"The game invented on the seat of a tractor"

Before there was a version of Monopoly for every city, film, subculture, and sexual fetish in existence, there were many obscure boardgames with the same basic principles. One was the Farming Game.

Almost all of the people I know who've played the Farming Game have been from Washington State. (Though, according to an article on the game's website, it's big in Amish country.) Players choose identities with names like "Toppenish Tom" and "Wapato Willie" which incorporate the names of farming towns in Washington. Incidentally, all of the character names are male, which may cause young girls a great deal of consternation, sort of like when there aren't enough Barbies to go around and someone has to play with Ken.

The game is played by amassing little static cling stickers representing crops, cattle, and farm machinery. Players then circle around a board where every spot is a week on the calendar (in Bizarro World, where each month has exactly 28 days) waiting for fate to befall them.

For the first three months of the year, players can do little more than purchase little stickers and plan ahead. The color-coded funny money starts rolling in when they hit their first harvest period. Players must land in one of the squares in the given harvest period to be able to collect anything from their investment in a specific crop. More lucrative periods for things like fruit and cows are statistically harder to land in.

When a player reaches a spot in a given harvest, the get to make a roll for the success of their crop at that time. Certain factors can cause the yield to be doubled or halved. "Farmers" must also pay an Operating Expense, determined by selecting an Operating Expense card.

Other cards in the game include Farmer's Fate, which is the same random goofiness that inhabits any Monopoly style boardgame (Uncle So-and-So dies and all his cows have leprosy! Pay $50,000 to have them quarantined and sold to McDonalds!), and Options to Buy (OTBs). OTBs are good to have around, as you're allowed to purchase additional crops and equipment only if you have an OTB for the commodity you desire.

The Farming Game also deals a lot with debt. You can purchase something you can't afford, provided you have 20% down and take the rest as a loan from the bank. If you go over $50,000 in debt, the bank forecloses or something and you lose.

On the other side of the coin, the game is won when a player reaches $250,000 in assets. That's when you quit your job in town (which provides you with $5,000 every time you pass December but is otherwise uninteresting) and get to spend the rest of your days waking up at 4am to fondle the boobies of sleepy livestock. Joy!

The game was invented by George Rohrbacher, a farmer himself, two decades ago. It continues to sell and the website claims it's been used to explain capitalism to the commies and redeem children in impoverished countries who've wandered astray. Myself, I think duplicate copies are being hoarded by boardgame wonks who live in their mothers' basements.

I was forced to play last night for the first time in a decade, and it is actually kind of fun, in that "Why don't I just give you all my cattle and we'll call you the winner?" kind of way. Like Monopoly, it gets a little long. But if you ever manage to find a copy, it might be an interesting way to blow a couple of hours.


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