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Designer Diary: Super Farmer: The Card Game

Yaniv Kahana
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Board Game: Super Farmer: The Card Game
Super Farmer: The Card Game is the second game that I've had published and the first game that I designed without a co-designer. I wanted to bring something new to the existing "choose a card and pass" drafting mechanism, and that is how "reverse drafting" was born.

What's reverse drafting? On your turn, you pick one card for yourself, but also choose another card for one of the other players.

The Spark

My journey with Super Farmer: The Card Game began in July 2017. After two years of designing with partners, I decided to take up the challenge and go solo, and I began designing alone for the first time. It all started with the strike of a muse that hit me before I drifted into sleep. I was so excited! But first, let me tell you where it all came from.

The inspiration for this design was the popular game Sushi Go! I had tried Sushi Go! with my gaming groups. We always love to play fillers before our main course of the evening, but we all found it too light for our taste. On the other hand, I have always liked this simple and elegant drafting mechanism, which mitigates the luck element and can create interesting decisions, so I wanted to design a drafting game like Sushi Go! that would be a bit more complex, would appeal to gamers as a filler game, and would also be suitable for children and families.

Before drifting off to sleep, instead of counting sheep, lumber and bricks, I'm playing with game mechanisms in my mind — and this is how the idea of "take a card and give a card" emerged. As I said, I was extremely excited about this idea. To be honest, new game ideas always excite me because before I create the system around it and play the game, the potential seems endless.

Version 1: Fun, But Misleading

My first version of this drafting game had numbers and abilities, which created quite a complex game system. The game had a different theme originally and was called "Tussie Mussie". It was a game about a flower festival in which players compete to create the most astonishing bouquets.

A few iterations later, I simplified the game by removing all the numbers and abilities, replacing them with three icons: blooming flower, bud, and gypsophila. (Don't feel bad — I didn't know then what it was either.)

From gallery of YanivKahana
Two templates of the first card designs

From gallery of YanivKahana
First scoresheet design

The first stable version of this design was a classic set-collection game — the more icons you have of a specific flower, the more points you gain. But unlike the next version, you scored every one of your flowers even if you didn't have the most icons of a particular flower. The game was fun, but it was complex, with a scoresheet to mark your score at the end of the game and a points table cheat card.

From gallery of YanivKahana
Second scoresheet design

The playtesters and I loved the game, and we enjoyed the core twist for the drafting mechanism, which created a fresh kind of interaction compared to standard drafting games. Alliances and betrayals were formed throughout the game; some players chose to scratch each others' backs, while others tried to obstruct their opponents' plans.

The team mode was my favorite mode, with each team needing to decide whether they wanted to focus on building their flower displays or interfering and blocking the rival team displays. Team mode is a bit more complex because each player needs to manage two card displays — theirs and their partner's — and tries to understand what their partner needs.

In the end, although the game scoring system was overly complex, players asked for a copy of the game to play with their friends in their own gaming groups, which is always a great sign.

My first public playtesting was two months after I designed the game. I tested it with an audience of children and adults that I hadn't met before at the Dragoncon, and it was one of the favorite games at the convention.

Every Game Deserves a Makeover

After the convention, I stopped the design of the game and worked to prepare the art with the help of the amazing artist Sophie Noga Eden.

From gallery of YanivKahana
The new card designs

I put my game aside and left it alone for a while. A few months before the Spielwarenmesse toy fair in Nürnberg, Germany, I came back to it to see how I could improve it. I like to do this in every design process. I love to come back and look at my games again with a fresh perspective. It usually helps me focus on the flaws of the game and come up with new ideas to solve them.

My first goal was to simplify the game, especially the scoring system. Instead of scoring at the end of the game, scoring would take place each round and only the player with the most blooming flower icons would earn points. The buds would be engine-building points between rounds (as in the basic version of Super Farmer: The Card Game today).

In the beginning, each player who won a specific flower type earned points based on the round played, no matter how many flower icons they had, but when I explained the game to my son and his friends, he asked whether the number of points the winner receives matches their number of flower icons. Well no, it didn't, but wait...that was a great idea! It created an interesting competition between the players — the more you invest in a flower type, the more points you receive for it.

The new version was ready just in time to show at Spielwarenmesse 2018, and at that fair, I got great feedback and ideas from the talented designers Simone Luciani and Daniel Greiner. Their ideas helped to improve and streamline the game. They also introduced the idea of negative points for the wild card, which adds a smidge of interaction between players that I really like as it leads players to create more alliances and to promise to help one another during the game.

Two more important improvements were added later, including the advanced version of buds that created another interesting interaction between players trying to interfere with one another. After the "advanced buds" version, I had three different majorities systems: the flowers, the buds (in advanced mode), and the gypsophila (the game's food), with the player who has the most gypsophila on their whole flower arrangement scoring their biggest group of flowers again.

But it was quite hard to track the amount of gypsophila that you and your opponents had, so I changed it to engine-point building. By doing so, players still didn't want to give other players cards with gypsophila to prevent them from scoring many points, even if they didn't need those cards for themselves.

Finding the Perfect Home

Board Game Publisher: Granna
I first met Aleksander Redward, the editor of Granna, at Spielwarenmesse 2019. We had a short meeting at which I showed him my games, and "Tussie Mussie" was one of them. I was happy that he took an interest in most of my games, but he also told me that it would take a while before they tested them as they were very busy at Granna.

But then he contacted me after the fair to say that they wanted to publish a card game based on their Super Farmer IP for SPIEL '19, and he mentioned that "Tussie Mussie" might be suitable for it. I was up for the challenge to re-theme "Tussie Mussie", even though I held dear the comment of a friend's mom after she had played this gentle-looking flower game with him: "That was the most vicious flower game I have ever played!"

Aleksander and I started our Skype meetings on Fridays where we brainstormed how to transform "Tussie Mussie" into Super Farmer: The Card Game and which animals to use. I remember Aleksander saying that a cat does whatever it wants, so it should be the wild card...

From gallery of YanivKahana
The Super Farmer animals are back!

I wanted to add the wolf, fox, and dog elements to the game, and I tried a few options, including new cards with new symbols. I found that the best mechanism was the dog icons, which added another logic layer for advanced players.

I was very excited when Granna decided to take the game and publish it so quickly. This would be my second game to be released at SPIEL '19, along with the first game that I had designed,Kauchuk. (You can read more about developing Kauchuk here.)

Super Farmer: The Card Game is one of my favorite games that I have designed and the design that I have played the most thanks to my son Itai, who always asks to play it. This game was made possible through the help and collaboration of many people, from my sharp and loyal playtesters and fellow designers at GravitiX Games who are always happy to try out all my new ideas, even in the beginning stages where the game might be broken, to the amazing work of Aleksander who saw the potential of the game for the Super Farmer line, to my fabulous editor Sally Halon and all the Granna team who turned this game into a reality. Thank you for joining me on this journey.

Now, my fellow gamers, a new journey begins with you. Please share your thoughts and experiences with Super Farmer: The Card Game, and think twice about what you give your opponent...

Yaniv Kahana

From gallery of YanivKahana
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