Monday, March 20, 2017

Around the windmill with Finca

One of my first exposures to a game that uses a rondel was Finca. At least I think it uses a rondel. At any rate, it's a game that I have continued to play over the years and I doubt I'd ever let it leave my collection.

In Finca, you are competing fruit farmers Mallorca. (By the way, is never heard of Mallorca before this game. It's a Spanish island in the Mediterranean) I thought Finca meant windmill but it actually means a plot of land. You will be using a windmill though, moving your workers on it in order together fruit and donkey carts to deliver that friend.

The windmill is the absolute centerpiece of the game. Every blade (which are randomly placed at the start of the game so every time is different) has a specific fruit on it. Players have farmers on the blades, moving along the windmill to harvest fruit, just like no agricultural system in history ever.

On a turn, you can move one of your farmers clockwise on the windmill. The farmer moves exactly many spaces as farmers on that blade. Then they collect as many of the fruit on the blade they land on as the number of farmers were there. It's all very Mancala. And not the first time I've seen Mancala used in more modern games (Emerald by Steffan Dora comes to mind) but it works really well here. Passing the 'equator' of the windmill will earn you donkey carts which you use to complete fruit orders, which are how you get points.

Oh, and if a particular fruit or a cart isn't available in supply, everyone returns that item to supply before the player who would earn any gets some. I think that rule is awesome. I've played with too many people who hoard as a strategy so it's nice to see it punished.

I am leaving out different bonus tiles and special actions. But you get the basic gist of the game, which is moving your farmers Mancala style in order to get produce.

Finca is a nice looking game with pretty wooden fruit. It has some interesting mechanics and it plays out in under an hour. And it's also remarkably brutal.

Yeah, this colorful and family weight game hides under its friendly exterior a stiletto just waiting to slide in between your opponents' ribs. The set up is random but the only hidden information is the stacks of fruit orders. The movement of the farmers and the collection of the fruit can be calculated out.

And I have seen it happen. The first time it happened to me and got me skinned alive, it was a revelation. While Finca doesn't have any direct conflict, it's easy to undercut sales as well decimate folks holdings with the hoarding rule.

Yeah, any economic game should give you the chance to outcompete the other players but Finca's market is particularly tight between the power of carts to instantly deliver and the tight restrictions on supply.

And the combination of simple rules, the potential for serious strategic play and razor sharp markets is why Finca has stayed a part of my collection and gotten regular play. I keep finding new depths of play. 

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