Farms are seriously aces. I spent the vast majority of my childhood on one in the west ofIrelandand have fond memories of long days spent wandering along riversides, climbing haystacks and watching small sheep come out of larger ones. There’s also the slightly less fond memory of my brother being kicked in the head by a cow and getting a fractured skull, but we’ll not linger there. He’s never been the same since, mind. Still, that’s what you get for having a five-year-old’s fascination with poo.
What I’m getting at is that I love me some farming. They’re happy places, which segues perfectly into a new release from the lovely folks over at 5th Street Games: My Happy Farm. Yes, the title may give away the fact that it’s not exactly the next Civilisation or TI3, but sometimes you want to play something a little lighter, sillier and downright charming. For that is exactly what MHF is.
Originally a Ukranian release through IGAMES, it’s billed at a game of stretchy animals – and is very silly indeed. To begin with, each player has four very sad (and short) looking animals on their not yet happy farm: a pig, a cow, a sheep, and that famous farmyard denizen, a rabbit. The beasties are sad because they’re hungry and you’ve not fed them yet – however, you don’t have that much food to begin with. Thankfully though, you’ve decided that animal farming alone isn’t a viable option in this current economic climate, so have also decided to go for an agrarian approach by setting some land aside for crops.
I may be reading a little too much into the backstory of My Happy Farm. I’m pretty sure that designers Oleg Sidorenko and Oleksandr Nevskiy didn’t mean it to read like a socio-economic treatise on farming in the modern world. Oh well.
Anyway! The premise is simple. You need to grow those crops, but agriculture takes time. You have three seasons open to you: spring is the time to plant seeds that you’ve bought from the market, then summer and autumn is when you can harvest – however, different crops will be ready at different times. Winter’s ignored because everyone goes into the barn and hibernates, just like in real life. Any crops not harvested will be lost to the snow, meaning that you’ve wasted your cash and those seeds. No EU farming subsidies here.
Once you have food at your disposal, it’s time to start fattening up those animals for the pot / rearing them to look after as pets for the coming years (depending on the age group you’re playing with). Various animal body parts are available to be traded in for certain combinations of crop types, all of which will hopefully extend your animals and make them happy! If you’re short of money, crops can also be sold for coins, starting the cycle all over again. The stretchier your animals, the more points you’ll score (and the owner of the longest beasts will get some nice bonuses). Whichever farmer has the highest score has the happiest of farms and wins the game.
My Happy Farm is very light (as you’ll probably work out from reading the above) but that doesn’t mean it should immediately be discarded as fluff. With the right group, it can be a fun little diversion that can pass half an hour nicely. Of course, kids will love it – the game provides just enough challenge and decision to keep them on their toes without presenting itself as too difficult. As long as you don’t go into it with the mindset of wanting to destroy all your opponents around you, it’s really quite fun.
With a charming if slightly strange looking art style throughout (seriously, the animals are pretty bug-eyed – what are they feeding them in the Ukraine?!) MHF sets itself apart from a lot of kids’ games by coming across as just plain odd, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. My review copy was well produced (despite being entirely in Cyrillic) and came complete with player aid boards, wooden coins and good quality cards. I assume 5th Street Games will ensure that the same will come in the English language production which you can currently find on Kickstarter. In fact, here’s a link to the campaign and a video:
So that’s My Happy Farm. A charming, silly little game that isn’t going to change your worldview but will make you laugh when you realise you have a rabbit that is bigger than a pig sat in front of you and make you curse when you see you’ve wasted all your beetroot. Sometimes, that’s all you need!
My Happy Farm is currently on Kickstarter and will be published by 5th Street Games later in the year. Designed by Oleg Sidorenko and Oleksandr Nevskiy, games take around thirty minutes for between two and four players. If you’d like to pledge to the campaign, you’ll be able to pick up a copy for as little as $17 – a bargain! Now, off to the shed with you! Those cows won’t milk themselves!