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Cultivating a new game

May 5, 2015 — 

A new card game developed by a U of M alumnus allows players to experience the life of a farmer. Crop Cycle: The Game of Competitive Farming was developed over the past six months by Trevor Lehmann [BA/10, BEd/12] and features artwork from around the province of Manitoba. The game creates a fun, competitive environment to experience Manitoba agriculture.

When not creating games Lehmann works as an international student advisor in the I.H. Asper School of Business.

From the Crop Cycle website:

Crop Cycle is a 2-5 player card game that has players navigating through the four seasons as they struggle to plant, protect and harvest their crops for points while preventing their opponents from doing the same. Farming principles merge with accessible and frantic gameplay where fortunes are made and lost at the hands of weather, nature, and competition.

Lehmann is currently seeking crowdfunding support on Kickstarter to help bring his game to the public. Crowdfunding has become an incredibly popular method for independent developers to reach their audience and has fostered the creation of boutique games. This is Lehmann’s first Kickstarter campaign, though as a big fan of games, he has helped back dozens of others.

Lehman talked to UM Today about his crowdfunding initiative for Crop Cycle.

 

Crop Cycle packagingUM Today: How did you came up with the idea for Crop Cycle, and how was it developed?

Lehmann: I have been playing and designing games since I was 15, but Crop Cycle was designed quite recently, with the idea developing in May 2014.

The goal was initially to create a game around changing weather, something we Winnipeggers are all too familiar with. From there, I drew inspiration from my family’s involvement in agriculture as well as my experience teaching Grade 10 Geography to base the game around agriculture and farming.

At this point, the goal expanded beyond simply creating a game that is fun to play to include educational elements as well as accurately portray the beauty of Manitoba agriculture. A decision was made early on that the most effective way to portray Manitoba agriculture was through photographs as opposed to drawings. Many other farming games rely on cartoon images that I did not feel effectively showcased Canadian agriculture.

The game has undergone a number of renditions from an initial prototype to its current state. The first version of Crop Cycle had no crop types, leading to all players’ fields being wiped out every turn. The gameplay is still frantic now, but you are rewarded for diversifying your crops as well as carefully using defensive cards.

The artwork has also gone through many renditions, as I worked with a digital artist to maintain the integrity of the photos while reducing how busy the images were.

The final product as it stands is a 2-5 player game that has players navigating the four seasons as they strive to plant and protect their crops until harvest in order to gain points, with the first to five points being declared the winner.

Crop Cycle Preview

 

Crop Cycle fungi cardUM Today: What inspired you to make a card game about agriculture?

Lehmann: I grew up in Manitoba and many in my family work in the agricultural field in one way or another so I was exposed to agriculture throughout my life, even if I haven’t practiced it myself. I also share my father’s interest in photography and thought that it would make a great basis for game art. The opportunity to drive around the province photographing crops was a great experience to share with him and a great way to draw attention to an under appreciated area of the Manitoba economy.

 

UM Today: Where in Manitoba did you travel for your photos? Why did you include the crops that you did?

Lehmann: I stuck mostly to the southern half of Manitoba, but used a number of research trials and off-the-beaten-path fields to get effective photographs.

In terms of crop choices, for game balance I wanted to keep an equal number of broadleaf and grassy crops. Additionally, I had to choose crops that were distributed throughout the seasons, as I did not want spring to be the only season that crop cards could be played in. This led to some serious scouring of flora and fauna to find crops that are distributed in a way that maintains game balance.

Crop Cycle seasons card

How does your background at the U of M come out in the game?

Lehmann: A course I took years back in botany certainly bore fruit (pardon the pun). More than that, my background in education definitely assisted me, as I recall that the agriculture unit is often challenging for teachers that do not have an agricultural background and as a result, is rushed through to get to subjects they have more background in. I think this is a shame as agriculture is so relevant to the Manitoba and North American economy and decided in my own way to contribute something that makes the educational process easier for students and teachers alike.

 

You’ve said that you’ve taken some liberties between actual farming practices and Crop Cycle for the sake of making the game more entertaining. How long do you think you’d last if you tried farming?

Lehmann: Not very long for a number of reasons; most relating to upper-body strength.

 

What’s next for you?

Lehmann: I would love to build relationships with more schools and agribusiness to see if they would be interested in the game for fairs, promotional events, and the classroom. [It] really depends on the outcome of the Kickstarter.

 

You can help support Lehmann’s Kickstarter campaign. Backers can get a printable version of the game, a physical copy, and other supporter packages. The crowdfunding campaign will run until Sunday, May 31 at 11:30 PM CST.

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