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Tony Chen
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Agricola is an economic engine, worker-placement game for 1 to 5 players. Games last around two and a half hours. So what does it have to offer?

all the shortcomings of an AT

Agricola has all the fiddliness of an AT. There are a lot of actions to choose from (and many of these actions need to be seeded with more resources at the end of each round, of which there are many), a lot of cards (with texts), and a lot of scoring categories.

Unfortunately, despite the sheer quantity of choices, none of the individual cards/actions/scoring category feels particularly unique or meaningfully different. Do you want to pick up 6 wood, pick up 4 wood, pick up 4 clay, or pick up 2 clay? Do you want to pick up 2 sheep, 1 cattle, or 1 boar? Do you want to build an improvement that lets you generate food in this manner, this manner, or that? Do you want to build fences or stables, which basically serve the same purposes but with slightly different numbers? More than an interesting set of choices to pick from, it feels like a laundry list of things hacked together. Most of the choices are more of the same, and you'll likely end up doing something from each general category. More forced and contrived complexity than real variability.

Very fiddly strategically, and physically from the set up and all the handling.

none of the benefits of an AT

An AT (and war) game fits its game mechanisms around a theme, instead of tacking on a theme to a gameplay. As such, thematic immersion is usually one of AT's strong points. I feel that Agricola tries to do what AT does, namely fit mechanisms around a theme, except that the theme is, well, farming. Compare this to the Punic Wars, and I am already predisposed to favor Hannibal: Rome versus Carthage by leaps and bounds. Furthermore, looking at their respective execution of thematic simulation, Hannibal's recreation of a monumental historical conflict feels natural and aesthetically pleasing, whereas Agricola's simulation of farming feels awkward and contrived.

The way the cards recreate (possibly alternate) history is a pleasant experience in Hannibal. And the way two numbers (Hannibal's 1-4 rating) manifests Hannibal's mighty prowess as a general is very creative. But with Agricola, a clay oven doesn't feel especially like a clay oven, and a sheep is not much more than a sheep, on the pasture, potentially good for a point or some food. The way Agricola recreates farm life is very uninspired, unimaginative, forced and contrived. It's too straightforward: a fireplace cost so and so and does this, going fishing does that. Now obviously pretty much every action in every economic game costs something and does something, but in Agricola the cost-so-and-so-and-does-this feeling is particularly dominant, because everything is so one-dimensional.

So what we have is a game that tries to tailor its gameplay around a theme, except that due to the uninspired execution and choice of theme to begin with, there is no theme either--only that the game is true to its theme in tediousness and dryness.

all the shortcomings of an euro

This section is, admittedly, redundant. (But so are many of the choices in Agricola, HA!) But, yeah, I mean, the game is about farming, like a good old euro. And we have white cubes for sheeps. It is the definition of a run-of-the-mill euro spreadsheet.

none of the benefits of an euro

Now I don't mind "dry" euros by any means. But that's because they usually have subtle, sophisticated gameplay. Agricola, however, is theme first, gameplay second. (Now this is debatable, but I support my claim by calling your attention to the number of people making fimo pieces for this game.) As such, the strategy is much more straightforward and scripted, more like a mechanical simulation. Proof: Agricola plays well from one to five. For me, any game that plays well from one to five necessarily has limited player interaction, or at most very "scripted" ones. Incidentally, I feel the same way about Age of Empires 3 (which plays well from two to five), except that the thematic execution is done a little better with the specialists really adding flavor to the game.

Conversely, consider Modern Art, Ra, Power Grid, Stone Age, Puerto Rico, and Imperial. Each of these games has some subtle nuances, and often some aha! moments where something just clicks. There is something "clever" about these games, something unique, some singular or odd ideas, something that cannot be gleaned superficially. Granted, that may just mean that I have yet to have my aha-moment with Agricola. But for now, it feels like an overly straightforward gateway game (except that it is also too fiddly and complex to be a gateway either), or an uninspired turn-based computer game.

Solid, but not great. Functional, but not inspiring.

In summary, Agricola does not have a good euro's sophisticated gameplay, nor a good AT's thematic immersion, but does have respectively the dryness and fiddliness of the same. The worst of both worlds, the best of none.

Having said that, I do think that Agricola is a very solid, functional excercise. In particular, it is disturbingly accurate how the farm starts out slow and picks up in speed. It also encourages farmers to be self-sufficient instead of specialized, true to the economic model of the time as far as I know. Harvest and feeding come around faster than one expects, and one is always short of farm hands to do all the things one needs to do. I do not think that any of these is incidental. The parameters of the game were carefully tested and tweaked to get the desired pace and short-handedness, and to encourage players to farm and anguish like real anguishing farmers. So despite all that I said, the game is quite thematic in some aspects, and the designer scores big on that one.

But for me, an accurate simulation does not necessarily translate to thematic immersion, if the accuracy is begotten by contrived, clinical tweakings instead of more inspiring, creative methods. It just leaves me cold.

I usually love games where there are so many things I need to do, but so little time to do them; but for some reason Agricola is the exception. Maybe because I will eventually end up doing a little bit of everything anyways. Maybe because the angst comes more from a need to cross things off on a laundry list in a sequential manner, rather than some ingenious strategical considerations where the opportunity costs are more subtle. So solid, functional gameplay does not translate to great gameplay either.

If I had to use three words to describe Agricola, and I've probably used them many times in this review, they would be "fiddly," "contrived" and "uninspired."

By the way, am I the only one who finds the As on the box cover to be peculiar-looking?
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Matthew Watson
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You must be feeling very perplexed.
 
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Robert Voisin
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From some one that gives tic-tac-toe a 10? No wonder you don't care for this game as much.
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Dan Poole
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I don't feel quite as harshly toward Agricola as the reviewer, yet it is nice to hear some negative views for a change. I really hate when people jump on a bandwagon and proclaim their love for a game just because it makes them look cool. One thing I have always enjoyed about BGG is that people are generally smarter than average and are so different than the average Joe out there. There is a nice sense of individuality and deviation from the norm here.

Having said all that, I do enjoy Agricola, but there are quite a few games that I enjoy far more. For example, I think Caylus is a superior game; I am so glad all the its hype has died down.
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Chris Rudram
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RVoisin wrote:
From some one that gives tic-tac-toe a 10? No wonder you don't care for this game as much.


Ad Hominem argument.

Thanks for the review. I pick this up tonight for a play. Some of your comments worry me a little on how much I'll enjoy the game, but we'll see. Thanks.

EDIT:
voynix wrote:

Having said all that, I do enjoy Agricola, but there are quite a few games that I enjoy far more. For example, I think Caylus is a superior game; I am so glad all the its hype has died down.


That's the kicker for me. How does it compare to Caylus (which I rate very highly) AND am I more or less likely to get it on table with my group?
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Tony Chen
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Well who knows you may like it. Most people in my group do.

And I am not totally averse to it. I may even suggest it myself, occasionally. Like I said, it's not broken or anything. It has very solid, functional gameplay. Maybe I am having an euro burnout, and Agricola doesn't bring anything new to the table.
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James Bentley
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Simple solution: don't play Agricola.

Case closed.

 
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Will DeMorris
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RVoisin wrote:
From some one that gives tic-tac-toe a 10? No wonder you don't care for this game as much.


What he rates other games is irrelavent. The OP found the game to be mediocre and in his review I think he did an excellent job of explaining why. It's his opininion and you are free to agree or disagree as you see fit. However comments like this make you sond like a snob who's whole self worth is tied up in whether or not people like the same games as you do.


-Will
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voynix wrote:
I don't feel quite as harshly toward Agricola as the reviewer, yet it is nice to hear some negative views for a change. I really hate when people jump on a bandwagon and proclaim their love for a game just because it makes them look cool.


I just have to say that it's illogical to state that someone agreeing with the majority is necessarily doing it only for the sake of agreeing with the majority.

Indeed, I'd suggest that disliking something because it's popular seems as plebeian as liking something because it's popular.

Most people on here are intelligent enough, which is something you yourself admit. Give them credit that they aren't "proclaiming their love" for the game due to drooling zombie Groupthink, but because they might disagree with this reviewer and actually find the game compelling and worthy of acclaim.
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Dan Poole
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Quote:
Give them credit that they aren't "proclaiming their love" for the game due to drooling zombie Groupthink, but because they might disagree with this reviewer and actually find the game compelling and worthy of acclaim.


No!! Its drooling zombie groupthink!!! zombiezombiezombie


Quote:
Quote:
voynix wrote:

Having said all that, I do enjoy Agricola, but there are quite a few games that I enjoy far more. For example, I think Caylus is a superior game; I am so glad all the its hype has died down.



That's the kicker for me. How does it compare to Caylus (which I rate very highly) AND am I more or less likely to get it on table with my group?


If you like Caylus, I would guess you would also like Agricola. Personally, I just prefer the former

 
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Jason Wiebe
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voynix wrote:
I don't feel quite as harshly toward Agricola as the reviewer, yet it is nice to hear some negative views for a change. I really hate when people jump on a bandwagon and proclaim their love for a game just because it makes them look cool. One thing I have always enjoyed about BGG is that people are generally smarter than average and are so different than the average Joe out there. There is a nice sense of individuality and deviation from the norm here.

Having said all that, I do enjoy Agricola, but there are quite a few games that I enjoy far more. For example, I think Caylus is a superior game; I am so glad all the its hype has died down.


I would just like to say that I played Agricola at least 10-15 times before rating it a 10. No bandwagon jumping for me. This game is a great game. And Caylus wishes it could be Agricola....

Having said that - I AM glad we all aren't lemmings - each Geek should have his/her favourite - why would there be ratings otherwise????
 
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Peter Giles
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This is probably a dumb person question but What's an AT?
 
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Jason Wiebe
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Ameritrash. As opposed to a Euro. I'm still waiting for the canuckie.
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David Tolin
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Bulwyf wrote:
What he rates other games is irrelavent.


That's a very odd thing to say.

Of course what he rates other games is relevant. The entire point of a review--for the reader--is to find out what another person's opinion is and use that information to make an informed decision (i.e., whether to purchase or play the game). Acknowledgment of a reviewer's past scores and critiques is a vital part of that process. If you know, for example, that you never seem to agree with Roger Ebert's movie reviews, then you know exactly how much weight to give to his current opinion on a film you're interested in.

Case in point here: The OP is plainly in favor of wargame themes and hostile toward the farming theme. This tells me that his is maybe not the best opinion for me to follow, since the farming theme is considerably more exciting (to me) than yet another war game.

Questioning someone's critical judgment after he or she has offered an opinion in a review is not an ad hominem attack. It's just good impeachment.
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Peter Giles
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DavidT wrote:

Questioning someone's critical judgment after he or she has offered an opinion in a review is not an ad hominem attack. It's just good impeachment.


I know what both those words mean
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Odinsday wrote:

Ad Hominem argument.


Unfortunately, this is not correct. He's not attacking the reviewer or disputing the review; he is suggesting that the reviewer's rating of tic-tac-toe might indicate that he isn't going to like Agricola. I don't have anything to say about the specifics of his statement, but it is in no way an ad hominem argument.
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Will DeMorris
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DavidT wrote:
Bulwyf wrote:
What he rates other games is irrelavent.


That's a very odd thing to say.


Not really. I felt the OP did a good job of explaning what he liked and disliked about Agricola and more importantly why. I didn't feel a need to refer to his other ratings to see any bias he might have. To me they were clearly laid out in the review itself.


Quote:
Of course what he rates other games is relevant. The entire point of a review--for the reader--is to find out what another person's opinion is and use that information to make an informed decision (i.e., whether to purchase or play the game). Acknowledgment of a reviewer's past scores and critiques is a vital part of that process. If you know, for example, that you never seem to agree with Roger Ebert's movie reviews, then you know exactly how much weight to give to his current opinion on a film you're interested in.


As I stated above I felt the op let me know exactly what his biases were so there was no need to refer to his other ratings. In another case that might be different but for now I'm dealing with this specific review here.


Quote:
Questioning someone's critical judgment after he or she has offered an opinion in a review is not an ad hominem attack. It's just good impeachment.


Bah! You made me go look up big words in the dictionary. The post I was responding to didn't address what merits the review might or might not have so I don't think it was good impeachment at all. Also it had the whiff of an ad hominem attack about it and I called it as such. Your milage may vary.

-Will
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"L'état, c'est moi."
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RVoisin wrote:
From some one that gives tic-tac-toe a 10? No wonder you don't care for this game as much.


Nice straw man reasoning. Especially considering his other ratings taken as a whole are pretty consistent.
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voynix wrote:

Quote:
That's the kicker for me. How does it compare to Caylus (which I rate very highly) AND am I more or less likely to get it on table with my group?


If you like Caylus, I would guess you would also like Agricola. Personally, I just prefer the former


Ditto that. They are similar in many ways, but the differences between the Provost and Favor track, and the infinite cards, are enough to make both games very replayable.
 
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Branko K.
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First of all, thanks for posting another "my personal thoughts" review. I love those, and I wish BGG would make a distinction one day between reviews that explain the rules and gameplay to ridicilous extents and reviews that state personal opinions; one of the former is quite enough for every game, but one can never get enough of the latter.

That said, I must say I completely and utterly disagree with many of your points. For example:

Quote:
Unfortunately, despite the sheer quantity of choices, none of the individual cards/actions/scoring category feels particularly unique or special.


On the contrary, I think Agricola's choices are totally unique special, and what is infinitely more important they feel intuitive and organic to the theme. Everything about Agricola is logical - you need wood for the fences, reeds for the roof, clay for the clay oven. No abstract currencies or weird resource combos (e.g. to build a "ship" you need "wool" and "wood").

Quote:
But with Agricola, a clay oven doesn't feel especially like a clay oven, and a sheep is not much more than a sheep, on the pasture, potentially good for a point or some food. The way Agricola recreates farm life is very uninspiring and unimaginative. It's too straightforward....


This left me totally baffled, to the point that I consider this a non-argument. This is like saying that tanks in a wargame don't feel like tanks, or that that elf in an RPG doesn't feel like an elf. What do you expect from an Agricola sheep? To baaa? To jump around the board? To crap all over your apartment?

Quote:
Agricola, however, is theme first, gameplay second. (Now this is debatable, but I support my claim by calling your attention to the number of people making fimo pieces for this game.)


Agricola is one of those unique Euros which somehow integrated the theme and gameplay perfectly. To bash it BECAUSE you feel the theme is so strong is simply.. wrong. And to place FIMO-ers as an argument is wronger still. They are just a further proof that people enjoy the game and its theme so much they want some nicer components and are willing to spend more money, time and effort to enhance the experience. If the gameplay sucked, why would one choose to do that?
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Mark Farr
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voynix wrote:
...
One thing I have always enjoyed about BGG is that people are generally smarter than average and are so different than the average Joe out there.
...


So THAT's why I regularly feel stupid and generally inferior when reading posts here!
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Kenneth Bailey
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Very good review. Sometimes a negative review is more helpful in deciding about a game than a positive review. And this isn't entirely a negative review as the review does state that the game has pretty solid mechanics.

But it's nice to see the pitchforks and torches come out.
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JP LaChance
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So what is an "AT"??
 
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Tony Chen
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Quote:
To bash it BECAUSE you feel the theme is so strong is simply.. wrong. And to place FIMO-ers as an argument is wronger still.


I never bashed it because the theme is strong, or because of the fimo. I am bashing it because, as a theme-first game, well, the gameplay is sacrificed, and I didn't get too much out of the theme either. And no I did not need to have Hannibal wielding a sword in my apartment to enjoy the theme in Hannibal Rome versus Carthage.

I brought up the fimo to support that Agricola is a theme-first game, as opposed to other euros. People aren't making fimo pieces for Go or Stone Age, because theme isn't central to those games. On the other hand, games like Twilight Imperium and Hannibal could make use of cute pieces. Note that I have nothing inherently against theme-first games (such as Hannibal). Me saying Agricola is a theme-first game is a neutral statement. I am saying how as a theme-first game, it has all the shortcomings of a theme-first game, but unfortunately none of the benefits of a theme-first game either. I mean, I think that Hannibal, as a theme-first game, also has none of the benefits of an euro (but it does have the benefit of an AT). Conversely, Puerto Rico, as an euro, has the benefit of an euro, but none of an AT. Agricola ends up with neither. But I am guessing that you find Agricola has got both?
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Tony Chen
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custom golf clubs wrote:
So what is an "AT"??


Ameritrash, such as Twilight Imperium.
 
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