Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Life on the Farm by We R Fun

A few months ago my college aged children convinced me to start playing a new Facebook game, Farmville. Many of my grown up friends make fun of me, but Farmville brings more to my life than organizing cows, pigs, chickens and crops. Playing this virtual game is another way I can connect with my grown up kids who all have very busy lives running in directions opposite of mine.

When those same college aged kids were young I deliberately planned board game days during school hours. Rolling dice and counting the dots, counting the spaces on boards, reading
directions, clues, keeping track of scores, etc.; board games provided endless learning practice in a variety of disciplines without the pressure of filling in all the blanks of a worksheet. The best kind of learning builds memories. I hope my older kids remember fondly our long afternoons of PayDay, Clue, Uno and Yahtzee.

When I received We R Fun's Life on the Farm board game to review for TOS Review Crew
my heart filled with warm memories of game days past. Board game days have sadly disappeared from our schedule as a regular part of school curriculum
and Life on the Farm reminded me to bring back the fun. I received Life on the Farm as a gift in
exchange for this review.

Life on the Farm is designed for 2-6 players aged 8-108. It won the Teacher's Choice Award from Learning Magazine in 2006 and 7 other awards from various organizations. Ranking Life on the Farm against previous board game experiences I found it to be of superior quality in construction, easy to set-up and capable of promising hours of family fun.

The object of Life on the Farm is to "retire" by building a herd of 60 cows (long game) or 30 cows (short game) plus have all the money you originally start the game with. The money distributed with Life on the Farm comes in 1,000's with cows on the face, 500's with sheep, 100's with chickens, 50's with pigs, 20's with geese and 10's with dairy farmers. It is organized neatly on rows of a plastic tray for banking ease throughout the game. Cows collected are represented on small cards much to my little kids disappointment. They were hoping for small plastic cows, but I was secretly relieved not to have so many tiny parts to care for over time.

After spending about 15 mins. to unwrap money and read the brief playing instructions I recognized that Life on the Farm played like a distant cousin of Monopoly. Instead of collecting property and railroads, however, my empire would consist of cows while attempting to hold on to some sort of income as I experienced thrills and spills of life on a dairy farm. My test marketing team of Micah, age 12, Sierra age 8 and Aidan age 5 assisted me, but after one hour of playing time Sierra and Aidan wandered off to other interests. Micah and I continued play for another half hour before stopping for lunch still far from nearing the end of the game. Micah collected 14 cows and was rolling in money, but I had only 10 cows and I think, $40.00 to my name. Life on the Farm is tough for some.

Players begin the game by rolling two dice and moving the appropriate number of spaces. Instructions along the game path direct play and can include things like, "A Hunter cuts your fence and you have to pay both neighbors $10 per cow". Once players have found their way around the board they simply begin another round with the benefit of collecting "milk money" or $100 for each cow in their possession. Besides collecting milk money, players earn income from Farm Income cards stacked neatly on the board and played when directed. One quickly learns that Life on a Farm is often difficult and full of tough decisions. For example one income card states "slaughter one cow and collect $300. Remove one cow from your herd". In addition, Farm Expense cards can be played which include financial penalties for things like electric bills, tractor repairs, and fertilizer purchases.

I tend to have bad luck with board games and true to form I constantly landed on depressing scenarios for my dairy farm which cost me money and cows. I thought most of the scenarios were excellent learning opportunities giving players a glimpse at the reality of farm life. I was
not prepared however for the discussion which evolved from one Farm Expense card stating, "Pay artificial inseminator to breed your cattle. Pay $100 x roll of 2 dice". Surprise! It was time for a quick biology lesson too involved for the 8 and 5 year old to understand.

When asked for their review of Life on the Farm the marketing team enthusiastically gave Life on the Farm two thumbs up.

"Life on the Farm is really fun. I like how you get the cows. There are many things in the game that are different like getting paid for the milk and losing a cow. It's kind of like a real dairy farm, but its a game. I liked the different animals they made on the money. I hope I can play it again with my family soon", said Sierra age 8.

"It was good. I liked it very much. I liked when you get all the cows and got some money. I want to play again some time, like tomorrow", said Aidan age 5.

"Life on the Farm is a fun twist to a plain old Monopoly game. I didn't mind spending lots of time playing the game, because it felt very productive. You could sell cows, buy cows and each turn brought new experiences. I definitely want to play this game again and would highly recommend it to all my friends whether city folk or farm people " said Micah age 12.

Life on the Farm retails for $25.00 on the company website. A pre-school version requiring no reading skills and color matching practice is available for only $20. Based on my family's experience I think it is a good investment for hours of educational family fun. If you need to find a new "udderly delightful" learning experience for your homeschool, you should play too.

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