Agricola, that boardgame about farming

Posted by on Feb 12, 2013 in Blog, Review | No Comments

Introduction

In the last year or so, my newfound hobby that has taken over a small chunk of my spare time is the deep world of boardgames! In this post, I look at Agricola, a game I consider one of the best games in my small collection so far. I bought my copy of Agricola at Snakes and Lattes for $62.95. However what I have noticed in pricing is that the cheapest place in Toronto is 401games (selling Agricola for $48.95)!

Agricola 1

Here is a snippet taken straight from BoardGameGeek about Agricola.

In Agricola, you’re a farmer in a wooden shack with your spouse and little else. On a turn, you get to take only two actions, one for you and one for the spouse, from all the possibilities you’ll find on a farm: collecting clay, wood, or stone; building fences; and so on. You might think about having kids in order to get more work accomplished, but first you need to expand your house. And what are you going to feed all the little rugrats?

BGG are a great information hub once you learn how to navigate their cryptic interface…! The theme itself doesnt sound too exciting and TBH, this game is not everyone’s cup of tea. Below i will break down the game in categories that i feel are important to understand the essence of the game.

Learning Curve

The game takes some time to learn. There are a lot of rules you will not get in your first play through. After a handful of games will strategies start to develop and optimal routes and choices start to appear. What I felt really heightened the learning of the game was that the people who I played with were also new to the game. The process of learning together took the burden away from trying to catch up to someone who already knew the game.

Setup & Components

There are A LOT of boards and pieces involved in this game. You will need a big table to have all the boards laid out, they need to be on a flat surface since pieces will be placed on them. In the box, there are 360 cards in total. These cards allow you to play 3 different game decks; Basic, Interactive and Complex. You only use one of these game decks when you play. Each player gets 5 family members, 15 fences, and 4 stables each. There are also tons of tiles and animal/food counters and tokens. Here is the box literally FILLED with goodies/hassle (depending on how you see it) :P

Agricola 2

Math elements

The game involves a lot of counting of resources, optimizing of paths and choosing the resource you consider most valuable. In these aspects, math gets involved where you start counting the amount of resources you can get or how many resources you need in the future. For some this “mathy” aspect might be a hassle but I really love games that are build around a predictable system where you have to create your own ideal path, which will then give you the most victory points.

Fun aspect

The fun (or I would rather call it satisfaction) of this game really comes from building your own farm and creating those optimal farms, paths and food engines. This is something that might turn off some gamers since there really isn’t any spiked fun moment throughout the game, just a bunch of calculated moves. The closest action in Agricola that would create this spike would be if you took someone’s spot that they tremendously needed…!

Longevity

Due to the three different game decks and the different action spaces depending on how many players are playing, the dynamics of the game changes every time you play. In our household, we have hardly scratched the surface of the Interactive and Complex deck! When the time is right, we will play more of the Interactive and Complex deck, but for now we are quite happy with the basic deck!

Agricola 3

Card Drafting

I used to play a lot of magic the gathering when I was younger and one thing I loved to be a part of was booster draft tournaments. With like 4 or so booster packs, everyone participating in the game sits in a circle, you open one booster pack, pick a card, then pass the rest of the pack to the person to the left. In the end one would have to create a deck out of the cards drafted. We THEN played against each other with the decks we created, tons of fun!

There are three different card types in the game, you would be drafting the Minor Improvements and Occupation, while everyone would be able to buy the Major Improvements from a common pool.

Agricola 6

Drafting can and imo SHOULD be used in Agricola! It really allows you to pick cards that synergize with each other, making for a more fun game for everyone. If you get a set of 7 Occupations and 7 Minor Improvements randomly, there is usually a lack of synergy in the cards, making 2/3 or so of your hand a dud in some cases…  Here is a post on BGG that talks about how you can card draft in Agricola.

Useful resources

Before I got the game, I saw this Youtube video by Scott Nicholson at least 3 times where he carefully goes through the game.

If you have any questions about rules, go to BoardGameGeeks Agricola forum. They have tons of great resources, videos, faq’s, reviews etc

Verdict

This game is NOT for everyone. It takes time to learn all the quirks that come together with the vast amount of cards and options available. It also has a hefty setup time coupled with a long playtime.

Even with its downfalls, it is one of my favorite board games in my collection. For me, I enjoy the gameplay that Agricola has of planning a farm layout, picking moves to optimize your strategy then seeing if it matures or not as the game goes by. There is something really satisfying about creating an awesome farm at the end of the game.

So if you like games that require careful planning and optimization where the satisfaction comes from building your own farm area then Agricola will fit your bill perfectly! If you are looking for a game with big element of laughter, intensity or quickness then Agricola might not be for your needs.

I rate this game an 8.5 out of 10 

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