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Subject: How Does It Play for Two Carebears? rss

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Ken B
United States
California
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Full disclosure:
1). This is my first board game review, and I have no intention of teaching how to play the game. But I hope something here might prove helpful to someone. 2). My initial motivation for writing this was Artipia Games’ incentive of a free mini-expansion. 3). I have played 4, 2-player games prior to writing this review.
I grade using a 5- scale, where is poor, is average, and is the best.

Introduction:
Fields of Green is a card-drafting, tableau-building, farming simulation game. In non-geek-speak, you get a bunch of cards (one at a time), and you use them to create your farm. Each card has a cost (with a single exception), and a benefit (ability). The game plays over 4 ‘years’, with each year consisting of 6 turns each. At the end of the game, well, same as most: You count up the victory points, and whoever has the most is the winner. A 2-player game should be over in an hour or less (unless one or more players suffers from AP).

Fields of Green was designed by Vangelis Bagiartakis, who also designed Among the Stars, the game that this was derived from. It’s much more than a re-theme, however. By introducing a couple of key gameplay elements, many people who have played both say that Fields of Green is the more compelling choice.

Components:

The outer box is a standard sized, standard linen-finished nice box. The box insert is of decent thickness, but that's about the only thing I liked about it. As you can see, it’s just a single compartment about one-third the size of the box. There’s not enough height to store the cards vertically, so you have to (and I’m sure are expected to) bag them and store them horizontally. Everything fits, but just barely if you use a couple of small boxes (e.g., Altoids) to store some of the non-card bits. I plan on eventually ditching the insert and creating some sort of custom solution. Someday. Maybe.


The cards are made out of a heavy cardstock, with a matte (non linen) finish, with very detailed, beautiful artwork. (I’ve sleeved our copy, so that’s why some of the photos show reflections.) The (equipment) tiles have a nice, linen finish on them, and are made of thick cardboard. Nothing special to say about the money or VP chits, but I love, LOVE the shapely wooden grain (yellow) and water (blue) tokens. I’m still new to gaming, and it surprises me how much I enjoy seeing and touching these little bits. The game would have been diminished in my mind if they had used cardboard tokens for those, even though the gameplay wouldn’t have changed one iota.


There’s a pad of scoresheets, and it’s the first scoresheets I’ve actually used (though I made photocopies and used those). There’s a game-end-scoring player’s aid, but all you really need once you’ve played once or twice is the scoresheet.


As you can see, there are also player aids for a ‘year’, and for a ‘turn’. Again, we didn’t find we needed either of these after our first game, but if we don’t play for a month, they probably would be handy. Unfortunately, they are single-sided, so what you see is it. And what is missing is initial setup. If only there’d been room for a few extra lines, we wouldn’t have to refer to the rulebook before starting each game.


These are the 4 types of location cards. They are color-coded, but they also have a text description in the bottom right corner. The top left shows the cost, and the bottom 1/4 shows the benefit. More on that here:


These are examples of the 3 types of location abilities: Immediate, Harvest, and End Game. The first two indicate one-time benefits, the middle (Harvest) represents an ability that fires off at the end of each year (during the Harvest phase), so up to 4 times during the game. Harvest abilities have costs associated with them (payment in money, water, or grain), that must be paid every time they are to be used.


Lastly, these are examples of the equipment tiles (which can be gotten via some locations’ abilities). These are worth 1 VP if not placed on a location card, but are almost always more valuable when placed on a location card of the type shown. Note that some tiles specify both a location type (e.g., ‘Livestock’), and an ability type (e.g., ‘Field – Harvest’). So the latter could not be placed on a field that has an Immediate ability, only a Harvest one. It’s much easier to understand than how I explain it, believe me. The equipment’s benefit is shown in text at the bottom of each tile. As with locations, generally speaking the benefit might be ongoing, or one-time (immediate or end game).

The 12-page rulebook uses large (i.e., readable) type, is very well written and diagrammed, and has examples just where you need them.

N Gorgeously colored and shaped grain and water tokens.
N Durable cards with lovely art
N Thick, linen-finished tiles
N Easy-to-read and understand rulebook.
N Well-designed location cards and equipment tiles
SE Card text is just a bit smaller than old eyes appreciate (but not so small that it can’t be read)
S The insert could be improved.

Gameplay:

The above photo shows a 2-player setup, ready to begin. But if you think that’s enough room to play the game, think again. This game can be a table hog. Here is what one player’s farm may look like at the end of the game:


And that’s a very ordered example. We’ve had farms that grow in several different shapes, so the more table space you can spare, the better.

I really enjoyed the 2-player specific card drafting rule. Instead of the 7 Wonders style of card drafting used for other player counts, for 2 players they have a slightly different way of doing it. Each player picks 6 cards from the 4 piles (Fields, Livestock, Constructions, Buildings), and those 12 cards are shuffled together and used to form a 6-card display. The display is replenished after one card has been removed by each player. It’s simple, brilliant, and works wonderfully.

One outstanding characteristic of the gameplay is its simplicity. During your turn, you are always going to pick up a single card from the display, and either place it in your farm (paying its cost), or discard it. That’s it. (If you discard it, you can get money or a grain silo, or buy a water tank. Or one more thing that I’m not going to get into, because I said I wasn’t going to teach how to play this game.) I love games with simple gameplay descriptions, yet many agonizing choices. (What card do I take? Where best to put it? How will that card interact with the others? Do I have enough water? Will I grow enough grain? Etc.)

After all 12 cards have been removed from the display, the ‘Harvest’ Phase happens. This is the best part of the game for me, because if there’s any one thing that I love in gaming, it’s firing off my hard-built engine. And while during the first Harvest Phase there might not be all that much to do, at the end of the fourth?!! Holy cow!

I have to mention, for most gamers, a turn is going to be very fast, as will the game. But for anyone who is prone to AP, as is my wife (and, on rare occasions, maybe a little bit, me), well, turns can take minutes. Which means a game that should easily play in 45-60 minutes can stretch longer. Much longer. Some of that time can certainly be spent anticipating your next move, but sometimes there may be little to do other than appreciate the artwork on the cards.

N Super fun, engine building and firing experience (four times, each time bigger than the last).
N Simple, elegant, and (usually) quick gameplay
N Many delicious, puzzly decisions
N Excellent 2-player drafting variant used
SE Can cause AP, especially during the final year

Carebearness:
If you play as we do, this is almost exactly two-player solitaire. But a lot of people would hate to play as we do. This game does offer some limited opportunity to interfere with your opponent through grabbing a card you think might suit their farm the best. We prefer to instead take the card that we think might be best for us, but I realize many people do not enjoy that style of play. (We take it even further: when selecting a card to discard rather than build, we actually ask the other which card they like least.)


Replayability:
It’s difficult for me to judge replayability after only 4 plays. I base my rating on the fact that playing with the same partner who usually plays the same way, the only variability in this game is based on the order in which the location cards come out. Since there are 11 different varieties (3 cards each) of each of the 4 location types, that should provide enough variability to support dozens of gameplays before it starts to feel too samey. The recently announced expansion should add at least a half star to this rating, if not a full star.

Summary:
Actually, I think my wife summed up my feelings during our second play: “This is a really fun game”. She rarely says that, and almost never after only two plays. But that’s what happens when you combine simple but very crunchy gameplay with immensely rewarding engine building (/firing). I think this will stay in our collection for many years, especially with the promise of even greater replayability of the coming expansion.

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Dirk Meijlof
Netherlands
Amersfoort
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Thanks for the great review!

Regarding replayability: I read an expansion is coming to Kickstarter very soon.
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Ken B
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Thanks!

Yes, this week in fact (IIRC). I did mention it in the review somewhere ("coming expansion"). I'm looking forward to it, though certainly don't need it yet.
 
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Dwayne Bolt
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Nice write up! I bought it to play two player and finally got it to the table last night. I played it with my son the first game and the rules are very easy to pick up, I played it with my 11 year old and he picked it up easily. It is easy to learn and has good decisions. I foresee this being a good weeknight game for me and my wife.
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