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Subject: Review #1 - Agricola rss

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forlorn 110
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This is the game that began it all for me. Well, not really, but more on that in another review - let’s just say that this is the game that not only opened my eyes but has stayed near the very top of my favorite games ever played. I purchased it on faith on the recommendation of a friend and from that very first play, I knew it was something very special.

The theme of the game is farming, which immediately raises doubts about how fun a game about farming could really be. Over 14 rounds, you will use your family members, or workers, to take actions, which range from growing grain and vegetables, raising livestock, and expanding your home and family, which allows you to take even more actions. At the end of the game, you tally up your victory points based on what you have accumulated in your farm. You will be trying to specialize in one area to build an engine and gain as many points as possible, but you cannot forget about other categories because you can lose victory points if you don’t have enough of certain items.

If this sounds like it will be a relaxing and pleasant game, you are very, very wrong. This game is tough and will likely leave you stressing out partway through that you have barely done anything and in the end wish you had a few more turns. There are six harvest events which occur at the end of certain rounds - spread out at the start of the game and closer together near the end. During the harvest, you can reap the benefits of your planting and breeding, but there is also the dreaded “feeding phase”, where you need to feed each of your family members and suffer severe victory point loss if you cannot. For the first couple harvests, you will probably be spending the majority of your actions collecting scraps of food to just survive and contemplating whether or not growing your family to get more actions is worth the additional food it requires (it is).

As a worker placement game, you will not only be taking actions that benefit you but will be denying those actions to your fellow players. In a game with limited action spaces (though a new one comes out each round), this requires careful planning and back-up plans to your back-up plans as you see the precious actions being taken by others. If you stick to using just two family members, you will only have 28 actions in the game so you better make sure each one counts.

There are a few other things I haven't mentioned, such as improvements and occupations that keep variability high and help direct your strategy a bit. There's also a simpler family variant if you want to dip your toes before the deep dive, although I would recommend against this as I feel it deviates from the core experience. As it says on the box, it isn't easy to be a farmer. Is the game stressful? Yes, but is it fun? Definitely. Seeing your final farm and the fruits of your labour is a rewarding experience and knowing you had to overcome adversity is a big part of that. It has consistently ranked highly for me as not many other games have been able to deliver that same, agonizing decision-making in such a complete package.

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I just thought it would be fun to start reviewing boardgames to keep me in the loop since I don't get to play them as much as I would like.

See my Top 50 here:
https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/225586/my-top-50-games-ja...

See my Top 50 want to play games here:
https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/225747/my-top-50-games-i-...
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John Burt
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Quote:
This is the game that began it all for me.

Same here. When my wife and I first started exploring this hobby, we bought a bunch of the recommended gateway games, which were all disappointing. Then we bought Agricola, and had the "aha!" moment when we realized that THIS was the kind of game we liked to play. It would be hard to pick a favorite designer, but we now own more of Uwe's games than any other by far.
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