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Subject: Development diary for Farm Fresh Edition rss

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Joshua Buergel
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Grant asked me to type up some thoughts on my view of development for the new edition, and we thought this place made sense for it. Hopefully, this gives some insight into the new edition:

As we wrapped up getting Hocus out the door, the question of what the next game would be for Hyperbole Games was a natural question. The obvious choice was to take Farmageddon, a game that had come back into Grant’s hands, and run forward with it. We knew from our distribution partner that there was still demand from stores for the game, and it was a game that hopefully we could complete pretty quickly. To me, then, the question became where I could fit in to help bring the game across the finish line.

Unlike Hocus, Farmageddon was not a game that I was involved with from the beginning. While I was just starting to get up to speed with it, Grant had more than four years of experience with the game - playing it, supporting it, thinking about it. So I needed to think about where I could still add value to the process. It wouldn’t be very helpful for me to tackle things that Grant had really settled during those years of work. Where, then, could I contribute?

The first thing that occurred to me was to try and take a mathematical run at things. I usually build mathematical models for my games, and perform a numerical analysis on the content, just to confirm that the parameters of cards are not out of whack, that everything hangs together. It’s a different perspective that might provide some new insight to the game. I sat down and took a run at things, and came up with approximate values for what a Crop card and Farmer card was worth on average, and then looked at if there were any cards that were severe outliers. To the credit of Grant and his dedicated playtesters, things looked pretty good on the math front. There were some adjustments we made to the value of various things, tweaks here and there, but overall, the card set was in decent shape.

This sort of analytical look at games can provide insights that can help all the way through the development of a game. Knowing the approximate value of cards can help in balancing the value of cards, of fertilizer requirements, of card drawing power, and many other aspects of the game. Even if the analysis isn’t super rigorous, it’s still a tool that designers should really be thinking about, at a minimum as a double-check on changes and new content. For some of my games, I’ll even begin this analysis before I’ve hit the tabletop with a prototype.

The next place I tried to think about was looking at some of the core assumptions of the game. Grant had made it clear that any part of the game could be looked at, although he’d be drawing on his extensive experience where he might have tried things previous and discarded them as bad ideas. The biggest thing that I was looking at, as an outsider, was the planting fields. In the previous version of the game, there were a limited number of planting fields that were available. If there wasn’t one available, you couldn’t plant a crop. There were some extra temporary fields in the Farmer card deck as well.

Obviously, it was impossible to avoid a comparison with Bohnanza here, as it also features limited planting fields. In that game, they serve as a forcing function to cause players to limit the number of types of bean they can collect, and to drive the decision making around timing harvests. I tried to look through a similar lens here at the planting fields in Farmageddon: what were they doing? What decisions did they drive? What was the role they played?

My conclusion was that players had only limited control over whether they could get a field or not. And without a field, a player’s choices were going to be pretty constrained. That might be OK if the fields were driving some core mechanism in the game, but I didn’t see that. The heart of the game is hand management and risk management. The presence or absence of a field didn’t change those equations, it just determined if you could take advantage of an opportunity. It was just a constraint on executing plans, it wasn’t changing how you made those plans.

As a result, we started asking, what happens if we just get rid of them? There were actually some benefits to getting rid of them, as it gave us back some additional cards to play with: the fields, and the extra fields in the Farmer deck. After some testing, it became clear that removing the fields was giving players more decisions and flexibility, so that’s how we moved forward.

The next area I could help out with was on the content side. There were Farmer cards and Frankencrop abilities that needed work or replacing throughout development, and having a sounding board to bounce ideas off of is very valuable for that process. There were an endless series of rewrites, tweaks, and replacements, and I tried my best to help with fresh ideas or sanity checks, as appropriate. There were also small rules changes here and there that I tried to assist on.

Overall, Farmageddon was a good game before we started working on it. The development task, then, was to try and push it to be a great game. What I tried to do was be available to think about whatever aspect Grant thought needed a closer look. My role was more of an editor than designer on this project, but having an independent voice on any creative project can really sharpen the author’s vision and hopefully help them meet it. I’m proud of how the game turned out, and proud of my contribution to the final product, helping bring Grant’s strong game to be the best possible version.

If you’d like to see for yourself, it’s up for pre-order in August, with imminent delivery.
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Grant Rodiek
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Thanks Josh!

You probably see the ads on BGG, but you can pre-order Farmageddon throughout August for only $15. That includes shipping and pre-orders. Go to the shop page at HyperboleGames.com.

When Josh says shipping imminently, he's serious. I will be receive the games either this week (tomorrow) or early next week in my "warehouse." So, it's like a Kickstarter, but you don't have to wait!
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