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Swamp Hamster
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Title: Agricola: Master of Britain

Basic information: Designed by Tom Russell, Hollandspiele Games, 2016.

Overall Evaluation: What...another review of Agricola? Yes...every game deserves at least one review and preferably multiple reviews. This permits those interested in the game to peruse more than one review in order to compare opinions. When my mother was the only one telling me that I would like the taste of chicken liver, I knew something must be wrong with that scenario.

This is an excellent solo game with great replayability. It offers a well developed system combining political, economic, and military aspects into a single game on an interesting topic. This one is tough to beat and this adds to the replayability.


Background Theme: The game centers on Gnaeus Julius Agricola, the Roman Proconsul of Britain from 77 to 85 AD. Agricola spent his years as Proconsul attempting to pacify the Britains, consolidate Roman occupation, and subduing the Caledonians. “Agricola: Master of Britain” offers the gamer an opportunity to walk in the shoes of Agricola and apply military, diplomatic, and economic power to achieve these goals.

Mechanics: The solo game is a point-to-point system in which the Romans move about Britain in their attempt to fulfill Agricola’s mission. Applying military, diplomatic, or economic power alone will not accomplish the job. Rather the player must be skillful in balancing the three. To win (and it’s not easy…) the Romans must acquire an increasing amount of victory points as the game progresses. They must build settlements, remove tribal units from the game map (meaning keeping them back on the farm), maintain a strong army, not lose a battle, and eliminate tribal leaders who rise against the occupation. In addition, the Romans receive victory points for spending money from the treasury (better have sufficient money in the treasury for public works and auxiliary troops….just saying...).

This is a point-to-point rather than hex-based game system based on completing a differing number of actions per game turn. Some are “free actions” while the Turn Chart specifies how many additional actions may be attempted. Each turn requires the player to have acquired a certain level of victory points. Yes...you can lose the game after only one turn...and it happens. No, I don’t want to talk about how that happened to me...

Many factors can bring an immediate defeat in the game including not meeting the victory point threshold at the end of each turn (and it increases each turn), losing all of your units in a battle, if a Legion has been depleted to a level where it does not have troops, if your treasury is empty, or if the crafty Britain Calgacus is running about the map after Turn 8.

Roman actions include suppressing tribal units that appear on the map, battling tribal armies, garrison an area, perform ‘peacekeeping’ through your presence in an area, or just doing nothing. Agricola may also conduct unique “leader actions” such as reorganization of legions and negotiating with the Britains (Yes...that means bribery...better have money in the treasury...just saying…).

While the game map is strategic in nature, military battles are fought between units on a tactical display area of the map sheet. The game uses a simple but effective battle sequence.


Components: The game includes an 8.5x11 inch map sheet on light card stock, an 8.5x11 inch tactical battle display also on light card stock, 88 counters, a 12 page rule book (10 pages of rules, 1 page of charts, and a cover page), and an 8-sided die.

The map is small yet quite functional in its well developed depiction of Roman Britain. The map includes various tracking charts (Turn, victory points, income, and Legion Actions). The tactical battle display includes areas to place defeated or force pool units.

The counters are thick, well illustrated, and pop out of the holder easily and cleanly. I like thick, sturdy counters. The one problem (and it’s minor) with the counters is clarity for those of us with aging eyes. Most counters are OK but those in red have black titles printed onto them. These can be quite difficult to clearly see due to the black label on dark colored counters.


What I like about this Game:

1.This is a great solo system that combines strategic and tactical action. It is a “thinking” game where the player must be looking ahead not only in terms of gathering military strength but also political and economic strength. No money? You have problems. Few friendly Britains? You have problems. Beaten on the battlefield? You have a big problem.

2. “Agricola: Master of Britain” is a challenge to play. This is a game of combat to subdue various British groups yet also a game of diplomacy and peacekeeping. The player is continually attempting to balance his/her position among the Britains. Perform one action to counter a problem and you’ll find one or two groups moving from being friendly to unfriendly toward you...or unfriendly to hostile. Hey...can’t we all be friends? Apparently not. The game includes opportunities for the Britains to turn on each other and impact the player’s standing among them. One just does not sit down and win this game. Rather you must master the hybrid of military, political, and economic factors that are intertwined within the game. I like this point as I purchase games to not only entertain but also challenge me. Oh...and offer great replayability.

3.The game is manageable and the rules are well written. Some do take a re-read but that is not uncommon in games. I noticed Tom Russell is good about answering rules questions posted on BGG.

4. Replayability is excellent. The experience differs from game play to game play.

5. Components are excellent. The game has a rather small footprint as one can see in the components list (above). It is boxed or can be purchased PnP. The components in either format are easily placed into a bag or folder and become a great game when traveling.


Potential Issues for some Gamers:

1. Simply stated -- If you don’t like to lose -- you won’t like this game. This is a solo game that will put the player into a wringer wondering how to manage all of the factions that just don’t seem to like him. And...Oh My...why is the treasury nearly empty? Who had their hand in the cookie jar? It’s not an easy game to win. I like this type of challenge but concede there are some who might prefer to win most if not all of the time.

2. Some of the counters (those with red backgrounds) are difficult to read. I covered this earlier.

3. This game might not be for you if you are seeking a purely military game without the strategic level political and economic aspects of conflict. This game does include a miliary element (and a tactical battle map) but economics and politics are as important as military campaigning in order to win.


Replay Value: Excellent. The game includes many random elements that alter play each time.

Bang for the Buck:
Excellent. Lots of replay value in an interesting game on a fascinating topic. Even bigger bang when purchasing the PnP style which is cheaper than the boxed version. I must admit that although I like PnP games, I went for the boxed version.

c The Swamp Hamster
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Dave Daffin
United Kingdom
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Great review. I need to mount my pnp copy on board, and cut out the counters......
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Stanley Hubble
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Thanks for the review!
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Swamp Hamster
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Dave in Ledbury wrote:
Great review. I need to mount my pnp copy on board, and cut out the counters......


PrintPlay Games will mount PnP game maps. They need the file photo of the map. Don't know about mailing to the UK.

See details:

https://www.printplaygames.com/
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Dave Daffin
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swamphamster wrote:
Dave in Ledbury wrote:
Great review. I need to mount my pnp copy on board, and cut out the counters......


PrintPlay Games will mount PnP game maps. They need the file photo of the map. Don't know about mailing to the UK.

See details:

https://www.printplaygames.com/


Thanks. I have heard about them. White Dog Games recommend them for printing mounted versions of their boardgame maps. However, it is the shipping (and customs charge) that is a turn-off for me on this.

I've purchased some thick board, so I should be OK for putting together a half-decent gameboard and counters.....
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Tony Quitadamo
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Excellent review. I went with the PnP version and adjusted the colours so the Roman units stood out more, but a pain trying to cut out the counters after mounting them on heavy card. In the end I ordered the thick counters,
which are great but as you said hard to read.
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Barry Kendall
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Very good review. Initially passed on this, but after reading so many positive well-stated reviews have placed Aggie on the to-buy plan.

But . . . what's wrong with chicken livers? There's a poultry guy in the local market who sells fantastic broasted chicken livers.

Turkey livers are also great, just brown with a little flour in olive oil-and-butter, maybe with a couple chunks of onion. Yummmm.

And a big thumbs-up to whitetail deer liver. After this, you'll never go back to calves' liver.

A pity my propensity for gout flare-ups has put liver on my "Highly Restricted, front-load with anti-inflammatory and hydrate heavily" list.

I just thought somebody ought to stick up for chicken livers . . . .
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Swamp Hamster
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Barry Kendall wrote:
.

I just thought somebody ought to stick up for chicken livers . . . .


gulp
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Michael West
Lithuania
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How do people cope with making counters for PnP games? I was thinking of trying this route myself and was thinking maybe a card cutter (guillotine) was the best way forward. With scissors you are bound to make errors.
 
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Russ Williams
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michaelwest777 wrote:
How do people cope with making counters for PnP games? I was thinking of trying this route myself and was thinking maybe a card cutter (guillotine) was the best way forward. With scissors you are bound to make errors.

A rotary cutter (cutting along a straight-edge) seems popular (and best in my experience).
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Gabriel Conroy
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Rotary cutter is good but expensive as the blade will blunt quickly on card. I just use a craft knife and make sure it is sharp by regularly breaking off the end to get a new blade. As soon as it starts to catch or tear the board slightly, it's time to refresh the blade.
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Michael West
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Ok sounds good :-) thank you
 
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