Double Feature Review: Seasons of Rice & Sprawlopolis
Cambodian Carcassone & Mini-SimCity with 18 cards
Seasons of Rice is a card drafting and placement wallet game from Button Shy Games. The game comes with 18 cards that feature green rice paddies on one side and ancestors on the other with variable powers. Players will build their paddies up through the two seasons and try to end the game with the most victory points.
Play begins in Seasons of Rice with each player receiving 2 cards. They each choose 1 as their avatar, which provides a special power, and the other becomes their starting paddy. Then the remaining 14 cards are dealt out and play starts with the first draft phase, the Wet Season. In this phase players will choose 2 of their cards – 1 to play into their paddy, and 1 to put up in the Dry Season Row for the following phase. Then they will exchange hands, and repeat, until they have just 1 card left, which is placed into their paddy. When placing cards, players may place them any orientation they wish, as long as the Paddy paths and gridlines line up. They may not be placed with only the corners touching. As cards are placed into each player’s tableau they will immediately score any paddies they close, with extra points available should their paddies contain houses, farmers, or buffaloes. The game does not include any markers for keeping track of the score, but any small chit or piece of paper will do.
The second draft phase, or Dry Season, has the players taking turns drawing from the 6 available cards that were placed in the Dry Season Row the previous round. Play begins with the player who is currently losing, and alternates until all the cards are gone. At this point, players will tally up their last paddies, taking away 1 point per buffalo left stranded in an open paddy, and adding in any bonuses from their Ancestor card.
Calling Seasons of Rice “Cambodian Carcassonne” feels somewhat dismissive, but I don’t mean it in a bad sense. Seasons of Rice plays much quicker and doesn’t ever have that “I drew a city tile but really needed it last round” feeling. All the cards fit nicely with each other, and if you rotate them or think 4th dimensionally, you can easily find a fit for them. I was impressed with how frugal the game was at a mere 18 cards, and each one was double sided and has the scoring metric on the outside. Not too many games have 18 different player characters to choose from, either.
All in all I’m very happy with Seasons of Rice and I think it does a great job of giving the same feel as a bigger-box game in a small wallet. Just get yourself a couple pennies or markers for scoring and you’re good to go.
Sprawlopolis starts with 3 cards being flipped over, revealing the game’s special scoring conditions and possibilities. The number on the cards (1-18) also tells the players what their target score will be – the sum of the 3 cards’ numbers. The final score is tabulated as follows: the largest group of each zone scores 1 points per block, plus the 3 cards’ conditions, minus 1 point for each road. The rule book reminds players that a road is, “a continuous stretch of roadway.”
Each card contains all 4 zones on it – grey Industrial, blue Commercial, green Parks, and orange Residential. Other than commercial, if you were hoping for the SimCity coloring scheme, you’ll leave disappointed. You’ll also leave disappointed if you think this cooperative game sounds easy – it surely is not. I once even stacked the deck and chose cards 1, 2, and 3 just to see if it would be easy to get a score of 6. It was not. Even if you do a good job of chasing your 3 objectives and grouping zones together for points, then you have the roads to contend with. Or if you carefully place every street to match up with the next one, you’re bound to get next to nothing for points on the zones. Your best bet is to give the game a try for a round or two, then pick and choose your objectives so that they can better align with each other.
Sprawlopolis falls into a strange category of, “Easy to explain, hard to beat” games. It can start to make your brain hurt trying to carefully place the blocks to maximize your points by the end of the game, but that challenge always keeps me coming back for another try.
While neither Seasons of Rice or Sprawlopolis are going to keep a player’s attention for hours on end, either one would be a fine addition to a player’s library for a quick, pick-up-and-go game for travel or conventions. The top-down art style of each does a good job of conveying what’s needed, and each is composed of 18 unique cards. Also worth mentioning again is just how frugal each game system is – double sided cards with scoring and endgame conditions on one side, and art on the other. For the price and the size, you should do yourself a favor and check out what Button Shy has to offer.
The Bottom Line
For the price and size, if you're looking for a good travel-sized game you should check out what Button Shy has to offer.