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Subject: Agricola: the highest rated game that garners a lot of hate rss

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Ike Evans
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Preamble: I bought Agricola in 2010 strictly because it was (at the time) THE #1 game on BGG. Today (at the time of this writing) it has been knocked down to #3. This is surprising because I know a lot of people who express a strong dislike for the game.

Agricola is a medium weight worker placement farming game taking place sometime before the industrial revolution.

Value:

Amazon has Agricola listed at $45-ish. This is actually a great deal, considering there are, in reality, several expansions all sold in one medium sized box. Otherwise, a buyer would be incline to buy the base game with only one set of player cards for the same price. Instead you get three sets for greater levels of play and complexity, which is great.

The components are made of a good quality cardboard that has proven for me to last many dozen gaming sessions. Otherwise, the game comes with some very generic looking wooden pieces that are suppose to represent people, commodities, food, animals, etc. If you want something that looks cooler, you gotta go out and buy replacement parts - hence the loss of a star.

Aesthetics/Artwork:

There isn't a whole lot of anything that is terribly meaningful to look at in Agricola. As stated in the previous category, the wood components that come with the game are basically terrible - i.e. boring. The rest of the game is "fine", but nothing more.

Gameplay:

For myself, I really don't mind the gameplay as much as some other people I know. You play the role of a farmer, of course, with access to limited resources. The game moves in a fairly proactive pace as you work to gather these resources against other players who are eyeballing the same stuff you are. You have several different options. You can focus on planting crops, building a herd, expanding your home, or making babies. MAKING BABIES!!! Nobody ever jokes about this, for sure.

Strategically, you can't just focus on just one area because victory points more-or-less require a broad spectrum of strategies. Of course the game is engineered such that sacrifices will have to be made because there are only so many different things you can accomplish.

By far the biggest deficiency of the game (wherein the game loses a full star) is the mechanic of just trying to feed your stupid family. You have two choices:

1) spend half the game taking actions just to keep from starving or...
2) losing.

There is no player eliminations, but collecting starving cards will destroy your chances of winning - and it is really easy to collect several of them in a game if you aren't careful. If the game were somehow rethought to make it a little easier to feed your family, then this game would get another star in this category, no sweat.

Theme:

The theme is farming. Not nearly as cool as killing monsters, flying in space, building a kingdom, or even swindling the mafia.

So yeah, when it comes to the theme... meh.

Verdict:

This is not a terrible game by any means. It may be one of the single most over-rated games on BGG, but that isn't to say that it is a BAD game - just not awesome. From what I understand, Caverna fixes most of the defects on this game. Wherein a lot of people are hatin' on Agricola, they find Caverna to be at least tolerable. My biggest problem with moving onto the upgrade is that I can't find (at the time of this review) a copy of Caverna for under $80 - which is ridiculous.

So anyways: Agricola. Good, but not great.
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Ron
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Some may call you a heretic for this review, but basically, I can agree with everything. I especially like the sentence "spend half the game taking actions just to keep from starving" meeple
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Joe Rogers
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I agree that it's not a great game. It sits on my shelf and doesn't come out very often, but when it does I actually really enjoy playing. The first few times I played were brutal since I decided I'd hedge my bets and ignore feeding my family (meh...what's a few beggar cards?). Learned real quick never to do that again. I actually like the art of Agricola. The aerial view of the farms, the folks on the cards, etc. Even better if you upgrade to the wooden meeple animals. Also on the plus side for me was that I got Agricola for free in a game trade
I found that one of the biggest obstacles to introducing folks to the game is the theme; "Hey... let's play the game about farming" It's about as exciting as trying to get folks interested in the theme for Power Grid (another grossly overrated game IMHO)
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Doobermite
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I love the game. The tension it creates is beyond what other games could only attempt by their "feel good, no pressure, play nice" mentality. That's why it's ranked so highly. It's exciting, thematic, highly replayable, and highly interactive.

When I'm playing Agricola either in person or on the iPad I feel the tension because of the tight worker placement aspect, the need to score in different areas, and of course, the feeding. You are correct that you must spend a great deal of time figuring out how to feed your people. Most people need to eat, and if you really did have a farm you'd have to feed your people every day. This is highly thematic.

I really like the components and the art on the cards and how you can play even just a select few cards to advance your game. I also enjoy building up my farm. Agreed, I need to do lots of things. I can focus on some and let other things go and still win. This is part of the great design. You don't have to have every sheep, boar, and room upgrade to win. You create your own balance. The theme, gameplay, interaction, everything just works beautifully together.

Agricola is better than just good, it's great!
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Adam Kazimierczak
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"Caverna fixes most of the problems..."



It doesn't fix your problem with the theme, unless dwarf cave farming is much cooler than farming somehow.

I feel like comparing Agricola to modern Feld point salad games and neutered tension free Waterdeep style worker placement games is like comparing a triathlon to a bike ride in the country.

You take off a whole star for feeding the family. That *is* the core of the game. If Agricola has flaws they are the Start Player problem (discussed at length is strategy posts) and the inability to specialize due to penalties for missing crops/animals. But I hesitate to call those flaws because they add to the tension.
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trevor

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I guess if you consider the "problems" in Agricola to be strategy then yes Caverna solves this, by allowing you to do anything and everything you want to do, whenever you want to do it, without any pressure at all from the game engine.
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Nick Case
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It comes as an irreversible wake up call when you realise that not only do most gamers have wildly different tastes in games but polar opposite views are the norm for ALL games. One persons reason to hate a game is another's reason to love it. There is no such thing as an average gamer and beware anyone who claims to like all games, they just hate stuff in a 'loving' way.

Luckily the atomic slanging matches ('How dare you hate 'The XX of XXXX' you are obviously brain damaged') that seemed a regular feature here seemed to have calmed down in recent years.
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I feel somewhat in two minds about Agricola. I have only ever played the iOS version so I can't comment on the components (although Playdek have done a pretty stellar job on the iOS version), nor can I really say with any certainty that I don't like it. The starvation mechanic is on the one side perfectly suited to the theme (struggling 17th Century farmers in the wake of the Black Death), however in practice it feels terribly punitive to me, which I am sure to many is part of the fun. For Worker Placement I would honestly rather play something like Targi. Not as deep or complex I know, but there is a sense of satisfaction in playing Targi that I miss in Agricola. I've not giving up on it though...
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Bryan McNeely
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I enjoy the game and while we've also gotten our hands on Glass Road and Walnut Grove, I hesitate to get rid of my copy of Agricola. I love the cards.
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that Matt
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There are actually very few haterz compared to those who like or love the game. But it's not surprising in forums like these that people confuse the loudest voices for the most common.


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Fernando Robert Yu
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This isn't a great game, it's a FANTASTIC one!
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Bryan Thunkd
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tumorous wrote:
There are actually very few haterz compared to those who like or love the game. But it's not surprising in forums like these that people confuse the loudest voices for the most common.


Heh... There are more people who rate it a ten than there are that rate it below a seven.
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C L
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I'm sorry, but I have never been able to understand the feeding family complaint. That is the point of the game and everyone has to deal with the same problems associated with that. Everything you do is to build a more efficient family feeding engine and IMO, the strategic and tactical decisions you face to feed family and maximize points, amidst the growing tension and time pressure, is boardgaming gold. I can understand people not liking the stress, but saying the feeding family mechanic is a deficiency is completely inaccurate.
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Ron
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littleboy wrote:
what is the point of writing the shit you wrote and what is the point of people approving it to be on the site. Ugh.

And what's the point of your post? If you disagree, you could also be just silent. Instead you insult people ... shake
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Chris Wood
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First to flag little boy! There was a lot of Agricola-like tension to flag before anyone else did, but I won!
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trevor

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Well yeah that is the point. The difference between Caverna and Agricola is there is zero tension in Caverna, you can basically do whatever you want, whenever you want. Other than that they are similar games.

The OP would probably enjoy Caverna much more. He states the "problem" in Argicola is the stress to feed a family (hopefully he never has kids IRL laugh) while many people love that mechanic and strive under pressure. He doesn't like pressure or tension in his games, different strokes for different folks......
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Mattias Elfström
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Agricola is a great game. The artwork and bits are fantastic. It is at the lower end of my top ten games ever (and I have played quite a few).

I can understand it not being for everyone, but there is certainly nothing wrong with the game, its production or the support from expansions.

Agricola deserves a high rating on BGG.
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Ken Brzuziwski
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I think the art is fitting for the theme of the game. Most of the drawn art is a bit like folk art, which is fitting for a farming game. You must have an older version of Agricola because all the resource components in newer versions are simply great[no cubes, all bits that look like the item they are. Cows look like cows, boars/pigs look like boars/pigs, etc..].

Also, as for theme, it's rather strong in Agricola. You might not like the theme, which is fine, but everything relates to farming — nothing really seems out of place in the game.

Finally, to me the biggest difference between Caverna and Agricola is that Caverna is just a bit of an easier game. I would give Agricola the nod over Caverna just for the cards, which can make every game feel different. I have played Caverna just once, and to me it seem that every game would start to feel the same after a while. That said, I'll probably buy Caverna down the road as I'm going to try and acquire most of Uwe Rosenberg games. I could see using Caverna as a gateway game for some people looking for depth in gaming, instead of Agricola.



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Thomas Robb
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I agree with luckystreak. 17th century farmers (well, almost everybody really) spent most of the day worrying about feeding themselves and their loved ones. To build a farm would be a slow process and difficult. Imagine if Uwe had made health a component for the players - most would probably not live long or die based upon the time period. So, to me, the theme is very well integrated into the game and definitely not pasted on.

For those who want less stress, less farming, or more available resources try Le Havre and Caverna. Ultimately, for what the game was designed to simulate and how it plays, Agricola is "spot on."

That it is still ranked so high on BGG tells you there is a lot of game here for most players.

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Ike Evans
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I've sort of taken an effort to write a review for any board game that I've played at least twice or more in the past month or so. If there is one thing I've come to learn it is this: if you want to get a lot of people all excited on BGG, just try giving one of their favorite games a mediocre review.cool

That's okay. No hard feelings. You all are actually quite nice compared to the crowd that responded to my review on Eclipse. Ha ha!
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Max DuBoff
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Hey, I've seen a few of your reviews so far, and I think it's a great project. I often don't agree with stuff you say, but if you give a logical reason, it's not my place to criticize you for writing it.
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C L
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My only problem with the review is saying that feeding your family is a deficient mechanic. That statement alone almost discredits the rest of the review. It would be like saying Pandemic's mechanic of having to treat virus's before there's an outbreak is deficient. It doesn't even make any sense because that is the entire point of the game. Basically, you would be saying the game is broken and unplayable.

You might not like that the purpose of agricola is to plan your strategy around feeding your family, but that mechanic within the structure and goals of the game is brilliant.
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Geoff Burkman
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As I have described it in my own review of the game, Agricola is a tactile spreadsheet game. It's all about manipulating resources to achieve a numerical goal within a given time frame, competing with opponents for timely access to those resources and the means to transform them. It could easily be played with pen and graph paper.*

As others have pointed out, it's all about the pressure of trying to do this while maintaining your action allotment efficiently. Some of us find this ceaselessly entertaining; many do not. Different strokes for different folks.

I am not at all surprised that the game has held on to its high ranking. Its theme has a near-universal appeal, while the playing of it offers near-infinite variability and a comfortable routine simultaneously. I can't think of a single game that even approaches it on those levels.

Heck, what surprises me is that a 2-player card-driven geopolitical wargame has held the top spot as long as it has (albeit with less than half the number of voters and slightly more than half the number of self-identified fans), and that the place position has been commandeered by a fiddly** civ game with barely a third the number of voters and a little more than a quarter the number of fans.











*Okay, okay, maybe not easily, but still pretty dad-gum well.

**Yes, Agricola is fiddly, too. Strangely, I've never found it to be as fiddly as TtA, though. It may have to do with having to know the full set of cards and how they interact to hope to be consistently good at the game, which is not a requirement with Agricola.
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Peter Terry

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I agree with much of the review, but I look at it more like an acquired taste like beer, coffee or opera singing. The more time I spend with it the more I appreciate it, but the beginning tries took a bit of determination to overcome the anxiety of spending more time feeding one's people than doing what one wants to get ahead (a bit too much like real life.) I almost feel like the theme could be in a totalitarian eastern european regime. Where else would one have a couple (that look identical in my non pimpled out version) dressed alike, stay in two separate rooms the whole time, must meet minimum standard housing requirements before having a child and even then must wait their turn to get permission to reproduce and have to go some place else to have the child. I kid, but I find the game to be an intriguing, ego busting puzzle that I am just starting to get the hang of. I have not played Caverna, but dwarves are always cool and I suspect that it will be have its own appeal
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Pas L
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Managing starvation is the only fun part of the game. And farming is cool.
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