Once the Seasonal Setup is done, each Season starts with a Tea Ceremony in which players sit down and negotiate their Alliances for the Season. Any Alliances from a previous Season are unmade, and each player takes their Clan’s Alliance token to propose new Alliances.
Being in an Alliance can be a powerful thing, granting you bonuses and some degree of safety (see Effects of an Alliance). However, they may sometimes be restrictive or detrimental to your plans. It is very important to choose wisely who you want to Ally with, how far you’re willing to take this Alliance, what you expect to gain from this Alliance, and even if you want to be in an Alliance at all this Season.
Alliances are forged between pairs of players, which must both be in agreement. When an Alliance is formed, the two players join their Alliance tokens together, forming a complete circle, and place them in view of all players (we suggest the empty space at the top right of the board). Alliances last for the current Season (unless they are broken by a Betray Mandate), and no new Alliances can be made until the next Season.
EXAMPLE: The LOTUS and TURTLE players decided to form an Alliance, while the DRAGONFLY and KOI players formed another.
Depending on the player count, the Tea Ceremony may end with several Alliances formed by pairs of players, and maybe one or more players not Allied with anybody. While an unallied player will miss the opportunity to get some bonuses, they can still explore the benefits of being a completely independent party.
Keep in mind that while Alliances may be mutually beneficial, Rising Sun is a competitive game where only one player will emerge as the winner in the end. So, Alliances and deals are always meant to further your personal cause in the long run.
The Tea Ceremony is an excellent opportunity to flex your negotiation skills. Forging the right Alliance can be quite powerful. You may want an Ally who has little interest in the Provinces you covet, or whose ability you want at your side. If the Alliance doesn’t seem too beneficial for them, offering some Coins can always be persuasive.