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Subject: Agricola: A journey into the depths of agrarian farming rss

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Brad J
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This year I'm setting the goal to play every game in my collection once and write reviews for all of them. For my reviews I rate 6 different elements of each game on a one to ten scale since that's how BGG does thier overall ratings. I then average all the catagories with gameplay and rules counting twice to get the final overall score. The intangable factor of my personal like or dislike like of a game may also add or subtract a star from the final score as well.

Thanks for reading!



Summary

Game Type – Worker placement in the bleak world of mideval agrarian farming
Number of Players – 1 - 5
Mechanics – Worker placement and optional card drafting
Difficulty – Heavy wieght but lower on the the complexity scale
Release - 2007



Introduction/Overview
I have never in my life played a game as devisive as Agricola, which is kind of weird when you consider that it's a fairly innocuous game of placing workers to build up your own quaint little farm. To be fair though, that description of happy little workers building a happy little farm is not quite honest, because when you start to peel away it's layers Agricola starts to look a lot less like happy little workers and a lot more like a brutal struggle for survival against the unrelenting tide of hunger.

Which is exactly why I love it.

If you've played a worker placement game before then you'll understand Agricola pretty easily. Place one of your limited supply of workers on a space to take an action that no one else has taken this round so you can build up your board into a well-rounded farm. You also have a hand of minor improvements and occupations which give you special abilities available only to you if you take an action to play them. At the end of the game you gain points for everything you have and loose points for everything you don't have. It's sounds pretty straight forward, but there's one thing I haven't mentioned yet, feeding your family.

Every few rounds, six times total, you'll have to feed two food per family member or suffer a MAJOR points penalty. To make things worse you need special improvements, of which there are a limited supply, to obtain the much needed food. This is the part of the game that makes people squirm and draws the line between those who hate the game and those who love it.

Components -
Between the rustic, evocative art, the vibrant colors, and the assortment wooden pieces, Agricola is a very pleasing game to look at. In addition the board is made of thick cardboard and the cards are very high quality. My only complaint is that some player boards have spots for each resource at the top and some just have a picture of a forest. It's a confusingly incosistant little detail that annoys me to no end. 9

Rules -
The game is pretty inuitive and easy to teach with one exception that people always have troubel wrapping their heads around, converting resources to food.

"Ok so I need food at harvest, I'll just eat this sheep."

"You can't just eat the sheep, you need to turn it to food first with an improvement."

"Oh well it's a good thing I bought that clay oven last turn! Time for leg of lamb!"

"Actually you can only use an oven to turn grain to bread, you need a fireplace or cooking hearth for animals."

"Uh that's fine I guess, I'll just turn my last grain to food then."

"Unfortunetly to do that you need to take the bake bread action, which was already filled by someone else."

"Fine then, I guess I'll just take the negative points for not feeding my people it's -3 point's right?"

"Yeah, but it's -3 point per missing food, so you'll have to take negative 12 points."

"...."

*flips table*

Theme -
It's odd, but Agricola does a great job of letting you imerse yourself in your happy little farm, while simultaneously making you feel the dread of the approaching winter each season. It drips with flavor and couldn't do it ant better in my opinion.

Set-Up/Takedown -:n0star:
Even though there are a lot of little pieces, once everyone gets the hang of the game, it goes pretty quick. However refilling all the resource spaces each turn can get a little fiddly at times.

Gameplay -
Agricola runs like a well oiled machine. You'll need to play tight and have a couple plans of action to win. The need to have a little of everything in order to avoid negative points at the end of the game, keeps it from being a "point salad" and the need to feed your family every few turns keeps each game on the edge. In addition the random occupations and minor improvements keeps each game different, especially if you choose to draft them rather then give them out randomly.

Solo-Play -
As if Agricola needed more praise, the solo game is fantastic. You're intened to play solo games in a series, trying to beat an increasing points threshold each game, earning bonus food at the start of the next game for doing exceptionally well. You also get to pick an occupation you played each game (up to seven total) and keep it for the rest of the series. If you are a solo gamer, Agricola is one of the best, and even if you aren't, Agricola might hook you on solo gaming, it certainly did for me.

Overall Score and Final Thoughts -
This probably won't surprise you, but I absolutely love this game. It's got some very minor flaw but I feel it's the closest thing to perfect you can get in a game. While some people won't enjoy the pressure of having to feed your people and get a little of everything, I feel that's what makes the game great.

Agricola gets a very easy 10 from me.

P.S. It's also worth mentioning that Agricola has a phone app that is one of the best board game to IOS conversions I've ever seen.
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Chris Wood
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Is this the new edition you are reviewing?
 
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Phil Majewski

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what farming is not agrarian?
 
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Shush Ruth
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gremlin76 wrote:
what farming is not agrarian?

Ha ha! Good point!

Pisciculture maybe?
 
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Conan Meriadoc
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shruthless wrote:
gremlin76 wrote:
what farming is not agrarian?

Ha ha! Good point!

Pisciculture maybe?

World of Warcraft farming ?
Now to imagine a game where you do some quests again and again in order to gain resource cubes...
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Brad J
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Myoman wrote:
Is this the new edition you are reviewing?

No, I haven't played the new edition yet but from what I understand there aren't too many changes out side some card rebalancing. I know a review of a game from 2007 isn't that timely but I'm trying to contribute more to the site.
 
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Brad J
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gremlin76 wrote:
what farming is not agrarian?

Maybe my title isn't as clever as I first thought...
whistle
 
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Chris Wood
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DieLaughing wrote:
Myoman wrote:
Is this the new edition you are reviewing?
o, I haven't played the new edition yet but from what I understand there aren't too many changes out side some card rebalancing. I know a review of a game from 2007 isn't that timely but I'm trying to contribute more to the site.


The cards are completely revamped. The impact is pretty substantial.
 
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Brad J
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I didn't realize that! Now I'm interested. They are releasing an upgrade pack with the changed cards for the new edition, right?
 
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Geoff Burkman
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DieLaughing wrote:
I didn't realize that! Now I'm interested. They are releasing an upgrade pack with the changed cards for the new edition, right?


I don't believe so, or at least I've yet to see an announcement from Mayfair of that intention. At this point, if you want the revised card set, you have to buy the revised base game. There will purportedly be an eventual multi-hundred card expansion pack released (no set date) which may or may not include the base revision cards. They're also releasing six sets of miniatures with exclusive card sets that will apparently not be issued separately, a rather blatant cash grab that has rubbed a lot of Agricola vets the wrong way, myself included.

Quote:
The cards are completely revamped. The impact is pretty substantial.

With all due respect to Chris, I disagree. A large (if not majority) portion of the revision card set is comprised of straight-up transfers from the original base game. I would have to rate the impact as minimal, other than the obvious fact that the limited card count means that various combos will occur more frequently. The game itself remains virtually the same. In fact, the only genuine alteration I've noticed is the inclusion of a tie-breaker rule (which I ignore), and a number of optional action tiles that serve to open up the decision tree (especially in the early Stages) while simultaneously lessening the tension in the game. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
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