Fantasy Ranch – Fantasy Board Games LLC – Review

“This is a solid game with solid options for playing with all age groups. The theme is real…real ranches with pictures of real horses.”


Publisher: Fantasy Board Games LLC


Designer: Keshia and Ana Swanlund


Artist: Ana Swanlund


Game Type: Area control, set collection, dice rolling, hand management, resource management


Initial Year of Release: 2018


Age Range: 5+, 6+, 8+, 12+, 13+, and 15+


Expected Playtime: 10 min., 15 min., 20 min. 30 min., 45 min., 60 min.


Number of Players: 2-4

Theme and What is it?

Have you ever desired just to get away from it all and live on a ranch?  Well, now you can with Fantasy Ranch the board game.  It is going to be great, isn’t it?  The fresh air…the smell of manure?  Well, the game doesn’t come with smells fortunately! 

Your ranch will start small but will hopefully grow into a bucolic sprawling dream come true.  To have a great ranch you need not only horses and land, but to win some shows.  To be really successful you are mostly likely going to want to hire some ranch hands.  After all, don’t you just want the vacation part?

Gameplay Mechanics

Whoa partner!  Come sit a spell.  We have a few things to talk about!  First off, this is not just one board game but two!  And, this isn’t just two board games with one way to play but three.  Take off your boots and count on yer toes how many games are in the box.  Six games!

Let’s start with the Fantasy Ranch Trail Ride.  As the name implies, the young buckaroos are going to enjoy a trail ride in this game.  It is built upon a roll and move mechanism that is the foundation of each of the 3 different games.

The games progressively add more complexity.  Some of the additions are luck based.  There are, however, a couple that allow you more control of the outcome of the game.  Winning means collecting the most horses and possibly some bonuses for set collection.

Tired of walking trails?  Well, giddyap and move on to the Fantasy Ranch game.  Just like the Trail Ride game, there are 3 levels of difficulty that progressively add in complexity.

Instead of just collecting horses like in the Trail Ride, the ultimate goal will be to have the most trophies.  Trophies are primarily gained by an area control mechanism.  Lesser evident ways include set collection, fate cards, or owning world class horses.

These mechanisms play out through purchasing land and horses.  There are also 8 horse shows throughout the game which offer prizes that further improves your chances of winning. 

Be careful here.  You won’t be able to compete in a type of horse show unless you have the right kind of horse.    Ever seen a dressage horse barrel race?  I can picture it now…quite funny looking.

Initial Impressions

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I think I was middle of the road on which way this game was going to go for me.  That is, just based on looking at the cover.

I was thinking of the ‘barn girls’ at our local horse farm and wondered if the game would be ‘fluffy’ or ‘meaty.’  What I mean, was this a girl’s horse dream game, or something an adult male would be okay playing?

It was interesting opening the box because I love lots of parts and pieces.  I was completely floored by how tiny the horses were.  I thought, from looking at the back of the box, the horses were going to be the size of meeples.  Instead, they are about the size of my fingernails.

The tiny horses at first appeared to me to be a corner cutting exercise in the game design.  However, as I set them up on the boards, I actually liked the scale.  They have detailed paint schemes on them.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the variety of cards, horses, ranches, and boards.  There really is a lot in the box.  There are many different ranches to pick from and all area based on real locations.

Game Build Quality

This is a good quality game.  Everything in the box is sturdy.  Everything fits nicely in the box and the rules are clear and easy to reference.

I had thought the horses were a bit small.  Some bigger fingers might need tweezers.  However, I also found I liked the tiny scale once they were set up on the board.

Artistic Direction

Much of the visual input in this game are real images of horses and ranches.  However, the boards have some simple art work that matches nicely.

I really enjoyed how the different ranch boards had different landscapes.  The artist made 12 completely unique ranches.  When I first played, I gravitated toward selecting the kind of landscape I would want to live in…or the dream house I wanted.  The tiny details pull your eyes along and draw you into imagining yourself at your fantasy ranch.

The same type of artwork is on the main boards for both the Trail Ride and main Fantasy Ranch games.  The trail ride board meanders through beautiful landscapes.  The Fantasy Ranch features a detailed show ground and show categories. 

It wouldn’t be complete without some horse product adds as well.  My favorite is the Sticky Seat pants…made with love.  Who doesn’t want a pair of sticky seat pants?

Fun Factor

Board games are meant to be fun…a hobby… a mental escape.  Fantasy Ranch gives you that kind of opportunity.  Maybe you will even get attached to a horse and find yourself hiding it away when another ranch wants to get into a trade with you.

My 8-year-old daughter became a hopeless romantic over one of the foals.  She was so upset about needing to trade it she began to apologize to it.  However, her desire to win overcame her heart tug and she right out traded the baby for my best horse.  Still the drama continued as the game went on.  She was concerned she had betrayed the poor thing.

Age Range & Weight

Here are all the games in the box and their age ranges:

The Trail Ride (A game for kids)

Buckaroo Level – 10 minutes – ages 5+

Novice Level – 15 minutes – ages 8+

Junior Level – 20 minutes – ages 10+

Fantasy Ranch (A game for teens and adults)

Greenhorn Level – 30 minutes – ages 12+

Wrangler Level – 45 minutes – ages 13+

Boss Level – 60 minutes – ages 15+

I would say this is a light to medium game over all.  It is not hard to learn and even the Boss Level is not too complicated.  The Buckaroo requires no strategy and is meant for the very young.  The Boss Level has many strategic options and pieces and parts to keep track of.

My 8-year-old did tap out on the Novice level.  I think she could handle the junior level with more familiarity.  Her attention span gave out before her ability to understand how to play the game.

My 14-year-old likes the game and is willing to continue playing.  That rarely happens when we review games.  She has worked on a horse farm and I think she appreciated the real horse information.  It can drive my girls nuts when they see drawings of horses tacked up incorrectly because the artist hadn’t studied the subject.  Hint, hint….artists of the world out there….girths do not go around the fattest part of the horse belly! Ok, off my soap box.

Speaking of the weight of the game, I had mentioned I was afraid this might be just a ‘barn girl’ fluffy horse game.  That is not the case! 

My husband snatched the ranch cards right out of my hands looking for his favorite places.  He was cut from the Wyoming cloth and there are 3 Wyoming ranches for him to croon over.  He snubs his nose at the other 9 unfortunately. 

Men, this game is not just for the ladies.  Just go ahead, be a kid again and pretend to be that cowboy out in the wilderness doing manly horse jobs.

Conclusions

One of the things on my bucket list is to head to a real working dude ranch and spend a week driving cattle.  Fantasy Ranch puts that idea back at the fore-front of my mind. 

I can dream of what kind of ranch vacation I want because on the back side of each of the 12 ranch cards is information about what each ranch offers.  I can play a game and plan a vacation at the same time.  Ingenious advertising!  That is why it says on the front of the box “Play the Game, Live the Dream.”  I just need someone to fund the dream!  So far, the ones with cattle drives and hot tubs are the most appealing.  Oh, how the sit bones scream after a long ride!

I find it Zen-like to expand my ranch and set up little horses all over the land.  It is pleasing to see it grow.  Just watch out for the little heeples (horse meeples).  If you sneeze towards the game, they all might become like Pegasus and fly away. 

This also means young children, depending on their personality, might find weird things to do with the heeples.  My oldest daughter confessed to me she once licked a horse.  Yeah, I know, weird right?  I mean really, who does that?

Err…imagine what a younger child would do with a smaller horse?  Can you picture yourself taking your 3-year-old to the ER and telling the doctor he has a horse stuck in his ear?

I really like that this is a family game.  It can grow with everyone.  I’ve been hesitant at times to buy games with an age set below 8 because I don’t think there will be much longevity.  However, I have a 6-year-old so the struggle is real.  I don’t have to worry about longevity with this game.  Everyone can play something for many years to come.

Another positive is being able to pick the level of complexity you desire to play.  I have those times I want to play something but I don’t want to think hard.  Other times I want the most complex game I can find.  Though I can’t say this is the most complex game, Fantasy Ranch knocks it out of the park with options.

This is a solid game with solid options for playing with all age groups.  The theme is real…real ranches with pictures of real horses.  There is no fake horse information or incorrect drawings in Fantasy Ranch.  This is the real deal from dressage to barrel racing.  The designers and artists made sure this game was tacked properly for you to ride off into your dream ranch.