My introduction to this hobby was through Shuck and his cousin Bryan teaching me how to play Lords of Waterdeep one evening at a local game store. I realize this has nothing to do with Agricola directly, but as my first introduction to hobby games was a worker placement game, they naturally were the first kind of games I started to investigate. Worker Placement is still one of my favorite mechanics and this eventually led me to try Agricola. It’s a game that get’s a lot of love, as well as some intense hate from its detractors. I don’t think think that it’s some magical, perfect game, but it is one that I enjoy immensely whenever I get it to the table. I enjoy it enough that, for now, at least, I have it as my number one game because of the enjoyment I’ve gotten out of it.
Agricola is a game about farming. You start with your farmer and his or her spouse, a player board with a two-room farmhouse and very small amount of food. Being a worker placement game, you send each of your workers out to complete various actions on the board that represent various farming tasks. Gathering wood, spending resources to build new rooms, plowing and/or sowing fields, baking bread, getting animals to raise on the farm, building fences, etc.
Every so often there is a harvest, at which point you have to feed your family members, collect the crops that have grown in your fields and your animals will have offspring if you have more than one of them and enough room in your pens. This all sounds pretty thematic, and for the most part, it is. It’s great to see your farm grow over the course of the game as you add fences, fields and build improvements from the common pool or from those in your hand.
COMPONENTS AND ART
First off, this is another beautifully illustrated game by Klemens Franz. There are little variations in the details on the various house tiles, and the artwork on the cards is great. The cards themselves are thick and well made, and all the cardboard pieces feel thick and durable. I have the edition with the animeeples, and the various animal meeples are all well made. I’d like to have something more than wooden discs for the various resources included in the box, but with the sheer amount that is needed to play with multiple players, I’m guessing it was a bit too costly.
Likewise, the fact that the farmers are just large discs is a little disappointing. There are plenty of places online to purchase meeples to replace the discs with if you are so inclined and rumours of a new edition that includes farmer meeples in the near future as well. Overall, I’m happy with the quality of the components in the box.
Agricola is pretty standard worker placement fare, although it is very tight and will make you feel like you can never get enough done. There’s always that one last animal you needed to get or a field that you had to let lie fallow through the harvest because you couldn’t get to the sow action before your opponents. There is also the fact that the “Family Growth” action that allows you to expand your family early on if you have the room is in high demand and can make it hard to recover if everyone else get’s those extra workers before you do and you are still stuck with just two actions a turn.
Something I really like about the way the action cards are distributed is that the game is broken up into phases, with certain actions always being in phase one for example but with no way to know whether it’ll be round one or round four. The phases get shorter and thus less of a random feel to the distribution, but it’s still a nice way to add a little variety to each play.
Agricola is very tight and will make you feel like you can never get enough done.
Try this game if you like:
- Lords of Waterdeep
- La Havre
Agricola deserves it’s reputation as a great game and is one that all gamers who like euro games, and worker placement games in particular, should at least try. In my opinion, it’s a must-have for your collection if you fall into that category. I give it a rating of “Buy it”.
Agricola is one of the games that plunged me deeper into the hobby. It made me love the worker placement mechanism which is still one of my favorites. I successfully introduced it to many non-gamers, which opened up lots more play time and encouraged me to buy more and more new games each year. Because of its pivotal place in fostering my love for this hobby it has been difficult to put my thoughts together about it, but I will do my best.
The first thing I will praise Agricola for is how thematic it is. That’s right, a thematic Eurogame. All of the mechanisms hook strongly to the theme of the game, evoking the feeling of farming in the 5th century. One of the pieces of this is the tension you feel leading up to each harvest. There are so many things you need/want to do but, the closer harvest looms, the more you have to think towards feeding your family. The occupations and minor improvements also add lots of variability. The cards start each player on a different path leading to lots of replayability.
The one thing that brings this game down a notch for me is actually one of the things I mentioned before: the tension in feeding your family. This mechanism is actually stress inducing. For many gamers, that is fine and fun, but for people new to the hobby or more casual gamers, this can be a big turn off. There is a reason this game has been called Misery Farm.
As far as worker placement games go I would probably recommend Lords of Waterdeep over this game, but that doesn’t mean this is a bad game, not in the slightest. I still say this game is a “Buy It” for me.
Disclaimer – This is my reaction to a two-player game I played with Gary recently. The comments below are based only on that game. I have no further experience with Agricola.
I enjoy worker placements in general but some can be very stale. What I think Agricola did right was introduce a new worker placement spot every round. It’s not just the same actions scaled up but a brand new thing to do. This adds complexity without overburdening the player at the start of the game. It also allows for varying strategies as the game progresses. As Gary sent his workers out to farm I focused more on my animals. I love that. A game that doesn’t make you adjust your strategy mid-game begins to feel “samey” over multiple plays. Agricola will provide players with a variety of gaming experiences.
I think what I loved most about this game is just how thematic it is. Every mechanism makes sense. Nothing ever felt forced. The artwork and components elevated that theme even more. Once the game is done and your fields and pastures have all been placed it’s so neat to look down and say, “this is my farm. I did that.” There’s a great feeling of accomplishment. You can physically see what you’ve been striving to do throughout the course of the game.
In the end, Agricola left me wanting more. When we finished playing I started analyzing my plays. A minor decision here or there could’ve changed the outlook of the game entirely. I also like the way the points are awarded because it makes for a really tight game. There’s always the feeling that you could win or lose and that keeps players engaged. Many people say Agricola is stress inducing but I never felt anxious about my decisions, maybe just a bit overwhelmed with choices. This can cause a bit of analysis paralysis (AP) so be aware of that. However, I do wonder if playing with more people would affect this. I assume it could be a bit more stressful and time in between turns would probably take even longer from AP. Right now, though, I really enjoy this as a two player game.
I’m giving this a Play It because I feel like I need some more plays before jumping on the Buy It bandwagon but don’t be surprised if this hits my top 10 next year. Excellent game! I can definitely see where the love comes from.