Get Off My Land!
Time: ~40 minutes
Times Played: 3
Farming and agriculture seem to be mainstays when it comes to thematic choices for board games. Get Off My Land! takes what is an overused trope and attempts to flip it on its head with a more comedic and personal approach as farmers (aka the players) can directly interact with one another’s farm land.
Like every other farming simulator, you will be tasked with fencing in your yards and growing your crops and seeing after your livestock. The twist is that you can also manage your farm through illicit means, such as stealing the land of your neighbors farm or breaking their fence so the livestock eat their mature crops.
If you don’t find Hillbilly’s funny, you should probably stop reading here as you won’t find the artwork or text sprinkled throughout the game charming or enjoyable. The production and art featured in Get Off My Land! is of high quality and will rival that of any big box developer. The only area I have any complaints is the puzzle-like connector for the market place as it was a tad frail when we pushed it into place for our initial game. It has held up but I worry that ten or so games of piecing the market together would lead to the complete degradation of the connector. This could just be my copy though.
The game itself is played over the course of twelve months (rounds) where players are trying to cultivate and grow their crops, livestock, and land.
The rules are relatively simple and there’s a useful player aid included to help players keep track of the four actions they can perform each round.
Where players will get bogged down are the lot of smaller rules for Get Off My Land! Some actions seem relatively straight forward, such as Logging a Tile. This action has players flipping a land tile from the forest side to the farm-able side and collecting the bonus shown. However, tiles can’t be logged if surrounded by another players fences. Which makes sense but it’s a case of “players can do this except for when” and there tends to be a lot of that. Another example is that animals in the same fenced in enclosure will eat crops…except when they’re ducks or orchards. Just another small piece of information to hold onto.
Players can also use a Fence Card to gain the benefits written on the card or to gain the number of fences on the card. The actions granted by Fence cards are typically actions you can only take at particular rounds in the game such as maturing your crops/livestock or something as simple as taking additional harvesting actions. In addition, these cards can be used to sabotage other farmers as they may disrupt the market cards or break an opponents fence. The Fence cards are also adorned with bullet holes in the upper left hand corner which are used to defend yourself from hostile actions taken by rival farmers.
Players can Visit the Market where they can buy all sorts of items to better their farms. This includes crops, livestock, equipment, and fences. All purchased items are immature until a growing season occurs (indicated on the round track). The Market cards are also the source of income for players as they depict what players will be paid when the mature version of their good is harvested.
The last action a player can take is to Harvest and this is as simple as flipping the good you’re harvesting and collecting the income for it.
Players will pick two of those four actions each month and some months, like June, September, and January, will have special circumstances that players will need to abide by.
This is the gist of the game and the player with the most cash on hand at the end of the game wins.
The farming simulation aspect of the game is simple to follow and the only hiccup will be the randomness of the cards/land plots. Buy a good, place it in your fenced in area, mature it, harvest it. Don’t place animals and crops in the same enclosure or else the crops will be eaten (except for the outliers to this ruling). This follows the source material that is real farming on a bare bones level and will keep players in the know as it doesn’t stray far from reality.
But the game isn’t just a farming simulator. If you wanted that, BGG has one hundred games ranked higher that lists farming as a central theme of the game before Get Off My Land! first appears. What First Fish Games hopes is that the direct player interaction makes Get Off My Land! stand out when compared to the Agricola’s, Ceylon’s, and Scoville’s of the world.
The game itself lives and dies on the humor you find in the farming conflict. Whereas other farming games have players dealing with the harsh environment or the inability to feed the workers, the conflict of Get Off My Land! resides solely with the players sitting around the table. As is the case with most take-that and area control games, this will be suited to a particular kind of player but I feel like this game takes it a step further.
Players have to want to take action against their neighbors farm. It was rarely the case where doing so would net their opponent negative points or really dampen their plans (There were occasions where an action would actually really hurt another player but in our experience, that was only ever happening in a players first game of Get Off My Land!). Get Off My Land! can be played entirely with each player staying within the confines of their adjacent squares and that’s my major issue with the game. I never felt the need to venture out and while the board was tight, it wasn’t tight enough to force me to make a decision. I don’t want to perform an action just to feel like I’m playing in the spirit of the game. The game should build towards and encourage that action and that direct conflict and interaction between players felt incredibly flat to me. I almost want to call it forced but it’s not as I don’t particularly need to go after anyone.
The other issue with the conflict is that it’s derived strictly from the Fence cards, so players may actually want to go after another player but physically can’t as their cards don’t align with their mentality. They can still build fences and steal land (in theory) but having everything tied to the cards makes the strategy aspect harder to plan for.
Speaking of the Fence cards, while there is a stack of them, there are only eight different cards included in the stack. This makes learning the game easy but also doesn’t offer much if any variety after a few plays as you see the same card over and over again.
The decision making is not terribly complex and some strategies, such as just building one of the choices of livestock or crops, could shield you from suffering too many acts of sabotage (this is entirely dependent on the randomness of the marking however). Speaking of the sabotage, the decision to go after a neighbors yield was rarely if ever the right call for me in the games I played. Planting yourself into another’s territory put a target on your back and never really provided a worthwhile swing for the acting player. Yes, you are able to impact the income of another player which in turn hurts their victory points at the end of the game but you were also taking away your opportunity to score points by focusing on your opponent. The reality also needs to be addressed that getting Fence cards to either attack or defend was too easy and players would end with a swing of only a few dollars (if that) when including counter acts of sabotage. The only time acting offensively worked out was when a fence was destroyed and the livestock ate the crops of a player but after that happened once, no one was going to let it happen again. To give credit to Get Off My Land!, that singular moment was hysterical and showed a glimmer of hope of what the game could be.
But…acting offensively is a huge gamble as it’s relatively easy to block such advances as players will typically have cards in their hand that negate any encroachment. On one hand, you don’t want land changing possession player turn after player turn as it diminishes the entire mechanic but on the other, what’s the point in trying when you’ll just be rebuffed? This leads to the last issue with this system and that’s when players team-up against another. A player might be able to successfully defend against one or two attacks but if all players decide to gang up, it’s near impossible to defend and really dampens the mood as the table has turned against one particular player due to their vulnerability that came about from just playing the game.
It might be because of all this that I never felt like I was truly feuding with my neighbors. The game looked to promise a Hatfield and McCoy type situation and it failed to deliver even on a Clampett level of conflict.
The length of the game is fine for the level of depth it provides but in my opinion, the game struggles to decide what it is. Is it a filler game to be played while waiting for more players to show up or between rounds of heavier games? Is it a game to center an entire evening around? The theme makes it seem childish and light while the direct interaction speaks of a game for more experienced players. I’m not sure if this game is for individuals new to the hobby or for players that have been playing for a few years. I just don’t know.
The board changes enough at each player count to provide a unique layout but that doesn’t change the spacing issues that I mentioned earlier and in a two-player game, unless you’re feeling particularly vindictive, players can just keep to themselves for twelve months. Playing this way is incredibly boring though. Three- and four-players make the game better but Get Off My Land! is a game that should only be played at four-payers. The hand limit makes attacking and defending more worthwhile and calculated as you typically won’t have a stockpile of cards in your hands waiting for another player to make a move. The market will also fluctuate more which adds some variety to the game that isn’t found at the lower player counts.
The randomness of the game, through the draw of land tiles and Market cards (and to a lesser extent, Fence cards) helps and hurts Get Off My Land!. The randomness creates a relatively new experience with each game play and can diversify the starting strategies of players but it’s never quite enough to make one game feel different from another. The first few rounds will feature the same actions as players log the forests and purchase some fences and goods to place there and the rest of the game is about maturing, harvesting, and protecting those investments. I realize I could generalize any game to that level but Get Off My Land! felt like a game that was on auto-pilot the first few rounds. The beginning and the end of the year felt the same in each game we played.
The Equipment cards that can be purchased at Market can also swing a game in a players favor considerably. In two games, equipment cards were scarce and when purchased, it put a target on that players back. When they were able to defend, there wasn’t much players could do but watch them rack up points as they were able to perform actions other players couldn’t. Which makes sense, a farmer with a tractor will probably be better off than one without a piece of machinery but it created an imbalance in the game.
Get Off My Land! is a game I want to really enjoy as it flips a tired theme on its head and injects some needed humor in the game play but in actuality, it’s a game that I did not enjoy and do not see ever getting back to the table. I’m glad I tried it but it just makes me see wasted potential.