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Subject: How does Agricola Really rate in comparison to PR? rss

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Sean Shaw
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This is actually a review of Agricola by Zman Games.

Now I have rated this game a 7 originally, but after a few plays, I decided I'd actually review the numbers and see how it really rates. In comparison to Puerto Rico which this game replaced as Number 1, I thought it would be interesting to see how this game rates. This is NOT a rating dependant on how much I desire to play the game, but on a reasoning of several different areas of opinion/ratings.

The summary is as follows...

Components = 7
Rules Presentation = 3
Gameplay = 9
Personal Tilt = 7
Replayability = 10
Useability = 6

Final Score = 7

Now, I know some of you are going into apocalyptic shock over this, either thinking the world is ending, or thinking you're going to come over to my place and end MY world, but there are some areas which are BETTER then Puerto Rico, but there are also some areas which are WORSE. Remember, each portion or section is a review of it's own. On the normal Ratings scale of BGG with desire to play, it rates a solid 7 (as I have it in my ratings), and in actual Gameplay it would rank even higher then the average (current) ranking. However, for an overall ranking, it does a little more poorly than Puerto Rico (by all of half a point...which in truth isn't much) for a few reasons explained below.

Components - This game doesn't really have components that are superior to Puerto Rico as far as durability goes, but it does have MORE components overall. In addition, the components have a little more variety, and make full use of the spectrum of abilities (for example, boards are double sided, either with explanations on the game, or with an additional way to play (family style vs. normal game play). This actually rates it higher then average, and rather good.

IT rates a 7.

Rules Presentation - I waivered on whether to rate this a 1. These rules need a REWRITE. They don't make the game broken, but for the first person to play the game, they may throw up their hands in disgust and decide they will never play the game. That would be a pity because the game is a good game, but these rules as they are presented ROYALLY STINK. It get's raised over a 1 since if you take the time to sort through the mess of confusion and put it together, it eventually makes sense. In order for me to make sense of it, I had to actually slowly play through the game once to see what the heck the rules were discussing. It would help if the rules put a FULL explanation along with a FULL example on a FULL board picture of what is going on. I didn't appreciate having to skip to the back of the rulebook to see when I could play an occupation, or what was required other then just putting my guy on an action space. It didn't make sense at first, and I didn't know what I would gain. The rules are full of instances where it will tell you about something and leave a huge gaping hole.

However, if you take the time, you probably will eventually understand it. That means the rules work well, but the presentation stinks, and are enough to drive someone away from ever playing the game. I actually shelved the game out of frustration for a bit before coming back to it.

On the upside, I expect that if you are here on the Geek, and even reading this, you have access to all the other items in these forums. I would highly suggest that if you have questions, go to the rules section of the Agricola forums and read what other people have been confused about. You may find it easier just to leap into those and figure it out rather than trying to sift through the rules.

Puerto Rico had similarities, but the glossary in the back was more for individual instances rather than the entire actions. Each action was explained in detail before one ever got to the glossary (and that's another bad thing, the glossary in Agricola seems to be written in 5 font? or is that 2 font? I have great eyes and normally don't mind small writing, but the glossary in Agricola has it's text so small, it even gives ME a head ache!). If one had a hard time understanding Puerto Rico rules, which I would say are about average in how they are written, expect GREAT problems with Agricola. Perhaps it would be better for you just to have someone else figure it out and then have them explain it to you. Better presentation, and what takes like an hour to two hours to figure out on your own, will take all of around 5 to 15 minutes (dependant on the presenter).

It was actually my experience with the rules that prompted me to actuall write a review in comparison to PR...as this was one frustrating rulebook. Not the worst I've ever encountered, luckily, but it ranks down there. I wouldn't have to want to experience going through this rulebook ever again if I can help it.

The rules are playable, and make the gameplay outstanding, but the presentation needs a LOT of work.


It scores a 3.

Gameplay - This is one area where the game shines. Multiple explanations about how the game actually plays, but overall, this game works wonderfully. The more one plays it, the more they will enjoy the simplicity (yes, simplicity, which one wouldn't guess from a read through of a horrid rulebook), yet the huge number of strategies. The game flows rapidly, almost too rapidly, and you make decisions critical to the game every turn. Due to it's quick nature, there is VERY little downtime. In some ways it is like PR in that some will accuse it of Multiplayer Solitaire. In some ways it's even more solitaire, as the only times you really interact with the other players is when you are trying to take an action which they may want, or you are getting a major item (which is also in a shared stack) that they may desire. Otherwise, you are free to plan out how you will set your workers to farm, plow, plant, raise animals and crops, and pursue their lives without begging.

Once people know the rules, this game can be done in around 15 to 30 minutes per player. If they really know the game, it could be done in 5 to 10 minutes per player. It can really flow quickly and easily.

If you like games where you build things up from nothing, this is the game for you. You start with a small farmhouse and two occupants, and from there must forage for food, and then start out to make improvements and increase your holdings. Everything revolves around food in the game, but the final scores revolve around everything else BUT food at the end.

Great gameplay and great game. If I had one complaint about the gameplay, it's that the game is about two rounds too short. You are just about ready to get things done, when the game ends. This means sometimes you have to choose between getting a negative score, or getting a score of one in something, rather than 4 points in another item. It makes for a tough choice, but means that players can win NOT due to how many points they score, but by how many negative points another player gets. Some will enjoy this, but others who would rather see what everyone would due with the full range of options, may desire that the game would continue for another round or two.

Other than that however, this game probably ranks in the top tier of gameplay. Yes, it really is THAT good.

It rates a 9.

Personal Tilt - Much as I enjoy the game, it still has a theme of farming...and I don't really care to farm. The gameplay ensures that I'll come back, and I actually enjoy it...but as one that really likes themes (and normally I'll prefer a good Ameritrash game to a Euro any day of the week, but my wife...I think she's a Euro enthusiast or something) I just...can't get past the farming aspect. I also still have the grudge against the rules. That really was a painful experience. However, the gameplay really is grand. I enjoy the game, and will play it, but probably would prefer a game of Puerto Rico, or even more likely, Axis and Allies instead. However, this is MY OWN PERSONAL Tilt of the game, for those who enjoy Euros, this game should rank even higher. In that aspect, seeing the majority of gamers on this site and their preferences, I can completely understand why this game could actually surpass Puerto Rico in their ratings. However for me, my enjoyment is just a little less then theirs. This game STILL scores above average however, and hence scores well.

It rates a 7.

Replayability - This game has to have one of the best abilities to be replayed that I've ever seen. The family portion of the game has some limited use, as you have the same actions that can be taken over and over again, even in the same order if allowed, each game. However, when you throw in the 169 Occupation cards, and 139 Minor Improvement cards (I also have the Z-man deck, but I'm not including that here), this game has almost endless options that will pop up every game. There are so many different combinations of 7 cards that you can draw, that I'm not even going to do the math to see how many there are. With each of them influencing what your strategy will be and how you play, I don't think you can even say how many variations of gameplay will occur. This game has replayability up the Ying Yang. In otherwords, Puerto Rico is a nice game but is no where close (in my opinion) to Agricola in terms of replayability. If you enjoy Agricola, I expect you may never get bored if you only get bored once you've played out all combinations...as you are then talking about one Astronomical number.

It rates a solid 10.

Useability - This could be almost an exact copy of Puerto Rico's Useability. It's okay, but I think it appeals more heavily to Eurogamers than anyone else. Actually, I think I WILL copy one portion of my PR review as follows..."It can be hard for new gamers to pick up on their own without someone to teach them. However, most people, once they understand the game, are at least willing to play. It may not be their favorite, but overall most may be willing to give it a go. It might not be the most popular game at the table, but it should be enjoyed by Eurogamers. Those who like chance in their game might not be as fond of it, and wargamers may scoff at it, preferring at least a game with a more direct form of conflict."

As it applies to PR, I think it also applies to Agricola...and in that aspect at least, they rate the same. The only area which almost makes Agricola a higher rated game is that it CAN (not that it will, depends on the group) take less time to play than Puerto Rico.

It scores a 6.

So overall, this game rates a

Final Score = 7

No I didn't rig the numbers to equal my personal tilt. I did try to look at the elements as each individual item, and rank them accordingly. I think if I was more of a Eurogamer, I'd probably have a higher personal tilt, but that would only change the score by a tenth or two of a point.

Overall, this game scores in the region of Puerto Rico in the terms of Gameplay. My personal opinion ranks it lower than Puerto Rico, but that's due to my own likes and interests in the game. It rates the same in what types of groups and how you could use it in useability overall, though I think Agricola might edge Puerto Rico out. Agricola has better components, but it's also a close call. However, items that REALLY hurt Agricola would be...well the only area would be Rules Presentation.

That in and of itself could be enough to dissuade someone who buys it off the shelf to never even try to play the game. It's pretty bad, and I now would advise all you Agricola lovers out there to rush out and introduce everyone you know to the game, before they have a chance to read the rules and be dissuaded. That way you can bypass the rules presentation portion for them, and get them playing the game (which shines out) instead.

I think for Eurogamers, this game deserves it's high ratings that it's gotten. As begrudgingly as I admit that, it is a good game from a Eurogaming standpoint. On the otherhand, for others, I think it's subject to each individual opinion. However, if you are into Germanic type games/Eurogames...you should get this immediately...and hope that someone will be there to teach you to play!
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Huckleberry Carignan
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hmmm...."Rules Presentation = 3"
Let's say someone is going to pick up the game to play it for the first time with his wife (say myself for example). Is there a better version of the rules out there so that person doesn't get frustrated with the game?

Thanks!
Huck
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Sean Shaw
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huckleberryfinn wrote:
hmmm...."Rules Presentation = 3"
Let's say someone is going to pick up the game to play it for the first time with his wife (say myself for example). Is there a better version of the rules out there so that person doesn't get frustrated with the game?

Thanks!
Huck


That rules presentation is REALLY bad...seriously. There are 18 pages worth of rules questions already here on the geek, so that would be where I would turn.

In fact, perhaps you could get one of the enthusiasts to write up a much better explanation then the rules.

The best I can offer is to MAKE SURE you come to the geek before you get frustrated...and either look up the question in the rules section (as it probably has been asked before) or ask away yourself.

You'll be much happier and have a lot LESS stress if you do. It was nigh dange the most frustrating experience I've had with the game, and should have done the same thing myself instead of wading through the dang thing for 2 hours trying to figure it out.

I WOULD suggest that before you play it with your wife, you try to play a game with the four player action cards out, but play it solitaire so you can at least see how everything works and flows.
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Tom Chappelear
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Good review. I question giving equal weight to "rules presentation" and "gameplay", but I do agree that the rules make the game seem needlessly complicated.
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Jonathan Challis
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huckleberryfinn wrote:
hmmm...."Rules Presentation = 3"


*shrugs* I don't get this myself - I think the rules are actually pretty damn good.

Okay - they may not be an example of perfection, but I rate them above average, and I *love* the fact that there is a card by card FAQ as an appendix. I rate it about 8 (probably 6.5 without the card clarifications).

I have a couple of little niggles with the game, but definitely not the rules. I also like the farming.
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tom moughan
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the rules are not great, but I got it from reading it.

Here's the way I made getting into this game easier:

1. watch the overview at http://www.boardgameswithscott.com/

Scott does a great job of giving you the larger scope of how the game works and even provides a good look at gameplay. This 30 min video saved Agricola for me.

2. Play solo

I agree with this 100% -- I played solo...it took me 2 hours to trudge through it...40 min for the first 10 rounds...and an hour for the last 4 because I examined every card I had to look forward towards success plus 10 to setup and take down. The thing that is great about going this route is you don't bore others while you really learn how to play it...so you can teach it quickly and help everyone else navigate gameplay quickly. I may also add that this gave you a great introduction to how all the actions work on the board, a good look at an assortment of minor improvement/occupation cards, and allowed you to buy up a major improvement or two.

This game is really only intimidating once -- then you are like "OOOOOHHHHHH!!!!" and you're all set.
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bryan wills
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IMHO, I believe that some categories should be weighted more than others. For example, once you get past the rules (which aren't really that bad are they??) should it still effect how good the game is? I'm not suggesting that the rules shouldn't count at all but I'm saying that gameplay,replayability, and components should have much much more of an impact on how the game is rated.
Thanks,
Bryan
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JP LaChance
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Ok so if these rules are a "3" as you say. What game has a rules sheet of a 9 or 10?

The rulebook even in the 1st edition German only game was full of visuals. I will not argue that you need to understand a lot of thing in this game, there are a lot of things going on.

I agree that the decision to make the rules print get smaller and smaller as you get closer to the end of the book was not a favorite of mine, IMHO what's 6 more pages when you already took up 12..... But this does not mean it is a "3" doe it. ?? There are a lot of games out there with rule sets that are far worse than the ones in this box.

FWIW I really didn't like PR when I played it, and i rate it a lot lowere than the 7 you gave "the Gric".


PS I saw your microbadge for "world scouting" what world Scouting event(s) did you take part in?? How did you like them??

Jon
 
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Robert Voisin
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GreyLord wrote:
This is actually a review of Agricola by Zman Games.


Great gameplay and great game. If I had one complaint about the gameplay, it's that the game is about two rounds too short. You are just about ready to get things done, when the game ends. This means sometimes you have to choose between getting a negative score, or getting a score of one in something, rather than 4 points in another item. It makes for a tough choice, but means that players can win NOT due to how many points they score, but by how many negative points another player gets. Some will enjoy this, but others who would rather see what everyone would due with the full range of options, may desire that the game would continue for another round or two.

Other than that however, this game probably ranks in the top tier of gameplay. Yes, it really is THAT good.

It rates a 9.

Replayability - This game has to have one of the best abilities to be replayed that I've ever seen. The family portion of the game has some limited use, as you have the same actions that can be taken over and over again, even in the same order if allowed, each game. However, when you throw in the 169 Occupation cards, and 139 Minor Improvement cards (I also have the Z-man deck, but I'm not including that here), this game has almost endless options that will pop up every game. There are so many different combinations of 7 cards that you can draw, that I'm not even going to do the math to see how many there are. With each of them influencing what your strategy will be and how you play, I don't think you can even say how many variations of gameplay will occur. This game has replayability up the Ying Yang. In otherwords, Puerto Rico is a nice game but is no where close (in my opinion) to Agricola in terms of replayability. If you enjoy Agricola, I expect you may never get bored if you only get bored once you've played out all combinations...as you are then talking about one Astronomical number.

It rates a solid 10.




Are these Not the things that really matter for people in deciding if they should buy this game or not. Giving it the over all 7 may miss lead some people.
But nice review in covering all aspects of the game as you see them.
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ŁṲÎS̈
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custom golf clubs wrote:
Ok so if these rules are a "3" as you say. What game has a rules sheet of a 9 or 10?
...

Hive
It only has 7 or 8 simple rules and they're explained clearly


Actually, I didn't think the Agricola rules were that bad. Not nearly as tough as say Axis & Allies which is supposed isn't considered a complex wargame yet I haven't stayed awake through them yet.

As pointed out, go watch the boardgameswithscott video. After that the rulebook is a breeze.
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Marc Richter
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I'll take the world's crappiest rulebook (which The 'Gric doesn't have) if the game has the replay value and gameplay of Agricola.

Really, the rules aren't THAT hard. (but I'm an old Avalon Hill player)
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Peter Marchlewitz
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You think these rules are bad...try Sceptor of Zavandor by the same publisher.
 
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Brad Weage
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RVoisin wrote:

Are these Not the things that really matter for people in deciding if they should buy this game or not. Giving it the over all 7 may miss lead some people.


(The above comment referred to gameplay and replayability.)

No they are not, at least not for everyone. Despite the fact that having learned the rules you don't need to again (usually), and that the geek is here to help clear up problems - rules presentation is still extremely critical to my play groups. I have many friends with occupations related to user experience, copy-editing, instruction, and graphic design - and if they feel that a poor effort was made to have understandable rules presentation, they are unlikely to want to play the game. I have some friends who won't play some very good games because they think this should have been color coded, or that should have been presented in a larger font, or the metaphor fights the mechanic - even though whatever issue doesn't actually confuse THEM. They just think it shouldn't be that way and so they won't play. You could say that they are just being stupid - but one of the basic concepts of user-centered design is that you must address the concerns of the people you could so easily consider "stupid".

Also, I find component quality to be very important to me when "deciding if I should buy a game". I want components that feel good enough to account for the price. I know people who tell me "No, no: it should just be about the game play" but every time I experience that "game play" I am going to be handling the components and if they are ones where I don't like the feel or look, then I am going to find the gameplay diminished. Just as if the rules are presented too badly, if the components are too bad, then the game is going to have less chance of staying on the table long enough to complete that first game.

I found this to be one of the first Agricola reviews that was meaningful precisely because the author defined his terms well and he addressed his points with what sounds like reasonably clear thinking. I am still debating whether to buy this game. I find the "number 1 position" to be a good reason to avoid the game after random sampling some of the ratings of 10 and finding strings of such ratings from users with similar names, same dates of registration, no country, no personal information, and only one game rated. I am also trying to figure out how to fit the "replayability" issue into context. Everyone comments on it as a great thing, but then goes on to describe a system which could easily have elements I find are a personal turn off. I don't want every game to be completely different. I want a game to have a certain level of commonality from play to play - which I think this game does, but which I can't really discern from many of the comments, anymore than I can discern if this game is for me from the many many comments of "Greatest game evar. Just buy it now." This review was very helpful by comparison.
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Blue Fox
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huckleberryfinn wrote:
hmmm...."Rules Presentation = 3"
Let's say someone is going to pick up the game to play it for the first time with his wife (say myself for example). Is there a better version of the rules out there so that person doesn't get frustrated with the game?

Thanks!
Huck


I know there are lots of questions, but if you follow with the family version first, then add cards, its actually not bad. The Gf and me were playing right along after saturday afternoon. It took us about 1 hr and 30 mins which is about 30 mins more than the standard 2 player game.
 
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Herb Petro
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I think the Agricola rule book is definitely less than ideal, but no more problematic than Caylus. Just work through the rules solo or with another patient gamer and you have it! Card interactions can be tricky, but there is BGG or common sense/consensus to solve those.

By the by, the Agricola rules do stand in sharp contrast to the rules of another game that I purchased at the same time: Galactic Emperor has an outstanding rules book!
 
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Mark Crane
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Quote:
2. Play solo

I agree with this 100% -- I played solo...it took me 2 hours to trudge through it...40 min for the first 10 rounds...and an hour for the last 4 because I examined every card I had to look forward towards success plus 10 to setup and take down. The thing that is great about going this route is you don't bore others while you really learn how to play it.


Oh geesh, what a headache. If they can't be bothered to write a real rulebook, I'm not going to trudge through an hour or more of solo play to do work they should have done in the first place.
 
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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
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All that matters to me is gameplay and replayability. So i take this as a good review. The components don't even really matter to me - my Z-copy is still in shrink while we play with LEGO bots and Target animeeples!
 
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Nick Short
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I bought a copy of Agricola at GenCon, and the horrible rulebook is the reason why this game has not seen a full play yet. We tried to play it, but were unable to figure out the basics of the game in a timely manner so we packed it up and grabbed another game.

So, it may be a great game, but if you don't get far enough to actually play it, then it doesn't matter. That's why the rules are fair game for a review. When you've got another 100+ games to choose from and none of them require a tutor to teach the game, why should you trudge through rules like these?
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Eric Larson
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I don't think the rulebook was that poor.

For me Ag beats PR because of the noobie factor. Noobies in PR hand the game to the other players. Noobies in Ag just don't score a lot of points.
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Domjan Svilkovic
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Agricola is my first 'serious' boardgame and I had no problem understanding the rules. As I haven't got much experience with the other games I can't really compare the way rules are explained but it seemed ok to me.
I know that personal game rating is well, personal, but isn't a 7 a bit harsh? The average score of around 7 would place the game somewhere around 200-250th place. I understand that rating system can function perfectly well with every person having their own standard (as they probably have) but having your own standard also makes advertising your own rating pretty meaningless. So, even though it is perfectly ok to use your personal rating standard (and BBG guidelines) when rating the game, I think that rating should somehow be normalized. Saying at what rank you feel the game deserves to be is probably more informative.
Do you actually feel that Agricola should be no higher then a 250th place? That is what is the 'default' meaning of your rating, without people going into your entire rating history.
Of course, this is just a small note. Overall, excellent review!
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Bill Koens
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I think the rules are good, but could be improved:

Some better choices of illustrations (I don't set up the game while reading the rules)
An extended example of play (so that the toughest thing to get -- how all the mechanisms mesh together -- can be picked up more easily)
A reference sheet with a summary of the effects and costs of the major improvements.
 
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Brad Morton
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I agree with the reviewer, that rulebook blows several breeds of goat.

Reedo wrote:
Clearly, you must have never read Magic Realm (1st ed.). Now, I love MR, but that rulebook is WAY worse than Agricola's.


This is truth, however, after slogging through the Magic Realm rulebook you should get some kind of medal for staying awake (and sane). I think comparing the Agricola rulebook to AH games or things like MR is just a different universe, when the people who wrote games like Advanced Civilization were apparently trying to get the readers to commit suicide by the time they read the rules!
 
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Engineer Dad wrote:
I don't think the rulebook was that poor.

For me Ag beats PR because of the noobie factor. Noobies in PR hand the game to the other players. Noobies in Ag just don't score a lot of points.


Ditto.

Last night I introduced some light game friends who play settlers and incan gold etc. They had seen me and some others playing agricola before and were VERY sheepish about trying it. (pun intended)

They said it looked complicated and hard, doubted its fun. However, last night we got them to sit down and play a 4 person family game. They really enjoyed it and looked forward to doing it again, they said it was much easier than they thought, and fun. These aren't hardcore euro gamers or super game brains. They picked it up quick and just didn't score as many points.

If you actually read the rules book and start with a family or solo game, its not bad at all. All this the rules book is terrible and too complicated, how many games have you played or how much did you read? No one taught me I just read the rules and went.
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Seth Brown
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mentis wrote:
I think the Agricola rule book is definitely less than ideal, but no more problematic than Caylus.


I must disagree. I think Agricola's *rules* end up being as easy as Caylus, but Caylus had that lovely summary rule sheet which made learning said rules a breeze. Agricola is easy to learn once someone explains it, but the book itself takes a bit of poking through.

Still, as others have said, Agricola may not have a great rulebook, but it's far from the worst out there.

 
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Robert Schwartz
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It seems as if some folks are sitting down with a freshly sealed copy with 3-4 of their friends, popping the box open, and trying to walk through the rulebook and teach the game to both themselves and their friends simultaneously. Having taught many brand new games myself, I must say that I'd expect that approach to be an exercise in frustration and confusion. They'd be much better off, in my earnest opinion, spending a good 30-45 mins in a quiet corner somewhere and reading the rules to themselves. Then they can come back and teach the game to the others, clarifying anything they happened to have missed or misunderstood on their own as they explain the rules.

The net result will be much smoother learning curve for everyone and, thus, a much more pleasant gaming experience.
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