I have a soft spot for farming-themed games. I loved The Farming Game growing up, even though it really isn't a very good game, and I quite enjoyed the more modern, much better, Scoville. I've even found myself losing numerous hours in the TechRaptor favorite video game Stardew Valley recently, and so I was excited to try out Farmageddon: Farm Fresh Edition by Hyperbole Games. While the game is fun, you'd better be prepared to strap on some boxing gloves if you plan to plant crops in these fields.
Farmageddon is a very light card game with a very high amount of take-that thrown in. Ultimately, 2 to 4 players play as competing farmers who are trying to earn the most money by the end of the game. You do this by planting crops in one turn and then harvesting them in future turns if they've been fertilized sufficiently. Along the way, you do as much nasty stuff to your opponents as you can.
The game has some neat design decisions. The Crop cards are all dual use, being both used as the crops that you plant and as fertilizer. You have to decide which crops are worth attempting to harvest versus which cards you are comfortable using simply as fertilizer. It might seem obvious to plant the most valuable crops that you draw and turn the less lucrative cards into fertilizer, but if you do that, you leave yourself open to be tampered with and sabotaged by your opponents. It can be frustrating to constantly have your plans foiled, especially if you aren't able to draw any cards that allow you to protect your crops or, at the very least, to strike back at your opponents after they've taken a shot at you.
Along side the Crop deck is the Farmer deck. The Farmer deck contains various cards that range from acting as a shield for your crops, to counting as negative points for your opponent, to actively sweeping all of the unprotected crops from the board in one fell swoop. While many of the Farmer cards can help to boost up your own crops and harvests, many of them exist to interfere with, steal from, thrash, and burn your opponents, and it's the Farmer cards that add the majority of the take-that elements to the game. Many of the helpful Farmer cards actually make you even more of a target than your crops would be normally, so you have to choose the right moment to play them so that you don't just seal your own fate.
It doesn't take long for players to figure out not to put all of their eggs in one basket in Farmageddon, and it also becomes obvious that fertilizing a card the turn that you play it is just an open invitation for trouble. This is mostly because there isn't really any direct incentive for playing the negative cards on your opponents other than to be as destructive as possible. Painting a target on yourself by loading up a valuable crop is just a disaster waiting to happen, but there aren't really any ways to be all that tricky or sly, so you basically just have to put your hopes on the more middling cards, or gamble and hope that your opponents won't be able to stop you from harvesting a valuable crop from time to time.
When players do harvest crops, they are placed face down in that player's score pile, which, I think, was a decision made to prevent any kind of gang-up-on-the-leader shenanigans, but it also serves to remove a large layer of possible strategy from the game. It does, for the most part, prevent any kind of leader gang-up, but only because it makes it extremely difficult to tell who is actually winning. Without any real way to target your strikes based on score, the negative Farmer cards end up getting used haphazardly most of the time. Unless a player overextends themselves, it becomes a game of taking chip shots at one another just for the sake of playing the cards that you have.
Farmageddon isn't a bad game, but it is a polarizing one. When played with a group of people that like to smack each other around and take pot shots at one another, there are laughs and groans to be had, especially when two players irk each other and start going back and forth as hard as they can. Groups that don't like conflict for conflict's sake are probably going to be turned off by the game though. It's hard to form and follow through with an effective strategy in Farmageddon, so you have to be willing to fly by the seat of your pants while playing.
One really nice thing about the game is that is plays very quickly, with a long game only running about 30 minutes, so if you do enjoy it you don't have to wait long to get back into the mix even if you get beaten down badly during a game. The box is almost small enough to fit in a pocket too, so the game is easily portable, and the rules are easy enough to teach that you could break it out during lunch at work or school and be smacking around your colleagues or classmates in a matter of minutes.
A note on “chrome”: Farmageddon is fairly light on components. The entire game is contained in two decks of cards, but the cards are good quality and the art is cartoonish and thematic. The box says the game is intended for players 14+, but the illustrations tend to attract younger players. Thankfully, the rules are simple enough that young players can easily play, and hold their own.
A note on player count: Farmageddon plays 2 to 4 players and works at all player counts. The two player game becomes more of a focused duel and feels a bit more strategic than with higher player counts, as players don't have to decide who to play the nasty cards on. Instead, while playing with only two players, you need to try to figure out ways to get past, outsmart, or out bluff your opponent, and you need to figure out how to best counter the inevitable attacks that your opponent will throw at you.
The bottom line:
Farmageddon is a good game, but it's certainly not for everyone. You will enjoy yourself while playing as long as you enjoy games with heavy doses of take-that, where the players are constantly doing nasty things to each other. If your group really likes to take shots at each other, then Farmageddon will be right up your alley if you are looking for a light, fast playing, easily portable game. If your group prefers to play euro-games, or cooperative games, you'll want to pass on Farmageddon.
Get this game if:
You like very light games.
You like games that you can take with you and set up and play quickly.
You like being able to interfere with your opponents.
Avoid this game if:
You dislike take-that elements.
You prefer games that have room for strategy and planning.
The copy of Farmageddon used for this review was provided by Hyperbole Games.