Theme and What is It?
Looking out from their respective pagodas over a shared common garden, one to four players will search for the peace and serenity afforded by the scene unfolding before them. Birds landing in the garden provide immediate joy, while rows of flowers offer better long-term beauty. Once the garden is filled, each pagoda will provide its own unique view of the garden. Who will have the best view?
Seikatsu is a tile laying game where one to four players will try to build flocks of birds for immediate scoring while also keeping an eye toward building rows of flower sets for end-game scoring. There are 36 tiles in all. There are four Koi tiles that have a unique function. There are 32 primary game tiles in Seikatsu and all feature one of four birds and is ringed by one of four flowers. Each combination of bird and flower appears twice. The board is a hexagonal honeycomb design with three evenly spaced pagodas facing the board. There is a small pond occupying the center space of the board. It is unrelated to scoring.
Players will place all of the main game tiles into the draw bag, leaving out the four Koi tiles. One tile will be drawn per player and placed randomly adjacent to the center pond and in line with the outer pagodas for the players involved. Players will add the Koi tiles to the bag and then each player will draw two tiles from the bag. On a player’s turn, they will play one of their two tiles to the board, adjacent to an existing tile, add any score granted by that placement, then draw a new tile from the bag before passing it to the next player. Play continues in this manner until the bag is empty and the board is full.
In Seikatsu, players will score points both during the round and at the end of game but under very different mechanisms. During the game, players will score points for building flocks of identical birds. When a tile is placed adjacent to at least one other matching bird this is considered a flock. The player receives one point for every tile in the flock. When a Koi tile is placed, it may temporarily serve as any bird for the purpose of scoring a flock. End-game scoring is based on sets of identical flowers within a row, determined by the perspective of each player’s associated pagoda. Players can choose which color flower Koi tiles will serve as at the time of scoring and each player is free to choose for themselves.
I enjoy tile-placement games as they are generally simple to understand but with complexity coming from tactical gameplay. The idea of building the most aesthetically pleasing flower garden sounded like a unique theme and a pleasant alternative to my group’s regular fare. I was particularly interested by the idea of the perspective-based scoring mechanism and the short play length.
Quality of Components and Insert
Seikatsu comes with 36 tiles, three scoring tokens, and a white cloth bag from which to draw the tiles during play. The tiles are thick and have a good weight. They feel great in your hands and look great on the game board. The insert is form-fitted to hold the tiles and scoring tokens, though it works best when the box is flat. In my experience, the tiles had a tendency to slide around during transport of the game if the box was carried vertically. This did not result in a huge mess inside, but does make one consider just tossing the insert.
The art in Seikatsu is elegant and works well to reinforce the theme. The main game board features the three brightly illustrated player positions around the edge of the central honeycomb. The playing area has a Koi pond occupying the center of the board with the rest displaying grass or rocks to give the impression of an empty garden. The birds are very easy to differentiate and the flowers only slightly less so. The colors in all respects are vibrant and really pop off the tiles which themselves have a nice finish.
Seikatsu is meant to be relaxing and contemplative with regard to its theming and the game itself is both of those things. Players will make quick tactical decisions for placing their tiles and the decision between taking flock points now or building rows for flower points at the end keeps just the right level of tension. I found the perspective-based aspect regarding the rows of flowers to be a delightful mental exercise, kept light by the game’s 20-30 minute play length.
Difficulty and Age Range Suggestion
As a tile-placement game, the core mechanism of Seikatsu is incredibly simple. The box states ages 10 and up. Younger children will certainly be able to understand the placement rules and the flow of the game. They will likely also have no issue with the concept of building flocks of birds. The biggest hurdle for younger children will be the end-game scoring of the flowers and the perspective-based rows. I think age 10 is appropriate for enjoying the game.
Seikatsu was a very nice surprise. I had heard a little about it in preparing for Gen Con 50, but did not know that much about how it played. Having played it, it should have been much higher on my list. The art aesthetic is beautiful in its simplicity. The tiles provide a wonderful tactile experience. The goal of the game is to build a view from the pagoda that is pleasing to the eye, suitable for contemplative thought. A unique theme to be sure, but it also works. The game requires just the right amount of brain crunch between planning for the end-game scoring and the overall length of the game. My first play, a two-player game, took only 35 minutes with a cold read of the rules. Future games were between 20 and 25 minutes and could conceivably play even faster. It plays great with both two and three players and even features solo rules. It also plays with four, but in practice the players split into two teams so it doesn’t really feel like a four-player game which is really my only complaint and it is easily sidestepped. Seikatsu is a great game and fills a unique space in my collection.