Recommend
69 
 Thumb up
 Hide
17 Posts

Agricola» Forums » Reviews

Subject: [Voice of Experience] Uwe Rosenberg's Agricola: A game of strife and violence? rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
W M
United Kingdom
Rugby
Warwickshire
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb

[Voice of Experience] Uwe Rosenberg's Agricola: A game of strife and violence?

My experience with the game

I've played Agricola many times, with 168 recorded face to face games but as I have not been very diligent in logging games on BGG it is probably more like 250-300. Of these, the vast majority have been 2 player normal (non-family) game, though there have also been roughly 50 4 player games, 10 5-player and 2 or 3 with 3. I've played the family game a handful of times.

I've played mostly with the standard E,I,K decks, a substantial number of G deck games and around 30 games with a mixture of the O, C, NL, and WM decks. I have played with fixed hands and drafting. While I enjoy drafting my favoured way of playing is to deal 12 occupations and 12 improvements to each player before discarding down to 7. This provides the draft experience in a shorter time-frame and also doesn't overly penalise those players who aren't intimately familiar with the cards and would therefore risk drafting a sub-standard hand.

Farmers of the Moor is outside the scope of this review.


Introduction and aims of this review

Few games have created so much feeling as Agricola. Since its publication in 2007 this game, in which you take the role of middle age agricultural family building and managing a farm has been almost universally lauded – 24 international awards are listed on the BGG entry making it the most awarded game in the BGG top 10, squeaking past Dominion's 23 and destroying the likes of Twilight Struggle with 6 and even Puerto Rico and Catan which come in at 11 a piece. Agricola even has its own Wikipedia entry which leads with the fact it was the game to knock Puerto Rico from the BGG highest rated game spot it had held for 5 years. Further testament to the strength of opinion created by the game - there are 375 pages of forum posts on its BGG entry, more than double that of Puerto Rico, currently ranked in 3rd place, which has been in publication for far longer.

(image by tiggers)

While it has enjoyed critical success, Agricola is not a game of mass appeal. It was given the prestigious Spiel de Jahres special award for Complex Game and this is apt. The rules are long and filled with pages of tiny type listing the descriptions and errata of cards. There is a “family game”, however, this is merely a slightly more abstracted, perhaps more cut-throat version of the main, only using a slightly different set of choices and without the interesting hand of cards.

Agricola has been subject to a multitude of reviews on this site and elsewhere. Many of these are overwhelmingly positive. However as is to be expected the game also has its host of detractors and has suffered from some well written, highly popular negative reviews.

It has been derided as “overly complex and artificial...stressful...exhausting... and [inelegant]” (gobfrey) http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/398692/overly-complex-an...
While others find it frustrating and counter-intuitive (filwi) http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/492848/9-reasons-why-i-a...

Rather than re-tread the countless reviews that have gone before which, in the main, provide a summary of the rules and then outline the pluses and/or minuses, I will instead attempt to assess Agricola against the designer's, Uwe Rosenberg's, own criteria of a successful strategy game. I will look whether or not Agricola meets that criteria and in doing so, I will also look at the development of Agricola, the games that influenced its design, and the mechanisms it employs. I will argue that the reason for Agricola's success, and for the strength of opinion that surrounds the game, is because it taps into primary human drives, the need to eat, to find shelter, to reproduce...to survive.

Uwe's decisions

Uwe has written extensively on the design of Agricola and has given interviews in which he speaks of his design decisions. In reading Uwe's words both from his own writings, and from those interviews, it is possible to identify five principal themes that emerge as Uwe's criteria for a successful and enjoyable game and which became the driving force behind the design decisions taken in Agricola. This criteria may be summarised as follows – my terms in bold, Uwe's words paraphrased or quoted directly :

1. Development: The game should spend sufficient time in development to remove any bugs “optimised and error free”

2. Innovation: It should have new and innovative ideas

3. Multiplicity of strategies: There should be multiple strategies to victory

4. Immersion: enjoyment is found in losing yourself in the game, or as Uwe puts it, “forgetting about the world outside”

5. A lack of aggression: strategies should be secure. It should not be possible to attack opponents or sabotage carefully laid plans “I don't like it when others simply break my moves so that all thinking becomes redundant”


Development and Innovation

Unlike other games created by Uwe Rosenberg, the development of Agricola was not driven by a single “flash of genius”. Rather the game was born of hard work and honed following a lengthy and rigorous process. Uwe tested the game for a very long period and before allowing anyone else to see his design he played the game solo for month. Following this solo testing he recruited a legion of over 130 playtesters. His wife wa a particularly stalwart participant playing hundreds of 2 player games to iron out inconsistencies and test new cards. http://jogoeu.blogspot.co.uk/2008/10/interview-with-uwe-rose...

Uwe has spoken of Caylus, Antiquity and Lowenherz as the games which most influenced Agricola and elements of each can be seen in the design. Chess too has also undoubtedly had an impact. Uwe was taught chess by his grandfather and had childhood success winning tournaments. I feel that the 2-player game in particular has a chess like feel.

Agricola draws heavily upon its forbears. In particular, the intial impetus for, and foremost influence on, Agricola was Caylus a game designed by William Attia, and published by Ystari in the autumn of 2005. Uwe was “fascinated” by Caylus, playing it every night for two weeks and spending his days thinking about the game. He decided to attempt to create his own take on the worker placement genre. In doing so he sought to correct what he saw as Caylus' one major flaw, that the number of actions were always the same. Instead he wanted to produce a “small and controlled increase in the number of workers”. This simple but in game design terms radical decision and the mechanism to provide the solution to this problem, had a profound influence on the theme of the game: Players would start with a young couple and their offspring would become the additional workers. http://jogoeu.blogspot.co.uk/2008/10/interview-with-uwe-rose.... This growth in number of actions while in itself a simple idea, is the most significant and innovative aspect of the game.

(image by cuazzel)

Other influences came into play, the harvest mechanism was taken from At the Gates of Loyang. Loyang was an earlier unpublished Uwe design rejected by “4 or 5 publishers” until Agricola's success enabled Hall Games to publish 2009. At the Gates of Loyang's harvest was itself based upon Antiquity a splotter design by Jeroen Doumen and Joris Wiersinga published in 2004. Uwe wanted to see if the harvest mechanic would stand in isolation. http://spiellust.net/2009/07/ein-gesprach-mit-uwe-rosenberg.....

Also borrowed from Caylus is the concept of increased choice of actions with each turn of the game – each round a new card is turned over with an increased action space. In Agricola, the actions of each of the 6 phases are fixed but their order within the phase is randomised and hidden at the start of the game. This simple solution introduces three main variables –

1. The availability of food depending upon when the animal (sheep/boar/cows) cards appear – later animals means more food competition.

2. availability of stone – this impacts upon the playing of improvements (major and minor) and the size and type of house – a larger house means it will be more difficult to renovate to stone.

3. It creates tension and an element of risk and reward with regard to the most fiercely contested space, namely the 'Family Growth' space which provides an additional family member (action) from the next turn on in the game. (There is also to a much lesser extent competition for “Plow and Sow”, “Family Growth without space” and “Renovate and Fence” actions)

While Agricola clearly borrows mechanisms from its predecessors the combination and implementation of these mechanisms has created a new and fresh experience. This is not a variant on Caylus but somehow something entirely different.


Multiplicity of strategies

Planning your actions in Agricola is crucial to success in the game. To take the most important example, the “Family Growth” action is not an end in and of itself but the culmination of careful resource management and timing. In order to take Family Growth, a number of actions have to carefully synchronised. A spare room is required created using the “Build Room” action space and each room resources to build – (5 wood and 2 reed for your first wooden room). Those resources gradually accumulate on the board are finite and are fought over with your opponents who are each also trying to build rooms in order to grow their family. The importance of gaining additional actions has led to the criticism that the game has a single path to victory, namely to build a bigger house and take the family growth action with the winner being the player who does this with greatest efficiency.

Yes, the family growth is usually critical. However the route to achieve this is definitely not certain. Every game will provide you with new paths to reach your goal, with multiple choices introduced via a combination of different hands of cards, and the variable action order. Two games of Agricola are never the same. Final scores vary widely, and while there is a consensus of what makes a model farm, (the scoring sheet provides the blueprint), farms are never perfect and may look dramatically different both between players and from one game to the next. It is the journey to reach the final state that is important – crucially how you get the food necessary to avoid starvation whether it be baking bread, killing animals, scraping by via occupations, improvements, fishing/day labourer or more usually an ever-changing combination based on opportunity and availability of resources.


Immersion and Aggression

Agricola has faced the common criticism of Euro-games – having a pasted on theme. For me, the theme of humanities struggle for survival in a treacherous environment is universal and compelling. When playing the game I am reminded of the State of Nature as proposed by the philosopher Thomas Hobbes in his 1651 work Leviathan. Hobbes' views people as equal competitors hoping to achieve the same things with the roughly same range of possibilities, needs and goals. For him, in order to meet those goals it is necessary to fight against each other for gain.

Agricola provides an almost perfect representation of the “nasty brutish and short” state described by Hobbes. People (the games players) compete for security (food, shelter and survival). To achieve this safety and survival players must fight each other for the limited resources present in the game.

Within Hobbes' base state, as within Agricola, there is a “continual fear and danger of violent death”. Death in Agricola is via starvation and is abstracted and represented by the accumulation of begging cards. Each phase you must feed each family member or suffer the ignominy of receiving one begging card for each food short. Each results in minus three points at game end – family members are worth three positive points each reinforcing the notion that a begging card is a dead family member. Any begging cards are highly damaging and even a single card remaining at game end likely signals game loss. (Yes there are instances where you can win with begging cards – even 6! but this is rare (for a discussion see http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/343824/has-anyone-ever-w...)

To survive in Hobbes' base state, as in Agricola, players compete for limited resources. This creates “contention, enmity, and war: because the way of one competitor, to the attaining of his desire, is to kill, subdue, supplant, or repel the other”.

This all sounds very dramatic, and admittedly there is no direct killing in Agricola. However, I maintain that Agricola is a vicious and nasty struggle for resources, for growth, and for survival. To illustrate this point I will look at some of the central aggressive strategies in Agricola

Blocking

(image by timsteen)

The central strategic move in Agricola is the block. Blocking forces opponents to take actions earlier and act with less efficiency to prevent the block. This in turn allows you a greater choice of, and stronger actions. While this is at its most extreme in 2 player games, with more players blocking should always be kept in mind as a tactical move, though should not be carried out at the expense of your own lead in the game. Some of the best Agricola players advocate blocking whenever the occasion presents itself. Nicu Zavada's (Hala on Play Agricola) is worth quoting in length:

Quote:
“block as much as you can, especially the player you feel is the most likely to win. If someone needs food, take it from him. If someone needs a card in draft and you can take it just to keep him from having it, do it. If he needs fences and you can skip a 1p move to take it, do it. Although some players consider Agricola as a kind of nice growing roses or for saying prayers together, it isn't. It's about you having a better score than your opposition. Taking points away from them is just as good as adding yourself.” http://play-agricola.com/forums/index.php?topic=2037.0


Denial

Taking blocking to its extreme is the strategy of denial which can be defined as preventing your opponent from taking a particular resource by blocking on repeated actions or turns. There is some debate as to whether reed denial to block building and growth or clay denial to block major improvements and resulting food is the most effective. Both tactics can brutally hamstring a less experienced player, though in my experience denial is situational or as (Winsome) puts it:

Quote:
“The best kind of denial is organic - noticing that your opponent has left himself vulnerable in a critical resource and punishing him for it. You don't go in to a game thinking "aha! this is the game where Bob gets ZERO reed!" You go into a game and realize in turn 4 that you situationally have a chance to really screw Bob over by blocking reed for a few turns.”


Threatened Blocking

That act of blocking itself is often not necessary. Often the threat of a block is sufficient.

Quote:
(smcmike)“...Reserving 1 wood for a Round 14 fence-block is the perfect example: suddenly your opponent (the one with 15 wood and 8 unused spaces) needs to use their first turn on fences, rather than that Plow/Sow you've been eyeing”.


In addition to the fence threatened block, here are some of the other frequently observed examples and their resource requirement - (I should also point out that it doesn't work as a threatened block if your opponent doesn't notice you have those resources and are thereby signalling the possibility).

2 wood – threatened stable / build room block
1 food – threatened occupation block
Grain / Veg – threatened sow / bake block
Resources necessary for renovation – renovate block
Resources for major improvement – major/minor block

The major advantage of the threatened block is that it enables the blocker to take a better next action, while the blokee's action is either taken earlier and thereby made less efficient, or that action is postponed and the block remains in place. This can sometimes lead to multiple chains of actions sometimes stretching across turns until the block is negated – as resources change or the blocked action is taken.

Why play aggressively at all?

While for some the aggressive strategies discussed here are anathema, I suspect the majority of players are all too happy to embrace such devious tactics. I am supported by various comments in the Agricola forums. A choice few below:

Quote:
(Big Bad Lex)“Some players cannot compute why a player would take a less immediately favourable move to cripple another. I would not use the term sub optimal because if you play with cut throat opposition, cutting another player off at the knees is extremely optimal.“


aggressive play also has the interesting effect of changing actions in future games with the same players

Quote:
(out4blood)“The biggest advantage is that it affects the meta-game. Now all I have to do is just mention the possibility of something similar and it can cause another player to change his play to avoid the risk, thinking that I am likely to screw him/her over”


Given this aggression why is the game so popular?

My answer in short is that many people enjoy stressful, vicious games. A singular advantage of the game form over other mediums is that a game may be reset and played out again from the start. On your first attempt you will starve / fail to grow your full family and end with a bare and disappointing farm.

Quote:
(MScrivner) The 'Gric captures the desperate struggle of people, even farmers, to survive in a world that is often cruel and dangerous.. “The first time I played it, the thing that flashed through my head was, "oh $@&^, my family is going to starve to death!" I wasn't even worried about scoring points, I was just worried about making it to the next harvest.”http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/334876/why-this-ameritra...


With the second and subsequent plays the participants inevitably improve, rapidly working out how to feed their families to avoid starvation, how to build a bigger and better home, grow their family earlier to achieve more actions and ending with a well rounded and successful farm.

The human desire to achieve and to improve upon ourselves almost guarantees you will want to try again. I say almost. … critics (and advocates) of Agricola speak of its 'masochism', 'stress' and 'nastiness'. Work through this initial pain barrier and you will be rewarded by a deep, rich and ultimately addictive experience.


The cards

(image by LazarusHan)

The other reason Agricola is so successful is due its enormous re-playability. This is principally due to the cards randomly dealt at the start of each game. Uwe had near completed the game in 2006 but had "so much fun playing that I continued inventing cards for a whole year...This was not a marketing decision but because it was my passion".

There are 166 Occupation cards included in the game split into three different decks: E (for Entry), I (for Interactive) and K (for Komplex). Additionally, they are segregated into three groups – those meant for one or more players, those for three or more players and those for four or more players. Additionally, there are 136 Minor Improvement cards also split amongst the E, I and K decks which are all available irrespective of player number. There have been multiple expansion packs of cards providing even more variety and creates, as Uwe has described it, sheer "opulance"

The hand of cards shapes the players strategy, changes the balance of resources, and rewards particular actions. Much has been written on balance. No, the cards are not entirely balanced. Some are more powerful than others and some present an unfair advantage particularly in the two player game. The worst offenders are those cards that are powerful in and of themselves. Other cards are useless or so state dependent as to be useless. For the 2 player game at least we have removed Wet nurse, Reed hut and Wooden hut extension.

In combination some of these cards are very strong, but then there is almost always a means for a skilful opponent to shut down that combination through blocking, or, by playing an equally strong card set. If, as is sometimes the case, a very strong combination provides the tools for an unassailable lead, then brace yourself against the short-lived frustration and, once the game has ended, the cards can simply be reshuffled and you are ready to try again.


Conclusion

So how does Agricola match up to Uwe's requirements for a successful game? For me Agricola succeeds in meeting four of the five criteria, it is incredibly detailed in its development, surely one of the most thoroughly play-tested games ever created, it oozes innovation, breaking new ground as the new star of the worker placement genre. There are multiple strategies between and within games as players adapt to achieve what is possible within the available turns. The theme and gameplay is highly immersive transporting the players to a primal struggle for survival. The only one of his own criteria Uwe fails to meet is lack of aggression. Poor luck and a motivated aggressive opponent, can destroy a players carefully laid plans. This for me though, and for many others, is a strength rather than a flaw, and Uwe has surely succeeded in creating the successful, enjoyable strategy game which he sought to design.

Of course, the 'perfect game' is a myth. The vagaries of human taste mean that every game will have its detractors – as my grandmother was fond of saying (and which the internet tells me has been apocryphally attributed to Abraham Lincoln)- “You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time”.

For me one of the marks of a successful game one that elicits strong emotions in the players. Games have an almost unique ability to 'recreate in play' examples of real-life struggles on a grand scale– whether that be for territory, ideology, survival, wealth, power, or at its most abstract, success through victory.

Agricola certainly elicits emotions whether this is a positive or negative experience is for the players to decide but for me, Agricola is superlative in achieving this emotional depth and this factor, if entirely unintended by its designer, is central to its success. As Joshua Miller (Glamorous Mucus) puts it:

Quote:
“The sadists weep because the masochists have all gone off to play Agricola, and who can blame them - being punched in the face never felt so good.”


A one off?

Agricola has been called Uwe's Magnum Opus and the designer himself acknowledges we are unlikely to see another design from him with the same investment of thought, time, research and testing or a game to be met with so much appeal by so many gamers. “I will likely never work again for such a long time on a single game and likely never meet with so much appeal from so many frequent players again” http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/393540/gargantuan-interview-...

While there have been other similar releases from Uwe so far, at least for me, none of them match the sheer scale and depth of Agricola. As I write this, Uwe is about to release a new design the lengthily titled: Agricola: Die Bauern und das Liebe Viehor or in English Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small ACB and S for 'short'. Little information is available at the current time apart from the BGG game page description that this is to be “a specialized two-player version of Agricola that would offer the same sensation as the original, but in a much shorter, more direct form. The result is that Agricola for 2 players is impressively efficient for such a short game (30 to 40 minutes)! It is not only fast to play; it takes seconds to set up. This gives you the possibility of playing the game over and over!” http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/119890/agricola-all-c...

After reading the rules it appears that ACB and S is Agricola with no requirement to feed, no family growth, and no cards. Uwe has finally created the game he wanted, no stress and no attacking. However without the death and sex, the emotional heart of Agricola and the central interest of the game, has been removed. I am in agreement with my wife's comment on hearing of this soon to be released 2 player version of Agricola “the designer is clearly confused about what he has invented. Agricola is already a perfect 2 player game”. We find it can be played well within the 30-40 minute time-frame of the “shorter” ACB+S.

I hope that ACB and S can be judged on its own merits because when placed next to Agricola it can only fail to impress.

Last word: The Agricola effect

To leave you with one last thought. Uwe has spoken of the “Monopoly effect” in which he relates the story of two couples who went on holiday together and following a disastrous game of Monopoly which resulted in “hostilities and humiliations” lead not only to the outcome that the two couples would never holiday together again, but also that whenever they happen to see one another, each of the couples remember the game and in doing so bemoan their opposites thereby strengthening their own relationship.

In contrast, I have personal experience of the “Agricola effect” - my partner and I have recently been on holiday with another couple in which multiple games of Agricola were played. While each of the four of us in turn spent at least one game in an out-and-out strop or a 'proper mardy' as we say in these parts (I am ashamed to admit my sulking continued through two consecutive games of wood/grain/start player deprivation), these games were, in the main, an overwhelmingly positive experience. I am confident that whenever we meet said couple in the future, we will be reminded of Agricola and remember our holiday and our friends only with fondness.


Selected source material:

Gargantuan interview with Uwe Rosenberg: the man, game design, Agricola, and more (English, Dec 2008)
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/393540/gargantuan-interview-...

Interview with Mr Uwe Rosenberg, http://jogoeu.blogspot.co.uk/2008/10/interview-with-uwe-rose...

An Interview with Uwe Roswenberg, http://spiellust.net/2009/07/ein-gesprach-mit-uwe-rosenberg....

2 player clay/wood/reed/fishing/sheep denial is key!
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/469187/2-words-on-winnin...

More on blocking
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/432211/importance-of-cla...

Most thumbed BGG strategy article. Original deleted, reposted page 4 of thread
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/346380/complex-strategie...

Interesting discussion on complexity and aggression in 2 player Agricola here: http://boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/4193/evaluatin...

Edits for typos and formatting
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Evans
New Zealand
Wellington
flag msg tools
www.evanswhanau.co.nz
badge
...um, not really.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: [Voice of Experience] Uwe Rosenburg's Agricola: A game of strife and violence?
Um, wow !
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
[maˈtiːas]
Germany
Elzach
Baden-Württemberg
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: [Voice of Experience] Uwe Rosenburg's Agricola: A game of strife and violence?
PaulEvans wrote:
Um, wow !
Exactly

Two nitpicks: It's Rosenberg and Loyang was published by Hall Games not Lookout.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
W M
United Kingdom
Rugby
Warwickshire
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
(How embarrassing) thanks for the heads up and for the GG! Now fixed.

yzemaze wrote:
PaulEvans wrote:
Um, wow !
Exactly

Two nitpicks: It's Rosenberg and Loyang was published by Hall Games not Lookout.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matthew Tadyshak
United States
Dallas
Texas
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmb
Nice analysis. Another good Agricola review!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kristian Čurla
Croatia
Zagreb
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mb
I would have liked to read a bit more about the game itself, but still a good review.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
W M
United Kingdom
Rugby
Warwickshire
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
NBAfan wrote:
Nice analysis. Another good Agricola review!


Thanks! - Yes there are a few aren't there.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
W M
United Kingdom
Rugby
Warwickshire
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
BigBadBroloski wrote:
I would have liked to read a bit more about the game itself, but still a good review.


This is valid criticism though I've consciously tried to address something specific here, and do something a bit different. There are already lots of reviews which cover rules and game-play. I hope how the game makes me feel has come across.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Samo Oleami
Slovenia
Ljubljana
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Just read all 3 voice of experience reviews on Agricola (it looms on my shelf, unplayed for 3 years oh and borrowed at that). My feel is that you took those statements made by Rosenberg and just expanded on them (or maybe you created these point from source material, don't know). It's neat as far as article about game design goes, but feels a bit scholarly (lots of quotes, avoidance or fear of speculation (?)). I don't find enough of original analysis to be truly a review as I understand it (making an individual synthesis of the game's idea/feel based on smaller parts and then using this idea to explain the small parts). Is there too much of reviews out there allready? - well if one goes into in from their own personal perspective (without being subjective); I believe one always can add or find a new interesting take on the subject. So that would be my advice: dare more.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Geoff Burkman
United States
Kettering
Ohio
flag msg tools
badge
Peekaboo!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
sgosaric wrote:
...(it looms on my shelf, unplayed for 3 years oh and borrowed at that)...


The horror, sir, the horror! shake
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
W M
United Kingdom
Rugby
Warwickshire
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
sgosaric wrote:
Just read all 3 voice of experience reviews on Agricola (it looms on my shelf, unplayed for 3 years oh and borrowed at that). My feel is that you took those statements made by Rosenberg and just expanded on them (or maybe you created these point from source material, don't know). It's neat as far as article about game design goes, but feels a bit scholarly (lots of quotes, avoidance or fear of speculation (?)). I don't find enough of original analysis to be truly a review as I understand it (making an individual synthesis of the game's idea/feel based on smaller parts and then using this idea to explain the small parts). Is there too much of reviews out there allready? - well if one goes into in from their own personal perspective (without being subjective); I believe one always can add or find a new interesting take on the subject. So that would be my advice: dare more.


Many thanks for your feedback. I'm not sure what you mean by a lack of original analysis - other than the introduction, everything not in quotes is original. Yes I have built on ideas made by others (which I have attributed) but I think I am saying new (and hopefully interesting) things here.

I also don't agree that this is a game design article rather than a review. For me, a review implies a critical examination or re-appraisal of a subject. I feel I have done this.

The 5 themes were identified by me from the source material - I'm sorry if this wasn't made sufficiently clear. The terms are mine, and I have quoted Uwe to show that I wasn't simply pulling these out of thin air. I then used these themes as the structure of the review. I find it interesting what designers seek to create in their own games and I wanted to analyse whether or not Uwe was successful in achieving his aims in creating Agricola.

I agree the review has a scholarly feel, this was intentional and is my way of bringing a more critical eye, an aim implied by the Voice of Experience competition. This is also probably influenced by a recent decision to return to academia (maybe). Yes there are quotes - I like to credit original thoughts and try to support my claims. I disagree with your implication that I don't give a personal perspective. I make lots of 'I feel' and 'for me' statements and multiple sweeping unsupported statements .

It was a bit of a rush to get it in by the end date of the competition and after re-reading there are some things I want to update and change. I intend to do so after the results are announced.
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike T
United States
Maryland
flag msg tools
Avatar
As a credited source, I might be biased, but I loved this review. The academic style is fun and informative, and the images you used for Blocking and the Cards are great.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
W M
United Kingdom
Rugby
Warwickshire
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
smcmike wrote:
As a credited source, I might be biased, but I loved this review. The academic style is fun and informative, and the images you used for Blocking and the Cards are great.


Thanks, and thanks for the GG tip.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Samo Oleami
Slovenia
Ljubljana
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It's really hard for me to answer, because it does feel that the article is what it wants to be, I just find what it wants to be to be a bit restrictive. And it's a hard thing to explain except if you read other texts as well. What I think it boils down is that we have two different viewpoints on what a review could or should be.

Quote:
I also don't agree that this is a game design article rather than a review. For me, a review implies a critical examination or re-appraisal of a subject. I feel I have done this.

That's probably it. I agree on what you say, but for me a review also means a dialogue between the author and the subject matter. There's a dialectic between the author trying to find entry points into the work trying to evaluate and the work having its own terms about what it wants to do and what entry points it allows.

What I like in one of the other Agricola reviews in this competition is that the author not only makes personal remarks, but that his personal observations and from these derived personal evaluations and judgements shape the content of his text in an entirely different manner that gives a specific individual insight without being truly subjective. This makes that text less predictable and also less informative (which I don't miss - I read reviews to provoke my thoughts and give me new insights, not to inform myself).

So, I think I can't really offer you much more than this post and point you towards reading other reviews as well (not sure if mine, it's a bit dense, needs work. blush).
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
W M
United Kingdom
Rugby
Warwickshire
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
sgosaric wrote:

What I like in one of the other Agricola reviews in this competition is that the author not only makes personal remarks, but that his personal observations and from these derived personal evaluations and judgements shape the content of his text in an entirely different manner that gives a specific individual insight without being truly subjective."


I get that you like the other review more - guessing MrShep's http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/808528/voice-of-experien...? - It is well written, insightful, full of humour and an easy read - but I like mine too . I will try to work on adding more objective personal judgements to any future reviews

sgosaric wrote:
So, I think I can't really offer you much more than this post and point you towards reading other reviews as well (not sure if mine, it's a bit dense, needs work. blush).


I think I've read every Agricola review on this site, and many elsewhere. Mine could be better, but I like to think its different enough not to be lost in the melange.

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul New
msg tools

One of the best Agricola reviews I have read. Totally agree with your wife's comment on 2 player being more less a perfect game.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kurt R
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
badge
All life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward dreamings, and no cause to value the one above the other.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
archivists wrote:
The other reason Agricola is so successful is due its enormous re-playability. This is principally due to the cards randomly dealt at the start of each game.

Just to offer my $.02 as a refinement to this thought, I think the primary source for the allure of Agricola isn't its replayability based on cards but that it has so many cards which also create replayability. What I mean is that the cards take the game to a new level and offer replayability as a secondary benefit. Caylus is certainly quite replayable but it doesn't have cards. Cards offer a strong psychological pull (holding a secret power in one's hand, etc.) in a way that dice or a common pool of tiles cannot even though they may offer replayability in their own ways.

Agricola's built-in opulence (and subsequent additions to it) add an extra layer of icing to the Caylus cake. You get 14(!) secret powers at the start of the game which adds another dimension of figuring out how to play them in concert with each other as well as board actions. The power of those cards generates a feeling of promise and an excitement unique to Agricola. I've always thought Agricola is a game about which cards you do not play, i.e., which ones you decide aren't worth the benefit they confer relative to good old, boring board actions. I've seen players plop down an occupation a turn and have all these cool benefits only to see the game end before they could make use of them. Smarter players will play just enough at just the right times and not be seduced into more.

So what I'm saying is while the worker placement in Agricola would probably be an interesting enough game (never played the family version), it's the cards that make the game transcend to a level of constant fascination in my opinion. To be adept at this game, you need great worker placement skills along with card discernment. Caylus offers the former but not the latter whereas, as you say, you can always re-shuffle and start Agricola again with the promise of a new day dawning over your farm. It's the cards that provide the wellspring of this promise.

Great review. I really enjoyed it, especially the backstory details, and it inspired my own thoughts, so thanks for that.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.