Finca was up for the Spiel des Jarhes in the same year that a little card game named Dominion was nominated, so you can forgive them that they didn’t walk away with the top prize. Regardless, Finca is a super fun and simple family game that would be a perfect choice for a gateway game. The rules are very easy, the components are beautiful and it’s got enough randomness to keep it interesting.
In Finca you play farmers working the land to produce fruit crops for the many different island communities that you serve. Each turn you have a choice of collecting fruits or delivering them. Finca uses a roundel to produce fruits. At the start of the game your farmers will be placed on the roundel windmill, with different fruits represented on the blades. When you choose to collect fruit you’ll move one of your farmers from one blade to another. They will move the amount of spaces as there are farmers of any colour on the originating space. When they arrive at their destination they will receive fruits of the type that they land on. They will get as many fruit as there are farmers on the new space. Planning your moves out carefully can lead to a windfall of fruits to be delivered later. There are also two donkey lines at the halfway point of the windmill. Every time you cross that line you can pick up a donkey cart token. In future turns if you decide to deliver fruit across the island you will need to cash in this token. Each donkey can deliver six fruit, but you can spread that out to whatever community you want.
It is possible for players to have monopolies on the different fruits and even the donkey tokens, but there is a built in punishment if someone has taken to hoarding. If a player is ever unable to pick up all the fruit they’re entitled to on a turn then everyone has to put all of their fruit of that type back in the pool before the active player can grab their spoils for the round. The same rule applies to donkey cart tokens. Having a lot of supplies can be good…but dangerous.
Each of the ten island communities will have demand for four different deliveries of fruit. They take the form of tokens piled up on the island space displaying the type of fruit and quantity that they’re looking for. Once the delivery is made the player can claim the demand token for the amount of points displayed. This reveals the next token down and creates a new demand for that community. If all the demand tokens have been claimed for a community two things happen. First a bonus token is awarded worth five points. Whoever has delivered the most fruit of whatever type is represented by the bonus token in that region of the island gets the five points. Then a Finca (farmhouse) is placed on the now empty community. These act as a time limit on the game. Once all the Fincas are out on the board the game is over and you total up your points.
Players will start with four bonus tokens that can change the rules of the game for a turn or be cashed in at the end of the game for two points each. One allows you to deliver for one fruit less, one will allow you to move twice on the windmill and another to any place on the windmill. The last forces your poor donkey to deliver ten fruits on a turn, all are moves that can jump you ahead in a tight game.
Finca is not a heavy game, but that’s its charm really. The light theme and easy accessibility make it a perfect candidate if you’re looking for a new way to get people into the hobby. I can’t think of another game that introduces the rondel mechanic in such a clear way and the beautiful board and bits will attract players of all ages. Despite its SDJ nomination I rarely see a lot of love out there for Finca. Give it a shot next time you get a chance. You may find it your new go-to gateway game.