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Subject: Agricola review rss

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Patrick Dettmar
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Agricola
1-5 players
1.5-2 hours
medium-heavy
worker placement/resource management/point salad


Theme and Mechanics

In agricola, players are families that are running a farm; Raising animals, planting wheat and vegetables, improving their home, gaining occupations, and growing their family. The mechanics mirror the theme pretty well, and the mechanics seem pretty thematic for the most part.

Players will place their family members on action spaces to collect various resources, plow fields, plant crops, build rooms on their houses, build fences and pastures, gain occupations, gain improvement cards, and grow their family. Points are scored for virtually everything you do in the game; sets of animals, plowed fields, crops, house size and quality, etc. Players will lose points for aspects in which they've shown no improvement (having no cows, no crops, unused farm space, or unfed family members, etc) Players will start the game with 7 occupation cards and 7 minor improvement cards that can be played or built to give players special abilities. Each round, new actions will be revealed, and some actions will accumulate goods on them for each round they are unused, making them more and more valuable actions to take. Some rounds will contain a harvest, during which animals can breed, crops are harvested and your family members must all be fed. At the end of 14 rounds, the player with the most points wins.


Art and Components

The art is really good. It's sort of cartoony, and there are a lot of unique fun little details that make looking at the art fun just for the art's sake. There are a TON of bits in this game. The older versions have cubes to represent animals (boar, sheep, and cattle) and disks to wooden disks for everything else (wood, reed, wheat, vegetables, stone, and clay). The newer version have far superior replacements for all these parts, which are wooden bits shaped like the things they represent. Both version have good quality cardboard player boards and main boards, as well as tiles for plowed fields and rooms. There are also a TON of cards, separated into different decks for different play experiences. The card quality in the older version (the version I own) seems a bit flimsy, but not bad. I do not know if the card quality is improved in the newer versions.


Replability and Expansions

The game provides replayability in several ways. The action spaces are actually cards that are placed randomly by rounds, and are revealed one round at a time, so that in each game, each round from game to game will not be the same. Also, as mentioned, there are a ton of cards (occupations and minor improvements). These cards will shape your strategies, and provides a different game play experience and different strategies each time you play.

There are not big box expansions for this game, but there are several small deck expansions that I do not have any experience with.


The Up Side

If you have the newer version, the wood bits are awesome. One of my favorite things about this game is looking at what you have build when the game is over; fenced in pastures with animeeples in them, plowed fields of vegetables, a big stone house with a pet sheep in it. Its rewarding, even when you lose. I really like the action spaces that build up resources each round, which makes for interesting decisions (do I take a couple of wood now, or do I wait a round to hopefully get more and risk someone else taking it?). There are plenty of cards so that you won't see repeats unless you play this game a lot.


The Down Side

It feels a little disappointing to own the older version when the newer version is so much cooler.

The player boards are double sided; one stark and plain, the other with spaces to store resources and some helpful reminder icons. Either side can be used with no effect on game play (simply player preference), but for some reason, some of the player boards have only one side, and the other side is some sort of tutorial/cheat sheet/solo play board, so some players won't get the choice of which side to use. It's seems like a weird design decision to me that I didn't like.

The older version has disks for wood and clay that are VERY similar in color, and are difficult to tell apart even without color blindness.

The optional draft of the cards at the beginning of the game is too much for new players (I drafted my first play, and it was a real drag) and can seem to draw the game out even before you start playing. Luckily, it's optional. I would really only recommend it if the players are super competitive and don't want "I got a lucky hand of cards" as an excuse.

The point salad nature of the game makes it difficult to really tell who's ahead, and what things are worth, especially with lower experienced players.

Final Thoughts

This is a game that requires practice. The first game or two, you'll feel more like your struggling to survive rather than playing to win. The game becomes much more rewarding with multiple plays, and I would recommend it for players that really like to explore games in depth.

8 out of 10


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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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if your intention is to write more reviews, I'd recommend you put more thought into the titles. "Agricola review" is entirely redundant - it's posted in the Reviews forum for Agricola, both of which would be self evident even if you used "Peanut Butter Sandwich" for the title.


(It would be easy to change the title of this one to something useful, if you choose to do so. Simply click 'edit' for the review itself and change the title there.)
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Geoff Burkman
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You might also reconsider categorizing the game as a "point salad." It really isn't.
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Thanks for the review. I own the family edition and have been pondering upgrading (I have the mobile app but am unsure if the physical version would get played in my group). As someone who only recently got into Agricola, I appreciate the fresh take and impressions of the old version.
 
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Patrick Dettmar
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Sphere wrote:
if your intention is to write more reviews, I'd recommend you put more thought into the titles. "Agricola review" is entirely redundant - it's posted in the Reviews forum for Agricola, both of which would be self evident even if you used "Peanut Butter Sandwich" for the title.


(It would be easy to change the title of this one to something useful, if you choose to do so. Simply click 'edit' for the review itself and change the title there.)

yea, you're right, but I'm always like "what the hell else would I call it?"

I'll put more thought into it next time. My intent is to review all the games I own
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Patrick Dettmar
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MisterG wrote:
You might also reconsider categorizing the game as a "point salad." It really isn't.

I 100% disagree with that, but I'd like to hear your explanation.
 
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Peter Mumford
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The thing about the scoring is that we're all aiming for the exact same perfect farm.
 
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Patrick Dettmar
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photocurio wrote:
The thing about the scoring is that we're all aiming for the exact same perfect farm.

Yes, but you get points for almost literally everything you do. You can boil any point salad game down to a common goal, but that doesn't make it any less a point salad. A quick Google search returned this adthe first result

https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/161603/point-salad-games

And, I'd like to point out, Agricola is #4 on this list.

Castles of burgundy, all players are trying to build the best estate, eclipse- run the best galactic empire, 7 wonders - build the best civilization, galaxy trucker - make the most money, village - have the most famous family. Still all point salad games.

And, from https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1643276/what-are-point-sala... thread, a definition that I feel is very accurate, fits agricola perfectly.


Triboluminous wrote:

Whether something is a 'point salad' is a measure of the extent to which the disparate points-getting sub-mechanisms of a game are disconnected. They're not completely disconnected in most of the Feld games that get mentioned, but some are more disconnected than others. If something has the feel of "I could go over there and get three points, or go over there and get five", and the feedback, connection and 'synergy' between the branches is relative low or absent, then it's a 'point salad'; the direct analogy being of standing at a salad buffet and choosing between "going over there and getting potato salad or going over there and getting diced carrots". The potato salad doesn't synergize with the carrots, they're pretty much disconnected.
 
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Point salad is when you can get points in different ways. Agricola just penalizes you when you don't do a little of each aspect, that doesn't make it not a point salad. But certainly the aim is not to get the same exact perfect farm, once you gain the minimum each, it's up to you to specialize.
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Patrick Dettmar
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jcsan7 wrote:
Point salad is when you can get points in different ways...

uhh... you mean like collecting boars, sheep, cows, vegetables, wheat, focusing on building your family, building your house, plowing your fields, or making pastures? (all of which get you points)

your entire statement seems contradictory

jcsan7 wrote:
Agricola just penalizes you when you don't do a little of each aspect, that doesn't make it not a point salad...

Avoiding negative points is relatively the same as gaining points. The game would be no different if, instead of getting minus 3 points for begging, you gained 3 points for not begging. The relative result on your end score is the same. So, doing something to avoid negative points DOES make it a point salad.

jcsan7 wrote:
But certainly the aim is not to get the same exact perfect farm, once you gain the minimum each, it's up to you to specialize.

so, by specialize, you mean to choose one or two of the several ways that there are to earn points? How is that not the same as "getting points in different ways"?

Don't mean to be harsh, but I'm really having a hard time understanding your logic.
 
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Patrick Dettmar
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jcsan7 wrote:
dude, I was supporting you. If you look at this entire thread, I seem to be the only one supporting your review. Way to snap at someone taking your side.

I didn't mean to snap at you, but I do realize it may have seemed that way in text. I was confused at your stance because I thought you were saying it was not a point salad game because of your statement "that doesn't make it not point salad" which I read, missing the "not"

I apologize for my misunderstanding. It makes perfect sense now
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Geoff Burkman
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dettmarp wrote:
MisterG wrote:
You might also reconsider categorizing the game as a "point salad." It really isn't.

I 100% disagree with that, but I'd like to hear your explanation.

As is discussed throughout the Geeklist you linked to, 'point salad' remains somewhat ill-defined. I get why many people feel Agricola is a point salad; you score points in a number of different ways, as if every avenue of approach were equally weighted. That, of course, is not true. The bulk of Agricola scoring is based on manpower and infrastructure; It forces growth. Strategic and more importantly tactical decisions are confined to a much more limited trajectory than, say, a game like Caverna, in which growth is a less pressing issue, and there are no appreciable limits on scoring in most categories.

Both games are essentially spreadsheet games, and in that sense, yes, will always be 'point salads,' if one accepts that loose or generalized a definition. But the synergies and connections, as your one link mentions, are quite high in Agricola. You must compete for growth in the early rounds of the game,* and everything you do impinges on that expansion. Your opponents' moves have a significant effect on yours. To me, a 'point salad' is a game wherein I score points no matter what I do, and in a way that has little to do with how I might score later, and little or limited relation to what my opponents do; my decisions become less critical, less meaningful in the long run.

*Certainly there are outliers to this rule of thumb, but they're rare enough to remain outliers.
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Christopher Foster
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*Much of this was already written before MisterG's fine response appeared, which is why there is some overlap in content.*

OP, you're going to get blowback for calling Agricola a point salad game in the Agricola forums because "point salad" is generally a derisive term. It is also a poorly defined term, which tends to lead to disagreements over which games qualify.

dettmarp wrote:
...you get points for almost literally everything you do.
No, you don't. The five things you will do the most are take wood, take clay, take reed, take stone, and take food. Yes, you will temporarily gain points for that sheep in your house, but you will lose them again when you cook the sheep. In most cases, playing an occupation will not get you points, but will confer some advantage that may, with proper play, get you points. Taking start player will never get you points, while playing a minor improvement will only sometimes get you points.

dettmarp wrote:
A quick Google search returned this adthe first result

https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/161603/point-salad-games

And, I'd like to point out, Agricola is #4 on this list.
In that very same list, you'll see under the Agricola entry that there is immediate disagreement on whether Agricola is a point salad game. That same kind of disagreement take place in the comments under several other entries as well.

dettmarp wrote:
And, from https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1643276/what-are-point-sala... thread, a definition that I feel is very accurate, fits agricola perfectly.

Triboluminous wrote:

Whether something is a 'point salad' is a measure of the extent to which the disparate points-getting sub-mechanisms of a game are disconnected. They're not completely disconnected in most of the Feld games that get mentioned, but some are more disconnected than others. If something has the feel of "I could go over there and get three points, or go over there and get five", and the feedback, connection and 'synergy' between the branches is relative low or absent, then it's a 'point salad'; the direct analogy being of standing at a salad buffet and choosing between "going over there and getting potato salad or going over there and getting diced carrots". The potato salad doesn't synergize with the carrots, they're pretty much disconnected.
Even by this definition of point salad (which is not authoritative anyway) Agricola is not a point salad game. The mechanisms for scoring in Agricola are not disconnected. You get points for three kinds of animals, the more animals the better. Yet you must build fences and/or stables—each of which also gives you points—to hold all those animals. You get points for grain and vegetables, the more of each the better. Yet the best way to increase your supply of grain and vegetables is to sow them in fields—which also give you points. You get points for growing your family, the more the better. Yet you must build extra rooms—more points—to hold those family members, and you must come up with more food to feed them, which will usually cost you points (as you eat your only sheep, and so on). Underlying all these actions is gathering resources, which (as I mentioned earlier) gives no points. Many occupations and minor improvements give efficiency advantages to many of the aforementioned actions without directly giving points. The fact that many of your victory points can (and often must) be eaten during harvests only enhances the interconnectedness of Agricola's scoring mechanisms.

Looking at the scoring sheet for Agricola might make it seem like everything you do gives you points, but there is a lot of legwork to do to get that stone house with four pastures, etc. The heart of the game is in that legwork.

All of the preceding is what I have in mind when I say that Agricola is not a point salad game.
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Patrick Dettmar
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In response to the previous 2 posts:

I completely understand that the definition is debatable, but I provided opinions of others that helped support my point, since nothing definitive is available.

I don't see "point salad" as a negative or decisive term, but that would explain the push back about it.

I still maintain that most of what you do in building your farm will get you points. No, extra resources are not worth points, but there are significant amount of uncoupled ways to get points. Even when youcook that sheep, you're gaining points; if a sheep is worth 2 points, and I cook it and eat it to avoid losing 3 points, I've gained 1 point but taking that action.

The mechanisms for scoring absolutely are disconnected. Your sheep don't effect your boars, which don't effect your cows, which don't effect your wheat or vegetable shores, which makes no difference to your house score. The only coupled shooting mechanism is feeding, which is relatedto everything (bigger house, larger familyto feed, which eats your animals and vegetables). I can plow a field and earn points without ever passing on itand itwill still earn me points, same goes with fencing pastures, so th these mechanisms are only half coupled.

I found your explanation interesting, but I still disagree

I think our big difference in option comes from 2 things:

1. I don't think "point salad" is a bad thing, and so I have no hesitation I placing that label on a good game

2. I don't think that the legwork you mentioned (which I totally agree with) negates the "point salad" definition (at least not the definition I've chosen to agree with).

Edit: I also think "spreadsheet game" is a very strong indicator that it is also a "point salad" game. I'd even go as far as to say that they are essentially the same thing in my mind, although you can be a point salad without being spreadsheet, but not the other way around.
 
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Mattias Elfström
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Nice review.

There is actually a great expansion for this game called "Farmers of the Moor". Although not yet updated for the new version, it seems to be scheduled for re-release in the near future.

I also cannot resist commenting on classifying this game as "medium-heavy"; I suppose there would have to be at least two categories above "heavy" in that case ("gargantuan" and "titanic"?).

 
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Patrick Dettmar
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Mattias wrote:
Nice review.

There is actually a great expansion for this game called "Farmers of the Moor". Although not yet updated for the new version, it seems to be scheduled for re-release in the near future.

I also cannot resist commenting on classifying this game as "medium-heavy"; I suppose there would have to be at least two categories above "heavy" in that case ("gargantuan" and "titanic"?).


Yea, it maybe should have been a medium, but as most people need a game or two for learning in order to just not starve to death, I think medium heavy is apt. I use very light, light, medium light, medium, medium heavy, heavy and very heavy.
 
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dettmarp wrote:
Mattias wrote:
Nice review.

There is actually a great expansion for this game called "Farmers of the Moor". Although not yet updated for the new version, it seems to be scheduled for re-release in the near future.

I also cannot resist commenting on classifying this game as "medium-heavy"; I suppose there would have to be at least two categories above "heavy" in that case ("gargantuan" and "titanic"?).


Yea, it maybe should have been a medium, but as most people need a game or two for learning in order to just not starve to death, I think medium heavy is apt. I use very light, light, medium light, medium, medium heavy, heavy and very heavy.
Sheldon on Big Bang theory brought out Campaign for North Africa the other day... https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/4815/campaign-north-afri...
 
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