Keymaster was going with the farm theme this year with its quick little exploding egg push-your-luck dice game, Chicken! and then Keymaster’s upcoming farm sim, Harvest, which goes up on Kickstarter at the end of this month.
When I say exploding dice, I am referring to a specific style of rolling dice that is found in some games. For example, if you roll a “6” you get to keep that number but also roll again, and so on. In Chicken!, up to 8 players are trying to earn points by rolling chicken faces, but not three foxes. The active player picks up the currently active dice, rolls them, and then may reroll any black sides and any chicken face. If three foxes aren’t shown, the player than banks all their points earned on the round. The exploding dice bit comes in when a player rolls an egg. Anytime an egg symbol is rolled, another die is added to the active pool. This occurs during a turn’s reroll as well as when dice are passed on to the next player. There are twelve dice, four each of white, yellow, and orange. The white dice have lots of eggs and a few chickens, the yellow have lots of chicken heads, and the orange dice even have sides with double-chickens but they also have lots of fox symbols. In this way, every time the dice are rolled the dice pool increases. The risk-reward is right there, more dice will mean more chicken heads for more points, but that means there are also a lot of foxes on the dice. If a player rolls 3 foxes and “busts”, they gain no points that turn and the pool of dice get reset to the 4 starting white dice. If, at the start of a player’s turn that player thinks rolling all the dice is too dangerous, they may give up one point to reset back down to the 4 white dice. The first player to earn 25 total points, wins the game.
Harvest is a farming themed worker-placement game for 1 to 4 players. Played over four days (rounds) players choose when they wake up (player order, also tied to income) and then place their workers around the board. As mentioned, it will have a Kickstarter some time around the end of August. It will come in a regular (lots of cardboard) and a deluxified (wooden bits and coins) version.
There are five main areas that are available, and most are slightly better for the first visitor of the round.
- Visiting the store gives resources like water, “fertilizer”, and seeds.
- A farmers market will give you multiple things at once (saving actions) but will cost you extra.
- The Field gives you three options: planting (using seeds and poo), tending (spending water to multiply planted crops if you have cleared space), and harvesting to earn points and money.
- The workshop is where you can spend money to make capital improvements on your farm. This includes clearing off forests to make more room for crops, increasing your bucket size (to carry water and thus tend plants more efficiently), or purchasing buildings which, unsurprisingly, provides new actions and abilities to use.
- Trading Post is where you can go when you really have to have X but someone else has already taken that spot. It won’t be cheap, but it’s an option.
While buildings can provide significant points, most strategies require at least some actual farming. Growing crops requires several steps. First, wood tiles need to be cleared off one’s player board to expose the fertile land underneath. Next, players will need to acquire the seeds they want to plant. Players then use “fertilizer” to plan the seeds onto their board. The seeds come in different sizes and shapes and planting them will therefore require a bit of polymino strategery to fit them all into place. There is now a decision to be made. One can go directly to the harvest OR the planted seeds can first be doubled by spending water to Tend them, provided you have enough water and open space. Tending is a great option because it is far easier to gain large amounts of water (for Tending) than to accumulate large amounts of poo for planting. The final step, of course, is the harvesting
What you plant and harvest will have to do with your personal strategy. Grain is cheap to plant (no poo required) but they’re huge and take up large bits of your farm area. Strawberries are tiny so they can multiply well if you start Tending in earnest. Blueberries actually form a little plant to make it easier to produce more berries in the future. Finally, there are the pumpkins. Pumpkins are huge L-shaped plants take up quite a bit of space but score a crazy amount of points.
As one might expect, the game provides lots of starting options for variety. Every character (there are 8) has their own unique ability. Each farm board also has a bonus ability (4 double-sided boards for 8 different abilities.) Feel free to math that together for options if you wish.
The game I saw was just a prototype (there was some feedback on the various veggie-meeples I hear) but the game seems to be developing well. I’m always looking for a good farm game and I’m hoping the “friendly” art of this one may make it easier to get to the table.