Growing up in the southern U.S. as the grandchild and great-grandchild of farmers, the idea behind Get Off My Land amused me. While my relatives weren’t into midnight raids of their neighbor’s cattle, smashing rival’s stills, or armed defense of property lines (everything was legit, I swear), everyone had a story about someone who was. Which, of course, tells you everyone was either lying, knee deep in the shenanigans themselves, or both. Usually both. So when Get Off My Land offered the chance to take an epic farm feud to the tabletop, I knew I had to honor my dishonorable heritage and try it out.
How It Plays
Get Off My Land is a game of building and expanding your farm, sometimes legally, but sometimes in ever so slightly illegal ways. Like “accidentally” breaking a fence so your neighbor’s pigs eat all their corn, or “appropriating” your neighbor’s property to expand your own farm. The goal is to have the most money at the end of the game.
There are a lot of nit-picky rules to the game, but in keeping with the theme here, we don’t need no stinkin’ rules. Or at least not all of them. So I’m just going to give you a high level overview of the game.
The game takes place over the course of a year, or twelve rounds representing twelve months. During setup, the playing area is seeded with land tiles according to the number of players. Each player has their own farmhouse and an adjacent land tile already fenced in. This is your little starting farm. Your farmhouse gives you a secret objective to aim for which, if you achieve it, will give you more money at the end of the game.
On your turn you can take two of four actions. With the exception of playing a fence card for fences, you can do your actions in any order and combination, including performing the same action twice. You can:
Log a tile. This action allows you to flip a land tile from its forested side to reveal the land beneath. You can’t log a tile if it is completely fenced in by another player. Some land tiles offer immediate rewards, like getting fence cards or money. Some also have bonuses. This may mean ongoing income from the tile, or a bonus that increases the value of a tile at harvest time or the end of the game. In order to get the bonuses, you must control the tile by completely fencing it in with your fences.
Play a fence card. When you play a fence card, you can either play it for the actions on the card, or gain the number of fences shown on the card. Actions on fence cards may let you take market cards, mature your livestock or crops, take extra harvest actions, or flip forest tiles.
They are also how you mess with your opponents. You can use them to break fences, remove cards from the market track, or put your farmer on an opponent’s market card (or remove a farmer from one of your market cards). Fence cards also depict bullet holes which are counted when trying to defend your land from hostile takeovers (i.e., an opponent attempting to fence in land which you already control).
Farmers begin in your farmhouse. If a fence card allows you to move him, you trigger special situations. When a farmer sits on a land tile with a market card that isn’t yours, you gain the income of the market card. When your farmer sits on one of your land tiles, he protects it. Others can’t break or place fences to try to take over that tile.
Go to market. The market is where you can buy lumber, livestock, crops, and equipment. When purchased, crops and livestock are immature. When you place these on a land tile you control (you can place cards on a vacant tile, or replace an existing market card with another), you must place them so the immature side is up. You can only activate/mature it when the next growth phase comes around in June, September, or January. Equipment cards are the exception. They are active when bought and placed, and exhausted if you trade them to buy fence cards.
Market cards pay income when mature. They can also be harvested for more money. They can also work against you. If, for example, livestock winds up in an area that isn’t fully fenced, it runs away and becomes immature again. If mature crops end up in the same fenced area as mature livestock, your livestock will eat them, making your crops immature. Now, you wouldn’t let your livestock loose, but your opponent might break your fence and then, oops, no more crops for you.
If you buy lumber at the market, you can place or move one of your fences, plus you get to draw two fence cards. You also get to remove the $2 card from the market board and slide the remaining cards to the left so that things become cheaper.
Harvest. You can flip a mature market card over to its immature side and earn the income shown. The card won’t become active again until the next growth phase.
At the end of a round, you must discard your fence cards down to a hand of six, if applicable, and then move the time track ahead a month. Before beginning the next round, everyone receives income for their mature/active market cards.
If it’s June, September, or January on the time track, you’ll flip any crop, livestock, and equipment cards to their mature/active sides making them available for the next round. If it’s November, you won’t harvest crops and you’ll remove all crop cards from the land tiles because things die in winter. But you’ll still get to mature your livestock and activate your equipment. The first player shifts to the left and you begin again.
That’s the basics of play. You’ll keep doing this until April rolls around on the time track. Play the final month as usual and then add up all your money. Add money from any oil strike tiles you control, any equipment you own, and your bonus from your farmhouse tile objective, if applicable. Add all of this booty to the money you collected during the game. The player with the most money wins.
A Game Worth Feudin’ Over, or Get Off My Table?
I’m going to say it right up front: Get Off My Land is a game best played among those who can appreciate (and participate in) the humor. If you don’t find hillbilly farmers and their ridiculous feuds funny, then move along right now. Why? Because Get Off My Land is an odd duck of a game. In some respects, it’s a lot of fun and in others it feels like a bit of a slog. Whether the fun or the slog wins out for you will likely come down to your appreciation of the theme.
As advertised, the game depicts a Hatfield-McCoy-esque farm feud and the components do a good job of servicing that theme. The fence cards are funny with their hillbilly farmers and steroid-laced chickens. Everything else is well done. The market cards are attractive and the market itself is a lovely, thick, two-piece board. The money is in the form of cards, not flimsy paper money. You get real wood pieces for fences and the tiles are thick and well-illustrated. From a production standpoint, the game is great.
But pretty components alone don’t make a game, so how does the game play? It’s… okay. The best part is the theme. If you’re tired of serious/complex farming games like the Key- series or Fields of Arle, or punishing farming games like Agricola, then Get Off My Land might be for you.
Get Off My Land does feel like a decent farming simulation, albeit in a twisted way. The goal is to gain the most money, and you do that by buying and growing crops/livestock and harvesting everything for money. Just like owning a real farm. In this game, though, instead of dealing with the weather or some other external event that wrecks your farm, it’s other players who wreck your farm.
You do feel like you’re feuding with the other players. The fences and fence cards let you go after your opponents, stealing their land and causing mayhem inside their carefully tended farm. Since money is the victory currency here, you’re encouraged to steal their income or do whatever you can to take away other’s income production. Of course, your opponents are going to do the same to you. Obviously, if you’re not a fan of take-that, this game isn’t going to be for you. It can get mean.
Even though defending against attacks isn’t difficult (you just have to discard 3+ bullet holes from your fence cards), it gets annoying to have to do it over and over again if other players are really targeting you. Plus, the more you have to defend, the fewer cards you have in hand to go after other players, build fences of your own, or grow your farm. To get the most out of the game, you have to be willing to fully engage in the silly feud and accept that doing so will torpedo your ability to maximize your farm (while hopefully doing the same to your opponent).
If you’re not willing to do that, you can try playing with just two players. With just two, it’s easier to stay out of each other’s way and simply build your own farm. But, frankly, this is boring and removes the point of the game. Needless to say, this isn’t a great two player game. Unless you’re willing to go out of your way to attack each other, it’s just not much fun. And even then, with just two people, the stealing and feuding is lacking in tension or choices.
Get Off My Land is a random, tactical game rather than a deep strategic game. Your farmhouse gives you an overall goal to aim for, but that’s the extent of long term strategy. Everything else you do will be dictated by the fence cards you draw, the market cards that come out, and the land tiles that are revealed when they’re logged. And you don’t know any of it beforehand.
This is a game of making the most of what you have (or what you can steal from your opponents). In the sense of the feuding theme, the randomness makes sense. After all, in a true farm feud, you don’t know when your neighbor is going to steal your pigs or whether they might settle for breaking your fence so your cows run away. You don’t know what you might want to do in retaliation until you know the extent of the damage. So it is in this game. You don’t know what sort of nefarious things your opponent is going to do, and you don’t know what you might do in return. Will you try to defend your property, or let it go for now, vowing to get revenge in some other way? Or do you try to rise above the feud and focus on building your farm the legal way?
If that sounds like something you’d enjoy, then Get Off My Land might be for you. Be aware, however, that the game ends up feeling long for what it is. Twelve rounds gets repetitive and, if you play it often, even the best jokes and twangy accents will get tired. There also isn’t a real feeling of progression or stakes as the game goes along. It’s just a back and forth of building something, getting it stolen or broken, defending, and trying again. For me, it feels like there needs to be something more to make it into a compelling game. As it is, it almost feels more like an activity than a true game.
There are other things that annoy me about the game, as well. The rulebook could use a better structure (it’s not the worst I’ve read, however). More headings and subheadings would have helped to greatly increase the understanding of the player actions, and the descriptions of fence warfare can be confusing. Some other rules are unclear and glossed over. It takes a couple of plays and some flipping back and forth to see how things fit together.
Get Off My Land is also fiddly. There’s no central board, so everything “floats” on the table. When you’ve got fences around tiles, cards sitting on tiles, and farmer meeples also on tiles, things get a little cluttered. If there’s a lot of stuff on the board and you need to move fences or flip a tile or a card, you need a steady hand to keep from knocking things askew.
This may sound like I’m coming down really hard on Get Off My Land, and I guess in some ways I am. But I don’t believe it’s a terrible game, just one that doesn’t do much to stand out, other than the theme. Everything functions and nothing is broken, but it doesn’t do enough that’s different from other farming or area control games for me to pick this one over some others. Unless I want the amusement of the theme. And even then, the jokes do start to wear thin after a while and you find yourself wishing for more.
Ultimately, I feel like Get Off My Land is targeted at a very specific audience. It shines with people who like to go after each other, who can make the jokes and scream, “Get off my land” in a twangy voice while gleefully ripping down their opponent’s fences and laughing as cows trample crops.
Families or groups looking for a take-that game with a little area control mixed in, and where the decisions aren’t difficult might enjoy this one. If you’re okay with randomness and a tactical game that forces you to make short-term plans based on what comes up in the draw and what other people do to you rather than serious long-term strategy, it might work for you.
It’s a little too long for a filler, though, so you need to be prepared to play it like a full game. This puts it in an odd place. It’s too silly and shallow to feel like a “main game,” but it feels too long for a filler. And despite the increased fun if you play it for laughs, it’s definitely not a party game.
I won’t say that it’s a great gateway game, either, which further limits the audience. The mechanics aren’t difficult to grasp, but most people who’ve never played hobby games are going to find there’s a bit too much going on here to manage without frustration. The fencing rules alone are enough to give a newbie a headache. And that’s part of the problem. It’s not great for newbies, but…
If you’re looking for a serious, strategic area control game that rewards long-term thinking and strategy, look elsewhere. The only real long term planning you’ll do here is to try to maximize your farmhouse objective. And even that won’t always go your way because so little of this game is within your control, particularly with larger groups.
My take is this: If you want a breezy, tactical, random farm feudin’ game to play with semi-experienced gamers who can get into the theme, Get Off My Land might fit the bill. But if you need something for non-gamers, or for hard core strategists, you’d better get on off to another game.
(iSlaytheDragon.com thanks Lion Rampant Imports for giving us a copy of Get Off My Land for review.)