H C
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Introduction

I got majorly into gaming back in the start of junior year of college (currently end of senior year), so its been about 1.5 years or so. I made this first thread when I joined:

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1184296/recommendation-budd...

And from it, I decided to try out Agricola. I played at a game store (26 pts full game; still remember that a bit), thought it was an interesting game, and I got it and played it on and off with friends up til now.

I recently purchased Caverna, so I wanted to write my thoughts on this game out fully, so I wouldn't be biased coming back and comparing them.

My thoughts have changed A LOT over time with all my games (just look at my game ratings and comments; I update them with lots of changes of opinions).

BTW, I will not do rules explanation - I'm too lazy to explain them I mean...I would be doing a disservice to you when there are so many better sources. whistle

First Impressions

Playing it in the game store the first time last year was relatively interesting. I liked how different steps had to be tied together to get your farm up and running. You couldn't simply get a grain and immediately start farming it. You had to plow the field, then sow it in, and even then, you had to wait for every harvest to extract the stuff. I thought it was fairly thematic and interesting mechanically. I wanted to try it out some more, especially since it was ranked so high on BGG. Of course it would be good right?

Second, Third, and so on Impressions

I bought the game and played the Family Variant for the first time with friends. I played it some more too. Overall, I still thought it was a decent game - my GF really liked the cute animeeples that came in my set and that it reminded her of Harvest Moon (a video game about farming). It wasn't crazy good and alluring for me like Power Grid was, which I wasn't quite sure about. Even now, I'm not entirely sure, but I think I like the decision space and math in PG more than in Agricola, which can't be so easily calculated.

I took a fairly long break from the game after the 3-5th time playing, mainly because I thought the Family Variant was getting a little stale, and my friends had little desire to play an even more complex version of the game. It taught me a lesson of how the BGG ranking wasn't absolute and to look toward other things, which I do far more now. I think part of the lack of enjoyment was a good enough gaming group to play this with. A lot of my friends, like my roommates and high school friends just weren't very strategic or that good with games. They lacked a gamers' sense and even the one really good gamer in my group was hit with AP in a game like this, reducing the fun for everyone.

So I left it for a while. Then came Winter Break...

I showed it to a visiting friend who enjoyed boardgaming a lot, and he really took to the game. Even though he lost every game after the first we played, he took to it fairly well, and it increased the fun for me, my GF, and one other friend who joined us, and we played this game a lot, and I enjoyed it a lot more too. We also tried the full game more often and I thought it was an interesting change of pace BUT I still don't like the cards much - more on that later.

I think my visiting friend really showed me how every game which is initially not great may become much better with the right mindset and right play group. That's a big takeaway I got from this experience.

Anyway, I played more with the cards after this, though still went with FV sometimes when we didn't feel like thinking too much. Overall, I began wishing there were certain improvements to what I saw as weaknesses of the game...

Weaknesses

I think the following are some weaknesses of the game:

Cards: Yup, I don't like them much. I don't like to steal quotes not mine, but I think a reviewer said this in better terms than I did. It was either Joel Eddy or Richard Ham (I think the latter; I think it was a Rahdo video on Caverna) that said "the cards exist in a separate sphere from the game board".

I think that is a spot-on statement of a major issue I have with the cards. It feels a bit detatched from the state of the board for me. I think this is because we all start with the hand of cards and yet, almost all our actions happen on the main board or our personal board, whereas the cards are out of sync for me in comparison to all the tiles and wood bits on the boards.

I know this may not be a fully legitimate issue and that many love the cards, but I do not for some reason. I feel some sort of dissonance from the cards, segregated from the rest of the board and even abstracted a bit. Perhaps its also the lack of control I have at what others have and preventing them from getting a good combo off when I don't know their cards. To me, the cards feel like some sort of tacked on mechanism, like Uwe Rosenberg finished the base FV game, then made a bazillion cards that changed different rules and added those cards.

I could also be a bit annoyed since I've lost more Full-Version games of Agricola than I've won, but I have still won a few full versions and think I've pulled off some decent combos. (if anyone's curious about my plays, I usually score in the 40s, and my best two scores are a 2P's 53 points and only ever did one solo game, in which I scored 60 points. I've also played about 25-30 games of Agricola, about 8 or so with the cards and 1 with the mini-expansion of Through The Seasons)

(BTW I have still enjoyed the Family Version's game. Its cutthroat nature is cool and its still enjoyable, though I wish for more variety - which I will discuss later)

Another issue I have with the cards is the overwhelming nature of them. Question for you - can you honestly keep track of your 14 cards plus whatever new ones players are playing as we play the game, when each has a paragraph or so of text? If it was a simple sentence or maybe a small picture, then perhaps... I don't honestly think the way it is now is humanly possible to track all 14 and the other players cards though. It bloats the game in my opinion, and I also dislike how about half of your cards are ignored for the duration of the game for most players. Obviously, some players will play all and some none of the cards, but most play a subset of their dealt hands, then ignore the rest. I dislike this for some reason - I wish the game could do something with the leftover cards somehow.

To be honest, part of my dislike may be perhaps of my inability to time some cards well at times, but I do think having 14 cards bloats the game and that sometimes, some players will just get better hands.

My last issue with the cards before moving on is that the cards lengthen the start of the game and are a bit annoying to deal with in the beginning. Before the game even begins, you need to select the piles with the right player count cards, removing anything of the wrong count, then you need to shuffle and deal out 14 cards to the players. If you draft, this takes even longer, and players need to optimize/plan their game. This leads to a long time before the core game even starts. I'd rather just play and do things as they come, but then, without a solid plan, I could be beaten by a nicely placed combo of cards from another.

So overall, I dislike the cards for these reasons. Opinions on this?

Variety: Another issue I have is the lack of variety I find in the FV and to a slightly lesser extent in the full game. I know it may seem oxymoronic to some: How can the full game lack variety when you get a brand new 14 cards every game?

Well, I think its a common complaint: Family Growth is almost always the dominant strategy, and everyone's farm looks relatively the same at the end of each game. Diversity by getting at least 1 of every thing, having stone rooms and 4/5 family members seems to be almost always the minimum to win.

Now, granted, I have seen some people pull of some wacky stuff with cards (I recall one game where someone played almost his entire hand I think and got 70+ points), but I think at that point, you need to rely on a good dealing/drafting of cards from the deck.

If this game could support specialization or different strategies, I think I'd like it quite a bit more. Maybe have variants for scoring, variants back boards with assymmetric starts, etc.

Fiddliness, Components, and Other Issues:

Those two above are my main gripes about the game, but there are some other minor ones. Having round chips for grain, stone, wood, etc makes it a little annoying to pick up at once. I think cubes would've been better. That said, animeeples are great, and I think vegimeeples would be too if I had 'em.

The maintenance is marginally annoying, but once you're used to it, its not so bad. Still clean-up and set up can be annoying at the lower player counts. In my one solo play ever, I didn't want to play more just because the maintenance : play ratio wasn't the best.

Some people dislike the stress of feeding in the game and others love it. I lean toward less stress. I like good decision spaces and tension, but I don't want to feel bad during a game. I'd rather have a slightly more relaxed game that still gives good decisions (which is what I'm hoping Caverna will be).

Overall, these are minor issues though and not a big deal if you enjoy the game overall like I do.

Strong Points

Now, I think I'd be remiss if I didn't at least point out the strong points, because despite my dislikes, I do like quite a few things in this:

For a euro, its rather thematic: On this Agricola forum there's a thread

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/334876/why-ameritrasher-lov...

that explains this much better and I direct you to it for more. But basically: almost all the action spaces and such is thematic and building your farm is too. Granted, there's a level of abstraction still (like how you can't reproduce this year if I'm reproducing ) but stuff like Harvesting vegetables and breeding animals and such all make a lot of sense, and I like that. The animeeples in the new edition are cool too!

Decently Interactive and Decent Decision Spaces: As is standard with WP, you watch what others are doing and plan out their actions to avoid screwing yourself over. This is indirect interaction, but at least its not multiplayer solitaire. If anyone tried to play this while ignoring other players, they'd probably be in quite a losing battle.

Its decisions are also interesting mostly. Do you get food now to guarantee food for the harvest, or do you go for that 4 wood building up there? Things like this are cool; I just wish there was a bit more variety in the strategy I could pick at times...

If you like the card aspect, this game does give a different vibe on multile playthroughs too.

Who should get it?

I wrote this to give my opinion to Agricola players already, but I also want to address those on the fence about the game.

Get this if:

-You like solid euros with solid mechanics - Agricola is ranked highly for a reason. It appeals to a lot of the core eurogamers on this site, and for good reason: the decision space is pretty engaging and there's plenty of brainfood to chew on here.

-You like a bit more theme in your euros than others - this isn't that abstracted of an experience; everything that happens makes sense and usually with pretty good reasons too.

-You like Worker Placement games - Having played Alien Frontiers, Lords of Waterdeep, and some other WPs, I think Agricola, while not the best, is a solid pick for the genre.

-You like the things I said about its strong points and don't care much for what I said about its weak points.

Caverna Thoughts Having Not Played Yet

Back in last summer, I considered getting Caverna instead, but I liked the sound of the FV of Agricola and the variety of the cards. More recently, I've found I dislike the cards and the FV is getting a little stale for me.

A lot of reviewers I watch seemed to speak highly of Caverna. My favorite reviewer, Joel Eddy, said in his "Reverse Top 10" video of replacement games that Caverna was superior to Agricola and Le Havre for him. I also like Tom Vasel, and he similarly liked Caverna more than Agricola (and according to his top 100 last year, moreso than Le Havre too). Even Rahdo (or Richard Ham) who prefers Agricola I think seemed to acknowledge how Caverna streamlined or improved a lot of Agricola.

This wasn't enough to push me to buy it though. There were two other factors:
- I wanted a game which was relatively sandbox-y with a lot of freedom to do as you wished and Caverna was recommended on a lot of the threads I googled.
- I found a marginally dinged and dented, yet new copy for $60 with no tax and free shipping.

I'd also been considering it a lot in the past whenever it went on sale for $60 a few times. So I finally pulled the trigger when all these stars aligned for me. I hope I like it and that it addresses some of my concerns of Agricola. (I have some concerns for Caverna, but I hope to work past them)

What do I think ultimately of Agricola though?

I liked Agricola overall I think. I've played about 25-30 times I think, and despite the negatives I said above, I do like a lot of things about this game like I pointed out above. That said, I just hope Caverna improves on this experience. I'm also planning to sell one of these two, whichever is worse, ultimately. I don't want both with my limited space, and there's so many games I want to try out.

Also, hopefully, I'll remember to come back eventually one day to share my opinion on Agricola VS Caverna.

But anyway, final summary: I like Agricola, dislike the cards, like the Family Variant, have some issues with the farms being all so similar and family growth strategy being so good, and I still think its a good game that is probably worth a try though not a Buy for everyone of course.
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Guillaume Pages
United Kingdom
Oxford
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
You should try glass road. It was released by Uwe at the same time as Caverna, and it is really good.

Much faster than either Agricola or Caverna, and much more thematic.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Thorfinn Tait
Japan
Akita
Akita
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Board Gamer, Mystara & Calidar Cartographer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Very interesting review — thanks for sharing. Coming at what feels like the end of your experience with Agricola, it really does read as a review, i.e. a look back over your plays. This is very refreshing.

I have only played 10 games so far, beginning last month. I instantly fell in love with the game. So far I have played mostly two player with my wife. She liked it too, at first, but my winning streak seems to have soured it somewhat for her.

In any case, my experience with the family game is somewhat different from yours. I think I've only played it three or four times, but I feel that it's vastly inferior to the full game. With no cards, very little changes from game to game, and as you say everyone has exactly the same objectives.

But the biggest point for me is that without cards there is no way to increase efficiency. The family game is set up so that there is barely enough time to build a complete farm under the best conditions, so competition for resources can quickly make it impossible to fill in all your spaces. For me, this means ending the game on an unsatisfactory note.

Cards allow increased efficiency, ultimately buying you a few more actions, which in turn allow you to build a more complete farm. It's usually still touch and go, but I find this small boost to be crucial.

I'm ambivalent about the idea that the cards feeling somehow "bolted on". I can sort of see what you mean, but personally I never really felt them to be a bad or somehow unnatural fit for the game.

The thing is — and I'm sure you're fully aware of this — the cards are the antidote to the family game's repetitiveness. So disliking the cards inevitably means you will get less plays out of the game as a whole.

As to how to play with the cards... I mostly play with family, and we usually draw and discard rather than drafting. We spend about 15 minutes prior to the game looking through our cards, thinking about how and when to play them, and then putting them in the rough order we want to play them. This last step is the most important one, especially for Occupations, because having a rough order to play them in — not quite a plan, just a rough idea — makes the game go a lot more smoothly for everyone.

You can also learn the cards quite easily simply by only playing with the E Deck, and ignoring the other decks altogether. The result will be that after a while everyone knows most of the cards, and creating an order to play them in will become much more natural. You'll also get favourite cards, and once you know the cards it's easy to see the combo possibilities — which is usually as simple as two cards both dealing with vegetables, or both augmenting the day labourer action, or whatever.

Having said all this, the fact is that since we got Caverna my wife has become highly reluctant to play Agricola. laugh I think her opinion of the cards is similar to yours: she finds them to be a bit of a chore, and a distraction from playing the game. In Caverna, there is a bit of information overload with all the rooms, but it's perfectly valid to just ignore most of them and run with whatever strategy you like. Or to put it another way, I can concentrate on trying to do some newfangled room strategy while she just plays as she likes — and she can beat me. This is not really possible in Agricola, where playing with a card strategy will almost always trump someone who doesn't make use of their cards.

I'll stop now because I'm beginning to ramble.

Just one last point: your whole review, and all of your problems with Agricola, seem to be squarely pointing at Caverna. The writing is on the wall here. I'm sure you're going to love it. meeple
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Geoff Burkman
United States
Kettering
Ohio
flag msg tools
badge
Peekaboo!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
And if you don't, I will happily take Caverna off your hands for almost the price you paid for it. laugh
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
H C
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Haha, if I don't like Caverna, I will keep that in mind.

guigtexas wrote:
You should try glass road. It was released by Uwe at the same time as Caverna, and it is really good.

Much faster than either Agricola or Caverna, and much more thematic.

Just looked it up. It looks like a solid game and I'm glad it seems to be tile placement and not WP. I wish the theme was cooler but I will put it on my Want To Play list for now.


Thorf wrote:
Very interesting review — thanks for sharing. Coming at what feels like the end of your experience with Agricola, it really does read as a review, i.e. a look back over your plays. This is very refreshing.

Thank you sir. I've read some of your posts on Agric too and enjoyed them.

I have only played 10 games so far, beginning last month. I instantly fell in love with the game. So far I have played mostly two player with my wife. She liked it too, at first, but my winning streak seems to have soured it somewhat for her.

In any case, my experience with the family game is somewhat different from yours. I think I've only played it three or four times, but I feel that it's vastly inferior to the full game. With no cards, very little changes from game to game, and as you say everyone has exactly the same objectives.

But the biggest point for me is that without cards there is no way to increase efficiency. The family game is set up so that there is barely enough time to build a complete farm under the best conditions, so competition for resources can quickly make it impossible to fill in all your spaces. For me, this means ending the game on an unsatisfactory note.

This is very true. I think I still enjoyed the tightness and increased simplicity and, in my eyes, elegance of the FV.

Cards allow increased efficiency, ultimately buying you a few more actions, which in turn allow you to build a more complete farm. It's usually still touch and go, but I find this small boost to be crucial.

I'm ambivalent about the idea that the cards feeling somehow "bolted on". I can sort of see what you mean, but personally I never really felt them to be a bad or somehow unnatural fit for the game.

The thing is — and I'm sure you're fully aware of this — the cards are the antidote to the family game's repetitiveness. So disliking the cards inevitably means you will get less plays out of the game as a whole.

As to how to play with the cards... I mostly play with family, and we usually draw and discard rather than drafting. We spend about 15 minutes prior to the game looking through our cards, thinking about how and when to play them, and then putting them in the rough order we want to play them. This last step is the most important one, especially for Occupations, because having a rough order to play them in — not quite a plan, just a rough idea — makes the game go a lot more smoothly for everyone.

You can also learn the cards quite easily simply by only playing with the E Deck, and ignoring the other decks altogether. The result will be that after a while everyone knows most of the cards, and creating an order to play them in will become much more natural. You'll also get favourite cards, and once you know the cards it's easy to see the combo possibilities — which is usually as simple as two cards both dealing with vegetables, or both augmenting the day labourer action, or whatever.

Having said all this, the fact is that since we got Caverna my wife has become highly reluctant to play Agricola. laugh I think her opinion of the cards is similar to yours: she finds them to be a bit of a chore, and a distraction from playing the game. In Caverna, there is a bit of information overload with all the rooms, but it's perfectly valid to just ignore most of them and run with whatever strategy you like. Or to put it another way, I can concentrate on trying to do some newfangled room strategy while she just plays as she likes — and she can beat me. This is not really possible in Agricola, where playing with a card strategy will almost always trump someone who doesn't make use of their cards.

I'll stop now because I'm beginning to ramble.

Just one last point: your whole review, and all of your problems with Agricola, seem to be squarely pointing at Caverna. The writing is on the wall here. I'm sure you're going to love it. meeple

Thank you for the tips and such. I do some of that but your input is interesting too. Also responded a bit above in bold.

I think I'll have some qualms with the information overload too, but hopefully what you say bears fruit too
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sam Hillier
Canada
St. Albert
Alberta
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I have a different opinion about the cards: they are what saves Agricola for me. Without them, it's the same thing every time. They provide variety for every game, a new setup, a new goal, a new plan. They can combo together well, sometimes building a powerful engine (I recall being a very effective clay merchant last time, making enough points doing that that I didn't care about losing points elsewhere), and they give you little bits of extra efficiency.

To manage them, I've found that maybe 7 cards out of the 14 will actually work together, and can actually get played. I basically forget the others. This cuts down on a lot of complexity.

I haven't played Caverna (I will this week), but what makes me unexcited for it is the static nature, the fact that it's set up the same way each time. I love games with a variable setup as it forces you to think and do something new each time.

I also haven't played the Agricola expansion, but from what I've read it is supposed to throw a wrench in the dominant strategy of wood house expansion and family growth.
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joe
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
Major Improvements are cards.

Edit: meaning- no matter the version played, cards are part of the game; so for me I prefer having the variety of more cards, but the idea is the same even in the FV: you build cards in a tableau separate from your farm.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
H C
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Update: Played Caverna three times and like it more than Agricola. You can read my comments for the game under my profile for the game's rating if you're curious. I'll try to write a review with full thoughts once I've played it a few more times.

Now, I just need to see if it stands the test of time...
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Moe45673
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
My early impressions of your review, during the first few paragraphs, was typical nerdrage all set to rail upon you as a know-nothing misfit who should be cursed to permanent funnybone agony. After finishing your review, it was extremely well written and thoughtful.

I disagree with your thoughts (I think Agricola is Rosenberg's best, though Loyang is his best solitaire game) but that's just what I like and you like what you like. I hope Caverna does it for you!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dave Brown
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
The cards are directly linked to the board. You need specific spots on the board to play them.

I can't grasp what you mean by having little interaction. It might be why you don't like the game.

I like Agricola because there is so much interaction. Every action affects all of the other players. I need to know what every other player needs and is capable of doing and then I need to act to I fluence and hinder them.

If you aren't doing that then I suppose the game would be quite dull.

I also recommend that you draft the cards. That way you do have a lot of control over combos that your opponents have and you can struggle to make your own.

There is a lot to take in a d keep track of. It is not a light game.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
H C
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ad_hoc wrote:
The cards are directly linked to the board. You need specific spots on the board to play them.

I can't grasp what you mean by having little interaction. It might be why you don't like the game.

I like Agricola because there is so much interaction. Every action affects all of the other players. I need to know what every other player needs and is capable of doing and then I need to act to I fluence and hinder them.

If you aren't doing that then I suppose the game would be quite dull.

I also recommend that you draft the cards. That way you do have a lot of control over combos that your opponents have and you can struggle to make your own.

There is a lot to take in a d keep track of. It is not a light game.

Can you quote where I said little interaction? I don't see it... I think Agric is fairly cutthroat.

I pointed out the issues of drafting in my review. I get the notion you didn't fully read my review tbh.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dave Brown
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
You said it is only indirect interaction and said it is not multiplayer solitaire while implying that it is close.

We have entirely different experiences of this game.

The part with drafting just talks about how long it takes not whether it is a good idea (unless that is somewhere else then yes I missed it). Again, we have entirely different experiences with drafting. If this was a 30 minute game them yes adding 5-10 minutes to draft would not be worth it. But at 90 minutes I think it is a fine addition to enhance the game.

Of course if you don't like the game then adding time to it would not seem like a good idea.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
H C
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ad_hoc wrote:
You said it is only indirect interaction and said it is not multiplayer solitaire while implying that it is close.

We have entirely different experiences of this game.

The part with drafting just talks about how long it takes not whether it is a good idea (unless that is somewhere else then yes I missed it). Again, we have entirely different experiences with drafting. If this was a 30 minute game them yes adding 5-10 minutes to draft would not be worth it. But at 90 minutes I think it is a fine addition to enhance the game.

Of course if you don't like the game then adding time to it would not seem like a good idea.

Not quite to be honest. I said "As is standard with WP, you watch what others are doing and plan out their actions to avoid screwing yourself over. This is indirect interaction, but at least its not multiplayer solitaire". I think for 1) you're reading into subtext that's not there when you assume I'm implying it to be multiplayer solitaire and 2) I didn't say its only "indirect interaction"; I said the worker placement portion was only indirect interaction. There are some cards which are a bit more direct and not just about blocking, but the spaces and usages of those spaces is what I was pointing out.

Fair point about the drafting. I guess it wasn't expressed well that the extra time for drafting is quite difficult, since my group takes closer to 10-15 minutes to fully draft and prepare our hands. I feel your group is probably faster with them than mine. For example, in a 3 player game, its 42 cards total you need to read and decide between. For 20 seconds a card, that's 840 seconds or 14 minutes. I think things like that aren't as fun for my group, but yes, drafting is a better way of mitigating some of the card luck, though it is still there.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Thorfinn Tait
Japan
Akita
Akita
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Board Gamer, Mystara & Calidar Cartographer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The people I have played with are the same with drafting: it just takes such a long time, it doesn't seem worth it. I suspect this may change if and when everyone gets more familiar with the cards and it doesn't take so long.

Needless to say, we always play draw-and-discard for now, because it takes a fraction of the time to read just your own cards. It'll be a while yet before we're comfortable enough to take advantage of drafting.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls