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Subject: Is your donkey in my orchard again? (A pictorial review) rss

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Bruce Murphy
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Finca is another of the relatively light games with redeeming nifty wooden bits to come out of the German market recently. In it, players are trying to balance fruit harvesting and deliveries to have the most points at the end of the game.

Components

The game is played on a nicely illustrated board representing the island of Mallorca. Each of the named regions will contain a stack of point tiles that players will attempt to collect during the game by producing and delivering fruit.



During the game, the windmill space on the board will be populated with windmill segments, placed in a random order each game. These form a rondel-like mechanism for harvesting fruit



During the game, players will produce six different types of fruit, grapes, olives, figs, almonds, oranges and lemons. Each of these are represented by the



Rather than let all this fruit build up in a warehouse somewhere, players have to deliver batches of fruit to the different regions on the island. Each region demands a different mix of fruits represented by one of these delivery tiles, which are also a scoring tile once taken. Some of the tiles require a single type of fruit, others a mix. Some of the tiles have a number of question marks on them, this



Mallorca is too large for hand deliveries, so players are forced to deliver their loads of fruits on donkey back. An available donkey for a delivery is represented by one of these tokens which is discarded when the delivery is made.



The last wooden pieces are these Fincas, small wooden homestead pieces which are placed on the board to mark regions which have emptied of demand tiles. These form a game clock which scales with the number of players.




Gameplay

The game board is set up by shuffling the windmill blades and placing them on the space of the windmill in a random order to form the production windmill. The Finca bonus tiles are shuffled and placed randomly on each of the 10 regions.

The 42 demand tiles are shuffled and placed in face-down stacks of 4 in each region. The two leftover demand tiles are put back into the box unseen. The top-most tile in each stack is turned over revealing the demand in that region.



Each of the players take it in turns to place a wooden player figure on the windmill, taking one fruit matching the blade they place on until all player figures are out, and then play starts.

Each player can take one of three actions on their turn.
1. Move a farmer to harvest
2. Make a delivery
3. Use a bonus tile

The most common type of action is harvesting by moving a farmer around the windmill. This is a terrific mechanic and is really the heart of the game. Each player chooses one of their farmer figures on the windmill to move. The piece will move clockwise exactly the number of spaces as the number of figures in its starting position (before it moves). In the diagram, the green at the bottom would move two spaces to the purple fig blade.

When it arrives at its new location, it receives a number of fruit matching the blade equal to the number of figures on the destination blade after it has moved. From the example photo, the blue figure in the lower right on the orange space would move 1 space onto the pink grape blade and then receive 3 grapes!

There are two spaces between blades marked with a donkey symbol. Any player moving a farmer over one of these divides receives a donkey token that they can use to make a delivery.



Deliveries require a donkey token (fruit is heavy!). Players discard a donkey token and then can deliver up to 6 pieces of fruit anywhere on the island to meet demand. Demand is represented by fruit icons on the demand tiles in each region and it is possible to fulfill multiple orders and take multiple tiles.

The demand tiles are worth a number of points equal to the number of fruit on each of them. Some tiles require different types of fruit or a large number (5 or 6) of any one type of fruit. Delivered fruit is returned to the stock and then any piles which lack a face-up tile have a new tile turned up.

If four deliveries have been made to the same region, it is exhausted. One of the wooden Finca pieces is placed on the region to mark it and the bonus Finca tile is awarded to the player who has made the most deliveries of that type of fruit by seeing how many of the one or two types of fruit on the Finca tile appear on all of each player's collected demand tiles. Each Finca tile is worth 5 points at the end of the game.



The final choice of action for each player is to use one of their four bonus tiles. Each player has an identical set of bonus tiles that can each be used once during the game. They are

1. Move a farmer directly to any blade collecting fruit. Do not collect donkey
2. Make two farmer moves in a row, with the same or different farmers.
3. Make a special 10-fruit delivery (no donkey required. Using a truck?)
4. Discount! One of the demand tiles can be satisfied with one fruit less (at least one is required). This tile does require the player to discard a donkey tile.

 


There's an additional scoring mechanism to liven the game up. A stack of four (7 points through 4 points, decreasing) tiles are set to one side of the board. Any player completing a set of all 6 sizes of deliveries (1 - 6) takes the highest available tile. If a player completes a second full set, they can take another tile.



The end of the game occurs at the end of the player's turn on which the last available Finca piece is placed. Players count up their scoring tokens (taking 2 points for each unused special action tile) and the player with the most points wins. (Leftover fruit a tiebreaker)

Notes and Conclusions

There's a surprising amount of depth in the windmill/rondel. Accumulating too many farmers on a blade when chasing large deliveries prevents you getting any of them off again to nearby blades. Similarly, an opponent moving onto a blade you've made more attractive will frequently throw a spanner in the works, preventing you from achieving your carefully planned series of hops.

Player-scaling is achieved by changing the number of Finca pieces left out. There are 10 regions on the island and the game ends when at least four (in a two player game) to six (in a four player) game have been completely emptied of demand tiles. The number of farmers in the game also scales to avoid the windmill getting too crowded.

There's a nice anti-hoarding mechanism. If any player moves their farmer and receives more pieces of fruit than are available in the supply, all players (including the moving player!) return all their held fruit of that type and the moving player takes their new fruit. This would be rare in a two-player game, but could happen if players continue to land on a single lucrative and crowded blade.

Strategy-wise, the finca bonus tiles are really important, so taking the 5 or 6-of-a-kind demand tiles early in the game is really dangerous, because they don't count towards any type of fruit majority, just the single (?) Finca tile. Similarly, the set bonus tiles (the first worth 7!) are huge points for the game so it's worth trying to grab the low-count tiles 1, 2, or 3 as soon as they appear because they're unlikely to wait around, where there are lots of 4, 5, and 6 tiles.

The game can get a little thinky as players try to figure out which order to do their harvest and delivery actions. Being able to only do one things each turn means you only need to worry about the other player stealing one delivery, or more often, moving that one farmer you needed to

This is a largely conflict-free lightweight game with relatively nice components. It plays very well with two, particularly folks are chasing some sort of non-aggressive race without directly player conflict. A recommended new light game for 2009!
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Gordon Adams
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Nice review.

I do not own it, but have played it. The only thing that struck me was this: the map seems rather reduntant. So much more could have been made of it. A pity really. OK, delivering the fruit on a space on the map....a bit more obstruction, maybe water-logged paths, draft...I do not have the answer. All I know is that I looked at the map and thought that so much space and not enough "drama" on that map !

Hit me with the fruit

Regards.
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Steve Duff
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thepackrat wrote:
Strategy-wise, the finca bonus tiles are really important, so taking the 5 or 6-of-a-kind demand tiles early in the game is really dangerous, because they don't count towards any type of fruit majority.


I expect this is going to be one of those "only 1 in 10 play this game correctly" games because of the bad rule example / wording.

The 5 and 6 ? tiles do contribute, the most ? wins the ? bonus, just like the most lemons contribute to the lemon bonus, etc...

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/410403
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Bruce Murphy
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Interesting. I would have played that according to the (English) rules which state.

"One of the 10 Finca tiles shows this (?) fruit symbol. When this Finca tila is to be assigned, the players sum the values on all their collected fruit tiles in their play areas. The player who has the highest-total on his fruit tiles takes the Finca tile."

Serves me right for trusting the translation.

Regardless, with only one Finca tile with (?) available even with this rule change, the (?) tiles are death in the early game. I've edited the review, thanks!

B>
 
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Yours Truly,
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There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time.
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thepackrat wrote:
Interesting. I would have played that according to the (English) rules which state.

"One of the 10 Finca tiles shows this (?) fruit symbol. When this Finca tila is to be assigned, the players sum the values on all their collected fruit tiles in their play areas. The player who has the highest-total on his fruit tiles takes the Finca tile."

Serves me right for trusting the translation.

Regardless, with only one Finca tile with (?) available even with this rule change, the (?) tiles are death in the early game. I've edited the review, thanks!

B>


Yeah, it's a mistranslation apparently, but the figure in the English rulebook is correct (IIRC, a 4(?) and a 5(?) adding to 9(?) when you collect the (?) Finca tile.).
If they had just switched out "fruit" with "?" in the rules we'd be set.
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Dan C
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Quote:
The 5 and 6 ? tiles do contribute, the most ? wins the ? bonus, just like the most lemons contribute to the lemon bonus, etc...

I'm glad this is the official ruling. It makes it better, otherwise the ? bonus just gives 5 more points to the person who is currently in the lead.
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Gordon Stewart
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Fantastic review; especially like
the reasons behind the strategy tips.
After many enjoyable plays of Finca,
(Cafe Jay at WBC 2009 got us started
w/correct rules! important) I realized
that this is one game where I don't feel
the need to improve it; it is PERFECT!
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