Farmageddon Review – The Harvest Is Upon Us

andrewasm chatWhen you think of farming games, a few common themes probably come to mind.  Deep, resource-intensive Euros where feeding your family is your first priority.  Arranging rows of crops, tending to your cattle, caring for the land so that it cares for you.  You probably don’t think of undead weeds, genetically engineered superworms, and emotionally compromised melons.

That’s the problem, of course.  Because you never see the Zombo-Weed coming.

Killing it only makes it stronger...
Killing it only makes it stronger…

Farmageddon: Farm Fresh Edition (hereafter referred to simply as Farmageddon, though Producecalypse could also work (expansion pack?)) is a card game from Grant Rodiek & Hyperbole Games (Hocus).  Featuring tricky take-that style hand-management gameplay and absolutely fantastic art, Farmageddon sees 2-4 players trying to out-harvest the competition and turn the most profit, all while undermining their fellow farmers and trying to stop them from doing the same.

Just a sample of the cash crops at your disposal.
Just a sample of the cash crops at your disposal.  I never get tired of Sluggo Corn.

andrewasm chatAndrew:  Ok, so, up front, normally we don’t care for games with a big emphasis on ‘take that’ mechanics.  See, we at Gameosity prefer to keep our competition a little indirect.  It just feels a little more civilized – we won’t be baited into going after each other like…What are you doing?

jessasm chatJess:  I’ve sent my gophers to steal that Irrigated Land card from your crops so that I can add it to mine.  Hey, all’s fair in love and farming, right?

andrewasm chatAndrew:  …There will be blood, Jessica.  Blood.

It really is just that easy.
It really is just that easy.

The rules of Farmageddon are really quite simple – one of the game’s many strong points is that it never say something in 10 words when it can say it in 5, and once you familiarize yourself with some of Farmageddon’s keywords (like Score, Clear, and Protected), you’ll be planting, fertilizing, and harvesting crops in no time.

On your turn, you will draw some crop cards, and then you’ll take as many Crop actions as you’d care to (one of which must be to fertilize) and up to two Farmer actions.

  • Crop actions are either Plant or Fertilize.  To Plant, simply put a Crop card from your hand face-up in front of you.  To Fertilize, place a Crop card face-down on top of a planted crop.
  • Farm actions are unique to the Farm cards, each of which generates different effects, like making your crops easier to harvest, protecting them from your opponents, or damaging your opponents’ farms.  These suckers are powerful, so you only get to use two per round.

Crop cards are the main mechanism by which points are scored.  In order to prep a card for harvest, you need to have planted it on any previous turn and there must be as many face-down crop cards (acting as fertilizer) on the card as the crop’s fertilizer requirement.  If, at the end of the round, you have any crops that meet this criteria, then you get to harvest them into your score pile!

These wary squash are worth a solid $15, and once you've given them a turn to grow and stacked them with 4 fertilizer, you'll harvest some victory points!
These wary squash are worth a solid $15, and once you’ve given them a turn to grow and stacked them with 4 fertilizer, you’ll harvest some victory points!

jessasm chatJess:  Alright, that’s a nice pile of crops set up!  Next round, I’ll harvest these babies and…what’s that noise?

andrewasm chatAndrew:  Threshers.  A whole army of hungry threshers, headed this way.

jessasm chatJess:  You wouldn’t.

andrewasm chatAndrew:  Oh…but I would.  Too bad about your lovely melons, my dear.  Maybe next time invest in some protection?  I mean, all’s fair in-

jessasm chatJess:  I WILL DESTROY YOU, PEASANT!!!

Some of the tools of grange warfare...
Some of the tools of grange warfare…

Important to remember, the crop you fertilize doesn’t need to be your own, and since you are forced to fertilize at least once per round (and cannot over-fertilize your own crops), bad luck (or meddling opponents) can leave you in the position of having to fertilize your opponents’ crops.  Careful planning can help you mitigate this, but there are certainly times when someone will vaporize your crops out from under you, leaving you with no recourse but to pile the fertilizer on one of their plants instead.

Of course, some crops actually work best when fertilized by other people and adding further complexity to your farming task are the Frankencrops, plants that have unique powers beyond simply giving you points.  Between these and the various Farmer cards, the luck of the draw can seriously swing the tide of any game of Farmageddon, but at no point did we feel like there weren’t any meaningful options for us to take.

Frankencrops don't just give points - each one has special powers.
Frankencrops don’t just give points – each one has special powers.

The best moments in Farmageddon are when the cards interact brilliantly with each other.  There are synergies you can use to create powerful combinations of cards, leaving you awash in cash and crops.  It’s equally satisfying to lay waste to your opponents’ hard work – the game has the potential for really brutal exchanges, and shanking each other is an absolutely central piece of Farmageddon’s strategy.  If everyone plays nice and agrees not to mess with each other, the experience becomes profoundly diluted.  Fortunately, Farmageddon is also light and quick, about 25-30 minutes at full player compliment, so the burns don’t stay inflamed too long.

jessasm chatJess:  Speaking of burns…

andrewasm chatAndrew:  Is that plant literally on fire?

jessasm chatJess:  And now so are your crops.

andrewasm chatAndrew:  Pesticides!

jessasm chatJess:  Foul Manure!

andrewasm chatAndrew:  Foreclosure!

jessasm chatJess:  DUSTBOWL!!!

May as well just call it Wrath of God.
May as well just call it Wrath of God.

As you may be able to tell, we love Farmageddon, but it’s a certain kind of love.  It’s great as a quick filler, and always better with more players (to spread the pain around), but if contention isn’t something you’re excited about, you should probably look elsewhere for your good time.  That said, it’s a gorgeous game (seriously, the art is fantastic) with just enough strategic oompf (that’s a highly technical reviewer term) to make each play engaging.

You can snag a copy of Farmageddon (along with Hyperbole’s other excellent title, Hocus) over at their site, and it’s starting to find its way to retail outlets too!

Lots of fun in this tiny box.
Lots of fun in this tiny box.

(Gameosity was provided a review copy for this article.  We were not otherwise compensated)

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