Ah, the view of the garden is really wonderful. Everywhere birds are singing and the flowers are blooming, the quintessence of life: Seikatsu. I like it beautifully ordered, as it should be. There the yellow tulips form a wonderful contrast with the dark blue bellflowers. Here you can let your soul rest. Wait a minute! What’s that? There shouldn’t be any tulips planted over there. That’s where the pink plumeria flowers go much better. That’s probably my neighbor again. He doesn’t know a thing about gardening. As long as his view of the garden is nicer than mine. But I will show him who can turn this garden into a magnificent oasis of peace and balance. Where did I leave the seeds for the Plumeria?
Seikatsu is an abstract tile laying game by the authors Matt Loomis and Isaac Shalev in which you compete with up to three other players to see who has the best view of the garden in the middle of the board. You take turns placing tiles in the garden, each showing one of four birds and one of four flowers. It is not only a beautiful game in terms of appearance, but its short playing time also makes it very suitable for in-between times. But how does it actually work?
Here nature lovers get their money’s worth
The rules are explained very quickly. You always have two tiles to choose from, one of which you place on the board adjacent to an existing tile. If the bird on the tile you have just placed matches other birds on neighboring tiles, you will receive one victory point for each bird in the swarm you have created. If the poor bird is alone, you will not receive a victory point. And then there are the koi tiles. They count as wild cards when you place them, which then represent any bird species and are scored accordingly. However, it will not be counted for tiles that are placed later.
Gardening for the advanced
However, you should not only pay attention to the birds, but also to the flowers on the tiles. These will be scored at the end of the game when the entire game board is filled with your bird-flower tiles. Each player must now count the number of identical flowers along the rows of flowers from the line of sight of their own cozy pagoda. More flowers of the same type will earn more points. Koi tiles also count again and can be used as an additional flower of any color. The player who has collected the most points during the course of the game has the most beautiful view of the garden and can relax and rest. Although… one game is still possible.
Seikatsu as a solo challenge
Usually we don’t play board games solo, because we usually sit at least two of us at the game table. However, not all players enjoy the advantage of regularly finding other players for a game. Therefore we want to introduce the solo mode here. The biggest changes are that you can only play the piece you placed last. The only exceptions are the Koi tiles, which are all available at the beginning of the game and which you can use to move on to other parts of the board.
This changed laying rule means that the game board can no longer necessarily be filled completely. The game ends when you can no longer legally place a tile. You will now score the points of your rows against those from the opponent’s perspective that you need to beat. There are three levels of difficulty for this solo variant: Either you score the flocks of birds for you during the game, you score them not at all or you score them against you. The third variation is definitely a crisp challenge.
A matter of perspective
Of the currently booming abstract tile laying games such as NMBR9, Azul or Dragon Castle, Seikatsu is our favorite at the moment. It profits enormously from the short playing time. If you bring it to the table with a new game group, hardly anyone will say no to it, because it already knows how to convince visually. When the rules are explained after a few minutes you can start playing immediately, most people are already convinced of Seikatsu. We also liked the short downtime. Since everyone has only two tiles to choose from, there is no long thinking about it.
After a few rounds of play we can also say that even after playing a lot of games the game is still enjoyable. When playing in twos and threes, exciting duels develop, in which each player has to be careful not to place the tile in a row as a present, in which the opponent already scores many points. So you are not only focused on your point of view, but if you want to win, you also have to pay attention to the line of sight of your opponents. With two and three players Seikatsu works and scales very well without getting confusing. Even notorious puzzlers hardly prolong the waiting time until it’s your turn again.
Azul, the grumpy big brother
After the first few games you learn very quickly what you have to pay attention to. But with Seikatsu it is not possible to fool your opponents. In Azul you can also win if you make sure that the other players are forced to accept many minus points. That can get frustrating very quickly. In Seikatsu you have to pay attention to where you place your tokens, but you can’t really block each other. The level of randomness is just too high to have a nasty strategy. Towards the end of the game, you will know more and more exactly which tokens are still in the bag or in the hands of your opponents, as each bird/flower pair is present exactly twice in the game.
Preferably as a threesome
What we liked best was Seikatsu with three players. The variant with four players is played in two teams and corresponds to the game with two players. However, you sit opposite your teammate and each of you has tiles to place. Since you can’t agree on anything, you have to think carefully about what your teammate might be up to. All in all, this solution is not as attractive as the game of three, where Seikatsu can show his true strengths.
A big plus point is the design and the quality of the material. Just the appearance of Peter Wocken’s illustrations makes me smile and it’s a pleasure to work with these poker chip-like tiles. For us at Seikatsu, the motto is: After the game is before the game. A defeat is just a welcome opportunity for another game. And the 15 minutes are always available in between.