With the number of board games that I have played, I have seen games utilize a lot of different themes. I honestly can’t recall ever playing one that utilized a Farmer’s Market theme though. On the surface I didn’t have a huge interest in the theme as I don’t think I have ever been to a farmer’s market in my entire life. That didn’t really matter when I saw Downtown Farmers Market though as the gameplay and publisher is what intrigued me about the game. The game looked like an interesting twist on your typical tile placement game, and it was made by Blue Orange Games which usually does a great job finding the proper balance between accessibility and strategy. Downtown Farmers Market is a fun tile placement game for the whole family that has some interesting decisions that make the game deeper than you might first think.
At its heart Downtown Farmers Market is a tile placement game. Each turn you get to choose one tile from the table to add to your 4 x 4 grid. Your goal is to place tiles into your grid to complete the various challenges that you chose at the beginning of the game. These challenges can range from getting as many of a certain item as possible to getting certain combinations of ingredients. There are also challenges about how many items there are in a row/column. You score points for each challenge you successfully complete. The player that scores the most points wins the game.
If you would like to see the complete rules/instructions for how to play Downtown Farmers Market, check out our how to play guide.
On the surface Downtown Farmers Market seems to be a simple game. For the most part it is. Blue Orange Games is known for making games that are relatively easy for the whole family to play. At its most basic level the game is really easy to play. You basically just choose a tile and place it somewhere inside your grid. The game’s rules could probably be taught to new players within 5-10 minutes.
One thing that does initially make the game a little harder is the Challenge tiles. I generally like when games try to use symbols instead of words. This makes the game more language independent and you can figure out what is meant without reading a bunch of words. In some ways the game uses symbols well. The symbols that are a little problematic are those that prominently utilize numbers. There are three different Challenges that utilize large numbers and don’t look much different. What each symbol represents is not totally clear when you first start playing the game. You eventually learn what each of these symbols mean, but it can lead to some confusion/referencing the rulebook when you first start playing the game.
While the game is easy to play, doing well could be a different story. I wouldn’t say the game is jam packed with strategy, but your choices will have a pretty big impact on how well you ultimately do in Downtown Farmers Market. There is strategy to the game as your decisions will have an impact on how well you do.
Quite a bit of the game’s strategy actually comes into play before the gameplay even begins. Each player gets to make their own grid and choose how to lay out their challenges. How you choose to layout your grid can really impact how well you will do in the game. You have no choice over what Challenge tiles that you are dealt, but you still have options. Each tile is double sided and you can choose which side you want to use for each tile. Typically one side is easier to complete but scores less points, while the other scores considerably more points but is much harder to complete.
The decision of which side of your tiles to use basically shapes your strategy for the entire game. It tells you which ingredients you need to prioritize, and even tells you how many ingredients you should have in each row/column. Finding the right mixture between risk versus reward will likely determine how well you will do. You likely need a mixture of some of the easier and some of the harder challenges. You need the potential points from the harder sides, but you aren’t going to be able to complete all of them so you need some easier challenges as well. How much risk you want to take along with how the challenges work together can have a big impact on how well you ultimately do.
I really liked this mechanic in Downtown Farmers Market. While you are dealt Challenge tiles and are forced to use all of them, having a choice between two different options for each tile definitely helps. You have a decent amount of control over how much emphasis you want to place on risk versus reward. You likely won’t do too well if you go all in on one side, but you get to choose where your grid will fall on the spectrum. Another thing to consider is if the Challenge tiles will work well together. These decisions will ultimately form your strategy for the game.
After you have created the framework for your grid, it is time to move onto the tiles you place into it. The game uses a community pool which the players take turns choosing from. Some turns you will get first choice, and other times you will get to pick from the remainder. Getting to choose earlier is usually a benefit as it allows you to get a tile that really helps you. If you will get one of the last choices, your options are considerably fewer. The game always gives you a choice between at least two tiles though, so you can at least get something from your turn that you can use or at least minimize how much you are hurt.
The tiles you choose each turn can have a pretty big impact on how well you will do in the game. The tile you choose will help you complete one of your challenges, or it could prevent someone else from getting a tile they really needed. On a decent number of turns it is pretty obvious what tile you should choose as it is clearly better than your other options. Other times it is not so obvious. You may have several good options to choose from. You could also be deciding between the for sure thing or something that might not help now but pay off big later.
Generally I would say that you are better off taking tiles that will help yourself. Towards the later parts of the game though, there are opportunities for you to really mess with other players. When players only have a couple spaces remaining in their grid, it is pretty easy to see what they need. Thus you can take what they need so they can’t have it. Otherwise you could leave them with tiles that will only hurt them. I wouldn’t say that the game is cutthroat, but I would say that you can be pretty mean to other players either intentionally or unintentionally. Towards the end of the game you could make a move that really messes up a player that plays after you.
Ultimately I would say that Downtown Farmers Market is a good example of a game that is relatively easy to play, but quite a bit harder to master. I wouldn’t say that the game is filled to the brim with strategy. It is a game that you will start to get better at the more you play it though. This comes from figuring out what challenges to choose and what tiles to take each turn. For your first game you may be winging it a little as you start to get the lay of the land. Towards the end of your first game and future games though, you will have a better understanding of what you are trying to do.
At least in my opinion Blue Orange Games board games usually work because they find a good balance between accessibility and strategy. They try to create games that the whole family can enjoy, while also having enough strategy to keep everyone interested. This describes Downtown Farmers Market perfectly. The game is quite easy to play. To do well in the game though, you need to implement a strategy that works well with the tiles you have access to. I am a strong supporter of the belief that a board game shouldn’t be made more difficult than it needs to be. This describes Downtown Farmers Market quite well.
I enjoyed Downtown Farmers Market quite a bit. I did have a couple issues with the game though.
First the game has the potential for analysis paralysis depending on whose playing. This impacts both the setup and gameplay. It may take a decent amount of time for some players to decide which Challenges they would like to use. As this decision can have pretty huge ramifications on the game, some players may have to analyze every potential option to find the one that they think is best. Which tiles to choose each turn can lead to a lot to consider as well. Between figuring out which will help you the most or hurt the other players, some players could take quite a bit of time trying to analyze every single option.
The main issue I had with Downtown Farmers Market is just the fact that it can rely on quite a bit of luck at times. A good strategy and smart use of the tiles you choose will improve your chances of winning the game. Sometimes luck will have a deciding impact on how well you do though. While each of the Challenge tiles have their own positives, it seems like some work better with others. If you get a good combination of Challenge tiles, it will be easier to complete them.
Then there is just the tiles that you get to choose form. The players take turns getting first choice, but what tiles are available each round plays a role. Some rounds you may be able to use all of the tiles, and other times you may have no use for all or most of the tiles. You could end up in a situation where no matter what you choose it is going to hurt you. The player to takes tiles before you has an impact as well. If the player before you keeps taking tiles that you want, it will have an impact on how well you do.
Ultimately there really wasn’t anything that the game could have done to significantly reduce the amount of luck. You need to be aware that it is there though. You need to have a good strategy to have any chance of winning the game, but sometimes that is not enough if you don’t have luck on your side. While you need to play to try and win the game, to get the most out of the game you need to be willing to accept that sometimes luck will prevent you from winning.
Before wrapping up I wanted to quickly talk about Downtown Farmers Market’s components. Outside of some of the symbols on the Challenge cards being a little confusing at first, I like the game’s components. Blue Orange Games does a good job giving you high quality components for a reasonable price. The same hold true for Downtown Farmers Market. The game only includes tiles, but I liked them. They are pretty thick where they should last quite a while as long as you take decent care of them. While the game uses a more simplified art style, I think it works really well for the game. On top of this the game comes in a nice box that is basically the exact right size for the components.
While the Farmer’s Market theme wasn’t of much interest to me, I had high hopes for Downtown Farmers Market. The game lived up to my expectations and may have even surpassed them in some ways. The game is another example of what Blue Orange Games does best. On the surface the game is quite easy to play, and yet there is quite a bit of strategy as well. From the Challenges you choose at the beginning of the game to what tiles you choose each turn, your decisions have a big impact on how well you ultimately do. There is interesting strategy to the game and it is generally a fun game to play. There is some potential for analysis paralysis and luck will play a role as well. The game is genuinely quite satisfying until the very end.
My recommendation for Downtown Farmers Market comes down to your thoughts on tile placement games and the premise in general. If you don’t generally like tile placement games, I don’t know if it will be for you. If you at least somewhat enjoy tile placement games though and find the premise as least somewhat interesting, I would strongly look into picking up Downtown Farmers Market.
We would like to thank Blue Orange Games for the review copy of Downtown Farmers Market used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
Downtown Farmers Market
Year: 2022 | Publisher: Blue Orange Games | Designer: Johan Benvenuto, Alexandre Droit | Artist: NA
Genres: Family, Puzzle, Strategy, Tile Placement
Ages: 7+ | Number of Players: 2-4 | Length of Game: 20-30 minutes
Difficulty: Light-Moderate | Strategy: Light-Moderate | Luck: Moderate
Components: 65 Food tiles, 44 Challenge tiles, first player token, instructions
- Creates a good balance between being easy to play and having enough strategy to keep you interested.
- An interesting twist on your typical tile placement game.
- Can rely on a decent amount of luck at times.
- Has the potential for analysis paralysis.
Recommendation: For fans of tile placement games that are also intrigued by the premise.
Where to Purchase: Any purchases made through these links (including other products) help keep Geeky Hobbies running. Thank you for your support.