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.
TaDa Ministries Game Review 03: Agricola from TaDa Ministries on Vimeo.