The “Big” FLABS Reveal

Post by: Grant Rodiek

For the two of you who were curious about my vague design known as FLABS, it’s time for my big reveal. That seems hyperbolic…

FLABS is an abbreviation of Farmageddon LabsFarmageddon Labs is an entirely new, standalone game that exists within the Farmageddon universe. I really like Farmageddon as a setting. It makes me smile and it has ever since Brett showed me his first sketch for Sluggo Corn. It’s silly, over the top, colorful, and family friendly. I think there are a million things I can do with this setting. As long as I create within it carefully and respectfully, I think people will be fine with a return to the dusty plains of Sluggo.

I’m working on the game with help from Phil Kilcrease of 5th Street Games. I would very much like this to be the first game I fully publish myself. But, if that’s not meant to be (i.e. I lack the courage to do so), I’ll try to find a publishing home for it.

Farmageddon Labs is a prequel to the card game that’s out now. It is designed around the question: Who created the crops? Why are they like that? What bizarre science created that situation?

With those questions driving and focusing my design, I also set out to meet the following goals:

  • Low price point. Farmageddon is a $15 game. I don’t think people will adjust well to a $50 Farmageddon, and really, that doesn’t interest me much regardless. $25 or less is my target and I’m currently within that realm. Under that, actually.
  • Fast play experience. I’m targeting a 45 minute or less game. Unlike the original Farmageddon, which can have a complex, order of operations, mutli-action turn phase, Labs is take one action and go.
  • No take that. Farmageddon has lots of this, so I don’t think the next one needs it. My hope is two-fold: Give existing Farmageddon fans a completely new experience and bring in new fans who may have been turned off by the first Farmageddon. 
  • A very clean, elegant experience. I’ve been working towards this with all my games with mixed success. I seek to make this a more systematic game, not one involving card text and tricky actions to balance. Whereas the original Farmageddon was more on the Ameritrashy side, this one will be more on the Euro side.
  • Tactile and toy-like. This is my new favorite focus and Labs fits within it.

Overall, Farmageddon Labs is aimed at being a very accessible, broad appeal, simple, deep experience that matches games like Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan. NO, I’m not saying this game is as good as those. That’s silly. But, that’s the space to which I want my games to belong. I’m targeting those customers.

I’m not fully ready to reveal all the mechanics and elements yet, as I don’t want to look too stupid when they don’t work. My hope is to bring a functioning prototype to GenCon for testing and feedback. Then, ship some prototypes to existing Farmageddon fans for blind testing. This won’t be an easy game to print and play.

The game has already gone through three major revisions. For iteration 1, I spent 3 hours on the phone brainstorming with a good design friend of mine. The game that emerged was neat, had some cool elements, but was overall very derivative.

After it went through the gauntlet of 2 or 3 peer reviews, one friend told me I could do something more interesting than the cards I had.

I thought about it, threw a lot of it away, and moved with my second iteration. This is where I had a great “a ha!” moment that is the basis of every iteration since.  After more peer review and more thinking, I paired this with a second mechanic to fully flesh out the game.

Typically, I’d prototype before this point, but the game has an uncommon component that isn’t the easiest to build. I also wanted to put a lot of thought into it. I’ve found lately that if I personally rush too quickly to testing I don’t arrive at some of my best designs.

Here are some of the elements, at a high level, the game will have:

  • Players take 1 of 3 actions on their turn. All actions affect a central board…of sorts. 
  • There is chit pulling to update the board.
  • The game steps slightly outside my comfort zone and features no cards
  • …but not too far as there are multi-use components.
  • Very strong spatial components. Two, actually.
  • Hidden scoring goals.
  • The rules are a mere 2 pages (plus another 1 or 2 to list content).
  • Players are all scientists.

I’m pretty excited about Farmageddon Labs. I’ll be sharing the rules with some folks for early input and I’ll be building the prototypes to begin testing. Stay tuned!

9 thoughts on “The “Big” FLABS Reveal

  1. Just thought I’d leave a note for you to be mindful of your branding of Farmageddon. People will naturally assume that any new Farmegeddon game will have a similar feel to the original, but I get the impression that is not the case with ‘Labs. I also worry that fighting food might not be the best theme for a tight Euro.

    So I’m just saying that it might be a good idea to reevaluate your new game now and really think about what theme and title will give it the best chance out in the real world.

    Good luck with it!

    • Excellent points! The game isn’t (and won’t be) a tight Euro. I meant to state it’ll be more along that axis.

      The reason I think it’ll be a good fit for Farmageddon is that:
      -It’ll be based on weird, fictional science pertaining to agriculture
      -It’ll be a light game meant for more casual gamers and lunch gamers
      -It’ll have a similar art/presentation style
      -It’ll have a similar price point
      -It’ll be based on taking actions that manipulate and change the state of the game.

      You’re absolutely right in that it might very well not be a good “Farmageddon” game. At this point it is my hope and intent to make it so, but if the game doesn’t fit, if the brand doesn’t fit, any of that, I’ll absolutely change directions and get a new name.

      The game has a long life ahead of it for testing. It’s so far away from art production, publication, and marketing, that I don’t want to get too stuck on things like this for now. You bring up a great point and it’ll absolute be considered, but I don’t want to get too stuck on it at this early stage. For now, it has to be an awesome game. If it works as an awesome Farmageddon game? Sweet. If not? There’s always more tomatoes in the sea, as they say.

  2. Fair enough. Choose a lighthouse for guidance, but the port once you’re there.

    BTW, caught your bit with On Board Games. You shares some good stuff.

    • That is a fantastic phrase! I’m going to steal that. By the way, you aren’t the only person who has brought this up, so it’s definitely in my mind. I joked earlier I should just call it Pharmageddon.

      Thanks for the thoughts on the podcast. It was really fun to do. You can see links to all the podcasts/interviews I’ve given at the bottom of my about page if you’re interested.

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  5. If you want to keep it in the same universe but differentiate it from Farmageddon you could call it Sluggo Labs (or similar). Those who have played Farmageddon will get the reference but hopefully it won’t be so close as to make people think gameplay is along the same lines.

    Good luck with it’s development!

    • Thanks Shoji! I’m actually leaning away from keeping it in the Farmageddon universe. More and more that seems to be a bit of a stretch.

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