Grab your boots and roll up your sleeves to run your very own majestic ranch with a stable full of horses.
In Fantasy Ranch, players take on the role of horse ranchers competing in a horse show season. Score the most points by building up a large stable and expanding your ranch to be the best around. Designed by Keshia and Anastasia Swanlund and published by Fantasy Board Games, Fantasy Ranch can be played with 2-4 players and is best at ages 10+, although it allows for a wide range with various game modes.
For the purposes of this review we’ll be referencing level one, The Greenhorn Level.
How to Play
Over five rounds, rival ranchers compete to earn the most points by owning horses and opening locations on their ranch. A round consists of a single turn from each player, then a horse show. Your goal: build up a strong stable of horses with the necessary skills to compete in shows to win prizes. On your turn, take one of three limited actions and any number of free actions.
Buy a horse: pay the food requirement shown on the card and add it to your stable. Then put a corresponding horse meeple on your personal ranch in an appropriate open location. Identifying horses and locations is simple thanks to color coding. Green horses go to Pastures; tan to Ranges; brown to Barns; gray to Paddocks; and reds go Runouts. Each location has a limited amount of space as indicated by the icon on the tile. If no appropriate space is open, use your “Home” location; otherwise a horse card and token must be discarded.
Take any six goods from the bank: Take any combination of food or tack tokens from the bank.
Buy one location: pay the tack cost listed on the location token and place it to the side of your ranch for scoring later. Horses designated for that location may be placed here for the rest of the game.
In addition to the main action, players may also take free actions. Sell horses, for the cost of food, then discard. Move horses around on your ranch, or trade two goods for one good.
Once a player has completed all their actions, play continues clock-wise until all players have taken a turn.
Ranchers participate in two show events that require horses with matching skills to compete for prizes. Players select a horse from their stables with a skill matching the show’s skill icon. Everyone who enters, rolls the number of dice shown on their horse’s skill symbol. Prizes are awarded to the rancher(s) with the highest single die roll. Prizes include horses, food, or tack.
When the Show phase is complete, refill empty locations in the sales barn with new horses, cover up the prior shows, pass the first player token to the next player, and continue onward until The Finals.
The Final Show
The Finals mark the final round of the game. Now players will compete in three consecutive shows without any player turns in-between. Entry into each show requires the ownership of World Class Horses (Horse cards with a trophy icon). Don’t own any World Class Horses? You may spend four goods to enter and roll one die. You must pay an entry fee for each Show, but it’s worth it, since even 4th place still gets to take home a new Horse.
Winning Fantasy Ranch
Final scoring is quite simple: each Horse and Location are worth one Trophy apiece. The rancher with the most trophies wins!
Additional Game Levels
Fantasy Ranch comes packed with a total of six game modes that allows younger players to adults to enjoy a wide variety of gameplay.
Level two, The Wrangler, adds Twist of Fate cards, drafting for starting stables, and Buddy icon scoring. Twist of fate cards are drawn at the start of a players turn and can be completed as a free action for a reward when the requirement is met. Buddy icons add set collection scoring for horses.
Level three, The Boss, combines levels one and two with additional features. Randomized Show cards replace the default shows on the board. Employee abilities are introduced along with ownership and upgrade tokens. In addition, there are no personal ranches; ranch boards are placed together to form a community. Here, players compete for ownership of locations, by purchasing the location itself and boarding the majority horses there.
For younger wranglers, the Trail Ride bonus game has three skill levels, appropriate for children as young as five years old.
Fantasy Ranch is loaded with options for a wide spectrum of players. It’s astonishing that one box has so many different ways to enjoy the game together as a family. Little ranchers can get started in Trail Ride and work their way up, learning to select the right horses for their stables to obtain bonus points for buddies. Even better, kids can play Trail Ride with other kids, adding in a few more rules as they master each level.
Not Just Foaling Around
On the other side of pasture, regular gameplay in Fantasy Ranch will challenge seasoned gamers. Twist of Fate cards, random Shows, and Buddy scoring increase the depth of planning required to win. The Show phase is exciting because winning comes down to the highest dice roll, thematically representing the judges. If my die roll wasn’t high, my horse performed poorly. Maybe Maverick had a mis-step that the judges observed? Owning a variety of horses with different skills is a must to cover the spread during shows. The more variety of skills in your stable, the better your chances of winning.
Turns require a decent amount of planning, as you’ll need to acquire horses with the right skills to enter each Show. There will be instances where a competing rancher swoops in and acquires the last horse you needed for the upcoming Show. You’ll need to pivot to snag horses for future rounds or buy locations. Acquiring the rare trophy horses should be a priority – keep The Finals in mind!
Perfect for Any Size Ranch
The modular design is probably one of the coolest features Fantasy Ranch has to offer. I can tailor the difficulty as needed. The rule book itself is a masterpiece and does a magnificent job presenting the three levels of play.
I was totally blown away by the beautiful components. Guest Ranch player mats not only look great, but also serve as a player aid. And did I mention the horse meeples? I loved that iconography and color coding makes it easy for players to recognize locations and Show Skills.
When it comes to theme, Fantasy Ranch doesn’t horse around. The design works perfectly to immerse players into the world of horse ranching. It inspired our family to attend a real competitive horseback riding show at our local county fair. Now when playing the game, we reminisce over the performances we saw; it’s increased our appreciation for the sport.
Fantasy Ranch is a great choice for family game night or for adults who want to try something different. The length of play is just right, and it can be as challenging as you desire. Not only that, it’s a perfect gift for any equestrian enthusiast. It does an awesome job of immersing the player in a total ranching experience with beautiful artwork, challenging decisions and LOTS of horses. Fantasy Ranch and Trail Ride are both extremely approachable games designed for a wide age range, with a fantastic rulebook that guides players through increasing difficulty levels.
Giddy up to your friendly local game store or order online and get ranching today!
- Six modes of play for wide variety of players; supports ages 5 and up
- Very cool theme that’s tightly woven into gameplay
- Phenomenal components and rulebook
- Great for family game nights
The Family Gamers received a copy of Fantasy Ranch from Fantasy Board Games for this review.
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Age Range: 10+ (5+ for Trail Ride)
Number of Players: 2-4 (2-6 for Trail Ride)
Playtime: 1 hour (15 minutes for Trail Ride)