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Life on the Farm: Preschool Edition» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Better than Candy Land rss

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Jerry Hagen
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Madison
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Life on the Farm - Preschool Edition, a game listed for ages 3-7, takes the deterministic draw-and-move mechanic from Candy Land and simplifies it by removing all colors other than red, yellow, and blue. The goal is not to reach the end of a track but to collect a series of 7 farm animals. The movement track is a circuit on which there are seven animal spaces that also have one of the colors red/yellow/blue. An animal may be collected by landing on the space through a color card, or by drawing one of the 14 animal cards (two of each animal in the deck) that move the player pawn directly to an animal space. The game continues until one player has collected an entire set of 7 animals at which point, according to the rules, all players win.

This game improves upon Candy Land in a few ways.

No loss of progress - Candy Land includes the possibility that an ill-timed character card can send a player back close to the start. This aspect of the game always infuriated me as a child, and honestly would lead to some frustration even as an adult. In Life on the Farm, the player might get sent to an inconvenient part of the board but still gets to keep her progress toward the game's end goal. Given that Life on the Farm is otherwise good for very young gamers I don't mind the removal of the most likely part of the game to cause a tantrum.

Fast play time (for two) - Two players can easily complete this game in 15 minutes. Three will take up to 30 minutes as the number of turns increase and the animal cards, key to moving the game along, are more dispersed. The game includes a fourth player piece but I would not want to play with four. Even a three-player game runs too long for my nearly 3-year-old son's attention span.

Components - Animal pieces and the game board are made of durable foam, while the player pawns are sturdier plastic than Candy Land's gingerbread men. The cards are thin glossy card stock, and are the only potentially problematic component, but so far after 15 plays they're holding up well.

Rudimentary arithmetic and pre-geometry - the questions "how many animals do you have," "how many animals does Daddy have," "how many animals are you missing," "do you have more animals or does Daddy have more animals?" are all well within a 3-year-old's ability to process. Also the animal pieces are several common shapes: square sheep, elliptical (but not circular) chicken, rectangular (but not square) goat, isosceles (but not equilateral) triangular duck, heart-shaped horse, circular cow, hexagonal pig. This allows for discussions of symmetry, which shapes can be flipped upside-down or sideways and still fit on the farm player board, etc.

In addition, Life on the Farm - Preschool Edition retains Candy Land's ability to evoke pattern and color recognition, analysis (you drew double yellow, where do you get to move?) and hypotheticals (if you want to get a pig this turn, what do you need this card to be?).

Like Candy Land before it, Life on the Farm is more of an activity than a proper game. While there are a rule set and pieces, players make no decisions and the outcome is completely determined by the order of the cards. If you're looking for a true contest of skill, or a game to hone your child's strategic thinking, I would suggest looking elsewhere. But this game is a good learning framework for an attentive parent to exploit. I enthusiastically recommend it for the young end of the age range but I suspect my son will get bored with it well before age 7. My wife paid $2.99 for this title at a thrift store and I consider it well worth the expense.
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