Update: I had originally been playing Koi tiles incorrectly, and initially stated that they didn't count for scoring at the end of the game. They actually count as a wild flower of each player's choice. This misunderstanding on my part doesn't effect my opinion of the game at all. If anything, it means that you need to be even more careful about where you play Koi tiles, increasing their strategic value.
Every year at Gen Con there is always one game that comes out of nowhere and surprises the crap out of me. In 2015 it was Castle Assault and in 2016 it was Mythic Battles: Pantheon. Both of those games are high-fantasy epics where the players beat the snot out of each other on bloody battlefields. The surprise hit for me this year, Seikatsu, couldn't be more different than those other two games if it tried.
Seikatsu is a tile laying game where 2 or 3 players compete to have the most beautiful garden view from their pagodas. On each turn you have two tiles in your hand, you play one, and then you draw another tile and your turn is over. Each tile has a bird and a flower on it, and you score points immediately for playing tiles next to others with matching birds, and you score points at the end of the game, when all tiles have been played, based on the number of matching flowers are in each row, based on your perspective of the board.
Seikatsu is incredibly simple to play, but the fact that you score based on your view of the board, and the strategic possibilities therein make this game much more than a simple filler game, although it really fits the filler role perfectly. When you place each tile you have to decide if you want to maximize your immediate point gain by placing it next to matching birds, or shoot for a big end-game score by trying to line up as many flowers as you can. On top of that, your opponents are trying to do the same, so you have to keep an eye on what tile they are placing, and where, in order to keep them from lining up too many flowers from their point of view. It can actually be pretty brain-twisty when playing with three players to try to keep track of how the tiles are laying out from each of the three perspectives, but it's important to try because slapping down a tile to foil your opponents' plans can be just as important as trying to maximize your own score.
You can teach just about anyone how to play Seikatsu in a matter of two minutes or so, but the game is deep enough to feel like a quick chess match when you are playing with experienced players, and even though the strategy is at its most complex with three players, the game is still tense and satisfying when playing with two. Regardless of how many players you play with (there is even a four player variant, but it's the weakest way to play) the game ends up being a beautiful tapestry of pastel colors when the board has been filled with tiles. I'm trying not to be overly dramatic in describing the look and feel of the game, but it truly is one of the most beautiful board games that I've ever played.
A note on player count: Seikatsu can be played with 1 - 4 players, but the solitaire mode and the 4 player mode aren't really more than serviceable. This game is really at its best with 2 to 3, with 3 being the ideal player count.
A note on “chrome”: Seikatsu has awesome components. The bird/flower tiles are thick and heavy and give you a great sense of tactile satisfaction while you play. The board is gorgeous to begin with, and it only gets more beautiful as you lay more and more tiles out onto it.
The bottom line:
Seikatsu was one of the biggest surprises for me coming out of Gen Con 2017. Not only does the game have almost zero setup time, and a snappy play-time, but it's much deeper than it has any right to be, especially when played with three players. Thanks to Seikatsu's brief length, and the quality of the experience that it offers, I've already played it over a dozen times, and it's become my filler game of choice. You aren't going to be able to fill up an entire evening with Seikatsu, but when you are short on time, or you are looking for something to play between longer games Seikatsu is an excellent option.
Get this game if:
You enjoy quick playing games.
You like games that are easy to learn and teach, yet still provide depth.
You are looking for a filler game to play when you don't have much time, or between longer, heavier games.
Avoid this game if:
You dislike tile laying games.
You are looking for a game to play mostly with 4 or more players.
The copy of Seikatsu used for this review was provided by IDW Games.
Seikatsu is a quick playing tile laying game that has a surprising amount of depth, and it is more beautiful than it has any right to be. It fills the 'filler' role perfectly, so it's a great game to reach for when you don't have a lot of time, or if you want something short to play during or after longer, more complex games.(Review Policy)