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Agricola

Agricola

by Uwe Rosenberg
Publisher: Z-Man Games
Games
Price: $69.99

You're living in a shack. Your wife lives with you, but you don't talk much because she's just a wooden disc that you keep inside while tending crops and building fences and outbuildings. You collect clay, wood and stones, breed and raise animals, muck around in the dirt hoping you don't die before next harvest, and are called Agricola by everyone you meet (and there's always at least a hint of scorn in their tone).

Is it a bad dream? Only if you hate board games. This is precisely the setting for Uwe Rosenberg's wildly popular Agricola (the Latin word for "farmer"), and one that is particularly well-suited for an easy-to-play yet highly nuanced board game. As a Medieval farmer, you have to keep every element of primitive farming in balance to pursue life and property, the pursuit of liberty not yet on the Olde European horizon.

If your experience with board games is limited to a single board on which all players interact, Agricola will be a surprise. Each player has his own small board, and the rivalry consists in out-producing your opponents and looking to your own prosperity. Victory points determine the winner, and these are acquired though improving your spread, producing food, and raising a family with the help of your painted wooden disc wife who sits inside the shack all day while you move little wooden blocks around on a colorful board.

A number of Occupation and Improvement cards (there are 166 of the first, 146 of the second) are chosen at random prior to each game. These help determine what you can accomplish and how quickly, and due to the sheer number of each type of card, you aren't likely ever to play the same game twice. (Heraclitus would be proud.)

Supplemental rules let you play a shortened version with multiple players, or show you how to play by yourself (never as fun). Agricola is a little more accessible than similar games, and a great place to start for those who want to develop their gaming repertoire but haven't played anything more intense than Sorry. Building the perfect strategy will take work, but few games are as much fun every time you play.

  • 1-5 Players
  • 30 minutes per player
  • 12+

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Customer Reviews
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  A Very Fun Game
Daniel of OR, 12/28/2011
After playing this game several times, I have come to really enjoy it. It's very well made, with lots of fun cards, boards, and wooden parts.

The rules are not complicated, but the possible strategies are many. The game progresses through different phases, which build on each other, and you have to choose which developments to focus on. Plowing, planting, fencing, and building all need to be done at the right time in order to get the most points at the end.

This game is competitive, but more like a race instead of a battle. Highly recommended for both guys and girls.
  All-Time Favorite
Joseph F. of Oregon, 10/1/2011
If you really enjoy in-depth games, and you want to spend a good amount of time getting to know one game, this is the one you should get! The farming theme sounds lame, but it's really not. Everyone I've taught this to (guys and girls), really enjoys this game, by at least the second play.
There is something very satisfying about watching your estate grow from a small wood house with two people, to a massive stone house, with fields, grain, pastures and livestock. There is so much to do in this game, you can never do all of it, which gives you hard decisions to make. But you have new hard decisions every game depending on which unique cards you get and which strategy the other players use.
The box weighs about 5 pounds and contains a massive amount of "stuff" including three different decks of cards, which really make the game for me. The game is an expensive one, but it has really been worth it for us. We've played so many times and enjoyed it so much! This is my wife's favorite game and we've played it five times in a row before.
  One of the Very Best
Matt Winckler of WA, 3/2/2011
This is one of those games that is "inherently" fun. By that I mean that there is something intrinsically fun about performing the actions in this game--growing grain, breeding farm animals, plowing fields, building houses--it all gives you that certain sense of "accomplishment" and makes the game fun. The game is very tactical, and it's tough to look at your options in any given round and formulate a solid plan to move forward, but despite uncertainties of card draws and your opponents' actions, success in Agricola is firmly rooted in skill and experience. It's one of the only games that my wife and I have played 6 times in a single day.

At the 10-play mark, I decided that the game is far more tactical than strategic. There is a somewhat fuzzy strategic element (e.g. "breed lots of animals" or "sow lots of fields"), but it's mostly tactical. And once you start getting used to the game, analysis paralysis is reduced even with occupations and minor improvements present.

Either way it's an extremely fun game. The family-game variant (it comes with the board) can be played by an 8 or 9 year old, but it probably wouldn't be played very successfully until age 10-12.