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Subject: KM3 Reviews: Agricola rss

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Keith McKimmy
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The following review is straight from me KM3 Reviews Geeklist. If you want more information about the methodology used in the review please check out my Geeklist. KM3 Reviews - Play, Parts, and Practicality: Purchase or Pass?

The overall score is indicative of the game's rating for those interested in owning it. The "Play" rating is strictly for the gameplay.

Play (60%) – Essence & Experience


Logged Games – 20 plays across 2, 3, 4, and 5 players.

Mechanics – Worker Placement, Variable Powers, Card Drafting (variant), Hand Management.

Theme – Farming.

Gameplay – In Agricola, players emulate farmers attempting to furnish their undeveloped land and house, in order to provide for their family. The player that is able to develop their land, home, and family the best, at the end of 14 game rounds, is declared the winner.

Agricola is a pretty straightforward turn-based worker placement game. Players begin the game with 2 workers as well as 7 cards each, 14 total, from the occupation and minor improvement decks. The occupation and minor improvement cards can be randomly assigned or drafted. Each occupation and minor improvement card has a cost associated with it as well as a benefit received for playing it.

On a player’s turn they must take one of their workers and assign them to an unused action, gaining the specified benefit. Actions may provide players with building materials, crops, animals, allow them to build, grow their family, hire a person, become first player, sow crops, plow fields, etc. After all players have assigned their workers to actions the round ends, workers go home, and the board is reseeded with resources.

At six pre-determined points in the game, players will have to feed their families, harvest their crops, and breed their livestock. Players must pay two food per worker that took an action in the round directly preceding the harvest phase, as well as 1 food for any newborn workers made in that round. If a player is not able to feed they will have to take a begging card (-3 victory points at the end of the game) per food they are missing.

The scoring in Agricola is different from most games. In Agricola, players are required to diversify, or lose points for not doing so. Players may receive negative points from their score if they don’t meet the required amount in a scoring category. For example, a player will lose a point for every type of animal they don’t have on their farm. Players score points based off of the size and type of house they have, the number of workers they have as well as the number of fields, pastures, grain, vegetables, sheep, wild boar, and cattle they accrue throughout the game. Additional points are also subtracted for unused spaces in a player’s farmyard. Others points are also earned for fenced in stables.

Thoughts – Agricola is an amazingly good game, but is not without its problems. The biggest of these problems comes with the balancing of the various cards players receive at the start of the game. Some cards, not all of them or even a majority of them, are inherently better than others. Some cards just end up synergizing ridiculously well together. While a player with a strong hand is not guaranteed to win, it certainly makes it easier for them to do so. The problem with the cards can be alleviated with variants. Drafting can help alleviate one player from receiving all of the “good” cards the game has to offer. Utilizing a draw 10 and pick 7 strategy can also help with the variance, without increasing the length of the game.

Aside from the card imbalance, the other “problem” with Agricola is that it is a brutal game, and can fall into some of the same strategies. Aside from crazy damage control cooperative games, Agricola is one of the only games that can cause me to have jolts of urgency and anxiety. Feeding is a very vital part of Agricola. The pressure to feed in this game is real. I enjoy this feeling, but others may not. This force is intensified due to the backbreaking nature of the begging cards. Losing three victory points to a begging card is game changing. Players will always have to find a way to create a solid food engine.

Still, even with these two gripes, Agricola is just too good of a game in my mind. Mechanically the game is just “take a worker, do an action”, but it creates a solid frame for the theme to take hold. Thematically, Agricola is a game on a different level. The sheer amount of thematic envelopment that exists in this game is startling. Farming is a culture, and Agricola does it proud. The aforementioned anxiety that comes with feeding your family is just one notable example of how much this game can evoke feelings. Watching a farm take shape from round 1 to round 14 is great. Players begin with a wooden house and 2 people, but can end the game with a 5 space stone house, 4 fenced in pastures filled with a variety of different animals, as well as 3 fields growing crops. The end result of a player’s farm is a telling visual story. In my opinion, this sense of space and creation is what sets Agricola, and most of Uwe Rosenberg’s games, from other cube pushing Euros.

Play Score – 4 out of 5. Some cards are imbalanced. The need for a food engine and growing a family can become monotonous. Still, the game’s solid mechanics and gripping theme are able to overshadow the problems. If players have ever had any sense of joy from a game like Farmville or Harvest Moon, or even farming in real life, they will totally get the theme and be enveloped by it.

Parts (10%) – Box & Bits


Box – The game box is 8.9” x 2.8” x 12.4”. The box is big enough for the base game and the various deck expansions. I’m not sure whether or not the box is big enough to fit the Farmers of the Moor expansion, although I wouldn’t see why it couldn’t.

Bits – The game comes with the following: 5 farmyards, 3 game boards, 1 board for major improvements, 360 cards, 5 family member discs (in each of the player colors), 4 stables (in each of the player colors), and 15 fences (in each of the player colors), 33 wood counters, 27 clay counters, 15 reed counters, 18 stone counters, 27 wheat counters, 18 vegetable counters, 21 sheep tokens, 18 wild board tokens, 15 cattle tokens, 1 starting player token, as well as 18 field tiles, 24 wood/clay hut tiles, 15 stone house tiles, 36 food markers, 9 multiplication markers, 3 claim markers, as well as 1 scoring pad.

Thoughts – For a game with a MSRP of $69.99, players get a ton of bang for their buck. The components are all in good shape and quality. Sadly the components aren’t in the form of vegeemeeples, animeeples, and the like. Still, the components fit with the price.

Parts Score – 4 out of 5. The box fits the base game and the smaller card expansions. I’m unsure about the box accommodating the Farmers of the Moor expansion. The game has solid components, considering the price (vegeemeeples and animeeples would be a 5!).

Practicality (30%) – Pass or Purchase?


Playability – Agricola is one of the only games I’ve played as a solo game. I wasn’t a big fan of the solo game, but it was a nice exercise, especially the series challenge of attempting to one up my previous game’s end score. In terms of the 2, 3, and 4 player games I believe any of these player counts is where Agricola is at its best. I have literally played this game 10 times in a row against my significant other. Never once, during those 10 games, was I ever bored or tired of Agricola. Not too many games have the kind of staying power this game has. I enjoy the 2, 3, and 4 player counts more than the 5 player game, but the 5 player game is even good, albeit a little long.

Rules – The family game is simple and easy to teach. The cards take a little more effort as there are so many questions that can come up with them, but still the game is rather easy to teach. The rule book does a great job of going over a lot of common questions that could come up in a game.

Cost – The retail cost of this game is $69.99. This game can usually be found online for around ~$45, a very worthwhile purchase at that price. Most games should take about 20-30 minutes per player, depending on player experience and skill. Agricola will take around 23-45 plays to reach the gold standard of $1/hr of entertainment. The game is easily replayable past that number of plays.

Pass or Purchase – The average board game weight on BGG is 3.6, placing it firmly in the Medium-Heavy weight. This weight probably comes from a lot of the card interactions more than anything else. Luckily the different decks that come with the game allow for the player’s to increase the complexity as they see fit. As always, I recommend anyone interested in this title to check out the various walkthroughs and video reviews that are available to watch. This game is available for play online at boiteajeux.net.

Gamers that enjoy lighter games: Play before purchasing.
Gamers that enjoy medium-light games: Play before purchasing.
Gamers that enjoy medium games: Confidently purchase.
Gamers that enjoy medium-heavy games: Confidently purchase.
Gamers that enjoy heavy games: Confidently purchase.

Practicality Score – 5 out of 5. The base game is very easy to teach, and cards can be introduced at the players’ discretion. Agricola is a very replayable game, given the different decks and card interactions, as well as the different order of actions coming up in each of the rounds. Game length isn’t as much of an issue as other bigger box Euros, although some slow-downs can be expected with less experienced players.

Overall Score – 8.6/10.

Play (60%) – 4 out of 5 (2.4 x2 = 4.8)
Parts (10%) – 4 out of 5 (0.4 x 2 = 0.8)
Practicality (30%) – 5 out of 5 (1.5 x 2 = 3.0)
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Joe
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Very cool review system. Well done. I agree with you on pretty much every point.
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that Matt
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I'm a quitter. I come from a long line of quitters. It's amazing I'm here at all.
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kmckimmy06 wrote:
Parts Score – 4 out of 5. The box fits the base game and the smaller card expansions. I’m unsure about the box accommodating the Farmers of the Moor expansion. The game has solid components, considering the price (vegeemeeples and animeeples would be a 5!).

The box does have enough room for the Farmers of the Moor, even adding the Goodies animeeples, veggimeeples, et al.

If you start adding additional expansion decks, you'll run out of space, but with hundreds of expansion cards available it's bound to happen some time.
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Geoff Burkman
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Excellent review! It should be mentioned, though, that the game is also playable online at Play-Agricola. The site features live games and a ton of data. All Agricola fans deserve to know about it!
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