As announced earlier this week, I’m taking a new approach to my blog for the majority of the posts. Yes, reviews will still be coming. I have a small backlog of review copies I need to hit upon, and I am still receptive to checking out others in the future. However, most of what I want to do centers around feature articles that I try to revisit every month (if not more often in some cases). And so to kick them off, I’ll begin my focus on a company whose games are small in size but are bigger on the inside with their gameplay: Button Shy Games
When it comes to gaming with a baby in the house, my wife and I have found Button Shy’s wallet line of games to be a lifesaver for our gaming habits. Because these games are 18 cards and packaged in a small wallet, it means they typically are quick to play, easy to learn, and take up little space on a table (mostly). One of the more recent titles that funded on Kickstarter is Seasons of Rice, a game where you’re competing to see who makes the best rice paddies over the course of a wet season and a dry season.
This game checks so many boxes for us as a couple beyond the small and portable size and the quick gameplay. It has two phases of card drafting, making it so players are continually making decisions both about what they need and what they don’t want their opponent to have. It has the building of your paddies, making it feel almost like Carcassonne but you’re each making your own area – and the point bonuses, and restrictions, keep things interesting. For example, you get exponential points for making a larger paddy…until it gets too big, to where the points flatline at a slightly reduced rate. Too often have I planned what I thought was a perfect paddy to maximize the points, only to find that I forgot each building in there increases the size and so now I’m one step too high and suffering for the misstep. The game also has variable player powers, adding either new ways of scoring points or abilities that allow you to break the rules of the game somehow – this keeps the game fresh even when you play it five times in one day like we have.
Here’s a little more on how this game functions:
Seasons of Rice is an 18-card game where players will be Cambodian farmers expanding their rice paddies to ensure the most bountiful of harvests. Players will be drafting cards and placing them into their expanding Landscape area to close off Paddies in order to score the most points by the end of the game.
CHOOSE YOUR ANCESTOR WISELY
The very first thing you get to decide in a game of Seasons of Rice is who to use as your Ancestor, which will provide unique scoring conditions for the game. With 18 of them in the game – of which you choose between two each game – there are a lot of variations on how you might decide to build your Rice Paddies. For example, choosing Pally as your Ancestor will let you score double the points when closing a Paddy that has nothing inside of its boundaries. On the other hand Chantrea would provide 2 points per farmer located in an open Paddy at the end of the game. Those two choices could lead you to draft and place cards in very different ways. The other card is used to being the player’s Landscape.
DRAFTING IN THE WET SEASON
Players will each get 7 cards dealt to their hand for the Wet Season. Then two cards are simultaneously chosen by each player, one to go into their Landscape and one to go into the common area of Dry Season cards. After this section, players pass their hand to their opponent and the process is repeated until both players have one card left in their hand.
EXPANDING YOUR LANDSCAPE
As cards are built into the Landscape, attention must be paid to the solid brown lines (Paths) that form the borders for Paddies. Cards must always be placed orthogonally adjacent to at least one other card in their Landscape, and there are dark lines (Furroughs) which break each card into grid-like sections. These Furroughs allow cards to be built off-center from an adjacent card if desired, so long as at least one Furrough is orthogonally adjacent to an existing Furrough.
Whenever a Paddy is closed off (in other words, a completed Path encloses an area completely), the player will score points for the completed Paddy. It scores points based on size, with the best sizes being 3-5 squares, and also gains points per buffalo in the Paddy and for a set of Farmers enclosed within the Paddy. Ancestor Cards may provide additional scoring conditions during these scoring opportunities. However, if there is a gap inside the Paddy then it will always be considered as Open, even if it is closed off through traditional means.
AFTER WET COMES THE DRY PHASE
The next set of drafting comes during the Dry Season, which is the final phase before the end scoring on the game. Whoever is behind in points gets first selection of a card from the six that were placed in the communal Dry Season set of cards, and players then alternate taking a card from there and placing it in their Landscape. Once all of the cards have been selected and placed from here, the game moves into the Final Scoring.
WRINGING OUT THOSE FINAL POINTS
Most of the points in the game have already been accounted for by this point, but there are three key scoring triggers that happen at the end of the game. First, players gain a point for every closed Paddy in their Landscape. Second, players lose one point for every buffalo that is not inside a closed Paddy. Finally, players will score via any conditions that are end-game scoring from their Ancestors. The player with the most points has the honor of being the most successful at navigating through the Seasons of Rice. In the event of a tie, the player with the most Farmers is the winner.
Button Shy has a ton of great games for 2 in their line-up, and Seasons of Rice has quickly become one of our most played, and greatly enjoyed, titles in their catalog. This game will be shipping in October and November of this year, and you can still preorder the game on the Button Shy website.