Our next game in the A to Z play-through of our gaming shelf was Agricola.
Basic Info: Agricola
Time: 90 Minutes (our 2-player game)
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Artist: Klemens Franz
Publisher: Z-Man Games (our copy)
This is a worker placement where you play a farming family trying to survive from harvest to harvest by building your home, raising animals, growing crops, building improvements and hiring hands.
At the beginning of the game, you have only two moves – one for you and one for your spouse. You need to build up your house to have children (and more workers, more moves per round), but you also need to plow and sow fields and fence in pastures to raise animals. Hiring people can make some jobs easier, but it takes a precious action — and food — to do that.
At the end of each harvest — which come after the 4th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th and 14th rounds — you need enough food to feed your family, or you’ll be reduced to begging.
Game-end scoring is based on the size and quality of your house, the number of family members, the number of fields and pastures, points on upgrades, and number of resources – animals, grain, and vegetables.
The game is very tight. It is difficult to get enough food for your family while building up the farm. Of course, 18th farming was not exactly an easy life, so it fits the theme.
I’ve only played Agricola a few times. The first time, we opted to play without the occupations, since that was suggested as a way to simplify the game. However, in my subsequent plays, I’ve discovered that the occupations are key to getting some things done. We had also heard of a variant where players draft the occupation cards – taking one from their initial hand of seven, then passing the hand to the next player. We tried that with our game this week, and it worked quite well. By drafting the occupations, we could plan which occupations would work together, giving us a starting strategy.
I’ll confess, though, that I’m still not a big fan of Agricola. It is considered a modern classic, and is often held up as one of the best games of the last decade (or so).
I mostly find it stressful.I’ll admit that I was less stressed throughout this game than with previous ones — mostly because I decided to just let the game happen, and not worry. But it’s overall just frustrating. Maybe if I sat back an tried to figure out the strategies I’d feel better overall, but there are enough other games that I enjoy without all that extra work, so I’m unlikely to fall in love with Agricola any time soon.
How is it as a 2-player game? This is a pretty good 2-player game. With more players, there are additional action spaces, so there is some scale-ability. On the other hand, with just two players, we never felt like there was “nothing” that we could do in a given turn. Even if one of my planned spaces was taken, there were enough other ones on the board that I felt I could advance my farm.
How about the art? The art is okay – I maybe wouldn’t buy this one just for the art, but it is thematic and adds character. My favorite part, though, is probably the “animeeples”.
Will this stay in my collection? Yes. We may not take it out often, but we’ll likely pull it out again.
2 Replies to “A to Z Gaming: Agricola”
Agricola takes a while to play but it *feels* like it’s moving quickly with two players: with only four actions per round, carrying them out doesn’t take long, though coming up with a plan often requires some concentration.
The game reminds me of Power Grid — not in its mechanics but in the constant feeling of walking a tightrope and needing to calculate exactly how many actions you have before the next harvest and how much food you can obtain. That’s why I find it stressful: you have to stay focused for the entire duration of the game, and mistakes become quickly apparent.