Full disclosure: A review copy of Farm Rescue was provided by Brain Games.
Alright, back to work with another game from Brain Games. They sent maybe … five or so games my way, so we’re going to be hearing about a number of those in the coming weeks / months, so that’s fun. They previously published ICECOOL, one of my all-time favorite games, and it’s interesting to see what else they’re pushing out there, since they focus on that nice middle-ground for gaming families. Let’s dive right into another title, Farm Rescue.
In Farm Rescue, you play as assistants to a Farmer who has left the flock unattended. Well, attended by you, so, however you want to interpret that. Why did he leave? Because there’s a wolf trying to get in, and he figures if he can catch it, he can scare it off. Probably accurate. You need to work on a contingency plan and hide the livestock so that you can confuse the wolf, should he get in. The only problem is, you also want to check in on the livestock every now and then, but you can’t always remember where you hid them. Will you be able to protect your animals from a very hungry wolf? Or will you end up sheep out of luck?
Not much setup. Put together the board pieces:
Shuffle the tiles and put them all face-up in a 5×5 grid:
Place the Farmer on the Farmer space and the Wolf on the Wolf space:
Set out the dice:
You should be ready to start!
So, in a game of Farm Rescue, you play as helpers trying to prevent a nasty wolf from getting into your farmer’s farm and … well, eating the livestock. It’s got some similarities to Wolf & Hound, but it’s a bit more cooperative and a bit less aggressive cycling. Stop the wolf by either hiding all the animals or catching him before he gets to the farm!
On your turn, roll the dice. When you roll the dice, either flip the animal indicated face-down, or try to guess where that animal is and flip it face-up. If you’re correct, the Farmer advances one space. If you’re wrong, the Wolf advances one space! That’s always fun.
If you roll the rainbow or the farmhouse, those are wild! Rainbow is any color; farmhouse is any animal. That means you can flip down any of the corresponding animals or flip any of them up and try to guess. That’s always fun.
The game can end one of a few ways:
- The wolf enters the farm: If any animals are face-up, you lose!
- The farmer catches the wolf: You win!
- All animals end up face-down: You win!
Player Count Differences
There really aren’t many. At higher player counts, it’s easier to distribute the memory challenge across more players. At 5 players, each player has to remember where each animal of a color is or each color of one animal is; it’s not a huge task. At one player, it’s actually pretty tough, especially if you make the mistake I did and try to watch TV while you played. It’s probably great as long as the players get younger the more that you add. Five adults playing this game isn’t really a challenge.
- Use heuristics and mnemonics. One of the best strategies in this game is to try and remember what the corners and the center are; since they’re strongly linked to direction, your brain is more likely to keep track of those spots better than some other, more random spot. Make a jingle or something; just try and make it work however you can.
- Divide and conquer. It’s really hard for one player to remember the exact location of 25 unique items, so split it up! Take sides, divide it into quadrants; whatever works, honestly. If you can’t cooperate, you won’t be successful, so make sure everyone’s playing to win.
- Remember what you just flipped. It’s totally possible to reroll the same thing you just rolled (or an equivalent; you have a 1 / 9 chance of doing so and I’ll leave the math as an exercise for the reader). If you know what you just flipped over, you can often leverage that for some free points.
- Stay focused. If you leave this game to take a break or use the bathroom or watch TV, you might as well start over. Your brain isn’t going to retain which farm animal is where for a particularly long time. This is a bad game to play with people who are on their phones.
- Know when to guess and when to flip. As I mentioned previously, when you roll a wild you can either flip any face-up animal matching the wild’s criteria or you can try to flip one face-up and guess it. If you’ve already goofed enough that the Wolf has gotten pretty far away from you, it might be worth focusing on flipping the remaining animals. I’m not sure I agree, though, honestly, because as you reduce the number of face-up animals, you’re going to be guessing a lot, so it may be worth the risk to try and confirm spots you’re not sure about. Just, you know, don’t let the Wolf get to the farm.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The minis are really good??? The wolf and the farmer are so derpy; I love it. They’re also really nicely sculpted and soft.
- Surprisingly hard solo game. Like I said, you have to definitely maintain focus the whole time, otherwise you’re really going to get messed up. It’s very difficult to remember 25 different animal / color combinations.
- Always enjoy a good co-op. The nice thing about this one is that the hidden information component of the game is shared, rather than just being held by one individual.
- Solid game for kids, especially for the cooperative element. There are a lot of good kids farming games, for sure, but it’s nice that this one has a cooperative element and a memory element. It also lets you simplify it by, say, ignoring colors or animals when you’re determining if you made a correct match. That may be a good way to simplify it even further.
- Game plays decently quickly. Even more quickly if you can catch the wolf fast, which is nice.
- Also not that difficult to learn. There isn’t a whole lot to the game, structurally; it’s a pretty quick memory game, so that’s all nice.
- The box is kinda big for what it is. That happens a lot with games, though, but, worth mentioning.
- Watch out for louder players trying to drive the entire game. The loudest person isn’t necessarily the right player, and it can definitely get a bit annoying if one player is just shouting all the time. Thankfully, they fix this somewhat by making it clear that the player who rolled the dice is the one who has the final say on the pick.
- It’s fairly trivial for any non-solo group of adults who are paying attention. With 5 players, you can really power through the game pretty quickly, since you can just divide up the memory work. That … does make the game a bit less interesting, though, because it’s just not as difficult. Not that every game needs to be hard to be fun! It’s just a memory game where you only need to remember five things may not be the most fun for all players.
Overall: 6.75 / 10
Overall, Farm Rescue is pretty fun! I mean, as far as games that are ostensibly for kids go, this one is actually pretty solid. You’re not gonna get much worse than Candy Land, in my opinion, so a game that’s got structure, mechanics, rules, and positive player interaction is actually pretty good. My major gripe with it is that I don’t think it usefully scales with player count, so as you add more players it becomes easier to remember things. I mean, you could imagine playing with 25 players and it’s essentially guaranteed. Everyone just remembers their tile. Naturally, the game limits it to 5 players, but what can you do. The nice things about the game are sort of staples of the games I’ve tried from Brain Games so far — the pieces are nice, the art is upbeat and fun, and the game is very colorful. I’d actually be interested in trying this with some younger folks, but, not really the way my game group works, alas. Either way, it’s another one of many games that are fun with younger folks, like Rhino Hero: Super Battle, which is still a good genre to occupy. If you’re looking for a game like that, you enjoy memory games, or you just like a silly wolf figure, Farm Rescue may be worth checking out!