Barnyard Round Up: Preview

Put your chickens in the coop, herd your sheep, and round up your cattle. Fairway previews Druid City Games’s Barnyard Roundup, a no-frills, bluffing game for families and gamers. Barnyard Round is headed for Kickstarter on July 15th, 2016. See whether city-slicker Fairway can bluff his way onto the farm.

Initial Impressions ^

  • The art is downright adorable.
  • The game is playable even for kids who can’t read yet.
  • There is a high level of wild guessing in the bluffing mechanic, but no shortage of fun in it.
  • There is a lot of fun dishing up crows to your foes.

Game Play ^

Barnyard Roundup is a straightforward bluffing game for 2-6 players. The game is played over a series of turns in which one player tries to bluff his way into a valuable collection of animals.

Each player is dealt a hand of cards. Each card represents one of five barnyard animals or a crow. The barnyard animals have points that range from 1 to 5.  The crows are worth negative 5 points. On a turn, a player plays some number of matching cards from their hand face-down to another player and then announces the type of animal on the face of the card.  For example, “Owen, these are three cows.”

In response, the other player then tries to determine whether the player is telling the truth or bluffing.  If the other player guesses correctly, they keep the cards. If they guess incorrectly, the player who played them keeps the cards. The crow cards are treated the same way except that the player must bluff – you cannot announce that the face-down cards are “crows.”

The game also includes tokens that interject a bit of variance: the scarecrow, the pardon me, and the robber token. Each player starts with one from the random set and can be played when appropriate. For example, if you’re sure that a player is telling the truth or bluffing, you might play your “pardon me” token for an opportunity to steal the points from another player. If you know someone has a bunch of cow cards, you might play the “robber” token and take those cards from the player’s hand. The scarecrow when revealed will (get this) scare crows in your field to the other players.

On the green ^

The cute art style really shines through in this game.  My kid players reacted very well to it and it has the right cartoony appeal.

The game is eminently teachable to, and playable by, pretty young game players. More than one of the kids who played it could not read yet, but had no trouble playing the game. While not core to the game play, those same kids were doing the math to track their scores.

Barnyard Roundup does the kid-friendly, bluffing game better than others like Fibber (a game that I will never play again and has no redeeming value).

The game also plays pretty quickly too. Some players did take longer to decide whether a play was a bluff. However, if you have less than four players, I think it makes sense to remove more cards than the prototype rules suggested.

Where it comes up short ^

The game is straight forward, but not without some things that may bother more experienced gamers.

Random guessing. There’s no shortage of just out-and-out random guessing. Especially early in the game where the deck of cards is too large to estimate the frequency, whether someone is bluffing or telling the truth is more or less an attempt to read visual cues. As a father, this was to my advantage. The kids were amazed at how often I guessed they were bluffing.

Among a group of adult gamers, this probably won’t stay fun for long. In a world of blind-bidding or auction games like Vault Wars that hide some, but not all information, this fact might be a turn off adult gamers.

Eating crow.  Everyone liked sticking other players with the crows. But there is a huge unfairness reaction by the recipient whose only mistake was guessing wrong. A pair of crows can wipe out a player’s score.  The only “relief” from these is in the form of a bonus token for getting 3 crows (-15 points) or a random pull of a scarecrow.

One fix to this that seemed to work was, instead of -5 points, using the crows to return the lowest valued animal from your farm.  The crows were still kept and used to collect tokens for sets of three.  When we played this way, it caused a couple things to happen: players eagerly added low valuable animals (like chickens) to their farms to protect their more valuable animals (like pigs and cows), and players played them sooner and in smaller quantities so that the other players weren’t able to build those defenses.

We also tried other bluffing techniques like always placing one card face up on a stack. The targeted player then guessed whether the face down cards matched the top card. This mostly worked. Players would pair tempting top cards with the bad cards underneath which took some of the sting out of getting a bunch of crows.

Downtime.  In the higher player count plays, even with kids, it was possible for a player to essentially get frozen out during most hands because they weren’t “picked.”  If you’re too good at guessing the bluffing/truth-telling, no one plays to you. This means that you watch everyone else play until your one turn.

The “pardon me” token somewhat corrects for this, but tokens are rare enough that it wasn’t a huge relief to that player. One possible fix for this issue is that in games with more than 4 players, if someone goes a whole round without getting a hand offered to them, they collect a token. Since tokens are fun and valuable, players were forced to interact with everyone in those games.

In the hole ^

Barnyard Roundup is a family-friendly, kid-playable, bluffing game. It’s exactly what you’d expect and exactly what it says it is. The simple mechanics and cute, colorful art meant that kids picked it up easily and wanted to play it again. The addition of tokens introduces other familiar game play mechanics (e.g., robber is like Go Fish).

Barnyard Round is in the hole for a par. ^

Note: Fairway was sent a prototype copy of Barnyard Roundup for free. He was not otherwise compensated for this preview.

This preview was originally featured on The Inquisitive Meeple.

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