Having grown up on a farm myself, I was curious to see how Gamewright and game designer Casey Grove (himself a farmer) turned the harvest into a game. The concept of collecting produce in competition works well, and it is taken to new heights with the ability to impede the competition with attacks. Cards carry agrarian titles like “Bumper Crop” and “Troublesome Weeds”, and a few are named with Gamewright’s cartoony touch that gives unique flavor to their games, such as “Remote Control Mole” and “Hey, Look! It’s a Flying Hippo!”
The Big Fat Tomato Game is reminiscent of an earlier game, Gubs, in which players weigh luck and skill to have the most points. In Gubs, scores were gained by drawing and keeping certain cards. TBFTG proves less complex with its scoring from rolled dice rather than the debate of points versus powers. Still, this new game holds the back-and-forth play and cleverness of Gubs as well as constant calculations and recalculations based on a variety of statistical outcomes.
In The Big Fat Tomato Game, each player gets a bucket and five cards. The learning curve is fairly steep with six steps, two optional steps, and Star cards that may be played at any time. During a turn, a player draws, plays Green Thumb cards such as “Fence” or “Hot Pepper Spray” that defend the garden, rolls to see how many of his or her tomatoes are stolen by varmints in the garden played by opponents, rolls two six-sided dice to see how many tomatoes are harvested into the player’s bucket, and plays attack cards such as “Dang Varmints” or “Hungry Hornworms” on opponents. Optionally, players may play “Blue Ribbon Cards” that give bonuses or empty their bucket into the “stockpile” that is added up at the end of the game. Whomever has the most tomatoes (portrayed in the game by fuzzy red dots) in his or her stockpile wins, but buckets must have twenty or more tomatoes to empty, otherwise they all are tossed out. This mechanic gives characters raw luck at rolling dice to get their tomato crop, but they must make their own decisions about when to dump, always keeping track of how many tomatoes they have in their buckets at a time.
It takes a few rounds to get the hang of turn order, but, after that, players will be experts and the game will move very quickly. The Big Fat Tomato Game has plenty of luck involved with both drawing cards and rolling dice. On the other hand, the possible cards are numbered in the instructions, showing players the odds of what opponents might have in their hands. Certain defensive cards cancel out attacks, so players need to be aware of what is possible. The end of the game, too, is uncertain as the “Market Time” card is shuffled into the bottom of the deck, giving an exciting crescendo of stress as players know the end is soon but now how soon. It makes the question of “Is the gamble worth it?” constantly float in the mind.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Big Fat Tomato Game, which is recommended for two to five players ages 10 and up, and taking about 20 minutes to play. It carries a similar sense of logical calculation as Gubs, but taken down a notch. The attacks and defenses make for great interactivity, and it always seems that just the right card comes up at just the right time to leave the whole table in fits of laughter.