Sea Change Review

Sea Change
Sea Change

Trick-taking card games have been around for centuries, however gamers never seem to get enough of them. They are quick, strategic and fun. Sea Change is the latest adition in trick-taking games, trying its luck with a surprise theme : the Sea.

The game is a card game for 1-8 players, ages 8+ and lasts 20 to 40 minutes depending on the number of players.

As in all trick-taking games, the objective of this game is to win tricks by playing cards from your hand. In Sea Change there are five suits of cards, indicated by color and symbol. One of these suits will be stronger than others. It’s called the trump suit and wins all cards of every other suit. The cards have values from zero to fifteen. According to the number of players, not all suits will be used in every game, and not all cards from a suit will, either.

Sea change cards

At the beginning of the game, players are dealt 10 cards. The first player will choose a card from his/her hand and play it in the table. That will set the lead suit for the trick as well as the trump suit for the whole round. Then the next player must play a card of the same suit, as the lead suit, if he has one. The only case in which a player may play from another suit even if he has cards belonging to the lead suit, is the “Sea Change” play. In this play you can change the trump suit by playing a card from another suit, having the exact same value as the card just played. If you don’t have any card from the Lead suit, you can play whichever card you want, including one from the trump suit. The winner of the trick is the player who played the highest card from the trump suit or, if no trump suit cards have been played, from the lead suit.

After a trick has been won, the winner of the trick is the fist player playing the next trick and play continues with more tricks until all cards in players hands, have been played.

At this point the round ends, and players sum up the points from every card they won. Only cards with suit values 8 to 15 have a point value, designated by the small number under the card value within the suit. As you can see in the image below, the “8” card has a negative value of -4. The “0” card, has a value of 5 points, but only if its suit is the trump suit at the point the game ends.

Cards with different point values indicated by the small number under the card value within a suit.

The player with the most points is declared the winner of the round, which grants him/her 1 VP. Play continues until a player reaches 3 VPs, in which case he is declared the winner.

Now, let’s see how the game scores in our board gaming criteria:

Components

This is a card game, so its sole components are cards and a wooden fish token. The cards are of hard glossy cardboard with beautiful graphics depicting sea life. Card sleeving is more than recommended since shuffling takes place and cards are constantly in player’s hands which means that signs of wear will appear sooner or later.

The inclusion of the trump tracking card and token is definetely a plus.

The trump tracker card and token

The graphics on the cards are very beautiful and pleasing to see. They just make your mind chill and think about cool blue seas and colorful coral reefs.

The only thing that was a little disappointed for me is the packaging. After taking the cards out and playing for the first time, it is not very easy to stack the cards back in the tiny box provided, together with the foldable rules booklet that takes up much space. Soon after a few games my game box got teared at the edges , from the pressure of getting everything in.

All in all the game provides what is generally expected in terms of component quality. 8/10

Gameplay

Sea Change at its core is a trick-taking game begging for a place in out light/filler game library. And it seems to have what is takes. Its rules are super simple, it doesn’t take long to complete and it has a challenging gameplay. Winning a trick may not prove an easy task, especially with the ability of “Sea Change” that changes the trump suit immediately, thus ruining other players plans. Choosing the right moment to play these “Sea Changing” cards, is of crucial importence and can decide the winnerof a round. Moreover, winning a trick may not always be your goal, with the presence of zero or even negative point cards making things complicated. These twists in gameplay is what makes Sea Change unique and differentiates it from other trick-taking games.

Being a game that will require a bit of thought (games that depend on sheer luck just aren’t my thing) but not too much and that can produce fun and make for some quality time between family and friends is definitely worth considering having.

The inclusion of a team variant and a solo mode enhances the games replayability. 7/10

Learning Curve

A super easy game to learn is a perfect filler between heavier games and can easily be played by practically everyone from a small child to elderly people. The game registers as being suitable for ages 8+, but my 6 year old son is playing it without any problem. 9/10

Theme

Theme seems to be the least important factor in a simple card game like this. The designer probably chose the theme out of his affection for the sea and also as a try to make us all think a bit about the increasing need to protect it. Making the first move itself, Inside Up games decided to give 1% of the proceeds of the game to organizations that work to clean up our seas. That alone makes the game totally worth byuing.

On the other hand during gameplay, there is really nothing to connect you to anything happening in the sea, except for the nice graphics on the cards. The game’s theme could just as well be anything else. The “-4” value cards though, remind us the presence of plastic in the seas depicting cans and plastic bags floating in the water. 6/10

Replayability

The designer made it possible to be able to play Sea Change however few or many players have gathered together. With 4 or more players, you have the opportunity to also play the game in teams, making it more challenging. In this mode, players in the same team must seat in alternating order and one member of the team collects all cards from tricks won. At the end of the round, a total value of points for each team is calculated.

If you, on the other hand, have found to no one to play with, there is a solo mode following the same basic rules. You play with a hand of 10 cards and the AI with a deck of 20 cards. The AI player always plays first and after your play, it plays one more card. In order to win a round when playing solo you must have gathered more points than the AI and have at least one card of value “8” (4 negative points). This is an interesting and quick solitaire game, you can play anytime on your own.

Due to the fact that this is a very easy game to learn and it is targeted to all age groups, Sea change can come up to your gaming night table more often than you could initially think. Its tiny box makes it an ideal partner for your travels as well. 8/10

Player interaction

There is no direct interaction between players but this is a fact for every other trick-taking game. The fun really comes out of interacting all together in a common stack of cards where you try to manipulate this stack to your advantage while at the same time, ruining plans of other players. This indirect interaction is really working well in Sea Change. 8/10

Final Thoughts

Sometimes fun can be found where at least expected and you probably wouldn’t expect much fun from such a small box, having so little components. But like the ancient Greeks said “Plenty does not mean good”. Sea Change is one of those small, card games that can fill pleasantly an otherwise boring afternoon and make for some quality time with your children or parents. It is thought-provoking, smart, easy and quick and you would probably want to take it along when travelling too. With a few twists to common trick-taking games, it’s here to also remind us a big duty of ours: To take action soon, before our beautiful seas are destroyed from pollution and over-fishing. To protect and clean them thus finally making a big Sea Change and reverting Sea to its former beauty.

Good
  • Easy rules
  • Portable
  • Suitable for all ages
  • Original take on trick-taking games
  • 1% of proceeds go to organizations that work cleaning our seas
Bad
  • Small box struggling to contain its contents
  • Thin connection of theme to gameplay
7.6
Good
Components - 8
Gameplay - 7
Learning Curve - 9
Theme - 6
Replayability - 8
Player Interaction - 8
Written by
Maria is an avid board gamer, interested also in video games, movies and tennis. She is also an accomplished surveying engineer and a proud mum.

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