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Subject: The Abundant Fields of Gullsbottom rss

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I was excited to see a new small(-ish) box game set in Gullsbottom! Following in the footsteps of Harbour, Harvest is an introductory-level worker placement game for 2-4 players. Whereas in Harbor players were traders placing their worker to collect and then sell goods at the local port, in Harvest players are farmers placing workers to bring in the most abundant harvest from their farms. The game is incredibly easy to learn and teach to others, which makes it ideal for families or newcomers to worker-placement style games.


True to the box cover, this is a game about growing crops!

In addition to sharing a core mechanic with Harbor of worker placement, Harvest also features the same whimsical fantasy theme and artstyle, short play time (30-60 mins), condensed ruleset, and gameplay variability from player boards with unique player powers, and thick decks of action and building cards. Production values are up to TMGs usual high standard and there's a lot more here than in Harbor with a correspondingly larger box. The game includes a small gameboard, 8 custom farmer meeples, 30 action cards, 30 building cards, 15 initiative cards, 8 character boards, 4 player fields, and 12 add-on fields, and more than 240(!!) wooden and cardboard tokens. There's an abundance of colorful, cartoony art over all of the boards, cards and tokens.


Look at all those components! (custom token tray not included)

Each player starts the game with a player board, a farm board with an open field and several locked ones, two workers and some starting seeds and resources. Game play is simple: players start each of the five rounds of play by taking an initiative card from a set of 3 randomly drawn from the initiative deck and then they will take turns to place their two worker pawns on the central board and action card spaces and take the corresponding actions. The objective is to have the most points at the end of the fifth round, which come from the crops you grow or the buildings you place.

The initiative cards determines turn order (lowest goes first) but each also gives a bonus action. Cards with a high initiative value tend to give better bonus actions making the choice between high and low interesting. Moreover when you take an initiative card, you must replace it with the card you had last round so even the last player to choose gets an interesting choice.


Initiative cards... do I go low and get to place my workers early in turn order or go high and get all that water and poop!

Players place their worker on the action spaces on the mainboard or the randomly drawn action cards (which change every round) and then take the one or more actions that the action space grants them. The core of the game revolves around obtaining "seeds" (represented by one side of the cardboard plant tokens), planting them in your fields using "poop" (which flips each plant token to its "crop" side), multiplying crops in their fields by tending them with water or potions, and harvesting them to clear the fields and provide income for new seeds and buildings. You can expand your farm with additional fields, plow the fields for planting or use the otherwise locked spaces to place building which provide end game points and/or bonuses. The interaction between players comes from initiative, action, and building drafting. Because there always seem to be good options available, the drafting rarely feels combative or spiteful.


Players choose actions on the game board and action cards

For me, what really stands out about Harvest are the unique player powers and the satisfaction of ramping up your farm's production using the constantly changing menu of available actions. Each character board provides a player power that allows the player to break the core game rules in a different and seemingly gamebreakingly powerful way. There are only 8 of them compared to 14 in Harbor, but the ones in Harvest feel much more consequential and carefully designed. Despite their power you always feel you have a good chance of winning no matter which one you end up with. (I also think the action/buildings cards are a lot more varied and interesting in Harvest than the cards in Harbor.) The player powers will likely take a game or two for most players to get a grip on to really max out their scoring potential and for new players you can always play without them by playing with the character on the reverse side of each board. The other great feature of play is how rapidly your crop production engine will expand over the course of the game despite the scarcity of workers. The plant, tend, and harvest actions all allow you to perform them on as many seeds, crops, or fields as you have available, which after some careful resource gathering can lead to some impressively abundant turns. This is just fun! The wide variety of action cards that come out each round that supplement the action spaces on the main board with even more powerful actions ensures that you won't be able to play the same way every game.


Landalf has a very nice farm.

I do have a few gripes. First, the player scaling seems slightly off to me as a 2 and 4 player game is tighter than a 3 player game because the same number of additional spaces become available on the main board at both 3 and 4 player. I felt more frequently denied the more powerful actions in my 2 player games than at 3 player (I haven't played with 4 yet). Second, worker placement games are well suited for solo play, but unlike Harbor there are no solo play rules in the box and it's a shame to see this dropped, especially if there are more Gullsbottom games to come in the future. Third, while the rules aren't hard to learn, the fold out style page (also seen in Harbor) is a pain to work with and there's the odd bit of careless wording about how some of the actions work (for example, it is unclear how many seeds you can plant in a single action when you take the plant action). Lastly, the box is a reasonable size for the huge pile of components, but I was slightly disappointed to lose the considerably smaller Harbor size box. Harbor was just a bit bigger than two decks of cards side by side, whereas Harvest is almost the size of 4 boxes of Harbor. Harvest is still a small box game, but it's certainly not pocket sized.

While Harvest doesn't break any new ground in theme or mechanics, the combination of nice production, simple rules, and varied and polished gameplay make it a game that I'm very happy to have in my collection. It's such a nice improvement on Harbor in terms of game design that even if you weren't a huge fan of Harbor, you should give Harvest a look. In my opinion, it compares favorably with Rosenberg's small box worker placement games like Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small, Caverna: Cave vs Cave by offering a more varied experience out of the base box. And it's a great alternative to intro worker placement games like Stone Age and Lords of Waterdeep. Given the marked improvement of Harvest over Harbor, which was not a bad game in its own right, I hope we will see more adventures in Gullsbottom in the not too distant future.
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Trey Chambers
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Great review! Thank you!
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Y P
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How does everything even fit in the box? It doesn't look like it would.

Quote:
First, the player scaling seems slightly off to me as a 2 and 4 player game is tighter than a 3 player game because the same number of additional spaces become available on the main board at both 3 and 4 player.


I've seen quite a few games where the player-count scaling isn't smooth, i.e. there's an increase in available stuff when going from 2p to 3p while 4p keeps the same 3p setup. There are even more games where stuff scales down poorly, indicating the game was designed for higher player counts with 2p as an afterthought. It's unfortunate IMO since I prefer to have as similar an experience as possible regardless of player count, but as long as the game still plays well at all player counts I don't consider it a cardinal sin per se. Just wish more games would take better care with scaling.

Thanks for the review. This is one I'm keeping an eye on. Just got too many things going on right now for Yet Another Farming Game to make much of a push for immediate purchase.
 
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Trey Chambers
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MentatYP wrote:
How does everything even fit in the box? It doesn't look like it would.

Quote:
First, the player scaling seems slightly off to me as a 2 and 4 player game is tighter than a 3 player game because the same number of additional spaces become available on the main board at both 3 and 4 player.


I've seen quite a few games where the player-count scaling isn't smooth, i.e. there's an increase in available stuff when going from 2p to 3p while 4p keeps the same 3p setup. There are even more games where stuff scales down poorly, indicating the game was designed for higher player counts with 2p as an afterthought. It's unfortunate IMO since I prefer to have as similar an experience as possible regardless of player count, but as long as the game still plays well at all player counts I don't consider it a cardinal sin per se. Just wish more games would take better care with scaling.

Thanks for the review. This is one I'm keeping an eye on. Just got too many things going on right now for Yet Another Farming Game to make much of a push for immediate purchase.


It does scale, the board just doesn't. There's an extra worker placement card that comes out each round in a 4 player game. But since that adds only one space and a 4p game adds two workers, the 4p game is indeed slightly tighter. Exactly one space tighter.

The box has plenty of room, it's a small box that has a big punch!
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Francois LC
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The scaling is good IMO and I don't see any issues with it.

For the main board part, it's done roughly the same way as Viticulture (at the 3-players count, it unlock a new worker placement spot for each main actions), and it work well. Yes, it's slightly less tight at 3-players than at 2 or 4-players but it's seriously not an issue at all. And the scaling with the action card make it still tighter than in Viticulture for example (as there is X number of action cards per round as the number of players).

Also, since the Initiative cards number doesn't change according to the player count, this part feels actually tighter at 3-players (and of course at 4-players) than at 2-players, because you cannot guarantee to have one of the new card on the table, so it's better to check the cards the other players had before (that they will let go), since you are more likely to get one of these (especially when you are late in the turn order).

All this to say, that IMO, it plays great at all player counts.
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