Finca

Designer: Ralf zur Linde and Wolfgang Sentker

Artist: Franz Vohwinkel

Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Oranges and lemons, oh my. (Photo credits: Peter Niem@BGG)

Finca will probably be the last game I sell from my collection not because it’s the best game in the house, but because it has nostalgic value in our family. My wife and I eventually bonded over board games, but we didn’t meet through it. However, we did use Finca as a prop for our pre-wedding rehearsal photos in an orange grove in Southern California. I guess since I don’t own Citrus, Finca was a good stand in. It also helps that we both love the game. Since then, Finca has made the occasional appearance on the table over the years. Lately, Finca is back on the table with a vengeance. My daughter quickly learned Finca and has latched on to it.

The game is all about racing to harvest and deliver fruits to the different Fincas to score points. There are 5 types of fruits and one seed in the game: fig, olive, almond, orange, lemon, grape. Yes, I had to check – an olive is a fruit and an almond is actually a seed from a fruit. Fruits are harvested on a rondel and the rondel in Finca is shaped like a multi-bladed mini windmill that you find attached the the weather vane. Each blade on the windmill is labeled with a fruit and the blades are modular. At the start of each game, the blades are randomly shuffled and placed on the windmill and when fully assembled, each fruit will be represented twice on the windmill. To being the game, a number of farmers based on player counts are seeded on these windmill blades. Each player will have their own set of farmers and and each turn, they get to choose one of their farmers to move around clockwise on the windmill and collect fruits. The number of steps they move on the windmill depends on the total number of farmers on the blade at the start of their movement. The type and number of fruits the farmer picks up depends on which blade the farmer ends it movement and the total number of farmers on that blade. So, both the origin and the destination matters in terms of the type and number of fruits you want to harvest. This just means that fruit collection requires some planning.

As farmers move around the rondel, at points in the game, you will see opportunities to harvest a bumper crop. It is hard to ignore a group of farmers standing on a single blade where you can harvest 3 or more fruits of the same type in one swoop even though you may not need the fruits. Moreover, there is opportunity for clever play here since there is a limited number of fruits in play. If you need to harvest a fruit and there is none left in the stock – ALL players must return their fruits before you pick up your allotment. This usually happens when a player land on a spot where large amount of fruits are up for grabs. This is an opportunity to stymie the hoaders who are holding on to their harvests, waiting for the right time to deliver. It forces their hand to make quick deliveries. I think this rule really elevates Finca into a gamer’s game. One should always be on a look out for opportunities to help yourself and hurt others in the process.

There is another choke point for fruit delivery to fincas, and that is transportation. In these villages, a donkey drawn cart is used to transport the harvests. Each donkey cart can hold up to 6 fruits. However, to get a cart, one of your farmers must pass a check point on the windmill. There are two checkpoints on the wheel, both separated 180 degrees apart thus splitting the windmill in half. Without these donkey carts, no fruits can be delivered to the fincas.

With the right type of fruits loaded on carts, we are now ready to depart to the fincas…. but to which one? On the main board, half the board is dedicated to the windmill and the other half to the fincas. There are exactly 10 fincas on the board, each with demand for specific types of fruits that is randomly determined by these demand tiles. There are 4 tiles on each finca, with only one flipped face up at any point in time. As demands are fulfilled, a new tile is revealed. Each tile will can demand a combination of fruits ranging from 1 to 6 fruits. They could be all the same type of fruit, one of each, or a combination of sets. Importantly, fruits are also points – so the more complex the demand, the more points one will get. With a cart that can carry up to 6 fruits, it is most efficient if you collect one or several demand tiles to maximize usage of the cart for each delivery.

Apart from points for fruits, there is also a set collection aspect going on. Secondary points are scored when all the demand tiles are depleted from a finca and a pre-assigned fruit token placed on each finca is assessed for majority scoring. This token is placed at the start of the game so players know which fruit are being contested. It’s basically simple majority wins. If the lemon token in on a finca depleted of all demand tiles, then the player who has fulfilled the most lemon deliveries on all their demand tiles will win that 5 point token. This is done for each finca as the demand tiles are lifted. After that, the area is considered done and a wooden chit is placed on that region to indicate as such. The game ends when a specified number of regions are depleted based on player count. So, the main tension of the game is also to race and deplete a region that is advantageous for scoring the bonus tokens.

Finca is a poster child for the type of games published by Hans im Gluck. I would classify it as a medium light Euro with lots of meaty decisions and can be played in under an hour. Turns on Finca are snappy and there is no lag between turns. Unlike tableau builders, Finca has a shared main board that requires you to pay attention to others. Particularly in the timing of delivery. You must look around to see who is planning to deliver what so that you can either avoid the same set collection or better yet, beat them to the race. While missing out on a demand tile can be painful, there are usually plenty of options to cobble an alternate plan for your collected fruits. You won’t be frustrated or at a loss to find alternate demand tiles to fulfill. I think this is a hallmark of a good family style Euro.

For me, Finca hits the perfect balance between length and complexity that is suitable for kids to participate. To play well though, one needs to take the occasional risk in harvesting fruits as it is often times worth while to take a short detour to score a bumper harvest when lots of farmers are standing in the same location even though they may not figure into your current delivery plan. However, excessive hoarding will definitely make you an target for others to deplete your entire cache. While there is a small promo for the game, El Razul, I find it somewhat distracting and often exclude it from the base game. Finca has been in and out of print for a while and I think if you find a copy, it would be worth your while to grab it.

Final word: Good

Kids Corner

7 years 10 months: Pretty straightforward game for a budding gamer. She can play, but not yet competitive. I think she is still trying to absorb the concept of opportunistic deliveries. I find that when she focuses on one demand token, she will go all out to grab whatever is necessary to achieve that goal, to the exclusion of everything else. That means, picking up single fruits to fulfill the goal while eschewing the easy orders. Part of the game is being able to be flexible and take what comes along when the opportunity presents itself. I am sure she will grasp that concept. Now that the games we play are on a different level, it is interesting to see how quickly she can grok the meta-gaming aspects of play.

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