’s the best way to learn how to play, since you’re depending on another player (and vice versa).

Cons

  • It is, essentially, the same game as Seikatsu, just with a different theme. Just keep that in mind if you’re a huge Seikatsu fan; this isn’t a Tsuro: Phoenix Rising situation. It’s just a retheme. It’s a very cute retheme, but a retheme nonetheless. Don’t want anyone to pick this up thinking that it’s an entirely new game; that would be a bummer.

Overall: 7.75 / 10

In Progress

Overall, yeah, I enjoyed Seikatsu: A Pet’s Life! Eagle-eyed readers will notice that this is lower than my score for the Seikatsu base game, and it’s not because this is worse in any way; it’s simply that I’ve cooled on Seikatsu over time, a bit. There’s a really interesting idea, there (and it’s happened before, with games like Love Letter or 7 Wonders); it naturally isn’t that surprising that my feelings about a game can change as it slowly moves out of my consciousness, especially given how many good and great games are released every year. If I had more time, I’d actually build out something to track it; basically move games down on my ratings if I stop playing them after X amount of time; that would allow for more real-time data. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have the time to build out a tool like that. But I digress. Seikatsu: A Pet’s Life is, by all accounts, a retheme of Seikatsu. Where the old version had Serious Birds and flowers, this one has cute pets, pillows, and a unicorn. I think that helps it, a bit, being honest? I wonder if this makes the game seem more accessible to more players. Or, at least, I wonder which one appeals more to the target player market? I’d be interested in seeing if their BGG ratings differ, but they share the same BGG page. Alas. They did address some of the things I didn’t love about the base game, though! The box is now a bit smaller, which is about the best you can do while still accommodating the board, so that’s nice. I do worry a bit about swapping the flowers out for tile colors without any additional indicators, though — it might be tough for players with color vision deficiencies. Either way, though, it’s still Seikatsu at the core. If you’re looking for a quick and simple token game, it’s that. If you like the new art, though, then this might strictly be a boost for you, so I’d recommend checking it out!

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