Farmageddon Game Review

Please Note: This review, originally released on September 6, 2011, has been updated to reflect the new version of the game published by 5th Street Games.


The Basics:

  • For ages 5 and up (game designer suggests 8+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • About 30 minutes to play

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Welcome to the world of overly competitive farming!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Being a farmer is not an easy life. You are forever at the mercy of nature and must risk it all in hopes of having a yield big enough to sell within a fickle market to make a profit. Farming is not for the thin-skinned or weak of heart, as land disappears, competitors are always looking for a weak spot, and there is little you can do to protect yourself other than mentally prepare for the worst. For those who are strong and lucky enough, the rewards are worth the struggle. You must be smart, savvy, quick, and able to take a punch. If you are, welcome to Farmageddon, the war in the farm fields. If not, try to get a job in the retail market. I hear they are hiring.

Farmageddon, by 5th Street Games, is a card game comprised of 45 Action cards, 60 Crop cards, 3 Planting Field cards, and 10 FrankenCrop cards (which can be viewed as something of an expansion). The artwork, by illustrators Brett Bean and Erin Fusco, are simply outstanding and 5th Street Games has done a good job with the component’s durability and coloring. In short, the game is an improvement on the self-published version, but it has lost none of its character or originality as a result. It was a pleasant surprise to see the game not only get updated and revised, but taken by a publisher who agreed with the game designer’s vision. Well played, 5th Street, well played.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, first decide if you want to play with the FrankenCrop cards. These 10 cards, noted with an “FC”, add a subtle level of complexity to the game play. Either remove them from the game for now or keep them. Including them will make the game more unpredictable and fun, but perhaps a bit overwhelming for new players.

Second, find the three Planting Field cards. These are double-sided with the same image on both sides and should be easy to find by simply looking through the cards. Place these three cards in the middle of the playing area and between all the players.

Third, separate the cards into two decks. One will be the red Action card deck (showing the image of a farmer brandishing a shovel like a weapon on the card’s back) and the green Crop card deck (showing an image of a small plant pushing through the ground on the card’s back). Shuffle these two decks thoroughly. Then place them, face-down, next to the Planting Fields and within easy reach of all the players.

Fourth, each player should now take or be dealt 2 Crop cards and 3 Action cards. This is the player’s starting hand. Cards should be hidden from opponents at all times until played or scored.

You are now ready to play! Choose a first player and begin!

The War Between the Corn Rows

The game is played in rounds, which each player taking a turn until the endgame condition is met. What a player can do on their turn is summarized here.

Before Doing Anything, Draw Cards

The very first thing a player does is draw 2 Crop cards and adds them to their hand. Then, based on the cards available to them, they can take the following actions, but not necessarily in the order they are listed here.

Plant Crops

To plant a crop, a Planting Field card must be open (i.e. not have any other cards on it) or the player must have another means of planting their crop (using the Rented Land Action card, for example). The only limit to the number of crops a player can plant is the number of available fields.

To plant a crop, the player places one of their Crop cards on the field, face-up. This signifies that the player now “owns” the land and what crop will be harvested. Also noted on the Crop card is the crop’s harvest value (the points it is worth) and the amount of fertilizer needed before the crop can be scored. It is suggested that the player take the field on which the crop is planted and put it in front of them to signify they now own it.

Play Fertilizer

Crop cards double up as fertilizer and are played, face-down, on top of the Crop cards that are planted. The amount of fertilizer each crop needs is noted on the Crop card. There is no limit to the number of cards that can be played as fertilizer, but at minimum, a player must place 1 fertilizer before their turn ends. If the player doesn’t have a Crop card, they must play a fertilizer on an opponent’s field. A player cannot over fertilize a crop. The amount of fertilizer needed to harvest a Crop card also represents the maximum number of fertilizer cards that can be played on it.

Play Actions

A player can play up to 2 Action cards on their turn. An action card will either influence the player who played it, an opponent, or both. Once played, the effect is read out loud and the necessary action taken. Once completed, unless the card states otherwise, it is discarded in the Action card discard pile. Some Action cards can be played on a crop to be harvested. These stay until the Crop card is either removed from the game or scored. Some Action cards can be placed in the player’s score pile as either additional points or negative points. Regardless, players should pay close attention to each Action card as they are dependent on timing and can be very useful “shortcuts to points” for players who use them wisely.

Harvest Crops

A player can harvest the crops on 1 Planting Field they own on their turn. Before a crop can be harvested it must have enough fertilizer on it, as noted by the Crop card’s fertilizer number. Once harvested, the crop goes to the player’s score pile and the cards used as fertilizer go to the Crop discard pile, face-up. Note that planted crops cannot be harvested on the same turn they were planted, unless the player uses an Action card that states otherwise.

End of the Turn

Once the player has completed their turn or decides to pass because they cannot (or do not want to) play any further, their turn ends. The player then draws 2 Action cards and adds them to their hand. Action cards cannot be used in the same turn they are drawn. If the Action Card deck runs out, simply shuffle the discard pile.

Play then continues clockwise.

Endgame

The endgame is triggered as soon as the last Crop card is drawn. The current player finishes up their turn as normal. Then, every player, going in turn order sequence, gets one last turn EXCEPT the player who just drew the last Crop card. No Crop cards will be drawn, but players can still play Action cards as normal. Once the turns are over, any Crop cards that are fully fertilized and not yet harvested are collected by their owning player.

All the players now add up the points in their score piles, including any Action cards that give or reduce points. The player with the most points wins the game! If there is a tie, the player with the highest number of most valued crops wins.

Two-Player Game Variant

The rules to play the game with only two players is slightly different then what is described  above. The rule changes are noted here:

  • The players draw 3 Crop cards at the start of each turn instead of 2.
  • Players must play at minimum of 2 Crop cards as fertilizer on their turn, if possible, instead of 1.
  • At the end of their turn, the player draws 1 Action card, instead of 2.

To learn more about Farmageddon and read the full rules, visit the game’s web site.

Prediction

Note: The following prediction was written when the game was first given to us for review in 2011. My oldest little geek was then 7-years-old. The game no longer uses money or tokens and everything is driven by the cards, making the game much easier to play and a lot less fiddly.

When I read the rules for Farmageddon the first time, I was uncertain if this game would be of interest or even playable with my little geek. At that time, the game used paper money and tokens to represent field ownership. The rules made it sound like there was a lot of “fiddling” with bits, specifically the money, and I thought that would slow the game down to a point where he would lose interest. Really, what it came down to is that there was too much management for a card game that was intended to be fast and light.

I tried Farmageddon and it sank more than it swam, as expected. While my little geek enjoyed the cards and the game play, the management, handling, sorting, and spending of money started to feel more like work rather than play. It wasn’t a lot by any means, but it was just enough to slow the game down and interest began to wane. As such, I put the game up for a few days with the intent of revisiting it when we would have longer to play.

Only a few days before I was going to try Farmageddon again, I received an email from the game designer, Mr. Grant Rodiek. He informed me that he had revamped the rules and had removed the money and the tokens from play. There were no changes to the cards, only how they were used. No longer were you required to “buy” cards with money. You would received cards for free as a player action and emphasis was now placed on hand management and card timing. Well, awesome! I thought this was an excellent change and addressed several issues I had with the game from a Gamer Geek and Child Geek perspective. Now the game used only cards and would play faster and lighter.

I reread the rules to familiarize myself with the changes and then taught the game to my little geek again using the revisions. After going through one open hand with him, he told me he was “ready already” and we should “just start playing”. Kids…

While I shuffled the deck, I asked him his thoughts on the game.

“I think this will be a much better game without the money. I already like how I can take your cards and collect food. I don’t know, we’ll see.” ~ Liam (age 7)

So young. So wise. So ready to play the game!

Final Word

I have always enjoyed card games. There is just something I find entertaining about an entire game that is held in your hand and is highly portable. Magic the Gathering was my first “real card game”, other than Go fish! and Old Maid, along with the countless other traditional card games I played. But even before I started spending wads of my allowance to buy more and more Magic cards, the medium in which the game was played was familiar to me and enjoyable. I’d stop short of saying I am a fool for card games and enjoy them by default, however. Far from it. I have played many card games and many of them were fantastic and even more of them were horrible.

Farmageddon is by no means horrible, but it isn’t the best card game I have played, either. “Just right”, is how I’d describe it.

The game continues to be one my little geeks (now 5 and 8-years-old) and the family enjoy playing. It is fast and fun, with just the right mix of chaos and strategy to make it perfect for playing anytime. I’ve introduced it to other families and they eagerly bought a copy of the game to call their own. Farmageddon is family friendly, with a “take this, player stab” kind of feel without being all in your face about it. Admittedly  this type of game is not for everyone, especially those  players who don’t care for games where the level of player interaction can be borderline absurd at times.

The game play is dependent on card timing and availability. A player who knows nothing of strategy or tactics can play and win the game just by paying attention to the cards and managing their hand. That is enough for many Gamer Geeks to avoid playing Farmageddon, but within the context of the game itself, this works very well and keeps everything going at a wonderful pace. It also works perfectly for the Child Geeks and for non-gamers, as the game is not demanding. The game never takes itself seriously, but does require a serious amount of effort to keep everything on track for victory. That is, if you really care to make an effort. You’ll have fun either way, win or lose, and it won’t feel like work.

My little geeks continue to enjoy the game after over a year of playing it. It is light and fun, deceptively simple to teach with a subtle risk vs. reward system that is powered by easy hand management. “Timing” is the key to success. Strategy and tactics take a backseat  but can be used to a certain extent in regards to knowing when to best use a card on an opponent. And while this is one of the game’s many strengths, it is also a weakness. The game is light and lacks depth. A worthwhile sacrifice to keep the game fast and feverish.

Farmageddon in the past (2011) and the present (2012), with two little geeks now playing it like a Boss

From a Gamer Geek’s perspective, the game is too light to be the main attraction. Without a doubt, Farmageddon is a great filler or before/after game, but it falls short of being a “gamer’s game”. Mr. Grant Rodiek and I have conversed a number of times on this topic. I contend that the Farmageddon could easily be updated to satisfy the Gamer Geek’s requirements without much in the way of additional rules or cards. All that would be needed, I argued, was more player interaction, more strategic and tactical thinking, and a higher turnover of cards in the scoring pile. To his credit, Mr. Rodiek graciously accepted and eagerly discussed my feedback. He even went so far as to include some of my suggestions on wording and took several notes on new cards. But despite my coaxing and sweet-talk, he would not be persuaded to make the changes I suggested for the Gamer Geeks. You see, Mr. Rodiek knows what he wants his game to be and has a strong sense of design. He has gone to great pains to make the game light and family friendly. His fear, and rightly so, is that by making it more Gamer Geek’ish, he would ruin the simplicity of the game that makes it easy to pick up and play. And, in all honestly, I think he is right. He’s got a great working system in the game and it would be shameful to mess that up. The FrankenCrop cards were added to give the game a bit more “zing”, but not enough to provide any depth or make the game more tolerant to the Gamer Geeks. It remains a solid “filler”, but nothing more.

From a Parent Geek’s perspective, Farmageddon is going to be a big hit. Game play is simple and straight forward, but there is enough depth to keep the little geeks and big geeks engaged. The rules, which have been significantly improved, are short, to the point, and will get the family up and playing in no time. For the non-gamers in the family, this is going to be a hit and just might be “that game” that starts them down the path of learning more complex games and seeking them out. Regardless of skill level, the game will provide everyone at the table a fun experience with light hand management and risk vs. reward game play.

From a Child Geek’s perspective, Farmageddon is so theme rich and consistent, that it is easy to get swept up by it. The cards are colorful and the artwork is fun to look at. Who can avoid smiling at a grumpy melon? There isn’t much in the way of card text or icons to read or remember which will make the game all the more easy to learn and to play. The short play time  is also going to appeal to the Child Geeks. A single game session will go just long enough where all the players should be able to play the kind of game they want without feeling pushed or dragged to the end. Best of all, because the game is entirely played with cards, Child Geek’s can play it on the kitchen floor, the family gaming table, in the tent, or in the car (given enough space). Fast, portable, fun, and easy; that’s what makes a fantastic Child Geek game!

I could be happier with Farmageddon if it was more Gamer Geek geared, but I simply cannot argue that it is already a good game. I want it to be more because I want to play it with more people and have a longer, more in-depth experience. That’s a very large endorsement, when you think about it. I liken it to watching a fantastic movie or reading an exciting book and being disappointed and hungry for more when it is over. Which is funny, considering this is a game about food.

Great for families, little geeks, and non-gamers, Farmageddon is going to be a blast. For the hardcore Gamer Geeks, bring a sandwich because this game is going to leave you wanting more, but it will serve you well as a starter to a great day of playing games or whenever you feel the itch to get a game to the table.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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