Radio Review #82 – La Granja

 

lagranja_cover

(2014 – Stronghold Games, Spielworxx)

 

“I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more….”

 

Originally published and released in 2014 by Spielworxx, La Granja is an economic, farming-themed Euro that combines an action-selection draft mechanic, area control, and elements of producing/delivering goods. In La Granja, each player controls a farm in which they can harvest goods and deliver these goods to the marketplace in town. Each farm begins the game with basic functionality, but throughout the game players will have the chance to add more fields of crops to their farm, hire workers that will provide them ongoing abilities, expand their farm in order to provide additional income, increase their hand size, allow for extra deliveries to the marketplace, etc. Players can also upgrade their harvested goods into items such as wine in order to complete specific orders.

Actions are taken using a drafting mechanic in which a number of dice are rolled and the die facings are lined up next to their corresponding actions (#1-6). Players will choose a die and take its corresponding action. As players take these actions and uniquely craft additions to their farm, they will find various ways and routes to earn Victory Points. Designed by first-time designers, Andreas Odendahl and Michael Keller, La Granja was nominated for both a 2014 Meeple’s Choice Award and a 2014 Golden Geek Award at BoardGameGeek for Best Strategy Game. The game is now being published by Stronghold Games and was released here in the U.S. this past Summer 2015.

 

 

 

Components:

– La Granja game board

 

– Player boards

 

– Player Goods markers (a set of 25 for each player color)

 

– Player Siesta track markers (one of each player color)

 

– Revenue dice

 

– Turn Order tiles

 

– Farming cards

 

– Roof tiles

 

– Craft tiles

 

– Donkey tiles

 

– Restricted Access tiles

 

– Victory Point tokens

 

– Coin tokens

 

– Summary sheets

 

 

 

Setup:

In La Granja, players are attempting to build and manage the most prestigious countryside “granja” (translated “farm”) in the region. At the beginning of the game, the main game board is placed in the central play area and consists of the town marketplace and surrounding market buildings where player’s deliveries throughout the game will take place.

Each player receives a player board, representing their individual farm. Each farm consist of a main farm house, multiple storage houses (for the various type of goods), a pigpen, and areas for hiring workers, placing market barrows, and expansions to the farm. Each player also receives a set of 25 Good markers in their player color. At the beginning of the game, one of these markers is placed on the space of their player board as a “trade commodity” (referenced by the crate icon). Players will also receive a Victory Point token, a set of Donkey tiles, a single “1” coin token, and a summary sheet.

The player chosen as the start player will take the “1” Turn Order tile and place it in front of him. In clockwise order from the start player, the remaining players will take the “2”, “3”, and “4” Turn Order tiles respectively. On the main game board, in the inner marketplace area, Player 1 will choose to place one of his Good markers on any of the “2” spaces, Player 2’s places a marker on a “3” space, Player 3’s marker on a “4” space, and Player 4’s marker on a “5” space. Once this is done, player’s place a 2nd marker in reverse order (Player 4’s marker on a 2, Player 3’s on a 3, and so on).

The Siesta track is located along the right-side of the main game board. This track will help to determine turn order from Round to Round. The player furthest along the Siesta track will receive the “1” Turn Order tile, 2nd furthest will receive the “2”, and so on. At the beginning of the game, the players Siesta track markers are stacked on top of each other at the bottom space of the track in current turn order so that Player 4’s marker is at the very bottom and Player 1’s is at the top.

There are six market buildings that surround the inner marketplace on the main game board. Players can make deliveries to these buildings during the game, and in doing so can attempt to gain a Craft tile that is attached to each of the buildings. These Craft tiles will award the player ongoing bonuses such as additional income, extra Victory Points, bonus resources, extra deliveries, etc. At the beginning of the game, a set of Craft tiles is placed next to its corresponding building, and a Victory Point token is placed next to the gray hexagon space that attaches each market building to the inner marketplace.

Three of these buildings will be off limits at the beginning of the game, therefore a Restricted Access tile will be placed on them. Each of the market buildings has a different die facing (1-6) icon next to them. At the beginning of the game, a player will roll a die and place a Restricted Access tile and a Victory Point on the building area that corresponds to the die roll. This is done two more times until three of the six building areas have a Restricted Access tile and a Victory Point.

Each player board has a main farm house where Roof tiles can be added to, which can award the player Victory Points when built, and also will provide a one-time bonus that the player can resolve when he wishes, during the game. At the beginning of the game, these tiles are placed on the main game board on the spaces that correspond to the Round number printed on the back of the tile. All of the Round 1 Roof tiles are placed face up in the spaces above the other Rounds face-down stacks, so that players can see which are available for purchase in the 1st Round of the game.

Much like the cards used in games like Innovation and Glory to Rome, the Farming cards in La Granja are multi-functional depending on what side of the player’s farm board they are tucked under. At the beginning of the game, each player is dealt four of these cards randomly, with the remaining cards forming a draw deck that will be used throughout the game.

A number of dice are used depending on the number of players in the game. In a 4-player game, all 9 dice are used. A 3-player game will require only 7 dice, and a 2-player game 5 dice. These dice are set to the side of the main game board at the beginning of the game, and will be used during the Revenue Phase. All other Victory Point and Money tokens are also placed to the side of the game board. After setup is complete, the play area should look something like this:

 

 

 

Gameplay:

A game of La Granja will consist of six Rounds, with each Round containing four phases: the Farming Phase, the Revenue Phase, the Delivery Phase, and the Scoring Phase. By the end of the game, players will have attempted to expand their farm, earn income, and deliver goods to the marketplace, all for gaining various Victory Points. The player with the most Victory Points at the end of the game is the winner. Let’s take a brief look at each phase of a Round and how it works:

 

 

I. The Farming Phase

At the beginning of each Farming Phase, players will be allowed to play a Farming card from their hand, onto their player board. As mentioned before, each Farming card has a variety of uses depending on where it is placed. Once placed, only the side shown is active. Seen below is an example of a Farming card in La Granja. Each card has four possible uses (listed at the top, bottom, left side, and right side of the card).

 

– The top of each card are Market Barrows.

– The bottom of each card represents a Worker.

– The left side of each card represents a new Field.

 

– The right side of each card represents a new Farm Expansion.

 

If the player has decided to play the Farming card as a Market Barrow, he will place it at the top of his player board in one of the three available spaces. The listed goods on the top row of the card can be loaded onto these barrows from the player’s farm, and once full will earn the player a trade commodity and Victory Points (shown on the bottom row). In this case, the listed goods needed to fill this Market Barrow are a grain and a grape. By having both of these goods loaded, it will earn the player a trade commodity and 2 Victory Points.

As a side note, when acquiring a trade commodity, the player will place one of his Good markers in the designated trade commodity space on his player board. At any time during the game, no matter the phase, the player can choose to turn in a trade commodity for either 4 coins, 2 different goods, to draw or play a Farming card, obtain a pig, or upgrade 2 resources for free.

 

If the player has decided to play the Farming card as the listed Worker, he will place it in one of the available space towards the bottom of his player board. The Worker hired will give the player a new special ability that he will be able to use throughout the game. According to this card, the hired Worker is a Chef. The Chef will allow the player to pay 1 less for upgrades. So for instance, whereas upgrading grapes into wine would normally costs 3 coins, it will costs this player only 2.

If the player has decided to play the Farming card as a new Field, he will tuck it behind the left side of his player board in the appropriate space. The goods from these Fields can be harvested throughout the game, upgraded to a storage house as a converted good (grapes to wine, grain to bread, etc), used to load onto market barrows, used to make deliveries to the marketplace, or used for purchasing additional Farm extensions (which I’ll cover next). Taking a look at the Farming card above, we can see that this card provides the player a new grape field if the player chooses to use it as such.

If the player has decided to play the Farming card as a new Farm Expansion, he will tuck it behind the right side of his player board in the appropriate space. Farm expansions can increase a player’s hand size, give the ability to house pig offspring, purchase extra deliveries, and gain additional income. Taking a look at the Farming card above, we can see that this card will increase the player’s maximum hand size by +1, allow the player to pay for an additional delivery (1x), and add a space on the player’s farm to house a new piglet.

Playing a Farming card as a new Farm Expansion will cost the player, according to the chart seen on his player board. The first time he expands his farm, he must pay one resource. The second expansion will costs his two different resources, the third expansion three different resources, and so on.

Players are not required to play a Farming card every Round. It is an optional action that players can take. However, whether the player plays a card or not, he will draw a number of Farming cards from the draw deck up to his maximum hand size after all players have resolved this portion of each Farming Phase.

Next, players will then earn income, according to their obtained Craft tiles on their player board. These blue tiles may provide the player 3 coins, a trade commodity, or a choice of a resource depending on which tiles they have. Also remember that using a Farming card’s expansion side can also add to this income total.

At any point in the game, no matter the phase, a player can choose to buy or sell the goods on his player board. Each good has a coin icon with a “+” value showing how much money selling one of that particular good will earn the player. For instance, selling a pig will earn the player 3 coins. The good must be located in the appropriate storage space with the included “+” value icon in order to sell the good. Goods can not be sold from the fields or once they’ve been upgraded to things such as wine.

Player’s can also buy goods at any time in the game. Along with the “+” value icons, there are also “-” value icons that will show how much money a player may spend to add that good to the corresponding storage space. Obviously player’s will be required to spend more for a good than they will make selling it. Using the pig example above, we can see that a pig will cost 5 coins to buy.

After the income portion of this phase is complete, players will produce new goods in their fields as well as check to see if any new piglets have been born. A player will place one of their Good markers on each empty space in their Fields (seen above). In addition, if the player has at least two pigs, he can add a new pig to his player board (seen below), though he must have an available space to place it (players can gain these extra spaces with farm expansions).

All of these steps of the Farming Phase can be done simultaneously amongst all players. However, the next step must be done according to the current turn order. On this step, each player will have to chance to purchase one of the Roof tiles available on the main game board. As mentioned before, each Roof tile provides the player a one-time special ability that he can use at any point in the game. When purchased, he will place this tile on the leftmost available space of his main house on his player board.

The cost of each tile directly corresponds to the Round it is purchased in, therefore all Round 4 Roof tiles will cost 4 coins. When placed on a space, the player is awarded the number of Victory Points shown on that space (if any). Once the player has decided to use the tile’s special ability, he will simply turn the tile over to show that it has been used. Once all players have had a chance to purchase a Roof tile, the Farming Phase is complete. Let’s take a look at a few of these Roof tiles:

– The Roof tile on the left will award the player two coins when used.

– The Roof tile in the middle will allow the player to take an grain, olive, or grape good and place it in its corresponding storage building.

– The Roof tile on the right allows the player to flip up a previously used Roof tile, allowing that player to use it’s ability again.

 

 

 

II. The Revenue Phase

The main game board has a set of six actions that players can choose to take during the Revenue Phase. During this phase, players will essentially draft these actions and resolve them. To do this, a number of dice are rolled depending on the number of players in the game. As previously mentioned, 9 dice are used in a 4-player game. The start player will roll these dice and each die is placed next to the corresponding action that matches its facing. Once this is complete, in turn order, each player will draft a dice and take the corresponding action. Each player will be able to do this twice in a Round until there is only one die left. At this point, all players will take this final action. Let’s take a look at how each of the six actions work:

 

Die Facing #1 – If a player drafts a die with a #1 facing, he will add a new pig to his farm by placing one of his Good markers onto an available pig space on his player board.

Die Facing #2 – If a player drafts a die with a #2 facing, he can either draw a new Farming card, play a Farming card from his hand, or place one of his Good markers into a grain, olive, or grape storage building.

Die Facing #3 – If a player drafts a die with a #3 facing, he can place two of his Good markers into a grain, olive, or grape storage building, though he must separate them into different storage buildings. They can’t both be placed in the same one.

 

Die Facing #4 – If a player drafts a die with a #4 facing, he immediately gains 4 coins.

Die Facing #5 – If a player drafts a die with a #5 facing, he can either upgrade two of his resources for free, upgrade only one of his resources for free and advance one step on the Siesta track, or upgrade 0 resources and advance two steps on the Siesta track. When upgrading a good, the player will simply move his Good marker from the field or storage building to it’s connected upgraded storage building (which will change the good into an upgraded good).

For instance, a grape good located in the storage building can be moved to the adjacent storage building to its left, where it becomes wine (as seen below). Upgrading goods usually has a cost associated to it, as printed on the spaces of the player’s board. In this case, moving a grape good from the field to the upgraded wine storage building would normally cost 3 coins, and moving it from the grape storage building to this wine building would cost 4 coins. Using the #5 die action however negates these costs.

 

Die Facing #6 – If a player drafts a die with a #6 facing, he can make a delivery, or gains 2 coins. I’ll discuss how a delivery works next.

Remember that once all players have taken their two chosen actions, one die facing will remain. All players will then take this final action.

 

 

 

III. The Delivery Phase

At the beginning of the game, each player was given a set of four Donkey tiles. One of these tiles shows four donkey icons, with the remaining three tiles containing a mixture of donkey icons and siesta track icons. At the beginning of the Delivery Phase, players will choose one of the Donkey tiles and place it face-down in front of them. Not all tiles will be available to players throughout the game however:

 

– During the 1st Round, all four tiles will be available to players.
– During the 2nd Round, the tile the player used in the 1st Round is unavailable to him.
– During the 3rd Round, the tiles the player used in the 1st and 2nd Rounds are unavailable to him.
– During the 4th Round, all four tiles will be available to players again.
– During the 5th Round, the tile the player used in the 4th Round is unavailable to him.
– During the 6th Round, the tiles the player used in the 4th and 5th Rounds are unavailable to him.

 

Once all players have placed and revealed their Donkey tiles, players will move their Siesta track marker on the Siesta track in turn order, according to the Donkey tile they’ve played. For instance, Player A played a Donkey tile with a Siesta track icon and three Donkey icons on it. Therefore, he moves his Siesta track marker one space on the track.

The final placement of Siesta track markers will essentially determine the new turn order for the next Round. If a player lands on a space occupied by another player, he will place his marker on top of the other player’s, which represents that he will go before that other player in turn order. Even though the Round is not over, this new turn order takes place immediately. It is important to note that this step is done before any deliveries are resolved. Therefore, each player can use some strategy in determining not only turn order for the upcoming deliveries, but also the turn order that will be used from now until the next Round when resolving their Donkey tiles. At this point, players receive their new Turn Order tile.

Next, players will carry out their deliveries in this new turn order, according to their played Donkey tiles. On his turn, the player may perform a maximum number of deliveries equal to the number of donkey icons on his played tile. When performing a delivery, the player may move a good from one of his fields or storage buildings to either one of the buildings surrounding the market on the main game board, or to one of their market barrows on their personal player board.

Each building surrounding the market has a designated row of spaces for each individual player. Anytime a player delivers a good to a particular building, he will place his delivered goods in the same row. Each space of the row has a printed icon as to what good needs to be placed there. Remember that trade commodities can be turned in for two different goods, so a player can turn in a trade commodity before performing his deliveries. If a player is able to complete a full row at any of the six buildings, he will remove all of his Good markers from this row, place one of these markers onto one of the three spaces connecting the buildings to the market area, and then receives that building’s Craft tile. His placed marker in front of the building now shows that he can no longer place any more Good markers here, since he’s already filled it once and gained the building’s Craft tile. The awarded Craft tile is then placed on the player’s board and contains an ongoing ability for the rest of the game that the player can use.

If the player was the 1st player to fill his row at the building, he will receive the Victory Point that was placed on the area between the building and the market during setup, at the beginning of the game. The player will also receive a number of Victory Points equal to the numbered Round in which he completed the row in. So for instance, if the player filled the row in Round 3, he would receive 3 Victory Points. Additionally, the player can score another Victory Point by unblocking a building.

If you’ll remember, three of the buildings at the beginning of the game were given Restricted Access tiles. This means that players can not make deliveries to these buildings until they have been unblocked. The first player in the game to complete one of his building rows will collect the Victory Point on the restricted building where the #1 Restricted Access tile is located. This tile then gets removed from the game and the building is now available for all players to make deliveries to. This works the same way for the 2nd and 3rd player to complete one of their building rows as far as unblocking access to the other two restricted buildings.

Player B completes his row on at the Deli, collects the Deli’s craft tile and places one of his Good markers in front of this building’s area showing that he has completed it. He was not the first player to complete his row in this building (as we’ve seen Player C, the green player has already done so), therefore he does not get the “1” Victory Point for completing it first.

 

He does however collect 4 Victory Points since he has completed his row at the Deli in the 4th Round. This is also the third row overall that has been completed during the game, therefore he will unlock the last building, removing the Restricted Access from it’s space and collecting another Victory Point. By completing his delivery row at the Deli, Player B has collecting a total of 5 Victory points and received the Deli craft marker which allows him to gain a trade commodity every Round during the income portion of the Farming Phase.

 

 

Alternatively, players can choose instead to make a delivery to one of the market barrows on their player board by placing a good from their field or storage buildings onto one of the corresponding good spaces there. Once the player has filled all of the open spaces on a market barrow, the player will earn a trade commodity by placing one of his Good markers on the trade commodity space of his player board, earn the number of Victory Points shown as a reward on the market barrow card, and then will place a Good marker on one of the inner marketplace spaces of the main game board that matches the number of Victory Points he just earned. If you’ll remember, each player placed two of his Good markers on some of these inner marketplace spaces at the beginning of the game. Players can potentially earn additional Victory Points here depending on how they place their Good marker.

All of the inner marketplace spaces consists of numbers ranging from 2 to 6. This corresponds with all of the market barrow cards which will award a player between 2 and 6 Victory Points when completed. When placing one of his Good markers on one of the spaces that matches the number of Victory Points he just earned from his completed market barrow, he will be able to remove any Good markers adjacent to this one if the numbered space they are on is lower than this numbered space.

For instance, Player B has completed the market barrow shown above. He automatically receives a trade commodity and then collects 4 Victory Points as an award, as shown on the card. He’ll then need to place one of his Good markers on a “4” space in the inner marketplace area of the main game board.

 

By placing it on the space seen below, he would be able to remove one of Player A’s markers since it is on a #2 space, and one of Player D’s markers since it is on the #3 space. Player D’s other marker on the #6 space would not be removed.

 

By removing two opposing player markers, Player B would receive an additional 2 Victory Points. It’s important to note that player will receive Victory Points at the end of each Round according to how many Good markers they currently have in the inner marketplace, so removing opposing player’s markers in this way has some long-term benefits as well.

 

After all players have resolved the number of deliveries based on their played Donkey tile, each player may choose to purchase additional deliveries according to how many of these bonus delivery icons they have on the right side of their player board. Each player begins the game with one of these bonus deliveries available to them, though expansions to their farm can add more. Each bonus delivery costs the player 1 coin to resolve. As seen above, this player would have the option of paying for three extra deliveries.

 

 

 

IV. The Scoring Phase

After all players have resolved their deliveries, the Round ends and players will collect Victory Points and perform some end of round cleanup steps in the following ways:

– Players will score 1 Victory Point for every Good marker they have remaining in the inner marketplace area on the main game board.

– Players will score a number of Victory Points ranging from 0-3, according to where their marker is located on the Siesta track.

– Player’s Siesta track markers are placed back on the “0” start space of the tracking, stacked on top of each other in the current turn order.

– The next Round’s Roof tiles are revealed and replace any remaining Roof tiles from the previous Round.

 

 

 

End-Game Scoring:

After all six Rounds are completed, the game ends and players can turn in any resources on their player boards for coins according to the sell price on their space. Player can exchange any leftover trade commodities for 4 coins. Players can then exchange 5 coins for 1 Victory Point. Players will then total all of their Victory Points up and the player with the most wins the game.

 

 

 

Thoughts:

At first look, La Granja may seem like another run-of-the-mill farming Euro, where one simply attempts to buy, sell, and trade their components in the most efficient way to win the game. While some elements of that may be found here, La Granja sets itself apart in almost every other way. The uniqueness of the game is found mostly in how open it is to players and the options available to them.

If you discount the minimal amount of Victory Points that can be earned by purchasing new Roof tiles, those awarded on the Siesta track, those awarded from Craft bonuses, and from some of the Worker abilities, the bulk amount of Victory Points will be earned through deliveries made to the market. Having said that, players are giving a wide-variety of “engines” in which to obtain the materials needed for these deliveries. The tucking mechanic in which the Farming cards are played (I’ve personally only seen this mechanic used in games like Innovation and Glory to Rome) allows players to either add new fields to their farm (which players can harvest and deliver from), add to their farm as a market barrow (where player’s can deliver their goods to), hire a new worker (which will gain the player an ongoing ability), or can be used as an expansion to the farm (which can add pig stalls needed for deliveries, increase a player’s Farming card hand size, provide additional income, and provide extra deliveries for the player).

The decisions made by the player in how to incorporate a Farming card into their farm can directly result in how well the player performs by games end. A player has a wealth of tools at their disposal, but it really comes down to how well the player can balance all of these available options and use them in a streamlined, strategic way. There are a lot of different little strategies here and there that I’ve thought about attempting in future games, such as completing my tracks on the various buildings early on in order to gain the buildings craft bonuses for the remainder of the game vs. trying to complete as many buildings as I can during the final Rounds in order to gain the maximum amount of Victory Points (remember that the number of Victory Points awarded when completing a craft building directly correlate with the Round’s number). Do I focus more playing my Farming cards as market barrows and make my deliveries to those, or focus more on delivering to the craft buildings. Or is it beneficial to me to try and balance both? Also, do I forfeit a number of deliveries so that I can move further on the Siesta track, gaining me a better spot in turn order in future rounds?

There are so many available strategies and options that the game never suffers from the perfect “fail-safe” strategy that a lot of other Euros can suffer from. Much of the time you’ll find yourself countering an opponent’s strategy whether it be by positioning on the Siesta track, discarding opponent markers in the marketplace area, or drafting actions during the Revenue phase. Make no mistakes, La Granja is a Euro and certainly plays as such, but its open-style gameplay and ability to incorporate various strategic approaches should draw in a large number of gamers outside of the Euro-crowd.

 

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