Friday, November 20, 2009

Review: Life on the Farm

Q: why did the cow run frantically across the road?
A: So she wouldn't get creamed

Q: How do you tell a cow is exceptional?
A: It's out standing in its field

Q: What are a cows favorite subjects in school?
A: Moosic, psycowolgy, cowculus

You shouldn't tell jokes about cows. Nobody likes a cattle-tale

I'm not sure what it is about cows that makes them so udderly funny! Perhaps it is because they are such simple creatures whose main job is to graze, moo, and provide for our tables. At the mention of cows and farms, we often think of a time in American history when family farms dotted the rural Midwest. However, have you ever wondered what it would be like to run a family farm in the present day? Now you can, with Life on the Farm.

Keith Gohl, a midwest 3rd-generation dairy farmer in Minnesota, came up with the idea of Life on the Farm after a fun evening of trying to explain the ups and downs of farm life to his city cousins. Players get to step away from their fast-driven city life and experience the adventures of milking cows, fixing tractors and tilling the land.

Each player starts with $10,ooo and no cows. As players move along the cow path, they acquire cattle and experience events that happen on any real-life farm. Players may have to pay neighbors to help them gather escaped cows because a hunter cuts the fence, at $10 per cow. A cow may be hit by a car, removing one from the herd. Not all the squares result in loses. Heifers mature, adding cows to your herd and there is opportunity to purchase more cows each time you land on Cattle Auction. When player makes a round the board, they collect "Milk Money" for each cow.

There are both Expense and Income Card spaces, adding more fun and surprises to the game. Income cards involve events that bring cash to the farm, such as collecting an inheritance from a late uncle, selling bushels of corn, or receiving a cow from another play for past help. Expense Cards have money going out the barn door and involve paying taxes, vet bills, and filling fuel barrels.

The first to retire with 60 cows and the original starting money wins the game. Winning sounds easy, until your herd starts growing. Just like real farm life, the larger the herd the quicker you earn - and lose - money.

Life on the Farm was a hit with my whole family. Throughout the whole game we were all counting our cash and cows. Who knew one could be so competitive over cows? Those with larger herds would be feeling pretty good about the farm when the "Milk Money"was collected, only to grumble when a vet bill arrived through an Expense Card.

Don't be fooled by Income Cards as they don't always mean profit. While most Income Cards will pad your farm pockets, one card results in a loss because your are forced to slaughter your cows for less than you paid for them. When I asked Ev Johnson, one of the creators of Life on the Farm, the reasoning behind the card, she replied:
As in real life, when a farmer is forced to slaughter a cow, and receives income as a result, that farmer has to report the amount received as income. Doesn’t make too much sense does it? But that is the way it works and so that is the way it is played in our game.
While I like that the game really does reflect true life on the farm, I have to say that this card brought out the mad cow competitiveness as being unfair. It was a certain male adult family member that declared the card be changed to collect more for a slaughter than a purchase. I proposed a government subsidy be added to the card to offset the loss! What was really neat about the discussion is that our kids learned a little about business and real life. My oldest even asked for more "business type" games.

I love that this game was easy to play, enjoyed by every family member, and taught a bit about a life style that is unfamiliar to this suburbia family.

Probably the only downfall to the game is it can be rather long. A short version suggested only 30 cows and $5000 to win. My family probably played for 1 1/2 hours and no one had reached 60 cows, so we move to the short version. The winning criteria is completely "tweakable" without changing the rest of the game. Name your winning cow herd and dollar amount for the time you have to play.

Life on the Farm is a prime choice as a Moo-y Christmas gift. Both city folk and country bumpkins are sure to find it moo-velous and udder-ly fabulous. Life on the Farm can be purchased for $25 at the WeRFun website. It is lalso available at Kmart, where a current sale promotion on toys runs through Nov 25!

Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew's blog to read more reviews on this product and others.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew, a team of 100+ homeschooling parents. While the product was provided at no expense to me in order to provide this review, I have not received any other compensation. Furthermore, receipt of the product does not guarantee a positive review. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.

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