W. Eric Martin
As I noted in early 2015, designer Uwe Rosenberg and publisher Lookout Games have been revamping their 2007 release Agricola, a game that is arguably one of the two most important releases in the past decade (the other one being Dominion). As Lookout's Hanno Girke wrote in Feb. 2015:
Agricola is 8 years old now. There are many cards in the original edition that are never played. Cards that sit on your hand like a lame duck and block that spot for an exciting card.
There are lots of cards that define your strategy in a negative way, as you'll never play them. Which leads to a "real" hand size of approx 2-4 cards each.
We don't like that. Uwe wants the game to be open for all players, to reduce the luck in the card draw. Therefore, his idea is to eliminate weak cards and to replace them with power cards from expansions. We need a tournament standard that's good for the next decade.
Now Lookout's parent company, Mayfair Games, has revealed some details of what you'll find when the new version of Agricola is released on May 20, 2016:
• To start, the game includes wooden components for 1-4 players, instead of 1-5. At Spielwarenmesse 2016, Mayfair's Larry Roznai said that the primary reason for this change (as well as for some of the other changes made) is to hit a $60 MSRP in order to make the game more accessible on the market. (The previous edition of Agricola from Z-Man Games retailed for $70.)
• The Agricola base game will include, to quote from a Mayfair Games press release, "a 'greatest hits' collection of cards from the original game and its expansions, newly revised and updated for this edition". This change addresses the problem that Girke described above. Hundreds of cards have been added to the Agricola system since the game's debut, so it makes sense to revisit the introductory set of cards that new players first encounter. Exactly which cards will be included from which sets has not been detailed.
• The Agricola base game will no longer include the "Family Variant" that removes the Minor Improvement and Occupation cards from gameplay and instead has players using only the actions on the game boards. Instead Mayfair and Lookout will release the Agricola Family Edition, which once again has components for 1-4 players. Roznai said that by removing the cards, Mayfair could present a far more affordable, introductory version of Agricola for the mainstream market, similar to what Mayfair did with the Catan: Family Edition. Agricola Family Edition will be released in 2016 at some point following the new version of the Agricola base game.
• In Q4 2016, Mayfair and Lookout will release the Agricola 5-6 Player Extension, which includes wooden components for two additional players as well as "even more cards handpicked and revised by Uwe Rosenberg".
• As Girke has promised in the past, Mayfair and Lookout will sell the new and revised Agricola cards on their own so that those who already own the game can get the updated material without needing to buy the base game once again.
Somewhat related to this announcement is a question for you:
I ask this question because based on BGG's current guidelines, this new edition of Agricola should receive its own listing. It has a different player count with different cards and no family game. This isn't a question of whether one new card or tile qualifies something as a different game. Clearly the components differ from what's been available in the past!
Yet this is still Agricola. If you know how to play any of the earlier releases, then you'll be able to jump into this one with nothing new to encounter other than the text of the cards, which might have been new to you anyway given how many cards are included in the base game. It's the same, yet different.
The current BGG listing for Agricola includes editions that contain the Z-deck and the X-deck, and using current guidelines, those editions should have been broken out on their own as well (although one of those editions predates the versions system in the BGG database).
So what to do, what to do? Any suggestions that might encompass this release and all the strange Kickstarter titles that include a half-dozen bonus doodads and fancy upgraded editions that may or may not include additional game material and whatever else publishers might dream up in the years ahead? Publishers have the ability to change every aspect of a release large and small, and ideally we want to provide users with all of that information in usable and useful way, so I welcome your ideas on how to do this.