Designer: Keisha & Anastasia Swanlund
Publisher: Fantasy Board Games LLC
2 – 4 players 15 – 75 minutes ages 5+
You started when you were young. Riding the trails, corralling horses through the wilderness, guiding them through shows and into camp to add to your herd.
Next, you bought a barn and a small patch of land – just enough for a few horses. Can you make your ranch into the talk of the town? With a lot of hard work and planning (and a little luck), folks will flock from miles away to admire the ranch and the beautiful show horses you’ve raised.
Fantasy Ranch is a collection of six horse-themed games enjoyable by a wonderfully wide range of players, whether you’re a greenhorn or a grizzled ranch hand.
The production quality of Fantasy Ranch is top-notch. There is a double-sided main board along with dice and tokens. There are also six double-sided ranch boards. Each player receives a player aid/ranch mat with photos from an actual horse ranch.
Two elements will most likely produce oohs and ahhs when revealed: the horse cards and horse figures.
There are 57 small wooden horse figures in five different colors and patterns. They are ridiculously charming.
The 57 horse cards, each feature a lovely photograph and game icons representing the horse’s abilities and talents.
All these elements combine to create a beautiful tableau as the game unfolds. Don’t be surprised if someone stops the game to take a pic or two of their ranch.
There are two basic game modes: Trail Ride and Fantasy Ranch. Each of these modes has a beginner, intermediate, and advanced set of rules, each one building intuitively on knowledge and experience from the prior.
Trail Ride has a roll-and-move mechanism at its core. You will move along paths to reach a camp space at the end. However, the goal of the game is to collect horses that will increase your score. There are spaces to buy and sell horses along the way. There are terrain features which may make moving more difficult. And there are show spaces along the paths that could allow you to collect resources and additional horses. As you move through the levels of Trail Ride, you unlock new ways of scoring your herd, providing some strategic decisions about which horses to collect.
Fantasy Ranch is played over five rounds. Each round, players will select one action: buy horses, buy new locations on their ranch board, or collect six resources. At the end of a round, a horse show is held. Players will enter a horse in the competition, rolling dice based on the talents of each horse. Collect horses and build ranch locations that provide trophies to score points.
There are many gamerly elements added as you progress from level to level, including twist of fate cards that provide secret ways for you to score, hired hands that provide a temporary ability or bonus, and a deck of horse show cards that make the competitions change from game to game. There’s even an area control element added at the highest level, where control of ranch boards can shift from player to player depending on the size of your herd.
Passion sets Fantasy Ranch apart. This game is the brainchild of two horse-crazy sisters, Keshia and Antastasia Swanlund. Their passion seeps into every aspect of the game, from the information on the horse cards to the detailed ranch profiles and the actual equestrian sponsors whose products are included on the board and cards. This isn’t crass commercialism; it demonstrates their deep connection to the subject which enhances the enjoyment of the game. You can’t fake this level of love and attention to detail. And you don’t have to be a horse nut like them to be pulled into the experience. If anything, their passion may inspire you to want to learn more about horses!
I want to close by emphasizing the amazingly flexible game experience Fantasy Ranch provides in a single box. Name another game that can accommodate players from ages 5 through adult, giving each player along this spectrum an opportunity for a fun and challenging experience. You can tailor the game you want to play based on the players you have at the table on any given day or night. This is a rare and noteworthy achievement, and just one among many reasons you will rustle up a herd of Major Fun each time you play.
Written by: Stephen Conway
This review appears in the Fall 2019 issue of Casual Game Insider Magazine.
CGI publishes a wonderful selection of articles and reviews on a quarterly basis. In 2019, a Major Fun review will be featured in the next several issues.
The Spiel, Major Fun and CGI share a common goal: opening doors to the wider world of play. We hope this cross promotion will invite more people into the game community.