We've been testing Farmageddon steadily and furiously lately. No rest for the weary! We've been trying some slightly bizarre and nutty ideas, as well as ones designed to refine, deepen, and polish existing cards. Here are some of the changes lately!
Foul Manure Tweak: For the longest time, Foul Manure provided two turns of immunity for a crop. This rule was fiddly and confusing in a few ways. Firstly, some players had questions regarding what justified a turn. Furthermore, this required players keep track of how many turns had transpired. While it wasn't that difficult, it was something they had to do. It's fiddly and that's not good enough.
I finally received a push from a peer for whom I have great respect. The change, surprisingly, came quite quickly to me and was really good. Now, Foul Manure is permanent. It never goes away unless one of two things happens.
- Dust Bowl is played. Dust Bowl destroys all unprotected crops and now, removes Foul Manure. The crops underneath are still safe. This strengthens Dust Bowl. Not only is it an offensive card, but it can combo with your Foul Manure to get it off.
- A player discards two crop cards. This can be used in two ways. The Foul Manure owner may deliberately put the Manure on his crop for the protection. It'll cost him two more Crop cards, but he's expecting that cost. OR, I can put Foul manure on YOUR Crop. Now, if you want to harvest it, you'll have to pay two more Crop cards that you WEREN'T expecting. Because of this, cards like Darn Gophers and Farm Futures, which allow you to obtain more Crop cards, or Genetic Superworm, which reduces the cost of the crop, are also greatly strengthened.
Several people pushed me to remove it and finally I did.
Uprooted Added: In the wake of Crop Rotation's demise came Uprooted. Uprooted will replace it to keep the current card distribution unchanged. Uprooted allows the player to swap ownership of any two Planted Crops. That means I can give you my Wheat for your Melon. OR, I can remove the leader's Squash and give it to the last place guy, who planted a Corn. The card is flexible and interesting without being too nasty or unfair. It's been really fun to use so far.
Crop Insurance Rectified: Crop Insurance is one of the last incredibly fiddly hold outs. It's a great card, which gave it a lot longer life in its current form than it should have had. Previously you had to use face-down Crop cards to act as your Insurance payout. But, there were edge cases, like what if I use Thresher? Do the crops go back in my hand? It also didn't protect against theft.
To fix the stupid fiddly bits and strengthen the card, it now provides a fixed payout ($6) much like Bumper Crop. Furthermore, if the Crop is now destroyed OR stolen, the player of Crop Insurance puts the card in his harvest pile for $6 at the end of the game. This has broadened the game's scoring and strengthened the card. It's also now a far more viable defensive card. This one needs more testing, but we've liked it so far.
A Good Idea that Didn't Work Out: One of the oldest pieces of feedback I have routinely received is to make it so that a crop can be instantly harvested. In fact, the first test of Farmageddon allowed that, but it removed any risk or, well, game, from the game.
We tried out a test where the cheapest crop, Sassy Wheat, could be instantly harvested. Here's what happened; when given the choice of a mathematically inferior way to score that had NO risk versus a way that was worth much more but had some risk, players chose the no risk path every time. What happened was everyone just played and harvested Sassy Wheat.
This meant there were rarely crops out on the board. Players horded crop cards until they had a wheat. With no crops, players had few targets or uses for Action cards. Scores were lower, fewer crops were harvested, and people had much less fun.
We toyed around with the notion of working it into an Action card, but I think the same problem would persist. Players who drew the card would horde crops, then insta-harvest a 15 point Squash. The card would unfairly favor those who drew it. Worth a shot!
Graphic Design Lesson: After a year of testing Farmageddon the layout has remained completely unchanged. That is, until I received some great feedback from one of my newer testers. He noted the cards were difficult to read in hand because the harvest value was in the top right corner of the card instead of the top left corner. That was easily fixed and now players can read the cards without moving them around in the hand!
Players also noted it'd be easier to keep track of the value of Bumper Crop and Pesticides if the numbers were displayed like the crops. Another great idea that has really improved things.