Farm Manager 2018 (FM)

Short game description

In Farm Manager 2018 (FM), the player builds and runs a farm or agricultural business with many degrees of freedom. This allows the player to grow a wide variety of foods, keep animals and produce processed foods. Furthermore, considerable profits can be made by operating wind power plants and trading agricultural products.

FM is comparatively easy to learn and, in view of the numerous game options, offers sufficient long-term gaming fun. The ratio of playing time to possible learning effects is comparatively favourable with FM, as it succeeds in a good mixture of economic and agricultural simulation. In this respect its use in interdisciplinary biology lessons is justifiable. With sufficient support, FM could also be used in subject lessons at the end of primary school.

FM runs without Internet connection on PC with moderate hardware. The game is available from Steam for 20 euros (reduced for 5.40 euros).



Areas of competence 


A) Decision and rationality 


B) Relationship and interaction


C) Order and system






Division of labour/cooperation


Efficiency/cost-benefit thinking




Oppurtunity costs






Reference to other domains:

Biology (+++)


+ little    ++ medium    +++ much

fm beschreibung-anleitung-strategien (PDF, 572,46 KB)
Learning potential

By placing the player in the role of a manager, FM refers primarily to the economically influenced life situations of entrepreneurs. In this way, and because of the confrontation with the field of activity of farmers, which is presumably foreign to many students, FM makes a contribution to career orientation.

With its focus on entrepreneurial problems that require strategic thinking and numerous decisions, FM is able to promote competences in the area of 'decision making and rationality'.

The examination of FM can contribute to a better understanding of many economic thought patterns and categories. This is already evident from the fundamental strategic question of whether the player should focus on a specific area [1] or whether he should pursue the most complete possible integration of the value chain from plant cultivation to animal breeding and further processing. Intuitively, many players are likely to opt for integration. However, this only makes sense if suitable coordination mechanisms are lacking and transaction costs are high. However, since markets in FM function well, [2] the efficiency advantages associated with specialisation and division of labour can be exploited, for example in the form of efficiency-enhancing investments (e.g. machinery, processing plants or training), which are particularly worthwhile when capacity utilisation is high. However, efficiency also needs to be considered in other situations, such as when deciding which crop to grow, or in trade where sunflower seeds and cereals have similar profit margins but the former require less storage space for a given capital input due to their higher price. Efficiency considerations should also be taken into account in the question of where buildings and fields are located, so that as few unnecessary and time-consuming journeys as possible are made.

Because of the market prices, opportunity costs and associated deficits in understanding are also easy to identify. For example, a typical argument like 'my cows produce manure, so I should cultivate fields so that I can use it as fertiliser' neglects the possibility of selling the product. So the wounding of manure as fertilizer is not for nothing, but as expensive as the respective market price. An understanding of opportunity costs and an optimal cost-benefit ratio can also result from the scarcity of land and, above all, capital. Thus, although there are numerous profitable investment opportunities in FM, equity capital is as limited as access to interest-bearing debt capital. For example, money invested in wind power plants is no longer available for speculative trading [3].

Particularly when focusing on speculative trading, but also when focusing on wind turbines, the exponential character of growth becomes clear when profits are immediately reinvested and multiply within a short period of time.

The very lucrative operation of a slaughterhouse can raise ethical questions. Although the killing of the animals is not shown, even the disappearance of the animals from the barn can cause an uneasy feeling in the player. Accordingly, every player can ask himself the question whether he wants to kill animals in rows to maximise his profit or whether he prefers other activities at the expense of profit.

Unreflected playing of FM can lead to misconceptions. So even at the highest level of difficulty it is very easy to earn a lot of money without having to take significant risks. All you have to do is to implement the described strategies of the slaughterhouse, trade or wind turbines. As a result, entrepreneurial challenges can be clearly underestimated. Furthermore, the highly predictable trade is unrealistic, which can lead to misconceptions about market processes. In principle, it is plausible that the prices at harvest time are significantly lower than some time afterwards due to the increased supply. However, greater variation in prices would have to be expected due to external influences such as weather-related harvest fluctuations or changes in demand behaviour. Above all, the possible profit margins are clearly too high; in reality, this would lead to increased arbitrage [4] and thus to decreasing price fluctuations and profit margins.
Simplifying mechanisms are also found in the biological area of the game, which can lead to misconceptions. For example, the soil in FM remains fertile for years, even if the same plant is always cultivated. In reality, however, aspects of crop rotation would have to be taken into account.

[1] This corresponds to the management concept of concentrating on core competencies
[2] Thus, liquidity is high and there is no excess supply and demand. In addition, the price range between purchase and sales price is low.
[3] Accordingly, the lost profits of the wind power plants would be the opportunity costs or the 'price' for trading transactions and vice versa.
[4] Many actors would buy goods in times of low prices and sell them later at high prices. However, this increases the demand and thus the price in (previous) low-price phases, while the prices in high-price phases do not increase as much due to the increased supply.

Use for teaching and learning purposes

The use of FM in economics lessons is justifiable in view of its economic learning potential, and cooperation with biology teachers should be considered. If there is sufficient supervision, FM could also be used in factual instruction at the end of primary school.

The quite extensive tutorial contained in the game can be dispensed with due to time constraints, especially as it leads the player very closely and leaves him hardly any freedom for his own decisions. Anyway, the essential game mechanisms can be learned quite intuitively. To get to know FM, it's a good idea to start with a free game on an easy level of difficulty with a high starting capital and to give the students some time to get familiar with the game by experiments, excerpts from the game description (see above) and if necessary accompanying support measures by the teacher. Small group work is suitable for this purpose, so that the pupils can support each other within the group. In addition, they should be encouraged to seek exchange with members of other small groups.

After the students have learned the most important aspects of the game in a short period of time, a new start is possible by playing FM in small groups again. There are two main options for this:

- Free play without a strategy
- Different groups should pursue different strategies

In all cases, students should be encouraged to play prudently and to write down their thoughts, observations and findings for later reflection. This can be supported and systematised by providing them with a selection of questions for the following reflection phase already during the playing phase.

The overall reflection is based on the assignments and questions of the playing phase, such as

  • Which strategies were successful, which were not? What are the reasons for this?
  • What would be a recommendable strategy from the point of view of profit maximisation? For what reasons did you possibly decide to take a different approach?
  • Regardless of the chosen strategy, what else must be considered in order to be successful?
  • If you could play FM again, what would you do differently?
  • What have you learned from FM?
  • What did you like and what didn't you like about FM? How could the game be improved?
  • What elements of the game are unrealistic? How does the situation look like in reality? Depending on the learning group, it may be necessary to give impulses, for example by pointing out the large and risk-free profit margins in trading.

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