Agricola is a designer board game themed around 16th century farming for 1-5 players created by Uwe Rosenberg, and published by Z-Man Games. The aim of the game is to have the most well-balanced farm at the end of 14 turns, with plowed fields, pastures, grain, vegetables and animals all present, with as little fallow land as possible, with a house with many rooms and higher quality material, and with as many family members as possible.
Boards and Bits
There are several different colored small disks that represent the various food/building resources. The individual player pieces. Double sided tiles to represent rooms in your house/tilled farmland. A few different colored cubes to represent various livestock. Five player farmland boards and four game boards. And several different decks of cards (more on them later).
Agricola is an action selection board game, meaning the main board (pictured left as it would look at the start of the game) is not played on exclusively. Instead the main game board has different space on it that represent different actions the players can take. Each player starts the game with two members of their household and will take turns selecting actions on the main board with there family members.
Each game of Agricola consists of 14 turns with each turn adding a new selectable action to the main board. Actions on the main board consist of things like: Gathering wood/clay/etc, building rooms on your house, plow a field or gain X resource or animal. Players will need to select actions using their family members in order to improve their farm. Play goes around the table with each player taking one action with a family member until everyone has used their people. When all the players have used up all their actions the turn is over and the next turn starts, revealing a new action for the players to take. Later in the game the action "Family Growth" is added to the board which allows players to have more family members to take actions with (if they have the house space for them). However, it comes at a cost...
At the end of the 4th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th and 14th turn there's a "Harvest Phase" During the harvest phase players reap the rewards of a well kept farm by getting extra grain and vegetables from sown fields and getting extra livestock if they have at least two of the same kind of animal. However, players also have to feed their family at the harvest phase so they must plan their actions keeping in mind to acquire enough food for their family. As the game progress there are less turns before the harvest comes up so the players need to make sure to improve their farm to produce more food.
How do I keep feeding my family? Players can purchase "Major Improvements" using various building resources. Major improvements are things like "fireplaces" or "stone ovens" that allow the player to convert livestock and vegetables into food or take the "Bake Bread" action to make grain into food. The livestock/grain to food ratio is dependent on what improvement the player has (with the more expensive improvements yielding more food per resource).
So far I've only described the "Family Game" which is great for first time players. However, there are additional cards that the players can have that add options to their strategies. These come in the form of "Occupations" and "Minor Improvements". Each player gets dealt a hand of seven minor improvements and seven occupations that add a myriad of new ways to play the game. Occupations do things like giving the player extra clay whenever they take clay from an action or allowing them to build stables for free whenever they build a fence. Minor improvements also give the players some other kind of advantage like getting to plow two fields instead of one when taking the "Plow Field" action. Both types of cards allow the players to break the rules, so to speak, in some way and since the players are dealt them randomly at the start of each game their strategy will be different each time depending on the cards they get. There are also progressively more complex decks to play with (three different decks in all). This means that there are a lot of different ways to play this game giving it a very long life.
Am I Winning?
The rules for scoring can seem really intimidating at first. In a nutshell you get more points for having more of the various improvements your farm can get (i.e. plowed fields, pastures, stables or upgraded house) and for having more of the various livestock and food resources. Players also score points for each family member they have and some of the major/minor improvements and occupations can provide bonus points at the end of the game. Players will also lose points at the end of the game for any unused farm spaces and for having none of any particular resource/livestock/improvement, so it's important to balance things out a little bit so they don't lose points at the end of the game. Players can also lose points if they failed to feed their family during any harvest phase.
After the last harvest phase all the players total up their scores and the one with the highest score is the winner. Simple as that.
Though it seems complicated at first Agricola is very accessible. I've talked to people who've played it with their eight-year-old's. With the family game rules it's really easy to get people started and then ease them into the more complicated aspects of the game by adding the minor improvements and occupations in later. Once players get comfortable, and the cards are added, the game has limitless life. Each play through of the game becomes different based on the cards the players are dealt and how they use them to their advantage. It should also be noted that Agricola has a solo game which is nice for those days where everyone is busy.
Agricola is a game with a fun theme and an accessible rule set. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys planning ahead and light competition.
The only reason it's not a perfect 10 for me is because the solo game is pretty easy and gets boring very quickly. Otherwise I love this game a lot. It became my favorite after the first few times I played it.
My original version of this review can be seen with pictures at http://thedigitalwasteland.com/ Thanks for reading.
- Last edited Fri Apr 3, 2009 9:04 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Thu Feb 5, 2009 7:02 pm
I used to think that the solo game was easier too... until I realized you need 3 food per family member (at least in the computer version) and not just 2!
Nah, it's still easier. You have full freedom to set up a food production engine a lot quicker solo than you do in multiplayer, and you get an occupation to start the game with, which is very helpful.
If you play with a random draw of cards, it could be tougher, but if you just use the solo E-deck cards, odds are you'll get the baker or merchant occupation, either of which are very, very strong.
My basic strategy:
Stage 1 -
Get the basis for a food engine set up - a couple fields, which you might not sow until after the first harvest, getting the occupations you'll need to save many actions down the road, and gather the resources you'll need to expand your home twice as soon as that action becomes available in the next stage.
Meeting your food demands in round 1 isn't hard, with 2 people, you only need 6 food. With seasonal worker, you get 2 food, 1 grain for day laborer, and the fishing spot will cover 4 of the 6 food you need if you've no other way to get it.
In round 2, expand the house, add family, and get an oven to bake in. You're set, particularly if you have baker.
Remember - in the beginning, most important isn't feeding yourself, but setting up the capability to make a food engine that will feed you through the minimum number of possible actions.
Number 2 priority is getting the materials/occupations needed so you can expand your house twice as soon as it appears on the board.
If you have a food engine set up, particularly with the baking occupation, feeding your family becomes an action free affair (particularly when combined with merchant)
Then, once you have your family growing, the baking capacity to meet your needs there, then you can focus on other things. But baking is by far the easiest way to feed yourself action free.
Scoring 50 points using this basic strategy is pretty trivial. Food will be so easy to come by in the last couple phases of the game that you'll be able to do everything else with your other actions with ease, buy up most of the major improvements and many of the minors, and fill the farm up very easily.