Meetup

OTK Meetup 5/9/2014–Granja Farming

Boardgamecafe.net Meetup Report @ OTK Cheras 5/9/2014 – GRANJA FARMING
By jack208

EXCERPT
We’ve not been doing theme nights for awhile at OTK so we thought of going back to themes for this Friday. And one theme we’ve not done is FARMING. AGRICOLA likely comes to your mind first, however since most gamers would have been acquainted with that game, we thought of bringing out some lesser known “farm” theme games. Let’s walk thru OTK’s Farming Night and see why Ganja farms best for four. 😛

SUPER FARMER

Before we started with the main attraction for the nite ie LA GRANJA, an early group took out SUPER FARMER which was a 1943 game from Poland. It’s been republished recently by GRANNA and it’s one of the few games we picked up from our Essen trips.

This game has a very interesting history (as written in Boardgamegeek)

“The game was designed, and originally named “Hodowla zwierzątek” (“Animal husbandry”) in the occupied Poland during Word War Two by famous polish mathematician Karol Borsuk and his wife. In this hard times the game became very popular and there were many home made copies sold by the Borsuks family. Sadly during the Warsaw rebellion at the end of war all copies were destroyed save one that was in other city. After the war it was returned to the Borsuk’s family. Now one of the Polish publishers decided to release the game again.”

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In this game, you roll dice which may get you one of the three smaller animals – rabbits, sheeps, pigs. When you have excess of any type of animals, you can trade them for a “bigger” animal ie 6 rabbits get you a sheep. Objective of the game is to be the first to have all five animals (rabbit, sheep, pig, cow, horse) in your farm.

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However the dice has a wolf and a fox. If they turned up in your dice roll, they’ll “eat” your animals. The fox would eat all your rabbits while the wolf takes everything except the horse. You can mitigate this by trading for a small or large hounds to protect your farm; but hounds are expensive and they are one-time use.

This is very much a ride-your-luck game and timing the best time to do the trade-up. You do have to trade-up since the cows & horse are not on the dice and the only way to get them is to trade in some of the smaller animals to get these.

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We played this in Essen and enjoyed it (as a light fare). However in this session, I think they broke the game? 😛 One of them had SO MANY RABBITS, it’s freakily funny! The rules were silent on whether the animal tokens are limited; we assumed they were – so one player hoarding ALL the wabbits meant others were denied of rabbits! Rabbits being the “base” currency for you to start trading up to sheeps, cows and horses… this did slow the game down.. A lot. hahaha.

Someone else eventually won this game – not the rabbit hoarder (so at least we knew this is not necessarily a broken & dominant strategy hoho) but it’s a lesson (as Australia has longer learned) not to let the rabbits breed too freely… hehehe

Now this is a version worth looking for to add to our BGC Library! It’s listed as the Granna Warsaw Rising Museum edition in Boardgamegeek.

To quote Wojtek in BGG: “This is a new edition of super farmer. It was released by Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego (museum of Warsaw insurgence). This version has the author’s original title “Hodowla Zwierzątek” (animal breading) and as far as I am aware graphics done by author’s wife for the original edition (done during WWII).”

VILLAGE

Ivan’s group started the VILLAGE while waiting for the LA GRANJA farmers to assemble.

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And this has to be one of the LONGEST Village session I’ve ever seen….. the villagers simply err… refused to DIE! 😛

KUHHANDEL aka You are Bluffing!

After the SUPER FARMER group was done with their session, they moved to more light farming fun with KUHHANDEL. This game is also known as “You’re Bluffing” and definitely one of OTK’s favorite!

The game plays only up to five, and we’ve more than five in this group. They settled into some pairs so that everyone can get to enjoy the experience!

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p/s The group enjoyed this so much, they brought it out again the following week to play with another group. Wait till I tell them about KUHHANDEL MASTER. 😛

Even after the KUHHANDEL session was over, those VILLAGERS still refused to die!! 😛

LA GRANJA

Let’s come to the main highlight of the evening LA GRANJA. While scanning new releases in preparation for our upcoming Essen Spiel 2014 trip, I came upon LA GRANJA – a farming theme game that sounded like AGRICOLA and came from Spielworxx. I’ve a few of Spielworxx games – Ruhrschifffahrt, Kohle & Kolonie – which can be classified as medium-heavy Euro economic games. I’d thought LA GRANJA was going to be an Essen release but apparently they’d it out earlier… and it was SOLD OUT when I came to know about this game!!!

That’s when contacts in the industry becomes useful, and I was able to pull in a copy or two of this game. 🙂

LA GRANJA is about farming but not in the format set by Agricola. You are farmers in a small village Alpich and each of us aim to expand and improve our farms by delivering goods & setting up marketplaces in the country estate LA GRANJA. So unlike Agricola which deals with the internal nature of farming, La Granja focus on the external interactions where you aim to sell the goods you produce to the local marketplace. The game borrows heavily from a few games – not unlike COPYCAT – and it appears to meld in the various mechanics very well.

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The four Ganja farmers from the first play of LA GRANJA in Malaysia – Ivan, Dith, Kareem and CK

LA GRANJA BOARD

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The game board of LA GRANJA (above).

The marketplace is in the middle of the board surrounded by craft buildings. There are 6 craft buildings, these are where you aim to send your deliveries to; earning points and also resources. The other way of earning points is by delivering to custom orders (more of this later).

REVENUE TRACK

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On the left side is the Revenue track. At the start of each round, a set of dice is rolled (you roll 2 x no. of players plus 1 die so for 4 players, we rolled 9 dice). Each player is allowed to pick two dice; the number on the die indicates what type of resources / actions he’ll get to perform for eg if he picks the #4 die, he’ll get four coins. The last remaining die provides resource / action to all players. So in essence, we get three “income” per round. This mechanic mirrors the dice rolls in Feld’s CASTLES OF BURGUNDY.

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Above: In this round, I picked #3 and #6 which gave me (#3: two different goods) and (#6: one delivery or two coins).

SIESTA TRACK

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The other track on the right-hand side is the Siesta track which indicates how much “rest” each player has. The amount of “rest” one gets is directly disproportionate with the amount of delivery you choose to make (which we find pretty thematic). If in that round, you need to do more delivery, you’ll be getting lesser rest than someone who did lesser amount of deliveries than you.

There’s some similarity with the Early Riser mechanic in FRESCO.

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The Siesta track also determines your turn order (and most times it’s good to be early in the turn order). So the more rested you are, the better you’ll be to start the next round.

PLAYER WEED FARM BOARD

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Let’s talk about the player’s farm board (see above).

The farm board tracks your good / animal production. Depending on whether you have the right fields / farms, you would be harvesting grain, olive, grapes and pigs. Each unit of production is marked by a wooden marker. Basic goods (grain, oilve, grape and pig) can be converted into finished goods (food, wine, meat).

But your farm board is more than just a repository for resources. There are four areas of the farm board where you can “expand” it by 1) adding more fields (for more basic goods), 2) extending your farms (for more animals or income), 3) hiring helpers (not unlike Agricola’s Occupation cards), and 4) adding more market barrows for delivery to the local market.

The Versatility of the La Granja farm cards

Before I write about the four areas of the farm extensions, let’s look at the versatility each of the 66 La Granja farm cards. Each card is designed to be useable in four different ways – fields, farm extension, helpers, market barrow – each corresponding to one of the possible extensions on your farm board. This mimics the card versatility of GLORY TO ROME.

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To use a farm card as a new field, you slide it to the left side of your farm board. To use it as a market barrow, you put it on top of your farm board. By putting four possible usages into a single card, the designers also need to ensure the 66 cards are well-balanced regardless of how a player uses them (in one of the four ways).

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By providing so many options per farm cards, it inevitably increases the decision points especially at the beginning of the game. Each of us are dealt 4 farm cards at the start and we can lay down two cards in the first round. In our first session, we did spend a bit time looking thru (just the) 4 cards and trying to decide which two were the best to be played.

The game is played over 6 short rounds and knowing there’ll only be a limited number of farm cards that can be laid down, one does need to be more selective in his choice of cards to play.

More Fields

Field extension is the first obvious choice to use a farm card for. You start the game without any field… so unless you start adding some fields (for grain, grape or olive), you wouldn’t be able to produce any of these basic goods organically. There’s an open market where you can buy them – but the cost of doing so is high (since coins are not easy to come by). You’ll need basic (and finished) goods in order to perform deliveries, which is where the income (and eventual VP) engine of the game lies in.

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Red (above) going for a field-heavy strategy, dropping three fields to produce 2 grapes and 1 grain per round. Production is free – and not an action – so your fields provide immediate yield by producing basic goods every round. Add to the fact, there’s no “cost” to lay down a field, it’s always a good return.

But… if you used a farm card as a “field”, you won’t be able to use it as a helper or farm extension or market barrow. That’s the trade-off you need to be always making in this game.

Extending the Farm

Farm extension is the next usage for the farm cards. While fields are added to the left of the farm board, farm extensions are added to the right. Farm extensions are similar to fields except instead of producing basic goods, farm extensions provide for either animals or an income stream (literally speaking). Some also provide means for additional delivery (there’s a cost to it). A side effect of having more farm extensions is an increased hand size for holding more (unplayed) farm cards in your hands, which is all good since more cards simply meant you get more options the next time you need to play a farm card.

Unlike field additions, farm extensions would cost you to build. They cost incrementally depending on how many existing extensions you already have. The first extension only cost you one resource, but the 2nd costs you 2 different resource, and the third 3 different etc. It get’s a lot more expensive as you pile on those extensions.

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Green (above) with a heavy farm extension approach. Each of the extensions allow him to add space for more piggy production (and like Agricola every 2 piggies breed you one piglet). Part of the reason for Green’s farm extensions was to combo with one of his helpers, the Pig Breeder. Which led us to talk about Helpers next. Some of the farm extensions also add a “coin” in a flowing river illustration… this helps to provide the additional coins to your pocket per round.

Hiring Helpers

Helpers in La Granja would be the equivalent of Occupation in Agricola. Playing one into your farm provides you (or your farm) with some distinct advantages. The catch is that – unlike Agricola – you can only play max 3 helpers and if you used a farm card as a “Helper”, you can’t use it for the other farm expansions. You need to be very selective in your choice of helpers.

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Green with two helper cards (above) that explained why he also went heavy with the farm extensions that combo with these helper abilities. Helpers are free, like field expansions and they are played to the bottom of your farm board.

Adding Market Barrows for Delivery

In LA GRANJA, making “delivery” is your key to getting those winning VPs. There are two ways you can do deliveries in LA GRANJA. First is by populating your market barrow with the correct goods and sending them off to the local market. The 2nd approach is to deliver your goods to any one of the 6 craft buildings. Let’s talk about market barrows first.

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Market barrows are very much like picking up a small or large orders and delivering the correct set of goods (either basic or finished goods) after which you’ll earn trade good plus VPs (as indicated in the market barrow farm card). Whenever you completed a market barrow delivery, you’ll also get to send one of your player markers to the Market Place.

The Market Place is a congested & competitive place, so when one player sends a new player marker into the Market Place (from a recently completed market barrow) the new “market place” marker would also displace / remove other adjacent player markers that has a lower value than the new player marker. Not getting displaced is important coz at the end of each round, each remaining player marker in the Market Place scores the player one passive VP.

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Above: Red seen as dominating the Market Place, and at the end of each round Red gets 5 VPs for the five red player markers in the Market Place. That’s a great passive scoring set up. This Market Place placement and scoring follows another Feld game LUNA.

That’s how the four expansions – field / farm / helper / market barrow – work on your player farm board. Do remember all four expansions are set up from the same farm card except you can only select one of the expansion types when you play a farm card. I like how the designers integrated these four expansions into a single farm card, providing one with many difficult choices when planning the use of your farm cards.

DELIVERY TO CRAFT BUILDING

You’ve already understood deliveries to market place (thru market barrow). The 2nd way to do deliveries is thru the Craft Buildings. There are 6 craft buildings and each of them requires a different set of goods.

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Above pic showing three of the six craft buildings. The topmost simply requires 6 coins, while the bottom/left building needs 3 pigs and the top / right building needs a mix of three finished goods (food, wine, meat). Deliveries to craft buildings can be done by any player during the delivery phase. There’s no lock-out and you can also do progressive delivery.

You only claim the delivery VP / bonus when you complete the deliver of all required goods in one building. There’s a First Delivery bonus (1 VP) plus the Unlock bonus (another 1 VP) if you are the first to complete a delivery to one of the craft buildings. Subsequent deliveries (other players) won’t score the First Delivery & Unlock bonus but would still gain the Bonus tile.

Note: Don’t poo-poo the 1 bonus VP. It may seem insignificant but both of our sessions ended with very close scores. The 1-2 bonus VPs here and there might be what separates you from the winner.

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Each game starts with 3 of the 6 craft buildings “locked” (randomly) meaning one cannot deliver to these buildings until they are unlocked. When a player completes delivery to any of the other 3 buildings (which were not locked from start), they would then unlock one of these 3 locked buildings and gained 1 VP as Unlock bonus. Once unlocked any player may deliver to the building.

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In our session, the Merchant House (above) was available from start and since coins are at least one of the easier commodity to have at the beginning, everyone was rushing to deliver to the Merchant House for the First Delivery & Unlock bonus VPs.

ROOF TILES

The last element of the game is the Roof Tiles, a set of tiles which you need to purchase if you wish to acquire it. It’s also incrementally costed, with the cost of purchasing a roof tile increasing by one coin every round. Each roof tile gets you a bonus resource/action, and also scores you VP.

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Thematically this sounds more like a “mechanic” to inject more resource and/or actions into the game. There’s potentially 10 VPs to be gained if you went all the way and bought all 5 roof tiles (there are roof tiles available for all 6 rounds but your farmhouse only has space for five roof tiles) but at the cost of 15 coins. You do get resources / actions for each roof tile (which you can exchange/do at any time when you are the active player).

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Above: Roof tiles bought in round #4 and #5 not yet used (if used, they’ll be flipped over). Each of the roof tiles allow me to do one upgrade of basic to finished goods for free (and not requiring an action or pay the upgrade cost). The “right” Roof Tiles can definitely help you along the way to victory.

OUR OPINION?

In a nutshell, that’s the game of LA GRANJA. We did two sessions (when you smoke weed, once is not enough right?); so what do we think of the game of Ganja farming?

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The reference and comparison to Agricola is obvious. It’s not and doesn’t play like Agricola, but it’s definitely one of the better Euros coming out this year. There have been some solid Euro games coming out from non-mainstream publishers from Europe (eg Wildcatters) and LA GRANJA appears to join those ranks. The game initially appeared daunting to play (or teach) but I think the four of us would vouch that once you get past the 1st round (particularly when reviewing your initial hand of 4 farm cards to decide which two to play), the rest of the game flows easily.

First Session

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In our first session, almost everyone was trying to rush the craft building deliveries. Probably becoz it just seemed obvious to do that (with the bonus VP etc) but also likely the initial 3 unlocked craft buildings influenced the options available (ie they were the 3 “easier” delivery compared to the other 3 locked).

We’d thought number of farm cards would be limited – given you get one “lay card” action but as we got into the game, we realized it’s possible to line up a stack of farm cards to go down. However you still need to realize farm cards are only means to an end, and by themselves won’t win you the game. There’s only 6 rounds here so if you spent too much time trying to set up your farm card combo, the game would be over before you realized.

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There was hardly competition in the market place since most of us were focusing on the craft building deliveries. It’s only towards mid-game some of us switch to market barrow delivery and started fighting in the market place for the passive VP. I guessed part of the pull for us going for craft building deliveries was the bonus tile (you get one whenever you complete a craft building delivery and the bonus tile pays out every round) which we thought would be useful to help us build our early engine. We are starting to learn the passive VPs from the market place could potentially be game-winning as well.

Second Session

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In the 2nd session (same set of players except we did a 3-player game sans Dith), we started to branch into different strategy from the start-go. I (green) happened to have a set of good combos around the piggies but required a lengthy farm extension process (need to build 3 farm extensions. It’ll be costly!) so I spent a bit of time to weigh out the pro / con of going down that path, knowing full well once I committed to it, it’ll be sub-optimal for me to switch plans.

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Kaz (red) went with a field strategy and was doing the market barrow deliveries together with Ivan (while my focus on farm extensions meant I did not compete with them for the market place). Their heavy market barrow deliveries – which yielded them a trade good for each completed delivery – also allowed them to fight for the deliveries to the Deli craft building since this building requires 3 trade goods (not easy to acquire in the early stages).

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The market place was largely dominated by Kaz red and Ivan yellow. Green was hardly having a presence there….

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Ivan (yellow) seemed to be going for a balanced approach; fields, farms and helpers.

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A side effect of my “pig-heavy” strategy meant I was also grabbing the Roof Tiles or taking Revenue die that provided a pig which meant the other players were starved of piggies in the early stages of the game. They were flushed with trade good cubes so could have used that to exchange for a pig but I suppose they have other priorities to juggle as well.

There are two elements that influence one’s strategic decision at the beginning of the game; 1) the initial 3 craft buildings that are unlocked, and 2) the set of 4 farm cards dealt to us at the start. After this, it’s a matter of good execution of your plan, and being able to adapt to the “changes” that may be enforced upon you from the throw of the Revenue dice.

Both sessions branched out quite differently but still ended with very close scores which likely validated our thinking regardless of which strategy you adopted from the start-go, one always has a good chance to win as long as you execute well for the rest of the 6 rounds. Gameplay – once you are familiar with the rules – is not likely going to take more than 2 hrs (with 4-players) which is another plus. I think this is both designers (Michael & Andreas) first game and if that’s the case, I’m certainly looking forward to their next.

The only pity is this game is already OOP from Spielworxx even as I write this, and hopefully it gets picked up by someone (like Pandasaurus for Wildcatters) else with limited exposure, this game won’t get the love it deserves. Spielworxx’s 2014 offering is another matter altogether – ARTWRIGHT supposedly plays in 4 hours.

Disclaimer: In the rush to get this report out, there might be the occasional typo on “Granja”. It’s not, ahem intentional.

For more pictures of this meetup session, pls see our Facebook photo album (below)

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