Sunday, June 10, 2012

Life on the Farm

Day 39 - Agricola
Designed by Uwe Rosenberg
(Uwe also designed Bohnanza)

Life on the farm was never easy. Waking up at the crack of dawn to feed the animals and milk the cows. In Rosenberg's Agricola player's try and establish the best farm possible in only 14 rounds. Player's accomplish this by plowing fields, sowing grain and vegetables, raising animals like cattle and sheep, building fences and stables, and expanding and renovating your home. Each action can only be taken by one person each round. Player's start with two family members and thus has two actions each round. To be able to perform more actions, one needs to expand their home to make room for a bundle of joy (who will be working out in the fields before the little one even knows how to talk).

This game is definitely one of the most overwhelming games out there. There is a lot to do and it will probably drive you a little crazy the first few times because you will never feel like you have a handle on things (of course this is only my experience and The Wife would definitely agree with that as well). Part of the stress from the game comes from the negative aspects of life if you are not prepared. Throughout the game there are 6 harvest phases when player's harvest their grain and veggies, feed their families, and breed themselves some animals. Each family member needs 2 food (exception for newborn family member, they only need 1 food) and for every food short you are, you take a begging card (which is -3 points at the end of the game). During the game, you are trying to diversify your farm, because if you are lacking certain elements, you will end up getting negative points. You also will get negative points for each unused space in your farm.

Even though there are a lot of components to the game and a lot that you are trying to do, the actual game play is very simple. I think that is one of the reasons that I like the game so much. Understanding how to play the game is fairly simple I think, but with so many goals to the game and things to work on, one can get lost in that pretty easily. Agricola does provide however a few different ways to play, and the Family Version is quite a bit simpler. I've played other versions more frequently than The Wife, who prefers the Family Version after playing the version with Occupation and Minor Improvement cards tonight.

One of the reasons I enjoy Agricola so much, is the fact that there isn't a whole lot of luck to the game. There are no dice in the game what-so-ever. You must utilize each action to its fullest and you must give up on some things to obtain more important things. The game is fantastic. Is the game frustrating to those who don't like to make important decisions each and every move? Yes (myself included, but as you get a bit more comfortable with the game you get less frustrated and instead try and determine how to make the best of what you have). The game is different each time due to how your opponents move etc, and with so many different cards to play with in different games, your strategy will change. Even with the Family Version, Agricola isn't the best game for those just being introduced to strategy games. I think Hawaii would probably be a bit of a simpler introduction to this style of game (and even Hawaii isn't that simple, Ticket to Ride or Carcassonne are probably some of the best intro games I would say).

The bottom line is that Agricola is a very fun and easily understood complex game. The game takes about a half an hour per person playing (perhaps a bit longer for the first time or playing with the cards). You can play with up to 5 people (there is even directions on how to play a solo version of the game). The game is a bit pricey, but this is understandable due to the amount of wooden components, all of the cards, and game boards. In my opinion the game is well worth it, and for people who are looking for a great game with a bit more complexity to it than say Settler's of Catan, I would definitely recommend this game and that is How Lou Sees It.

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