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Subject: Reviewing Agricola VS Puerto Rico rss

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Simon Robinson
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A different Review.
Normally, I review games based on 2 factors;
- is it worth playing?
- is it worth buying?

Well, this review is based entirely on a long discussion that me and my missus (aka wife) have been having ever since we got Agricola (3 months or ~ 20 games ago)If you're looking for rules, explanations and that sort of ilk, look away and go elsewhere. This is a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses (as we see them) of these 2 current behemoths.

Let's put things in perspective; we play games a lot. I play games with the lads every thursday (5 of us) and have been for 20 years, and I play games with Rachel 3 or 4 times a week. Usually Lost Cities / Race for the Galaxy / San Juan or the like, but we also put a lot of Samurai / Power Grid / Ra and the like as well.
As far as 2 players go, we rate Goa and Puerto Rico the highest of the high.

The issue that's come up again and again is this; how does the new kid on the block fair against the seasoned old pros, particularly Puerto Rico?

We decided to check, and review the 2 together.

So what are these results based on? Well, as I said, we've played Agricola 20+ times as a 2 player, we've played three times as a 3 player, 3 times as a 4 player and about 4-5 times as a 5 player. We like the game a lot. We've even made FIMO characters and pieces! (Or rather we press-ganged our kids into making lopsided freak-beasts whilst on a wet British holiday...)
Puerto Rico, we've played 60+ times as a 2 player, and then goodness knows how many times as a 3-5 player game. we like this game a lot as well.

Tonight, myself and Rachel decided that we'd like to do the test we've talked about for weeks; Agricola V Puerto Rico.

1 night.
2 games.
Back to back.

What happened? Well, some of you are no doubt saying "This is a session report! Wrong Location! Wrong Location!" but I beg to differ. I'm not interested in the individual games themselves, but I am reviewing how they fared against one another.
Here goes.

We kicked off with Agricola. I use Stanley Tidy boxes with clip down lids and little yellow miniboxes. They make set up/take down quick and easy. It took me just under 10 minutes to set the game up. Admittedly, I was chatting whilst I did it, so I could have done it in a around 5. not bad. The game takes up our entire dining room table...extended...
We played with all decks (E,I,K & Z combined)
The game took a little under 90 minutes.
The gap between the finishing scores with quite large (Rachel was well off the pace tonight) I won't go into details for fear of falling into a session report, but the strategies were pretty standard tonight.
We both agreed that that we'd enjoyed the game and packed it away contentedly.

What of Puerto Rico?
Less than 3 minutes to set up. (I know some of you won't believe this, but with the Stanley boxes, it is incredibly easy)
When set up, it looked tiny. "Diddy" is the phrase Rachel used.
Considering the fact that Puerto Rico is one of the more complex games to set up (Goa aside) this told us a lot about Agricola. It's a cumbersome set up. And this is hust the 2 of us! With 5, we have to extend the table ALL the way, and then we're still pushed for space and ease of viewing.
The game took 60 minutes. About standard.
The finishing scores were within 4 of each other. (Rachel took it, in case you are interested...)
We both agreed that we'd enjoyed that game as well, and packed the game away contentedly.

Then we sat down to tear the 2 to pieces.
Which did we prefer? Easy, surprisingly so in fact, we both went for Puerto Rico.
Why? The interactions were more frequent and more intense. There were only 2 occasions in Agricola when one of our decisions was affected by the other (I took sheep to stop her culling for food, she used Family Growth when it was clear what my next move would be) but that was it.
In Puerto Rico, those decisions came thick and fast. She was shipping, I was trade/building. She'd intentionally fill up the Trading House to block me; I'd Captain when she was down to stop her. She'd build when I was poor. I'd mayor when she had no space for her Colonists to block her.
During the game we grinned at one another.
We swore jokingly at one another.
We agonised over decisions repeatedly.
We checked the pot with the colonists in regularly; her to finish the game quickly, me to keep it going.

In the end, when we'd finished them both, the comparison was easy;
which had we enjoyed the most?
Puerto Rico.
We'd enjoyed Agricola, and we'll still play it, but after 5 years of near continuous play, Puerto Rico still feels fresh and exciting.
Rachel used the phrase "Pure"
Agricola is good, but the decisions seem over complicated for the pay off - in Puerto Rico the decisions never change through the course of the game (as opposed to the extra option a turn that Agricola gives)
Puerto Rico appears honed down; there isn't much to get between you and the game, and consequently, your opponent. The downside with Puerto Rico is the buildings; newer players find it hard to get their heads around the complexities of the buildings; medium veteran players often employ the same strategies, but we are pretty seasoned, and that particular issue falls away.

The final summation appeared to be that, as far as this long time gaming couple from Worcestershire are concerned, Agricola is a good game that will hit the table regularly over the next few years, but Puerto Rico takes it on fun per minute and interaction.
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Michael Sosa
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I did not know you could play Puerto Rico 2 player!

 
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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There's the Alea variant:

40+2 colonists
65 victory points
2 less of each resource
3 less of each plantation
5 quarries
1 of each purple building
2 of each production building
3 doubloons to start with
7 roles like in 4-player
2 ships: size 4 and 6

Each player takes three roles taking turns (A-B-A-B-A-B). Remaining role gets the doubloon. Governour changes, resulting in a double turn for the second player of the last turn.
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Tim Seitz
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To each their own. Tastes differ.
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Randall Bart
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Re: Reviewing 2 player Agricola VS 2 player Puerto Rico
Bluenose wrote:
Agricola is good, but the decisions seem over complicated for the pay off - in Puerto Rico the decisions never change through the course of the game (as opposed to the extra option a turn that Agricola gives)
To me, one of the best features of Agricola is the way the actions change so radically. You might take one sheep, you might take four sheep. You might take 9 clay, but at end of game, 9 clay might be worthless. Adding new actions each turn just improves that lumpy bumpy texture.

You played two player games, and I don't think that does justice to either game. It's like comparing two player Bridge to two player Poker.
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Steve Duff
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Barticus88 wrote:
You played two player games, and I don't think that does justice to either game.

That's not what he said at all.

Bluenose wrote:
we've played Agricola 20+ times as a 2 player, we've played three times as a 3 player, 3 times as a 4 player and about 4-5 times as a 5 player.

Puerto Rico, we've played 60+ times as a 2 player, and then goodness knows how many times as a 3-5 player game.

He's played more than enough 3+ player games to be able to reach a valid conclusion.
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zippy grey wedge owner
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This is a niche review, as much as a "first play review to decide if I'd like to add this to my collection to play with the family as opposed to my regular gaming group". We should read it as that.
 
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Eric Larson
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Bluenose wrote:
The issue that's come up again and again is this; how does the new kid on the block fair against the seasoned old pros, particularly Puerto Rico?
I think this is the most valid point.

If you introduce one new player to a PR game, the person downstream wins (just about all the time). It's not the fault of the new player, they just don't understand why they should not craft all the time.

If you introduce a new player to Agricola, this does not seem to happen (after my 15 ish games with 3-5 players). The new player generally losses, but they don't throw the game to the downstream player.

For this fact alone, I rate Agricola higher than PR.
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Richard Young
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The "downstream" issue has been noted but this is a head-to-head assessment of the two games in the two player version only where it doesn't matter (in a two player game of anything, one assumes the more experienced player will have an advantage). The OP seems to have enough experience to be in a position do a similar comparison for more than two players (and may get around to it sometime) where the downstream issue would then need to be taken into account. There are any number of games where an inexperienced player can be an unwitting kingmaker and I expect that will be true of Agricola as well - the pattern may not be as clear for the newer game as yet...
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Branko K.
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Agreed.

I prefer a game that merrily greets newcomers, not the one which basically resembles a "secret club" where you have to learn the complex secret handshake before you can join in. The first PR experience can be extremely frustrating - you are doing your best, trying to figure out this total mess of various options in front of you and the other players STILL roll their eyes and grumble "I cannot believe he did THAT just now." In other words, in PR a newbie is sure to spoil the game. In Agricola, he will not score many points, but the only reason he might feel bad would be his own outcome, not the fact he made other players frustrated for some obscure reason.

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Simon Robinson
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You're right guys, this was a head to head comparison that was 2 players.
Some have argued that the scaling for Puerto Rico down to 2 players isn't really valid. I disagree. It feels different but plays fime.
I am going to be doing another head to head with my thursday night gaming lads sometime in the next few weeks.
I'll post the results of that one. I can't do it too soon as one of the boys (Brett) still hasn't played agricola yet, and comparing it with a game he has extensive knowledge of would be unfair.

As I said, this is a personal opinion and I don't doubt that there will be poeple who both agree and disagree with it, but I felt that it bought a new angle to the discussion.

If I'm honest, I would be surprised if Agricola maintains its position; but then, I've been wrong before!

Thanks for the feedback boys.
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UnknownParkerBrother wrote:
Barticus88 wrote:
You played two player games, and I don't think that does justice to either game.

That's not what he said at all.

Bluenose wrote:
we've played Agricola 20+ times as a 2 player, we've played three times as a 3 player, 3 times as a 4 player and about 4-5 times as a 5 player.

Puerto Rico, we've played 60+ times as a 2 player, and then goodness knows how many times as a 3-5 player game.

He's played more than enough 3+ player games to be able to reach a valid conclusion.

Which is funny, because even if he did, it'd make the discrepancy even higher because Puerto Rico suffers more than Agricola in a 2 player setting.

I find Puerto Rico to be a much better game, especially 3-4 players. In 2 or 5 players I can take either.
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Richard Dewsbery
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Some of the anti-PR/pro-Agricola sentiments in this thread seem a little "fanboy-ish" to me.

Even if I'm not at all interested in playing PR, yet can't wait for my next game of Agricola
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Simon Robinson
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RDewsbery wrote:
Some of the anti-PR/pro-Agricola sentiments in this thread seem a little "fanboy-ish" to me.

I agree Richard; these games (Amongst others) seem to polarise opinion. I wasn't sitting on the fence when I said that I enjoyed both; I really do! But they feel very different.

I tried to be as impartial as I could and base the judgements on the issues / characteristics seen.

As I said, I intend to run them against one another in 5 player mode (That'll be quick!) but I fully expected to have the two camps sounding off as a result; this is just what is public...you wanna see some of the messages I've received!!
It would have been easier to stay quiet, but I felt that I had some valid points to make...so I made 'em!
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John Harley
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I agree with the assessment that Agricola has less screwage. But that is also kind of a good thing.
Perhaps you would be even more satisfied with 2 player Caylus. And you can play it fast if you know what you are doing. Have you tried it?
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I don't know either game very well. I like Agricola a lot. I am dying to play Puerto Rico, just waiting for the opportunity to get the extra player or two to play with both of us.

I think that Puerto Rico and Agricola will always keep a very close rating in this website. I also think that the overall profile of BGG begs for Puerto Rico to be number one. Probably, for the very reason why Rachel called this game pure which is probably the same that makes my friend call it mechanical (robotic).

I admit that I didn't like your review. You played 2-player Puerto Rico when the game is designed for 3-5 players. You played Agricola with E, I, K and Z decks which will exacerbate discrepancies between the hands. You said your wife was off at least while playing Agricola. Just too many misleading aspects for my liking.

Anyways, you get my thumb for getting me to type 3+1 paragraphs.
 
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Simon Robinson
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Fair points MGS, and as I said, I'm aiming to rectify this with 5 player back to backs in a few weeks/months when one of my gaming guys is up to speed on Agricola.
I take your point about Puerto Rico not "officially" being a 2 player, but as I said, we think it is superb as a 2 player, so I'm not sure that that is a real issue.

What is interesting is that Rachel wants to try Agricola against Goa, our other favourite 2 player.

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Roland Wood
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Bluenose wrote:
...The downside with Puerto Rico is the buildings; newer players find it hard to get their heads around the complexities of the buildings; medium veteran players often employ the same strategies, but we are pretty seasoned, and that particular issue falls away.

This point you make is another possible issue with your comparison. You are seasoned PR players but only (arguably) medium veteran Agricola players. It could be that part of the reason you prefer PR so much is your greater mastery of it.

Part of the problem that anyone will have playing Agricola to the point of "seasoned" status is that you aren't playing with the same 30 "powers" each time as you are in PR. The mix of cards is always different which gives more variety to the game but reduces one's ability to get past that plateau of using the same strategies.

I've played Agricola just over a dozen times now and it has been a different mix of cards each time. So my 12th play of Agricola still felt a bit like my 2nd & 3rd plays of Puerto Rico where I knew what to do mechanics-wise but still had to read all the buildings and role card advantages several times during the game to figure out what I wanted to do strategically.

I am now long past the point of struggling with the strategic significance of PR's buildings and roles, but am no where close to getting through all the cards of Agricola let alone having been able to have played with the same cards multiple times.

I am sure you would agree that even with your 30+ plays of Agricola you are not as familiar with the cards you might end up with as you are with Puerto Rico's buildings etc.

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Stephen Stewart
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baba44713 wrote:
Agreed.

I prefer a game that merrily greets newcomers, not the one which basically resembles a "secret club" where you have to learn the complex secret handshake before you can join in. The first PR experience can be extremely frustrating - you are doing your best, trying to figure out this total mess of various options in front of you and the other players STILL roll their eyes and grumble "I cannot believe he did THAT just now." In other words, in PR a newbie is sure to spoil the game. In Agricola, he will not score many points, but the only reason he might feel bad would be his own outcome, not the fact he made other players frustrated for some obscure reason.


Perhaps you should introduce your Fresh PR blood to some help. Always point out the better move (in your opinion) and let the player decide. If you sit idly by and watch and grimace upon the incorrect choice a player is about to make then you deserve a skewed game. Newbies need the extra help to sharpen their game. It's not only about reading the rules to play. It's about Learning the Game. Your teaching will help them learn quicker and become a better player in a shorter period of time.
 
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Stephen Stewart
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Quote:


If you introduce one new player to a PR game, the person downstream wins (just about all the time). It's not the fault of the new player, they just don't understand why they should not craft all the time.

TELL THEM WHY THEY SHOULDN'T CRAFT ALL THE TIME!! Show them what will happen. If he crafts anyway, he's a nitwit.

Quote:

If you introduce a new player to Agricola, this does not seem to happen (after my 15 ish games with 3-5 players). The new player generally losses, but they don't throw the game to the downstream player.
For this fact alone, I rate Agricola higher than PR.

That's because PR has more timing issues than AGRICOLA and the fact that most of the time in AGRICOLA, what you do has little effect upon another player. Sure you may take Clay this time, but generally the same amount of clay/resource will be available next turn. If your opponent can convert wood to food, there is nothing you can do to block him completely (vs. shipping blocks in PR/trading post etc...)

They are 2 different games pure and simple. The only comparison I can readily see is the accumulation of "wealth" on unused actions. 5 player interaction vs. 5 player solitaire.
 
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Simon Robinson
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Quote:
I am sure you would agree that even with your 30+ plays of Agricola you are not as familiar with the cards you might end up with as you are with Puerto Rico's buildings etc.

This throws up an interesting question to me;
do you need to be fully conversant with EVERY permutation of EVERY card before you can say that you are in a position to fully judge/appreciate a game?

I made the point that early Puerto Rico players struggle with the buildings issue. but these buildings are ALL available to ALL players; Use 'em or lose 'em!
In Agricola, you get your hand of 7 cards; Play the hand God dealt you! 7 cards are a lot easier to mentally juggle than the wealth from Puerto Rico. True, there are permutations that work and don't work, but when I've played Agricola with new players, we haven't bothered with he first time players / no occupations board; they just get stuck in and loved it!

Have I seen all the permutations? Not on your Nelly! but I still feel confident enough to judge the mechanics of the 2 games and to voice the personal opinion that Puerto Rico is the sleaker, purer and more intense interactional game.
(Still gonne carry on playing agricola though...I've invested too much FIMO not to )
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Richard Young
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While I agree that the social aspect of gaming is what should always be uppermost, there are a number of games that are best appreciated by players at roughly the same level of experience. Puerto Rico is one particularly good example. There are others such as History of the World and 1830 that also come to mind. I'm not sure about Agricola yet.

The setting is also important. If you have a relatively static single group, there is not a lot you can do if some of them are of the impatient sort. If we are speaking of a game club with several tables on the go, the presence of a knowledgeable coordinator can be very helpful. Such an individual knows his games and his audience - and will know how to match folks together so as to avoid the worst of the personality clashes. Not that there is ever an excuse for poor manners, but there are some folks who are just not very good at mentoring, and some games which require rather more patience from experienced players towards new ones. If they can be separated everyone benefits...
 
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Dylan Shakespeare
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I haven't played Puerto Rico yet, but by just reading the rules I can tell that I will like Puerto Rico better than Agricola, which I have played and liked; and will probably be my favorite game ever; and I highly doubt that there will be any vicissitude in this comparison.
 
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Branko K.
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You got that just by reading the rules?

Woah...
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Simon Robinson
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Abstractite wrote:
I haven't played Puerto Rico yet, but by just reading the rules I can tell that I will like Puerto Rico better than Agricola, which I have played and liked; and will probably be my favorite game ever; and I highly doubt that there will be any vicissitude in this comparison.

That's a hell of a narrow viewpoint your putting forward there Silent Mariner! To say "It will probably be my favourite game" and then to add that you doubt there will be any vicissitude (Which I had to look up ( ) seems a bit like you've judged it before you've got there.

 
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