Surviving the Purge: Finca (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designers: Wolfgang Sentker & Ralf zur Linde
  • Artist: Franz Vohwinkel
  • Publisher: Hans im Gluck & Rio Grande Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Time: 45+ Minutes
  • Times Played: 13

Edit: After writing this, I noticed that we already had a review of Finca on the website, by Simon Neale who I think was writing his when the Kickstarter for the reprint was coming. 

The fine people of the island of Mallorca need fruit. They love fruit, it truly seems that it’s their way of life. If they don’t get their fruit, you as a fruit farmer will have failed at your job. In Finca, that’s what each player is, a farmer delivering their fruits to the people of the island of Mallorca. Each different section of the island will want different fruits, so you have to pay careful attention to what you are harvesting for delivery in order to effectively do your job.

Most everything that you need to know about Finca is that the Windmill is where ninety percent of the action will take place. The Windmill features twelve blades and on each blade is a fruit. At the start of the game, the start player will place one of their available farmers on a blade and collect one of those fruits — oranges, grapes, figs, lemons, olives or even almonds. Every player will take turns doing this before the start of the game with their allocated number of farmers – five in a two player game, four in a three player game & three in a four player game.

On a player’s turn they will do one of the three options available to them. The first is to move a farmer on that Windmill. When moving a farmer, count how many farmers are on that Windmill blade to start, then move the farmer that many blades in a clockwise rotation. When you stop, you will collect the fruit noted on the blade equal to the number of farmers now on that blade. If you are the only farmer, you would gain one, if there is one other on the blade, that farmer would gain two, and so on. That’s how you collect fruits, pick a farmer on the Windmill, move them and collect.

On the “equator’ of that Windmill is a line and that line will denote that when you cross this line with a farmer, you gain a Donkey Cart token. This Donkey Cart token is what allows you to make deliveries of fruit to the areas on the island. Which brings us to the second thing you could do on your turn, which is to deliver fruits. In each of the ten areas on the board there is a stack of four tokens with the top one revealed. These tokens represent the fruit that area of the island desires. The need ranges from one fruit to six fruit. These tokens are placed out randomly on the board before the start of the game. When a player delivers fruit, you must discard the Donkey Cart back to the supply and then you may deliver up to six fruits. To deliver fruits simply match the fruits needed on the tokens and discard those fruits. Take the token and reveal the next one on the stack. A Donkey Cart allows you to deliver those six fruit to any area on the board, even multiple areas on one turn, given that you don’t exceed six fruit and you have the fruit to deliver in your possession. When a stack of fruit tokens is depleted in an area on the island, the token that remains is then awarded to the player who has delivered the most fruit of that specified type. If there is a tie, no one gains the token and it goes back into the box.

The third thing that a player can do on their turn is to use one of their special bonus tokens. Each player is given four identical tokens to start the game. These tokens give additional abilities to the farmers. One allows you to move a farmer twice on the Windmill and collect fruit and Donkey Cart tokens both moves. Another allows a farmer to move to any Windmill blade that they wish and collect fruit, but they do not gain Donkey Cart tokens for crossing the line. The third and fourth tokens will allow for more efficient delivery of fruits. One allows you to take a fruit token from the board while delivering one less fruit and the other allows your Donkey Cart to deliver up to ten fruits instead of the regular six. Special note, each of these tokens are one time use and if you keep them until the end of the game they are worth two points apiece.

The game ends when a set number of areas on the island have been emptied — four in a two player game, five in a three player game and six in a four player game. At the end, players will total scores. Each delivery token that the players have will be worth point based on how many fruits are on them, from one to six. Each majority token is worth five points. There is a bonus for delivering sets of fruits from one to six. The first person to deliver a set will gain the seven point token, next person gains a six point token and so on. Each remaining bonus action token that a player did not use gains two points and the player with the highest number of points is the finest farmer on the island of Mallorca.

So, Finca was released all the way back in 2009, it’s almost eleven years old now. Definitely long enough for it to be forgotten and left out of any conversation that folks have about great gateway games. But yet, here it is, still one of the most talked about and clamored for games that deserve to be reprinted, and it was, sort of. There was a Kickstarter ran by franjos a little over a year ago that brought a reprint of Finca to the clamoring masses. Only those masses didn’t really show up for a variety of reasons, which is a shame. I did not back for the new version as I have had our Rio Grande copy since late 2013.

Finca really is a wonderful family weight game that can have some of those moments in games that I absolutely love. You know, the ones that make you absolutely livid with someone for a bit, but then immediately you figure out that you are okay and you can just do something else in the meantime. But damn if that anger wasn’t real for a couple seconds. Manhattan does this, Ticket to Ride does this, they make you feel like you have one choice, and when someone messes that choice up, it’s suddenly like a couple sailors playing the game at the table, at least at our house it is. There is also a way to make a player have to discard all of a type of fruit. We don’t see it too often in our two player games because we don’t use the updated rules, but if you move a farmer and have to take fruits and there aren’t enough in the supply, everyone has to give back their fruits of that kind and then you get to take yours. It’s maddening when it happens, but it can happen.

By 2009 Rio Grande standards Finca is a pretty well produced game. Rio Grande may owe most of that to Hans im Gluck, I don’t know, but still there are tons of wooden fruits, the cardboard is thick and everything is easy to see and read, even on that somewhat smallish board. The Windmill can get a bit crowded at times, especially with three and four players and that can create some aggravation, both because of the ability to see everything and just frustrations because you may not be as much in control as you wish you were. For this reason, Finca is predominately a two player game for us, sometimes with three, very rarely with four. There is just a better feeling of control at two.

It really is a fascinating thing to me, how some games just take off and become evergreen titles for their publishing houses and designers. While others kind of just stay hidden gems. Finca is kind of a hidden gem, but that’s not because folks don’t know about it, it’s because folks couldn’t get it for a long time. In spite of all of the clamor for a reprint it seems that only about 400 people or so hopped in when offered on Kickstarter. Finca doesn’t have to languish, it truly is a wonderful family weight game, deserving of its 2009 nomination in the Spiel des Jahres, Which it eventually lost to winner, and Kennerspiel creator, Dominion. Do yourself a favor, if you don’t own Finca, or know anyone who does, find a way to play it, give it a chance. If I were to make my list of Top 10 Family Weight/Gateway Games, I’m pretty sure that Finca would have a spot in there, maybe even in that top 5.

Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers

Larry:  Finca, to me, is the epitome of a JASE (Just Another Soulless Euro) design.  It’s inoffensive, it has some clever touches, but isn’t really innovative, it’s essentially themeless (or at least lacks a theme that makes any real sense), and it plays fine.  Fine.  I probably played it half a dozen times soon after it came out and never once felt inspired or excited by it.  And yet, it was decent enough that I never thought to veto playing it. It was a design I routinely dismissed and was therefore always surprised to see how many people (like Brandon) loved it and how well it frequently did in polls and awards.  To me, there’s no there there, but my tastes are far from mainstream, so it’s clear that this is a game that somehow has struck a chord with many.  Maybe it’s all that chunky wooden fruit. Or maybe it’s a better game than I’ve given it credit for. Hard to say.

Matt C.:

I’m with Larry on this one, solid game but didn’t grab me and it left my collection a bit quicker than most.  I can see the uniqueness of the game and it’s mechanisms, but they didn’t grab me. I’m loath to rate something less than “I like it”, as I generally like most games.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and put it just slightly in the neutral category. I never thought of it as a gateway game as I didn’t think it would draw in players as much as some others.  All this said, I tend to play games with 3 or four players, so that might make the difference here.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

I love it. Brandon Kempf

I like it. John P

Neutral.  Larry, Matt C.

Not for me…

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7 Responses to Surviving the Purge: Finca (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  1. Pingback: Surviving the Purge: Finca (Game Review by Brandon Kempf) – Herman Watts

  2. toucanas says:

    Finca for me is the epitome of family gaming. It has enough meat but doesn’t overwhelm. The wheel mechanism is innovative without being too complex. You cannot pull out Terraforming Mars for casual gamers and you don’t always want to play Carcassonne. Games that are on the same weight and better such as Web of Power is more cerebral and too unbalanced for a mixed crowd. I feel I have a distinct advantage when playing it. Finca on the other hand has a good balance of skill with some luck. Yes, it’s a JASE for us gamers but I don’t think we are the target audience.

    Sure, the fruits look nice and all but I don’t think that’s the reason people love it.

  3. Pingback: Surviving the Purge: Finca (Game Review by Brandon Kempf) - Rollandtroll.com

  4. Pingback: Brandon Kempf – Surviving the Purge 8 | The Opinionated Gamers

  5. Zack says:

    What are the differences between the non-updated and updated rules? I don’t know which version I have been playing.

    I hadn’t played Finca until after the 2018 Kickstarter, but I recently picked up a used copy on my last Essen trip and love it.

    • Zack says:

      Nevermind. I think I found by BGG searching. Is it only removing fruit for different player counts at setup?

      • Brandon Kempf says:

        Yup, that’s the only difference that I have seen. And the way they talk about it, it seems that’s how the designer intended from the beginning anyway. But yeah, we still haven’t played it using those rules. Thanks for reading!

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