- For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 10+)
- For 2 to 5 players
- Approximately 20 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Emotional Coping Skills
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- It’s tomato season – pick your ripe tomatoes as quickly as you can and store them before animals, insects, and your opponents take them away!
- Gamer Geek rejected!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
Growing tomatoes is an art form. You need just the right amount of sun, the right amount of rain, and the right amount of barbed wire and explosives to keep the hungry critters at bay. After all, it doesn’t matter how much time and energy you put into the process of growing a big, fat tomato if the next animal to crawl or fly by can take a bite. A farmer must be diligent! A farmer must be prepared! But most of all, a farmer needs the right tools and a lot of smarts. Do you have what it takes to be a tomato farmer? We’ll see…
The Big Fat Tomato Game, by Gamewright, is comprised of 150 Mini Tomatoes (pea sized round puff balls), 60 cards, 5 plastic Harvest Baskets, and 2 six-sided dice. The game components are of high quality and typical for Game Write titles. Of special note here are the tomatoes which are small, red puff balls. They don’t look much like tomatoes, but you’ll be whispering thanks to the game publishers when you never once have to pick up a tomato that has rolled off the table. The Harvest Baskets also deserve a special nod as they are made of thick brown plastic that has been molded to look like a real basket. The tomatoes can easily fit into this basket, as well as easily removed. The illustrations on the cards are also well worth bragging about as they are colorful, humorous, and only serve to strengthen the game’s theme. Excellent design choices from start to finish.
Game Set Up
To set up the game, first give each player 1 Harvest Basket. This goes in front of each player.
Second, look through the cards and remove the Turn Summary and Market Time cards. Give 1 Turn Summary card to each player and place the Market Time card temporarily aside.
Third, shuffle the cards and deal out to each player 5, face-down. Players can look at their cards but should keep them hidden from their opponents at all times.
Fourth, deal out the next 10 cards on top, face-down. Randomly insert and shuffle the Market Time card within these 10 cards. Once shuffled, place the 11 cards at the bottom of the card deck. Place the deck in the middle of the playing area and within easy reach of all the players, face-down. Make sure there is room next to the deck for a discard pile. The discard pile is referred to as the Compost Pile.
Fifth, place the 2 six-sided dice and the Mini Tomatoes in the middle of the playing area within easy reach of all the players.
You are now ready to play! Determine which farmer will go first and begin!
Old McDonald Had a Tomato Farm…
The game is played in rounds with each player being given a single turn per round. A player’s turn consists of 6 sequential steps which are summarized here.
Step 1: Draw Cards
A player always begins their turn drawing cards from the deck until they are holding a total of 5 cards.
Step 2: Play Thumbs Up or A Fence
In total, there are 5 types of cards. Two of those are the green Thumbs Up and the green Fence. These are easily identified by the green thumb and green fence icons on the card and represent beneficial and defensive actions taken by the player. A player can only play one of these types of cards on their turn, however, so they will have to decide which ones will best improve their farming situation each round. The green Thumbs Up cards focus on defending the tomato patch from various insect and mammal invaders. The green Fence cards are used to protect the player’s possible points. Once a Thumbs Up or Fence card is played, or if the player has neither of these types (or simply doesn’t want to play them), this step ends.
Step 3: Resolve Attacks
Cards can be played that attack a player’s tomato harvest and supply during their turn. During this step, those cards are now resolved. Sometimes they reduce the player’s total number of tomatoes and sometimes they make harvesting tomatoes more difficult. Regardless, they are always bad news. Unless the player took care of them during step 1, they are now in full effect and are resolved one at a time in any order. Once completed, this step ends.
Step 4: Harvest Tomatoes
Tomatoes are collected in the player’s Harvest Basket. The number of tomatoes they collect and put in the Harvest Basket is usually determined by rolling the 2 six-sided dice and adding the rolled values. I say “usually” because there are cards that can be played that can dramatically increase or decrease the number of tomatoes harvested. Once collected, this step ends.
Step 5: Play A Thumbs Down
The analog opposite of the Thumbs Up is the Thumbs Down, and as you might expect, these are meant to harass players versus benefit them. Like the Thumbs Up card, a player can only play one on their turn. The Thumbs Down card (easily identified with a red thumbs down icon) is either played directly to the Compost Pile (discard pile) or is placed in front of an opponent. It all depends on if the card’s effects are triggered immediately or linger. The only restriction, other than only being able to play one Thumbs Down card, is that a player cannot play a Thumbs Down card on an opponent if they have three in front of them already or if they have the same Thumbs Down card already placed in front of them. For example, a player could not play a “Pesky Weeds” card if their opponent already had that card played on them. Once a Thumbs Down card is played, or if the player decides not to play a Thumbs Down card, this step ends.
Step 6: Discard
The player now has the option to discard some or all of their cards. To do so, they simply place the cards they no longer want into the Compost Pile. This completes their turn and the next player going clockwise starts their turn with step 1. This continues until the endgame is triggered.
Ribbons, Stars, and Stockpiling
Three of the five types of cards have already been discussed. These were the Thumbs Up, the Fence, and the Thumbs Down card types. The two remaining card types, Stars and Blue Ribbons, can be played as interrupts or whenever the condition the card requires is present
Star cards come in two varieties. These are red Stars and green Stars. Green Stars are defensive and red Stars are offensive. They can be played out of turn and whenever the player thinks they will be the most beneficial. The Blue Ribbon cards give the player a one time bonus and can only be played once on the player’s turn. The Blue Ribbon cards focus on tomato harvesting and hand management.
A player can also stockpile their tomatoes that have been collected in the Harvest Basket. In fact, the only way a player acquires points is by stockpiling their harvest (1 point per stockpiled tomato). The stockpile is simply a designated area to the right or left of the Harvest Basket and as defined by the player. Players can move tomatoes from their Harvest Basket to their stockpile anytime during their time for free, but only once per turn. Additionally, the player must have 20 or more tomatoes in their Harvest Basket. If they do not, all the tomatoes in the Harvest Pile are returned to the tomato pile! Making this even more complicated is the fact that players are not allowed to recount their tomatoes in their Harvest Basket once they place them in. This means players will have to keep a running tally in their head and should only stockpile their Harvest Basket when they feel they have 20 or more.
The game continues until the Market Time card is drawn. Recall that this card was randomly shuffled into 10 cards, which were then placed on the bottom of the deck. As soon as any player draws this card, the game immediately comes to a halt and all the players count their tomatoes. Tomatoes not yet claimed and tomatoes in each players Harvest Basket are ignored. Only those tomatoes that players have stockpiled are counted. Each player will gain 1 point per stockpiled tomato. The player with the most points wins the game and is crowned the TOMATO KING or given some other equally ridiculous title.
To learn more about The Big Fat Tomato Game and read the full rules, visit the game’s web page.
The game design and play, just based off the rules, already leads me to believe this game will be a big winner with the Child and Parent Geeks. The Gamer Geeks are going to, at the very, tolerate the game. Not because it is a bad game, mind you, but because it is a game that was designed for families and not the gamer elitists. But you never know and that’s why we test these games out.
Teaching the game took a bit with the Child Geeks who were not familiar with card games that have different actions. We had a few new Child Geek testers at our table who had only played traditional card games. For those Child Geeks who were already familiar with games like The Big Fat Tomato Game, they caught on pretty quick. The icons on the cards help a great deal, and the card text does a great job of explaining what the card can and cannot do. I told all my players to “read the card first” before they asked me any questions. Nine times out of 10, the card answered the player’s questions.
The only other area that was confusing for the Child Geeks (at this point, the Parent and Gamer Geeks knew what the game was all about and had no other questions) was the tomato gathering and scoring points. I had to remind them several times about two important aspects of the game. First, only the tomatoes you collect and put in your scoring pile count, not the ones in the basket. Second, if you try to put your tomatoes in your basket in the scoring pile and there ARE NOT at least 20 tomatoes in there, all of them go away. I wanted to make sure this was exceedingly clear so as to avoid sad faces and hurt feelings.
Once I was satisfied that my little geek was ready to play, I reset the game for just him and I to play a 2-player game. As I did so, I asked him his thoughts on the game so far.
“I like how the cards can help and hurt you, but I especially like the little tomatoes!” ~ Liam (age 8)
The little tomatoes are pretty cool. Let’s see if the game is as cool as the little red tomatoes that are now all over my table or is rotten to the core.
The Child Geeks had a blast playing the game, but there were also some hurt feelings. The game allows one or more players to gang up on their opponents. This happened a number of times to the player who was clearly in the lead. Of course, once they were ganged up on, they stopped collecting tomatoes and fell behind. Once the player was no longer in the lead, the other players backed off, targeting another player. This type of game play is not discouraged in the rules and the game mechanisms in place support this type of player ‘take-that” kind of play. For those little geeks who had the emotional cooping skills to deal with the aggressive nature of the game, they just worked through it. For those who did not, their level of frustration was visible, and if they thought they were being picked on, they let people know!
The Parent Geeks very much enjoyed the game, but only when playing it with their families. Among their peer group, the game fell well short of being an “adult game”. To be fair the game is designed for families and for younger players, so this is hardly a revelation. Still, it is important to note that the game play was well received, but the audience the game is being played with is important.
Gamer Geeks rather enjoyed the game, but ONLY when they played it with their family. Again, the game is not targeting the game elitists so their reaction and their lack of endorsement is not a surprise. The Gamer Geeks did think the game was well designed and the component quality was top-notch. In other words, they thought it was an excellent family game, but not even close to being a Gamer Geek’s game.
Gamer Geeks, this is a fun game to play with your families. The game itself will not challenge you a great deal, but you will enjoy the different ways the cards can be used. Keeping cards in your hand is sometimes not needed as the player will want the game to end. This is especially true when a player builds up some protection early on from tomato eating animals and insects. When there is a sufficient level of tomatoes scored, you’ll want the game to end as quickly as possible. This is done by discarding all your cards and drawing 5 new ones each round. While this might sound like it breaks the game, the other players will easily be able to see what you have for points and recognize you are attempting to end the game quickly. That’s when they start to gang up on you and all those cards you discarded are suddenly important. A fun and well designed game, but clearly for families. Play it when you have a chance, but don’t expect to be “wowed” by it.
Parent Geeks, your peer group very much enjoyed this game when played with families, but not when played only with your peers. Like the Gamer Geeks, you’ll find the game play and design to be excellent, but the depth of the game and repetitive nature makes it something more appropriate for family play with mixed age and skill groups versus just adults. The game requires and strengthens math and reading, but also memorization. The player will need to keep mental track of how many tomatoes they have in their basket or risk not scoring them. Non-gamers also had a wonderful time playing the game with their family and remarked how much fun it was to be able to influence other players and protect the tomatoes at the same time. The only complaint we heard from your peer group is the game length, which seemed a bit too short.
Child Geeks, this is a fun and potentially challenging game. If players do not take the time to harass other players, the game moves along at a pretty quick and predictable pace. But the real fun comes in when you start to mess with the other players’ tomatoes. You’ll find that you spend as much time managing your own pile of red fuzzies as you do your opponents. This game does an excellent job of introducing you to card and resource management; two important skills you’ll need for games in the future. The only thing to look out for and be aware of is that players can do a lot of things to make your side of the game slow. Don’t take cards played against you as anything other than game play. DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY! And if you do feel like you are being picked on, speak up! Tell others how you are feeling and let them know the game is not fun for you. We bet you’ll find that the other players back off almost immediately.
There were two issues that came up time and time again while playing this game. The first was the game length. There are no set rounds and players can quickly exhaust the deck to end the game. Some of our players disliked this immensely, while others saw it as a viable game mechanism to victory. I am not convinced it is bad or good, but do acknowledge that a game can end well before any player is ready for it to be finished. This is especially true if one or more players have little to know tomatoes scored for points. The second is the chance players might feel ganged up on and highly frustrated because they are unable to collect tomatoes and score them. This did happen in several of our games, and in fact, mostly to me. Players love to gang up on Father Geek, for some reason. When I was targeted by more than one player per turn, I collected very few tomatoes to score and never won the game. Oddly enough, for a game that plays 2 to 5 players, I think the best number is only 2. When you and your opponent are going against each other, each turn has a much more interesting impact and the game is more manageable For every player you add, the level of chaos and “take that” interaction increases. For those looking for a chaotic game, they’ll enjoy this. For those players who are not (especially the younger little geeks who just want to collect tomatoes) more players means more opportunity to be targeted.
Other than that, I think the game is a fun one for the family. It’s light, but has enough player interaction and requires enough thinking to make the game enjoyable, just not Gamer Geek enjoyable. It certainly kept me engaged and I very much liked how I could directly address negative cards, albeit only one at a time. If you are looking for a fun family game about farming that is easy to learn and can be challenging to play, then do make room in your collection for The Big Fat Tomato Game.
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.