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Subject: Agricola: Uwe at his Finest rss

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Joe Sallen
United States
Boone
Iowa
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The Good, The Board, and the Ugly & The Long View
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The Good, The Board, and the Ugly & The Long View
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This review is also part of an update to my top games geeklist:

My Top 152 Games; Detailed Reviews

Agricola has everything I look for in a gaming experience: strategy, tactics, tension, and variety. It's all wrapped up in an adorable, vibrant package without any unnecessary overhead. The gameplay is straightforward: place a worker to take an action and eventually feed your people during each harvest. The board starts with basic actions and more advanced actions become available as the game progresses. The main mechanism present is gaining and supporting more workers. Each new worker will be able to actions for every subsequent round but also requires food. You'll need to manage your family growth by creating a food engine based in farming or ranching.

Farming and ranching are two distinct endeavors that both will take place on your home board. Farming requires you to plow fields while ranching requires fenced in pastures. No matter which route you choose, you'll need upgrades to convert crops or animals to food efficiently. During each harvest, you'll be able to harvest your crops and breed more animals, representing a food engine. Once you have a food engine established, you are free to take actions to achieve points. Points are awarded for having a nice big house with lots of improvements and also for owning crops and animals.

Diversity is the name of the game in Agricola's scoring system. You'll be penalized for everything you completely neglect to obtain. That makes your first of every category worth pursuing. Many criticize the game for forcing you into a specific strategy. I disagree. What the scoring does is force competition, and it charges every action I take with tension. I try to keep tabs not only on my own plans but also on my opponents'. Glancing at their board I get a general idea of what they will prioritize and whether that conflicts with my plans. I then take actions accordingly. Sure we are all striving for the same ultimate outcome, but the cards are really what offer different strategies.


The sheer number of cards in the base game is the stuff of legend. There are as many unique cards in the base game as there had been after 8 expansions for Dominion. Out of all those cards, hardly any have been flagged as being too powerful for tournament use. I prefer to draft cards at the start of each game. This makes for the real strategy in Agricola I play out the game in my head as I pick cards, trying to combo cards off each other much like in Dominion. During the draft I make a lot of long term decisions about how I plan to feed my family and where I hope to score points. Very few other games allow this level of strategy while maintaining a fairly consistent platform for tactical choices as the round cards are semi-random. Variability is at an unparalleled high for games with mechanisms as solid as they are in Agricola. I always want to return to it because I know each game will offer me a unique puzzle to solve that starts with the cards and continues to develop layer upon layer with each subsequent round.

I love Agricola at all its player counts, except two. That might be just because I prefer the special 2 player game that focuses on ranching.

Agricola has seen one big box expansion and several new sets of cards. Farmers of the Moor somehow matches the base game in containing a metric ton of content. The new theme is on heating your house by harvesting new forest and moor tiles that start on your home board. There is a hock of new cards that all connect with that mechanism as well as new major improvements that start underneath existing ones. Add to that a new set of action cards that can be drafted instead of placing a worker. It used to be that placing last meant you took the worst spot on the board. With Farmers the last player usually gets first crack at the board. It changes up what I came to expect from Agricola. Would I always play with it? Not necessarily. It limits the cards to specifically ones from Farmers of the Moor. If there was just the base game and Farmers this wouldn't be an issue, but that isn't the case.

There have to date been 5 expansions with decks of cards to work with Agricola. These range from cards that are tailor made for combos (Gamer deck) to cards that represent culturally significant people, products and practices (France, Belgium, Netherlands). The country decks, especially Belgium and the Netherlands, tend to be best played alone as their cards can seem really powerful in the base game, especially regarding family growth. They're still worth a spot in my collection, as those games have been some of my favorites over well over 50 plays in person. All these decks offer even more replayability and bring the total card count over 1000. It just never ends. And I never want it to.

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Paris

Monforte de Lemos
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Got halfway through it and knew that you were from America! Using the word ranching to describe 17th Century European animal farming!!!


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Mattias Elfström
Sweden
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You can easily play FotM with the standard minor improvements and those from expansions. We always do and I've never encountered any major problems.
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Geoff Burkman
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Kettering
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Absolutely. Level 3 "FotM" games are monstrously entertaining brain burn.
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Gomeril Gnak
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patrocles wrote:
Got halfway through it and knew that you were from America! Using the word ranching to describe 17th Century European animal farming!!!



There is an occupational card "Cowboy".
 
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