In Harvesters, players take on the roles of anthropomorphic animals who go on D&D-like adventures. It's basically Redwall meets Dungeons and Dragons. The game uses a slightly paired-down version of the Castles & Crusades rules system. It is intended to appeal to children ages 6 and up, although there's nothing here that would keep adults from enjoying it. The first half of the book contains the rules. The second half is an adventure.
I played this game with my two children; boys ages 10 and 7. They both have some experience with RPGs, having played a handful of games with me before. The bottom line is that my boys had a great time. We were up past midnight playing and Harvesters was the very first thing that my 10 year old son talked about the next morning.
I'll start with the adventure, which is really the meat of this product. The plot focuses on the mystery of a group of missing animals, who've disappeared while bringing in the all important fall harvest. The players explore the countryside, following clues to find the lost harvesters. The book details an area with lots of things for the players to encounter and explore. If the players pick up on the clues, they can go from point A to point B, skipping a lot of the superfluous regions. Alternately, they can wander around, meeting hostile snakes, a noble skunk, and other interesting creatures. With all the detail about the town of Wheat Hollow and the surrounding regions, Harvesters has the makings of an interesting little Campaign Setting. I really enjoyed what is here and I'd like to see more.
Also, I have to mention that my kids got right into the adventure setting. My 7 year-old was playing a River Otter Knight named Sir Otter. His first order of business was visiting the locale colony of River Otters, helping them fish for a while and collecting a few fish of his own to take along on the adventure (he carefully wrote “3 fish” on his character sheet). He also used his swimming ability to his advantage during the adventure. I think both kids got into the role of their specific animals.
My older son grabbed on to the plot right away. He picked up on the clues presented in the adventure and came to the right conclusion about what happened to the harvesters. He was very excited to find evidence of a wolverine's involvement (his Badger Cleric's natural enemy!) and spent the whole adventure looking around every corner for wolverines. I think this adventure is perfect for kids and mine are very eager to finish it.
The rules are pretty much copied right from the Castles and Crusades Player's Handbook, only paired-down to cover a smaller range of levels. I'm a fan of C&C and its simplicity lends itself well to a game for children. There were a couple of places, though, where the rules relied too much on the C&C books. For example, Harvesters only describes spells very briefly, forcing me to crack open my Castles & Crusades Player's Handbook to find out the distance, duration, and specific effects of various spells. The product blurb claims that Harvesters contains “all the rules you need to get started”, but a GM is on his own for all but the most basic spell info.
In other places, the rules are complete but not distinct enough for my tastes. I would have really liked to see some elements unique to Harvesters. I was expecting to see clever animal-themed spells, equipment, and classes. Instead, we get the typical D&D tropes of fighters, wizards, chainmail, etc. Don't get me wrong, I LIKE those things, but it would have been nice if the game put a more distinct spin on them and made them its own. Harvesters, while certainly very playable, doesn't feel as complete as it should. It's good, but I want it to stand truly on its own and be great.
I give Harvesters 4 stars. If the idea of playing a Redwall-inspired D&D game appeals to you, or you're looking for an RPG that you can play with your kids, give Harvesters a try.
[4 of 5 Stars!]