The Farming Game: Harvest the Fun
The Farming Game
Theme is usually an important part of a board game. Themes allow players to take on different roles depending on the game they are playing. In Monopoly, they have the chance to be a high-finance real estate tycoon. In Clue they get to pretend that they are a homicide detective. And in The Farming Game they take the role of, well, a farmer. Some of these games, the theme works with the game mechanics and in others it doesn’t. The Farming Game is a strong example of how well the theme works with the actual game play.
Living in Saskatchewan, farming is a large part of the fabric which stitches together my surroundings. Yellow fields of wheat and canola stretch across the highways, tractors mosey their way across dusty grid roads, the mooing of cows blend into the natural soundscape. Therefore it’s no wonder that I appreciate the theme which The Farming Game provides. It’s familiar, comforting, relaxing. The Farming Game is modest yet highly enjoyable.
The purpose of The Farming Game is to purchase crops and livestock and harvest them for money. That pretty much sums it up. Each player draws Option to Buy cards which allows them to buy certain types of crops. Then each player enters into the harvesting phase where their crops pay off. How much money you get depends upon how many crops you have combined with a dice roll. If you roll higher on the dice, your crops will pay off more. This provides that element of chance which, as most real-life farmers will tell you, goes hand in hand with agriculture.
Luck is a heavy part of The Farming Game. There is a roll and move aspect which seems very derivative of Monopoly, as well as the randomization with harvest pay-offs. However, the most noticeable fault is one which usually encompasses any game with a monetary component; the more money you have in the game increases your chances of getting more money as the game continues. With a good start, you can grow your farm quickly, which results in more money, which results in further growth, and so on. This means that one player can run away with the lead and only continue to grow stronger, making it almost impossible for them to be caught. So this game is not without its flaws, yet they are not prominent enough to detract from the fun.
The board of The Farming Game is a strong testament to how well the theme works with this game. There are two parts to the board; the outside moving track and the inside farming areas. The outside track is very similar to Monopoly, where players roll dice to move their markers around the board. However, where this simplistic mechanic seems like it is a fault of the game, it is actually used quite cleverly in relation to the farming theme. Each revolution around the board corresponds to the time period of one year. Each of the four sides of the board represents the four seasons. When you are moving through winter and spring, you are buying and planting your crops. When you move through summer and autumn, you are harvesting your crops and rolling for money. As agriculture is so dependent upon the changing of seasons through the year, this is a nice way to address this fact and a wonderful integration of game and theme.
The center portion of the board game is an illustrated bird’s-eye view of six different farms. Each player chooses one of the farms as their own. These farms are essentially used as spaces to place your crop tokens. These tokens are semi-sticky pieces which indicate wheat, grain, fruit, and livestock. Each farm is different and includes individual features; some may have a river, others a ridge, others a simple creek. These details add to the illusion of actually owning that farm and making the gaming experience your own.
Alright, perhaps farming isn’t as exciting of a theme as commanding armies across Europe or settling a new, undiscovered island. However, the theme works well with the gameplay; the two are inextricably tied. And sometimes a simple, pastoral theme such as this may be just what you need every once in a while. Sure the game may run too long and is to dependent upon the rolling of those blasted dice, but the thrill of those fruit crops finally paying off big will more than make up for the flaws. This is a farming game which makes you feeling like your farming; and if that is what you’re looking for, what more can you expect?