Full disclosure: A review copy of Barnyard was provided by BGB Publishing.
I’m very excited that more companies are doing wallet games. Like, don’t get me wrong; I love Button Shy, but seeing even more activity in the space is pretty much always a good thing! Concrete Canoe Games was making some wallet-sized games a few years ago, and now we’ve got even more to look forward to! I like seeing how people think within the restrictive space of 18-or-so cards, and it’s always very exciting. But let’s see what’s going on with Barnyard!
In Barnyard, you’re trying to collect the most entertaining and wonderful farm animals that you can! Half of them are covered in mud, but you don’t care; you’re a farmer! You’re used to that kind of thing! Narrative! That said, not every animal is friends with every other animal, so you need to be mindful of how various animals interact if you want to be successful. You want to to better than harmony; can you achieve farm-ony?
This part’s pretty easy. Shuffle the eighteen Animal Cards:
Make a deck of them, barn-side up. Flip five of them to the Corral side, and place them in a column above the deck. Place one card, barn-side up, to the right of the deck. If you’re playing with Farmers, deal each player a Farmer, face-down:
You should be ready to start!
So, Barnyard is a pretty simple drafting game. Your goal is to build the best 3×3 corral by taking various animals and placing them so that you can score points based on their various traits and bonuses. Let’s talk about how to do that. The game takes place over a series of turns, each consisting of three steps.
Activate Barn Animal
To start a turn, activate one of the Barn Animals’ abilities. These usually influence the line of animals in some way. You must do as much of the ability as you can.
Move Barn Animal to Back of Line
Once you’ve resolved the ability, flip the Animal to its Corral side and place it in the back of the line. If there are no longer two cards that are Barn-side up, take the top card of the deck and place it next to the deck.
Now, take the animal from the front of the line and place it in your Corral! You can place it anywhere such that you can still eventually have a 3×3 grid, but keep in mind that your placement may make it so that you can’t place subsequent animals adjacent to it, depending on how your previous placements have been. You do not have to place cards adjacent to other cards if you don’t want to.
After doing this, the next player takes their turn. Note that eventually, the Barn will run out of cards, at which time players will simply take turns Corralling an Animal until the game ends.
End of Game
Once both players have a 3×3 corral, the game’s over! Activate any “End of Game” abilities, then total up your points (including your Farmer Cards, if applicable) and the player with more points wins!
Player Count Differences
None! It’s a two-player game.
- If you’re using Farmer Powers, don’t necessarily overindex on them. You’ll probably top out at 4 points on a Farmer Power unless you get a specific one and you get extremely lucky. As a result, don’t necessarily stress yourself out trying to make sure you crush it.
- Keep an eye on what your opponent is taking. Your opponent might be trying to set up a combo or telegraphing what their Farmer Power is, if you’re paying attention. You might be able to stop it, costing them points or giving them animals that end up causing them to lose points (depending on other animals). Especially towards the end of the game, when the Barn Powers are no longer around, setting up the line to benefit yourself or hurt your opponent can be pretty entertaining.
- You can be pretty well-served by using Barn powers to keep animals that your opponent wants away from them, but be sure to remember to score points for yourself, as well. I usually will mess with the line order if I can tell my opponent wants something specific and I’m okay taking the front of the line (or messing with the front of the line will also mess with them). Don’t spend so much time messing with your opponent that you fall behind on scoring! Even though this is a two-player game, you should still prioritize your own Corral.
- Think about adjacencies. A lot of the cards focus on nearby adjacency, so you should plan ahead if you really want to capitalize on their points and their strengths. Either way, don’t just throw cards into your Corral without thinking.
- It’s not always the worst thing to take an animal that starts worth 5 and gradually loses points. Honestly, you might just never lose any points! Even if you do, losing a point or two isn’t that big of a deal, given that most cards generally cap out at earning 3 points, maximum, if you’re lucky. If you manage to get the whole 5, you’re in even better shape.
- You can also make a few specific animals or combinations of animals work for you. The Cat nicely combines with any singular high-scoring animal, since it just duplicates that animal’s point value. It’s a very nice addition to the Corral of players trying to go deep with a couple valuable animals, rather than trying to make sure all their animals earn a couple points. Look for synergies like that.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I do enjoy a cute game, and the animals in here are pretty cute. The art style is a bit simple, which is interesting, but the animals are cute, fun farm animals. I appreciate that there are a lot of games appealing to animal lovers.
- Like I said earlier, I’m always happy to see more wallet games; it’s a genre I quite like. I just think that the constraint tends to breed some pretty cool innovations in the space. I always love to see what’s coming out next and how they use the limited number of cards to their advantage.
- Very portable, which I appreciate. I do love the portability of wallet games; they’re some of my favorite things to keep in a backpack. Then I always have a game or two handy! Then again, I also have Board Game Arena on my phone, but that’s a different conversation.
- Also pretty easy to learn! There’s some difficulty with the icons, granted, but beyond that, it’s just taking a card and then your opponent taking a card. Pretty easy to figure out.
- I like that the various Farmer abilities give you different things to focus on each game. That’s a nice way to keep things interesting, especially with so few cards.
- While keeping the wallet size constrained is always a good idea, I would have liked if the power clarifications were in the rules, rather than a thing I had to go find online. There aren’t that many rules, and keeping them online is one thing; keeping them in a PDF that we have to download to read the rules (and labeling it “Appendix” rather than, say, “Ability Clarifications / Examples” or something descriptive) just left us more confused. I’d say a quick reference of what different symbols mean would go a long way.
- Once the Barn Powers run out, the draft is a bit underwhelming. You just kind of take the cards that are left, which is usually the last third or so of your Corral. I would have liked to have seen a few more options left to keep that interesting; it felt a bit incomplete when we played.
- There are a few spots where I feel like just using text instead of iconography would have made the cards easier to understand. I think I understand why they went for having the “swap” symbol be between the two things getting swapped, but honestly, “Swap ___ with ____” would still fit on the card and make just as much sense. I think this kind of dovetails with the Meh above, since we found the iconography confusing, went to the rulebook to sort it out, and then had to go online and download a PDF and read through that to get the answer we needed. Sort of slowed down the pace of the game pretty aggressively. For a wallet game, I think text can often be more useful than icons, since it makes learning that first game go a bit faster when you don’t have to try and decipher icons.
Overall: 6.25 / 10
Overall, I think Barnyard is fun, though I’d love to see a bit more complexity from it. As it stands, it’s a fairly-simple card drafting game, and while that’s not bad at all, it’s tough for a game to stand out, even in a field as small as wallet games. Barnyard does what it’s trying to do pretty well, though, which makes it a solid title for teaching folks drafting games or playing a quick and portable card game. It could stand a second pass on readability, I think; it can be difficult, from a first game, to get a clear sense of how the iconography matches up to how cards move or score, and it’s a bit frustrating to see that the relevant information on that has been moved online, rather than in the rulebook. A few examples would clear things up (as I found, reading the online versions). But beyond that, I’ve enjoyed my plays of Barnyard. It’s cute, it’s quick, and I always enjoy a bit of spatial reasoning when I’m going to play something. If you’re looking for that, or you just enjoy a game with cute animals, you might enjoy Barnyard, too!
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