Andrew: Ah, the joys of farming. You wake up early, you work a hard planting, and when the season is right, you harvest your crops. Your tools are seeds, the till, the fertile Earth herself. It’s a clean, honest, noble sort of living, one which emphasizes effort, integrity, and –
Crop Cycle from Convergent Games, is a surprisingly vicious little take-that style farming card game, up on Kickstarter right now!. Please keep in mind that our photos are of prototype components (though everything looked just dandy); the post-Kickstarter game may look quite different.
Crop Cycle plays 2-5 and can be extremely quick, even at higher play counts ending in as little as about 20 minutes. A standard game plays to 5 Harvest (victory) Points.
Andrew: While I was unpacking the game, as I punched out the little ‘1 HP’ tokens, I found myself wondering what the hell kind of farming game would have Hit Point counters. However, it turns out Crop Cycle isn’t the agricultural equivalent of Mortal Kombat.
Crop Cycle is played in seasons, and each season has two phases. In the Planting phase, each player will get to add crops to their field, respecting, of course, the seasonal restrictions on when crops can be planted. Weeds can also be maliciously added to opposing farms, stymieing their workings.
Players can then play utility cards, which are either beneficial to you, like Fertilizer , or detrimental to your opponents, like Birds and Fungi, which devastate your competitor’s crops.
The second phase of each season is the Harvest (which I wanted to say in an incredibly menacing way every time it came up). Crops can only be harvested in certain seasons, so if you planted in advance and no one summoned a swarm of crows or a plague of weeds or something to destroy you, you’ll gather up your crop and collect your Harvest Points. First one to 5 wins!
Let’s get this said unequivocally: Crop Cycle is an in-your-face, take-that game. If everyone plays nice, half the cards in the deck are meaningless and the game will be over in under five minutes. The spirit of the game is to harass and delay your opponents, keeping them from harvesting those few precious Harvest Points it takes to win.
And that low point total is absolutely essential; if the game was designed to run, say, to 15 points, the constant back-stabbing and grasshopper-summoning would be somewhat intolerable. Keeping the goal low means that all someone has to do is hold strong for a few turns and they can really stand a chance of winning.
Fair warning – my crew and I are not particularly aggressive players and we do tend to shy away from take-that style games. That said, some of us, myself included, definitely liked Crop Cycle; the whole ‘plant now harvest later’ mechanic feels like it has huge potential; setting up crops for different harvest seasons means it’s harder for opponents to mess with you, and diversifying your crops hardens your farm against the near-druidic sorcery of attack cards. If anything, I would have loved to have seen some more cards which had ‘combo potential’, like crops which had a broader planting/harvest seasons or cards which let you gain from your opponents, rather than just disrupt them.
Unfortunately, there were some issues.
Since the luck of the draw completely dictates what crops you have, you may not have the option to diversify your crops, meaning that a few well-chosen utility cards will wipe you off the board (I spent a whole game unable to keep crops on the table for more than one season, and that’s never fun). Some of the attack cards also feel too broad, undoing with a single play what may have taken a player two seasons to set up.
Also, while the game certainly is intended to be played to a low point total, it can definitely drag on if people are unlucky with crops and too lucky with attack cards. However, there are optional rules which put the game on a much tighter timer, and those may alleviate this issue.
All that having been said, Crop Cycle is a game with a lot of potential. It may not fit every group (it might not see much play at our own table, truth be told), but I like the ideas behind it. It’s quick and light and it’s fully possible that, with some more rebalancing and card diversity (hopefully driven by a successful Kickstarter), this game could be a blast for anyone.
However, if your crew enjoys a good plague of aphids (stupid aphids, ruining everything), you should definitely check out Crop Cycle’s Kickstarter!
(Full Disclosure: We were sent this pre-Kickstarter copy of Crop Cycle for review by Convergent Games, which makes sense, since you can’t buy it yet. I mean, how else would we have gotten it?)