Seasons: The Calendar Rummy Game, as the name strongly implies, is a rummy style card game with the monthly/seasonal calendar used as a theme. As odd as it might seem, the design actually plays well thematically, with extra “wild” and “holiday” cards added to mix of cards. The game is for 2 – 4 players and should last between 1 and 2 hours. It is not a difficult game to learn, but there are a number of fiddly rules that require a few hands of play before management of these rules becomes second nature.
The game contains 1 rulebook, 4 decks of cards (one representing each season), and a score pad. The quality of the components is nice, using bold colors representing each season, and graphics that alternate garishness and warm nostalgia. The number cards depict a pleasant little bird’s eye view of cottages on a lake, while the holiday cards look like vacation destination posters. The cards are nice stock, which I expect to hold up nicely to shuffling, although they are a bit slick. As with all new decks of cards, I’m certain this “slickness” will fade with use.
The cards are in 4 suits, numbered 1 – 12. In addition there are 4 holiday cards, 1 birthday card, and 2 wild cards.
Each player plays their own deck of cards, shuffling the deck, drawing 12 cards for an initial hand, and turning the top card over to start their discard pile.
The rules are simple:
1. Draw a card;
2. Play any cards you can;
3. Discard a card.
To start your turn you can draw a card from your draw pile, your discard pile, or anyone else’s discard pile. In addition, you can dig for cards buried in a discard pile (your’s or other’s). Since discard piles are open knowledge (when you discard, you place the cards in such a way that all players can see all the card values.) To “dig” you pick the card your would like to draw out of a discard pile, and take that card into your hand along with all other cards above it. When you dig, you MUST play the card you went digging for during that draw. All other cards (even if from other player’s piles) are placed in your hand and can be played at any point from your hand.
Like in most rummy games, the purpose of game is to empty your hand of cards. You do this by melding sets of cards, i.e., placing them in sets in your scoring area. Cards are initially played in groups of 4. These can be in “runs” and “sets”. A “run” is a sequence of any four cards from the same suit. (For example: 2-3-4-5; or 11-12-1-2 – the numbers can round around the top back to the beginning like a calendar). A player is not limited to playing 4 cards, but it is the minimum allowed, if not played on previous melds. A “Set” is any 4 cards with matching numbers (For example: 2-2-2-2). These cards do not have to be of the same suit, although sometimes, as the game progresses, will include numbers from the same suit. This can occur due to the ability to draw out of other people’s discard piles.
As stated earlier, less than four cards can be played when played on a meld that has been previously played…for example, I might lay down a fifth “2” on the set, or build on my run by playing a “1” or a “6”. This building on other melds can be done with ANY meld on the table, including melds in other player’s scoring areas. (So the “2” I lay down could be building on a meld in someone else’s scoring area, though my 2 still stays in my play area.)
In addition to the number cards, a player can include a wild card in place of any missing cards from their hand. Also, the holiday cards can be played in the appropriate places in a run. A Holiday, like New Year’s, is played between the 12 and 1 cards in a run. These cards are counted toward the 4 card minimum.
Sometimes, a player might have a card in their hand that is not helping them, but there is a wild card in a meld somewhere taking the place of the numbered card in hand. That player can exchange the card in hand with the wild card to put themselves into a better place to meld. In exchange, the player who would get no points for the wild card in play gets the points given to them by the new numbered card. (Points are discussed later.)
Discard a card
At the end of a player’s turn, the player discards one card. This card MUST be discarded into the appropriate matching discard pile. One can not put a Summer card into Autumn’s discard pile.
To go out (empty their hand of cards) a player MUST discard their last card. Players can not “meld” out.
Hands are continued in this way until some reaches 365 points (366 in leap year). The person with the highest score wins.
This is where the game gets a bit fiddly. There are lots of points which need to be tracked. The game comes with a score pad. Everyone gets their own score sheet. For each card in your hand you lose points (Wild Cards: -25, Holiday Cards: -10, Month Cards: -5; and for each “Captured Card” you get +1). Cards can count twice, so if you have a Holiday card (-10) that is a captured card (+1), the net score for your in hand cards would be -9.
Cards in the scoring area add points to your score (Completed Year (12-month run): +30, Completed Season (4-month run): +10, Holiday Cards: +10, Month Cards: +5, Cards of your season (play deck): +2, Captured Cards: +1). In addition, you get 2 bonus points from every card played in your area that matches a set of month cards that you have played a Happy Birthday card. So if one player “6-6-6-6-Happy Birthday” as a meld, that player would get 2 points for every 6 they have in play, including 6’s played as part of other melds.
If this all seems a bit complicated, I can assure you that it is, for the first 2 or 3 hands. After that it becomes second nature, and scoring only takes about 30 seconds for each player. This is not so bad, as everybody keeps their own score.
I need to say up front 2 things: 1. I know the publisher of this game, he is a part of my regular game group that meets every month; 2. I am not a rummy game person. I have never been good at them, and they are not my preferred card game genre. That holds strong with trick taking games.
That being said, I give this game a solid “6” rating, with a nod to a “7”. As with all card games, it is important to be able to see your cards and understand what you have in your hand, and also the strategies convert that hand into points. Not impossible in this game, but I found it a bit difficult which I blame on my ignorance of rummy play. Another person who played the game noted a resemblance to Canasta with this game, however, she also noted that while she was leaning on her Canasta experience to learn this game, there were some subtle things which make the cards play much differently than Canasta.
I know many people who will enjoy the game as it provides a nice balance of card play, agonizing decisions (that could just be my naiveté toward rummy), and time for social interaction. Sure there is some down time between turns, but that reduces as people keep an eye on what’s being played outside their turn. As with all rummy games there is a certain amount of multi-player solitaire, although the option to draw from 4 discard piles increases the likelihood you will get something you are looking for, which can provide some subtle interaction.
The theme, plays strongly throughout the game, with the holidays and birthdays providing bonus points. Of course you don’t feel like you are “living” a year or season as you play the cards, but then again…it’s a card game. As such, I think the designers did a pretty good job of incorporating the theme of a calendar into rummy game.
Will I play this game again? Yes. Will I buy it as a gift for people who enjoy rummy games? Definitely! The first time I played I wanted to go out and buy 6 copies for people as gifts…all people that I know LOVE rummy games.
Finally, I applaud this first effort from Dust Bunny Games, not only because I know the publisher, but because it’s a solid game. I look forward to their next offering.