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Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A GFBR Review: Good, But Not Like Agricola rss

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GeekInsight
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Agricola is not only an amazing game, but truly one of the defining games of the last decade. It has spawned numerous mini-expansions, a full-fledged expansion, and recently a family version. But this is about the two-player experience. Is it an encounter that fuses the tension from the original? Or a floppy mess of reminiscent mechanics?

The Basics. Each player gets their own starting board and a few resources. Among those resources are fence posts that must be used to create pastures. In ACBS, the players compete to raise livestock for points. Livestock can generally only be housed in pastures and, at the end of every phase, will breed if there are two or more of them in one space.

Between the players is a central board with a number of actions. Those actions allow you to take resources or animals. Or they might give you the opportunity to build special buildings. They can even let you build your fences or gather new ones.

Players get three family members each (with no opportunity to gain more) and take turns selecting various spaces. Once selected, they immediately take the benefit of that space. Then, that space is locked down for the round and the players must choose elsewhere. When a space is unchosen, it generally gets additional resources added to it to make it more attractive for the next round.

The game lasts eight rounds. At the conclusion, players add up points based on how many pastures and animals they have, and may lose points for having none of something. Then the player with the most points wins.

The Feel. Fans of the original will notice several omissions. There is no plowing or growing of any kind. There is no family growth. There is no upgrading of the house. There is no harvest where you must feed your family. And the scoring is markedly different. For instance, you get a point for every animal on your board and, once you pass a certain threshold, you get an additional point for every animal of a given type.

In fact, except for the setting and using the same animal names, this game bears very little resemblance to Agricola. Part of the beauty of the big game is that constant pressure to feed your family while also achieving your goals. It was feeling like there weren’t nearly enough turns to do what needed to be done. And that was amplified by the scoring. The scoring really incentivized you to try to get a least some of everything. If you were missing something, it was not just zero points, but negative points. At the same time, you couldn’t specialize. Every category topped out at four points no matter how many you eventually got.

ACBS largely eliminates that pressure, reduces your incentive to diversify, and makes specialization a highly viable strategy. Sure, you can lose a few points for not having a particular animal type, but it’s easy to simply outbreed that and make up the losses by having more animals elsewhere. As a result, this is not a two-player version of Agricola. It doesn’t take the core game concepts and translate them. It’s very much a different experience.

But, so what? So it isn’t Agricola. Big deal. That doesn’t mean the game is necessarily bad or a disappointment. You just have to go into it with the knowledge that this is not the same as its big brother. Do that, and you’re ready to accept the game on its own turns. So, how does it play?

It’s not a bad little game. There are some good decisions and, as a two-player worker placement title, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to interfere with your opponent and snatch what they needed. But it isn’t a truly great game either. It doesn’t have anything significant or unique about it and instead feels like any number of other titles. Making it a little pedestrian.

There are other worker placement titles. Nothing about the board really changes or grows over time. Your choices are relatively set from the beginning. And the game is extremely similar from play to play. Other than competing for the first player marker and getting to some coveted resource first, there is nothing inherent in the design that will alter how you deal with the game.

Even for a two-player game, the competition seems a little muted. There are several spots on the board that can be critical. And being blocked from one can be harsh. But most of them aren’t great to take multiple turns in a row. Taking resources – even fences – turn after turn is really inefficient, even if it does stymie an opponent. The result is that if you get blocked from a critical action, it typically costs you one turn at most. So, the choices that are available feel much less important.

With those criticisms out of the way, though, let’s talk about the good. The fact that ACBS is straightforward can sometimes be a huge advantage over heftier games. It is easier to get to the table and quicker to play. Plus, it is far less intimidating for new or casual gamers.

And, once you get over the fact that it’s not Agricola, the scoring differences aren’t as bad as all that. In fact, being able to specialize in one area can make competition much more vicious. If you become the sheep-baron, controller of all sheep on the board, then I can snatch away several victory points by denying you sheep. Or perhaps other points if I keep you from getting an animal type and you end up with a negative.

ACBS will find enthusiasts among those looking for something enjoyable to play with a non-gamer spouse, those who like to keep game-night relatively light, and farming fans everywhere. ACBS is adequate to those tasks. The problem is that it’s only adequate.

Components: 4 of 5. The bits in ACBS are high quality. Painted wood, thick punch board, and the kind of thing you expect in modern hobby gaming. There are no cards at all and so nearly everything is represented by wooden pieces.

Strategy/Luck Balance: NA of 5. There is no luck, per se, in this game, other than randomly determining the start player. From there, everything is open information and the effects of your actions are predictable. The only unpredictability is the behavior of your opponent.

Mechanics: 3 of 5. Everything works with ACBS and you’d never call the game broken or flawed. But everything you see in the game has been done before. A lot. And often better. There’s nothing inspiring here, but you’ll get a fun enough time out of it.

Replayability: 2 of 5. This can be improved with expansions, but the base game has some issues here. Because everything is exactly the same from game to game, and because the decisions and outcomes are mostly knowable, you can be tempted to try the same thing from game to game. And, if you do, it’ll get old very quickly.

Spite: NA of 5. As a two player game, there is no “spite” as I usually define it. That said, you’ll often be trying to grab spaces your opponent wants just to deprive them of it.

Overall: 2.5 of 5. Making the two-player version, ACBS took out many of the choices and most of the great tension from the original. This won’t give you the same feel as Agricola. What remains is “fun enough” type game. A decent enough experience, but not one that is especially unique or interesting, especially when compared with other two-player games on the market.

(Originally posted, with pictures, at the Giant Fire Breathing Robot. Check out and subscribe to my Geeklist of reviews, updated weekly)
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David Luchetti
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Wow. This is a very unpopular opinion of A:ACBS

I particularly disagree with your replayability rating - there are many stragies to explore and more importantly- your opponent's actions will direct what you will want to do in a given game.

What other two-players games "on the market" would you recommend over this one for an Agricola-like feeling?
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Will
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If you don't like 2-player, open information, abstract strategy games, you're probably not going to like this one either.
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telos81 wrote:
I particularly disagree with your replayability rating - there are many stragies to explore


I only agree with this if you have a minimum of one expansion.
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Bill Eldard
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telos81 wrote:
I particularly disagree with your replayability rating - there are many stragies to explore and more importantly- your opponent's actions will direct what you will want to do in a given game.


My wife and I regard this as one of the best 2-player games we have ever played, and we played it many times before acquiring Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small – More Buildings Big and Small, which adds variety, but is not absolutely essential.

We prefer this over Agricola.
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Eeeville wrote:
telos81 wrote:
I particularly disagree with your replayability rating - there are many stragies to explore


I only agree with this if you have a minimum of one expansion.


I think the first expansion helps to ameliorate the issue a bunch.
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James C
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The key here is when you say only setting and the animal names are what link it to Agricola. But there's also the worker placement, the art and many of the components.

I can't see how it doesn't "feel" like Agricola. It's a much lighter, quicker game with fewer rules and less complexity for sure, but it is surely similar enough to feel like it. No?

I understand if you don't like it or don't want to play or don't think it's fun. It's clearly not your type of game.
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MyParadox wrote:
There is no upgrading of the house.

One of the tiles upgrades the house.
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ct5150 wrote:
MyParadox wrote:
There is no upgrading of the house.

One of the tiles upgrades the house.


That's true. But it's only available to one player and it's not the same as Agricola. I included that in my list of why this game feels different.

But, you're right. You can "upgrade" your house a single time by buying a tile.
 
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MyParadox wrote:
ct5150 wrote:
MyParadox wrote:
There is no upgrading of the house.

One of the tiles upgrades the house.


That's true. But it's only available to one player and it's not the same as Agricola. I included that in my list of why this game feels different.

But, you're right. You can "upgrade" your house a single time by buying a tile.

At the end of your review you mention other two players games ... what other 2-players games would you recommend for a fan of Agricola?
 
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I think Agricola is fine two player.

Targi might be a good choice. It also features worker placement, blocking, and resource conversion. It's very different, obviously. And I don't know that I'd say, "if you like Agricola, you should try Targi." But it's an example of a great two player game. So is 7 Wonders: Duel.
 
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I really like this little game! I am not aware of many worker placement games that play in 30 minutes that have an average BGG score of about 7.5.

I really like 7 Wonders Duel too, though I slightly prefer Agricola: All Creatures, as I find it so fun trying to get as many animals on my farm as possible.

Of course you can only score it how it is for you. It's a 10/10 for me. Not perfect but I am always up for playing it and it gives me a great feeling of building up a farm from nothing in such a short space of time.

I think the hook is a little like Fleet for me. Starting with nothing and trying to end up with a whole load of animals/fish!

Anyway, you can only judge how it is for you, I just wanted to say that personally I find it a stand out game. I have not played base only though, we play a buildings expansion.
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We love this game, but yes, the expansions are almost required.
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James C
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ct5150 wrote:
MyParadox wrote:
There is no upgrading of the house.

One of the tiles upgrades the house.


If we are being picky, there's another tile in one of the expansions that upgrades the house too.
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This game got a 10 rating for me.

I love this game. I can understand people not liking this game if they don't like this type of game. However, as a small 2 player worker placement game this is our favorite. In fact, it's a favorite with my gemer friend as well. Our games are very competitive, very tense, and tight. I think it's the best game of this type out there that I have tried.

Replay on the game is off the charts - near infinite. I can't see me ever running into a replay problem. However I must say I obviously have both expansions.

I'd go so far as to say this game is borderline incomplete without at least one expansion. People unfamiliar with the game might say, "you're adding 4 to 8 buildings to the game...it's not going to change that much." But as anyone who plays this game knows, the change the additional buildings brings to the game is huge.

If I were rating this game without any expansions I'd likely have the same opinion as the OP. Add the expansions and everything changes.
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