Farming simulation crops up often in Euro-style board games. Set in Majorca’s sleepy countryside, is La Granja the calmer, less angst-driven answer to Agricola? YouTuber ‘Rahdo Runs Through’ thinks so. He calls La Granja “the design love-child between Uwe Rosenberg and Stefan Feld”. Michael Keller and Andreas Odendahl’s masterpiece is for 1-4 players and plays in about two hours.
Your animals breed, you grow produce, and turn them into delicious food. There’s a market for you sell said wares in an area control fashion. You’ll tuck multi-use cards underneath your farm board. These offer a shed-load (or barn-load?) of engine-building options. You draft dice and jostle for turn order. A mish-mash of mechanisms? Yes. But in a wonderful medley, they all stitch together like peas in a pod.
It also plays solo, which is extra appealing right now for us locked down amid COVID-19. Intrigued? Let’s plough on and learn how to play La Granja!
Set Up And Components
Place the main player board on the table, and give everyone a ‘farm’ player board. It’s an odd shape, like a rectangle with bits cut out of it. Pick a player colour. Each player gets 25 player markers (octahedrons, if you want to get your geometrical geek on!). There are no specific resource tokens here. Instead, these octahedrons represent the produce of the area in which they sit.
Each player starts with one marker sitting in their Trade Commodity space. (The octagon in the off-middle spot on their farm.) The remaining 24 make up their pool. Players also get four donkey tiles, one victory point (VP) chit, and one silver coin. Deal each player four Farm Cards.
Sort the roof tiles by round number (1-6). Place them face-down in their spot on the main board, in the bottom-left. Turn the roof tiles for round one face-up. Also place the matching craft tiles on the main board. There are six, one for each of the six craft buildings at the marketplace. Place one VP chit on each grey space next to these buildings, too.
Each craft building has a die face next to it, 1-6. Roll a die and put Building Order tile 1 on the matching building number. Put an extra VP chit here, too. Roll another die getting a different number, and put Building Order tile 2 and a VP chit there. Do the same for Building Order tile 3.
Pick a start player. I always use the smartphone app, Chwazi! Give the players their appropriate Turn Order markers. The first player puts a player marker in the central hexagonal market space on the main board. (In the central-most market space numbered ‘2’). The second player puts theirs in the one opposite marked ‘3’. Third puts theirs in the nearby ‘4’, and fourth puts theirs in the ‘5’. Players also put their coloured disc on the Siesta track, in turn order. Keep the dice, silver and VP chits close – you’ll need them throughout!
So, How Do you Win La Granja?
The aim of La Granja is to earn the most points over six rounds. Players do this by completing individual orders, an option via the Farm Cards. There’s also public orders to complete – the six buildings surrounding the marketplace.
Over the six rounds, players aim to grow, buy or breed the resources needed to complete these orders. Some are regular harvest goods (grapes, grain, olives or pigs). Others demand upgraded goods (wine, stew and pork, respectively). La Granja offers a lot of flexibility in how players can go about doing this. There’s many ways to skin this particular cat…
The six rounds in La Granja have the same structure; they’re split into various steps. Up front, I’ll mention there are some actions players can take at any time. These can become the vital go-between towards fulfilling those all-important orders. I’ll explain them later on, when they have greater context! First, let’s talk about my favourite part of La Granja – the Farm Cards…
The Farm Phase - Farm Cards
Rounds begin with the Farm Phase. Players pick one of their Farm Cards to play. (For the first round only, players get to instead play two Farm Cards in this phase.) Farm Cards have four possible uses, and each Farm Card is unique. This means no two farms will look alike! These cards represent your farm expanding. This is the ‘engine-building’ aspect of the La Granja. You can opt to tuck the card partially under your player board, to the left, right, top or bottom.
If you tuck a card under at the top, you slip it under one of the three slots. (You always place the card portrait, regardless of where you tuck it.) This counts as a ‘Market Barrow’. This is a specific, personal order of resources you can sell at the market. You can grow or breed these goods on your farm. You can store up to three barrows at once.
At the bottom, there’s also three sections for you to tuck cards. There’s text on each card; this becomes a ‘special helper’ on your farm, when placed here. Some are passive, ongoing abilities, while others kick in at certain phases. Again, you can hold, at most, three special workers here.
Tucked to the left, a Farm Card becomes a field. It will either be a grape, grain or olive field. There’s no limit at to how many fields you can have. Tucked to the right, a Farm Card becomes a farm ‘extension’. These always line up to the icons on the right, and they’ll either offer:
- A bigger hand limit
- More chances to pay silver to make deliveries
- Extra round income
- Extra space to house pigs
Barrows, helpers and fields are free to place under your board. But if you place a farm extension, it costs you, and these grow in cost, the more you place.
Once placed in one of the four spots, none of the other icons or text on the card are visible, any more. Which of the four is most useful to you right now?
The Farm Phase - Income, Growth, Piglets and Rooves
Once everyone’s placed a Farm Card, they draw back up to their hand size. Now players get income (the blue space, on the right of your farm board). By default it’s zero silver, unless you placed an extension card that provides some. Then, each empty field you have (if you picked a Farm Card as a field) provides one resource. Place one of your player markers from your pool in the octagon shape on the field card.
Next, check if you have two pigs. These are also player markers, sitting on your pig pen, in the bottom-right of your board. If so, then those two piggies do a happy hog dance (this is a family show) and make a baby pig. Note: this only applies if you’ve placed an extension that provides extra pig pen space. If not, then you’ve no room for piglets!
Last of all, players have the opportunity to buy a roof tile. (You placed some face-up, during set-up.) Usually, this occurs in turn order. But in the first round only, this happens in reverse-turn order. The tile’s price equates to the round number (so they cost one silver in round one, two silver in round two, and so on). Tiles provide a one-time benefit that players can cash in at any time. You’ll place them on your farmhouse, and the more you cover, the more points you can earn.
The Revenue Phase - Roll Them Dice
Now it’s time to roll and then draft dice! Take twice as many dice as there are players, and add one. (So, say, nine dice for a 4-player game.) Roll and place the results in the corresponding spaces on the left-hand side of the main board. In turn order, players pick one of the dice and execute the matching action. Everyone will do this twice. One die should remain, and everyone gets to do this action (in turn order). The six options are:
- 1) Add a player marker to an empty spot in your pig pen
- 2) Place an extra Farm Card under your board / Draw a Farm Card / Add a player marker to either your grape, grain or olive den
- 3) Add two player markers to two different dens
- 4) Take four silver
- 5) Upgrade two resources for free (such as a pig into pork or grapes into wine) / Upgrade one, and advance on the Siesta Track / Advance twice on the Siesta Track
- 6) Carry out one delivery (move one matching good from your farm to a Market Barrow, or a craft building) / Take two silver
The Transportation Phase - Donkeys & Siestas
Next, simultaneous and in secret, each player picks one of their four donkey tiles. These have a combination of deliveries and siesta (hat) icons on them. The delivery icons equal how many times that player can carry out deliveries. The siesta icons equal how many spaces the player moves up the Siesta Track.
In the second round, the previously chosen donkey tile is not available to pick. Likewise, in the third round, the two previously picked donkey tiles are unavailable. All donkey tiles are available again in round four. Previously picked donkeys being unavailable re-occurs for rounds five and six.
Flip all donkey markers over, and in turn order, move player discs up the Siesta Track, when necessary. Discs can stack. The player furthest up this track now becomes first player. Discs on top of others are considered ahead in turn order. The turn order markers exchange hands.
The Transportation Phase - Deliveries To Craft Buildings
The new first player can now make as many deliveries as stated on their donkey tile. At the start of the game, players can deliver goods to three of the six craft buildings. (Remember you placed three Building Order tiles on the other three at random? These three start as blocked for now, but the other three are available.)
Players aim to complete a single row of deliveries in each of the craft buildings. Players can achieve this over multiple rounds; orders don’t have to be completed all at once. Nor do they have to focus only on one craft building at a time. If they complete one (covering every icon in a row in one craft building), they earn VPs equal to the round number. So they’ll earn, say, three points if completed in round three.
They’ll then remove their player markers from that craft building. Then they’ll place one player marker on the grey space next to said craft building. They now cannot repeat this order. If they were the first player to achieve an order at this craft building, they earn the VP chit placed there during set-up. As soon as someone completes a craft building order, this unlocks the first blocked craft building. The player to achieve this also earns the VP chit on the grey space next to the now-available craft building.
Any player to complete a craft building order receives a corresponding craft marker. It sits on their farm board. These provide an instant reward, as well as ongoing benefits, being one of:
- Gain three extra silver income in the Farm Phase
- Providing a +1 to both siesta and delivery icons on any chosen donkey tiles
- Gain a trade commodity during income in the Farm Phase (more about trade commodities in a bit!)
- Gain any one resource – grapes, grain, olives or a pig – during income in the Farm Phase
- Earn +2 extra VPs for every future building order you complete
- Earn +1 extra VP for every future Market Barrow order you complete
The Transportation Phase - Deliveries To Market Barrows
Players can also make deliveries to their own private Market Barrows. Again, players can complete these orders over the course of a few rounds. Nor do they have to focus on one barrow at a time, if they have more than one.
When a player completes a barrow order, they’ll earn VPs equal to the number stated on the card (2-6 VPs). The higher the number, the tougher (in theory) it is to complete. The player gains one trade commodity. They also place one of their player markers into the marketplace. It goes on a stall number that matches the barrow value. Any opponent markers at adjacent stalls with lower numbers than this get removed. The player earns one VP per marker they remove in this manner. Player markers on the Market Barrow cards return to the pool and the card gets discarded.
Remember those extensions to the right of your player board? Some of them provide opportunities to make extra deliveries, one silver per delivery. It might sound expensive, but it could be the missing piece of the jigsaw that nets you the mega-combo move! These extra moves occur in turn order, and after players have completed their regular deliveries.
End Of Round Scoring
Deliveries mark the end of the round. Afterwards, you do a spot of end-of-round scoring. Players earn one VP for each player marker they have present in the marketplace. (This doesn’t include markers in the grey spaces next to craft buildings.) If players have advanced beyond thresholds on the Siesta Track, they also receive VP chit(s). Then all the discs return back to the start of the Siesta Track. They stack in turn order. New roof tiles for the next round replace any previous ones, and you go back to the Farm Phase…
What about those anytime actions?
Earlier I mentioned there are some actions that players can take at any time, during any phase. I haven’t forgotten! But now you know the guts of La Granja, these bonus actions have stronger gravitas. First of all, trade commodities. They’re rather powerful and can get you out of a sticky corner. You can return one trade commodity to your pool and swap them for any one of the following:
- Four silver
- Gain any two different goods (grapes, grain or olives)
- Play an extra Farm Card / Draw an extra Farm Card
- Gain a pig
- Upgrade two resources for free
That last one is important to note. Another ‘any time’ action is upgrading goods, from either fields or dens. However, it usually has a cost (in silver) to do this. These costs are all marked on your farm board. It’ll be crucial at some point to upgrade goods, because many orders have at least one upgraded resource.
You can also buy resources to place in the dens. Pigs cost five silver, for example. You can sell goods, too. You don’t earn quite as much when selling (a pig earns you three silver, as a comparison). But you can trade multiple times, so you could sell, say, a pig to then afford grapes. (Note that you can’t sell goods in fields; you can only upgrade or deliver them.)
It’s worth noting that at the end of the game, any remaining standard goods you have left get traded into silver. You’ll then earn extra points at a ratio of 5:1, coins-to-points. At the end of six rounds, whoever has the most points wins La Granja!