Family Game Night: STAMPFARM

I sometimes wonder as a gamer if I was born years before my time. The most frequent trigger of this query is opening up a new-to-me family weight board game, realizing that my family wasted so much time with dumb IP based roll-and-move games. Although we did not have the vocabulary then, we know now that the games offered the players limited decisions, were completely luck based, and rarely provided the same experience for both children and parents.

While it is true that not every children’s game that comes into the Gumbo Pot fires up my interest as much as Concordia, the vast majority of the family weight games that we see now in our hobby are light years better than the sad husks featured prominently on the shelves of the local five-and-dimes way back when.

That brings me to this week’s family game: Stampfarm, designed by Walter Obert, with art by Magda Markowska, published by DV Games in 2023.

It’s for two to five players and takes only twenty minutes to play, with maybe a five minute teach to get going. Stampfarm is about as far away from the games I played in my youth as could be.

It should not be a surprise if I christen Stampfarm as the first farming and roll-and-stamp combo in my collection. That title would be a pretty limited category as a new game award, for sure. The theme of Stampfarm is simple and cute, building a happy little farm on a sheet of paper that vaguely reminds me of Harvest Dice from Grey Fox Games. There are plenty of happy little farm games out there in board gaming. But this one bears an obvious hook — players are going to roll some chunky dice, and then use little stamping doodads to mark up their sheet.

A cheap hook? I am sure you are asking yourself, what is the real difference between writing out symbols a la Harvest Dice and stamping animals in this game? Ah, but that’s exactly the point, dear reader. There is certainly a difference, especially if you are only six or seven years old.

Case in point. My two grandbugs were at the house this week, and one of them wanted to play a game. When I said we could play Stampfarm, a game about building fences to keep Sally the farmer’s animals happy, let’s just say that they were not jumping for joy. But when I said we were going to chuck some dice and then play with stampers, something changed.

(I don’t know the technical term for the doodads, and the rules just call them “stamps” which confuses the philatelist in me. Calling them ‘self-inking stampers’ would be more appropriate in my mind, but I’ll just use the term ‘stampers’ until someone educates me differently.)

But I digress. When I threw out the hook of using stampers, their eyes lit up! “Stamps, you say? That sounds wonderful!” is what my brain heard them say (although it was probably more like “sounds fun, Pop.”)

I tore each of them a separate sheet from the stack in the box, which is another nice touch. Instead of a pad of similar sheets, there is a random element to the layout of the farm, with a “hedge” laid out differently on each page. The bugs opened and played around with the included six stamps (each one able to imprint a different animal including cow, goose, hen, pig, and sheep as well as a hay bale) while I explained the rules and put the three big plastic dice on the table.

The game has two modes, simple and advanced. We started with the simple version first. We rolled the three dice, which each featured a side face bearing a different animal or hay bale. The active player (the one who rolled the dice) then chose one of the results to mark on their sheet.

My youngest wanted to go first, and she likes cows, so she immediately grabbed the green stamper and excitedly stamped an empty square in the middle of the farm. The rest of us chose one result from whatever die faces were left and did the same. We took turns rolling, and choosing, and stamping.

In the basic game, we were just doing our best to put as many similar animals next to each other to score large groups. As my youngest grandchild said, “because cows need friends.” If a particular result would not fit the farm well (solo animals score no points), the game sheet helpfully provided a tiny “barn”, where we could dump one or two unwanted animals.

Finally, the farm was filled with stamps, and it was time to count up the score. We took the largest contiguous group from each animal, and as long as the group contained at least two similar animals, scored that many points corresponding to the number of animals. (We used the hay bales results as a wild card — i.e. the bugs could pick any stamper they wanted).

I was pleased that they grasped the concept right away. It was a close game, a little too close. The base game just does not have enough variety or challenge to grant any great separation. In all the rest of our plays, we used the more advanced rules, which give more flavor for the game experience for adults but really was not that much more complicated for the kiddos.

In the advanced game, three random tiles are drawn. The three tiles represent Farmer Sally’s “requests”. Not only do we have to help the farmer get the right animals in the right spots, but now she wants specific combos. For instance, the “Berries” tile scores points for having geese next to the garden hedge, while the “Greedy” request is looking for pigs adjacent to hay bales.

At least for our family, the advanced game is the way to play the game. The intro game is just too simple to have fun as an adult, but throwing in the three tiles makes it more challenging for the adult, even while keeping it just light enough for kids to enjoy.

Even though there is text on the cards that explains how each request works, and the back of the rule book has further and helpful advice, the cards have very easily understood pictographs showing us how each tile really works. The pictorial explanations on the tiles were easy enough for all of them to get it right away.

I wish my grand-daughter’s favorite cow stamper had ink that was just a little bit darker. Without a good push, it is hard to see the cows compared to the brightness of the other animals. I do like the fact that the hedges are randomized, and the box is nice and compact and perfect for little kids hands to handle.

Here at the Family Game Night section of the Gumbo, we look for games that are appropriate to play with the littlest ones and games that are fun for middle schoolers, too. Unfortunately, Stampfarm is probably too light to be interesting to families with older games. Instead, grab Harvest Dice if you like the farming theme or Silver & Gold if you want a little more challenge in your randowriter. But for the younger set, the components and the game play in Stampfarm have served us well.

We stamped and we stamped and we stamped some more. Stampfarm was definitely a hit with the kids, and honestly, it was fun for me too because I challenged myself to meet all of those objectives as best as I could. I liked the fact that we could play for our highest score and compete, or just latch onto collecting a certain animal. Kids want to win, of course, but sometimes a win is just collecting the biggest group of animal ‘friends’ you can find. Sometimes the dice are not friendly, and playing to the Sally’s Requests is the better strategy. Stampfarm is a simple game, but from a kid’s perspective, there is some depth to plumb. I can definitely recommend Stampfarm to those families with younger gamers looking for their first roll and write.

Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

— BJ

A complimentary copy of the game was provided by the publisher.

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