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Subject: Alia iacta est rss

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Rolf
United Kingdom
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Introduction
This is a review for version 1.2 of the rules.

Agricola Express is a dice game inspired by Agricola and was designed for the Print & Play Dice Contest (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/405493). It tries to recover some elements of the Agricola gaming experience whilst reducing the necessary material (to only dice and scratch paper as stipulated in the rules for the above mentioned contest) and playing time. In my opinion it accomplishes its aims reasonably well when compared to the solo version of Agricola, but since it contains almost no interaction is very different to the multiplayer version.

Rules
The rules are very short and not entirely clear in some borderline cases, but will be improved as the designer gets more feedback. From just reading the rules I couldn't work out how the game would work, but once I started to play they made perfect sense (except for some borderline situations which are cleared up in the 'Rules' threads and will probably be addressed in future versions).

Gameplay
As I said, gameplay feels similar to the solo version of Agricola, in that the first few turns are spent in building up the farm and scraping enough food to survive the harvest whereas the last turns focus on maximizing points. Points are given at each of three harvests and broadly follow the Agricola method: having nothing of a type gives negative points (usually -1), and positive points are given for a certain number of each type with more common things requiring more of a kind than less common things (e.g. 3 sheep = 1 point, 1 cow = 1 point). Not feeding your family gives a lot of negative points (-3 per missing food). Major differences are in how resources are acquired (their availability is governed by the dice), the occupations (essentially they allow you to fix dice and there are only six of them) and the improvements (mostly like the major improvements in Agricola, so no minor improvements). For the multiplayer versions, the only interaction is in the scoring (having a clear majority gives extra points): there is no 'angst' that someone might take the action/resources which you wanted to take.

Criticism
If you are unlucky (either with the initial setup or with the subsequent throws of the 'farm dice') it can take a long time until you acquire your first (and second) baby. But having babies early is crucial for a good score, since after you got your farm going, every action should give you at least one or two victory points. The mayor (occupation which lets you fix the farm dice) mitigates this problem, but if you don't get him either, you might be stuck with a low score.
On the other hand, in the closing turns of the game, the mayor is very valuable since having him virtually guarantees at least two victory points per action. So getting the mayor early means that you can reliably obtain a high score which is unlikely otherwise.
Similarly, if you're unlucky you will not be able to acquire either a heath or oven (improvements) until late in the game (or possibly not at all, but that would be very unlucky indeed), which makes feeding your people difficult or at least inefficient.

Overall Assessment
If you enjoy the Agricola solo version, chances are that you'll enjoy Agricola Express. There seems a lot more randomness (since everything is governed by the dice) but since you're throwing so many of them it tends to average out. But that means that you have to be quite flexible in your approach, meaning it is less like a puzzle (Agricola Solo) and more like a proper game (albeit without interaction).
With a bit of development, I can see me preferring this to Agricola Solo!
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Gregory Jameson
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I think I agree with the overall assessment posted above. I have found myself spending quite a bit of time playing this and it is easier to pull out the dice than the whole Agricola Game Box. Firxt class effort!
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