Seikatsu Board Game Review

Publisher: IDW Games
Game Design: Matt Loomis & Isaac Shalev
Art: Peter Wocken & Isaac Shalev

Players: 1-4 (designed for 2-3)
Duration: 30 minutes
Age: 10+
Time to learn: 5 minutes
Board Game Types: Puzzle Game & Abstract Strategy Game

Seikatsu Board Game Review

Birds, flowers and deep strategic gameplay.

Birds, flowers and deep strategic gameplay.

Game Description/Gameplay

I'll see your finch and raise you an orchid. Who would have thought birds, flowers and poker chips could go so well together?

I'll see your finch and raise you an orchid. Who would have thought birds, flowers and poker chips could go so well together?

Seikatsu, which means "life" in Japanese, is a new board game from IDW where players compete to have the most beautiful view of a water garden from their respective pagoda. 

The game board is divided into three sections, each representing a pagoda. Tiles that feature both a type of bird and a color of flower are played in alternating order. Players score points throughout the game by placing the same species of bird side by side and at the end of the game, score exponentially scaled points based upon matching colors of flowers in the rows leading up to their pagoda.

If it sounds pretty simple, it is. However, it's simplicity of the deceitful variety. Seikatsu challenges players by forcing tough choices over ever-decreasing on-board real estate. Should I go for steady, but small points now by grouping birds of a feather or go for big points later by lining up multiple flower colors in the same row? Should I focus on building my points or blocking opponents?

This strategic decision making with constrained choices catapults what seems like a short and shallow game into a chess-like level of complexity.

Verdict

Seikatsu Board Game Componenets

Seikatsu may be the perfect gateway strategy game: its colorful tranquility and easy-to-understand instructions mask a deep tactical experience. It somehow works equally well as a warm up for the chess team or for a sake-filled board game night with friends. It's a mesmerizing balancing act.

The artwork is uniformly excellent, though some of the flowers are close enough in color to make things a little confusing at times. That said, it's a minor gripe, and it's easily drowned out by the quality on display here.

The game comes with pleasantly weighty poker-chip style pieces with bird & flower artwork on the front and Kanji characters carved on the back. They aren't quite as heavy-duty as the ones in early versions of Splendor, but their heft has a similar quality-enhancing effect. Throw in a sturdy board, drawstring token bag and detailed flower tokens and you've got an extremely well-crafted game for the price.

Whether you're looking for a light party game appetizer or a deep strategy game, Seikatsu is for you. This reviewer is still unsure how they managed to achieve both, but either way, this game looks destined to be a hit and deserves a place on your shelf.

Pros

  • Easy to learn and accessible
  • Surprisingly deep gameplay
  • Short time to play allows for multiple sessions in one sitting
  • Gorgeous artwork and theme

Cons

  • Pink and purple flowers look too similar and may cause confusion
  • One and four-player modes are obviously workarounds. It's nice that they were included, but this is a 2-3 player game, through and through

Gateway Game Score (what's this?) - 9/10
Overall Rating - 9.5/10

Review by The Happy Strategerist, who wants to move to Japan and play this game in a tranquil water garden while sipping green tea all day.

What do you think? Is Seikatsu destined to be the next breakthrough hit or are there other more deserving games coming out of Gen Con that deserve that distinction? Should it knock another game off of our list of the Best Board Games to Hook Your Friends? Let us know in the comments below.