And when, exactly, are we playing Churchill again?
The Farming Game (upon which The Farming Game Card Game is based.....surprise, surprise) is a very simple (yet long!) roll-the-dice-and-move game played on a somewhat Monopoly-like track, with each space being a step forward chronologically in a calendar year. As a game, it just ain't all that great; but I play it once or twice a year. Why? Because it portrays the crisis facing the average American or Canadian farmer very well. I've spent all my life living in cities (apart from two years), and my experience of ruraldom is limited; but I married into a farming family and have become (perhaps by osmosis?) quite sympathetic to agricultural causes. In The Farming Game, you're a struggling farmer who has winter to figure out what he's going to plant that year, and then goes through the economic ordeal of bringing in the sheaves. You start the game in debt, followed by everything going wrong for the first couple of years. It's hilariously painful...and yet it does give an accurate feel for what the family farmer is going through.
So why did designer David Rohrbacher and the Weekend Farmer Company decide to put out a card game version of The Farming Game? I think it's safe to assume that it was to massively cut down on the playing time: even if you love the game, the original The Farming Game does go on for hours; and The Farming Game Card Game is much, MUCH shorter. So is it a good game? No. Alright, is it a good game for fans of The Farming Game? No. OK, at the very least, do you still feel like a struggling North American farmer while playing it? No. Uhhh....so how does it play?
Players decide how long they want the game to be, by determining how many years they want to play (with a minimum of three years). Each player starts the game off with ten acres of hay, and twenty thousand dollars.....and no debt. So much for feeling like a real farmer!
A year consists of four steps: the banker reads a Farmers' Fate Card (which affects all players, potentially); buying crop cards; buying crop enhancements (if desired); and harvesting crops, which brings in money.
There are thirty Farmers' Fate Cards, and so, even if you're playing for as many as half a dozen years, the vast majority of them aren't going to be used that game, so this ensures variety for each game. Compared with The Farming Game, there's a fair bit more good news in these cards compared with its predecessor. Again, the pressure is off of the farmers. Living in bucolic bliss, perhaps?
After the fate has fallen, the player acting as banker draws two more crop cards than there are players, which will then be bid on. A die is rolled to figure out who will start the bidding. The bidding start player then chooses one of the crop cards and makes THE Opening Bid, which is the price stated on the card. Then bidding proceeds around the table in standard fashion, with highest bidder getting that crop. If the highest bidder pays the whole sum of his bid, the card is placed in front of him with the "Owned Outright" edge of the card at the top. However, directly opposite that card edge is an edge that reads "Mortgage", along with the mortgage price. If a player chooses this mortgage option, the mortgage price is deducted from the price that that farmer is paying. Mortgages only last one year, however. After a farmer has harvested for the year, all mortgages MUST be paid off. If they can't make the payment, they can attempt to borrow money from other players, or raise money by auctioning off their own crops. If they can't raise the necessary funds, the bank forecloses on that card. Speaking of mortgages, if a player finds himself lacking in cash at the start of a year, he can mortgage a crop that he already owns outright, and gets the value of that mortgage (after paying a re-finance fee).
The auctioning of crop cards continues until either no one wants to buy any more, or all the cards have been taken.
Want to increase the odds of sizeable profits from your crops? You can enhance your crops: fruit can be certified as organic, cows can be certified as grass fed, and hay and grain can be fertilized; all at a pretty hefty fee. Like mortgages, these enhancements only last one year.
At year's end, the farmers harvest. There is a Rate Chart Card for each type of crop, and each farmer rolls a die for each type of crop he has, not once for each individual Crop Card. The more crop cards of a particular type you have, the more money you will make. The farmer then sees how much cash he gets as a result. Unlike The Farming Game, there are no Operating Cost Cards to be drawn, which deduct money (sometimes gobs of it!) from your profits. So again, splendour in the grass. In spite of this, you may want to gamble on a better die roll next year. If so, you can flip any of your crop cards so that the Storage edge is facing up; this, too, has a hefty fee attached to it. For example, if you have two grain cards, you could put one in storage at the end of this year, and at next year's harvest, you would roll not for your two grain cards, but as if you owned three (two fresh crops, one crop in storage). The only problem is crops in storage lose any enhancement benefits that they may have had.
At the start of each new year, the banker draws more crop cards for auction, so that each year will always begin with two more cards up for auction than there are players.
After the final year, players tally up their cash on hand, as well as the value of their crop cards. Wealthiest farmer wins.
The cards are very utilitarian, as I suppose any farmer would want them to be, which means they're also very drab and dreary: nothing visually appealing about them. It doesn't bother me much, but I know a lot of people would dislike the fact that paper money is used in the game.
The rules are brief, only four small pages. Brief, and surprisingly confusing! It will take you a number of reads to sort things out. I find this amazing: it's an American game, for all love! There's not a problem of translating from the German original, like so many other games. Mind you, the designer's last name IS Rohrbacher .
I can certainly understand the motivation in wanting to make The Farming Game Card Game: a much shorter version of the original. But so much of what little good was in The Farming Game is gone. Simple rules are now convoluted. The thematic "pain" of being a farmer is vastly reduced. The Farming Game Card is just a dull, dry card game with auctions. If you want a very simple, family oriented game about the crisis on the North American farm, stick with the original The Farming Game.
Thanks for writing a review of this game I've been wondering about for a while. I'm just happy you wrote something... even if it did turn out negative...
Saw this in my local game store. Thanks for the review.