Agricola Review
Agricola Review

Agricola Review

Designed by Uwe Rosenberg

Release Year: 2007 Complexity: Medium-High

  👥  1-4 Players   ⏰  60-150 min   💸 ~$60   🔗  Buy

Overview

In Agricola, you are a farmer in the 17th century starting from humble beginnings with a two-room wooden house and acres of empty land. Over the course of the game, you will work to sow fields, build pastures, raise animals, expand your house, and grow your family as you strive to have the best farm by the end of the game.

Each round your workers can go out to collect resources or perform actions, but you will want to be mindful of your opponents as you compete for the common spaces on the board. After all workers are placed, they return home and the next round begins with a new action space being introduced into the game. After a set number of rounds, it is harvest time! You will reap crops from your fields, feed your family, and any animals on your farm will reproduce.

image

Game Feel

Agricola is tight and unforgiving, and the rounds leading up to each harvest will have you pondering the best way to gather enough food while still progressing your farm to allow you to do more in the future. One of the first and most important questions you will ask yourself in a game of Agricola is, “what is my food strategy?” Whether it is baking grain, cooking animals, or utilizing other food-related card effects, alleviating the pressure of feeding your family is what allows you to effectively pursue the other goals in the game.

One of these goals supported by sufficient food is growing your family, which is the most powerful way to get more done as you will have more workers to use in every round. However, powerful opportunities also come in the form of Occupation and Minor Improvement cards that you are dealt at the beginning of the game. This hand is a unique puzzle of abilities and positive effects that will guide your strategy and give you advantages that no other player has.

FAQ

image

Player Counts - We can’t speak to the quality of Agricola’s solo mode, but it does play great at 2-4 players. The 5-6 player expansion allows for even larger games and while we have had a lot of fun at 5 players, 6 feels like it might be pushing it in length and downtime.

Abstract vs. Thematic - While most people think of more flashy exciting subject material when discussing “thematic” games, there is no denying that Agricola is very thematic with its mechanisms directly tying into the farming theme. It isn’t a game you are necessarily going to play for the theme, but it is definitely more thematic than most “Euro” strategy games.

Luck vs. Skill - Agricola is a game that demands a lot of strategic and tactical skill to play well, and while the initial hands of cards may present unequal advantages among the players, the outcome is still mostly determined by each player’s choices.

Multiplayer Solitaire vs. Highly Interactive - It is easy to look at the individual player boards where you each build up your farm and want to label Agricola as a “multiplayer solitaire” experience, but you will quickly realize just how much interaction there is in the core worker placement system. While you are strategizing how to build out your own farm, you are constantly trying to weigh the order to take actions based on your opponents, and often need to adapt because an opponent did something unexpected.

Short Setup vs. Long Setup - It takes a bit of time to get everything set up for Agricola, and often upwards of 10-15 minutes is spent with all the players evaluating their cards at the beginning of the game. We consider that initial strategizing part of the game itself, but it is often a little while before the first turn actually begins.

Easy to Teach vs. Hard to Teach - The systems in Agricola are not overly complicated, but players really need to understand each component of a successful farm and there are a lot of little rules across those areas. Additionally, the unforgiving nature of the game means that teaching the game well often requires sharing some basic strategic advice to help new players have a positive first experience.

Low Setup Variability vs. High Setup Variability - The variability in Agricola is through the roof, and that variability comes primarily from the wide range of powerful and interesting abilities on the Occupations and Minor Improvements dealt at the beginning of the game. Truly no game of Agricola is going to feel the same, as every hand of 14 cards presents its own unique puzzle to solve.

Things to Like

✅  Cards Make Every Game a Unique Puzzle - And that brings us right to the biggest strength of Agricola: the cards. Right out of the gate, you are presented with a different set of opportunities than any previous game, and it is your job to find strategic combos and come up with a basic blueprint of how you want to approach the game. And these effects can be as simple and powerful as gaining extra resources when you visit an action space to as exotic as effects like scoring points equal to the number of animals in the first group of animals you take during the game. For those who enjoy Agricola, the cards offer a lifetime of satisfying repeated play that always feels fresh.

✅  Tight Worker Placement is Tactically Rich - But underneath all the card variety is a worker placement system that is so nuanced in how you approach it. The way the resources accumulate ensures that action spaces that went unchosen quickly become extremely attractive, forcing you to weigh your original plans against the opportunity to get a great deal on picking something up that you’ll need for later. Each of your limited actions is so precious, and you will often try to optimize by taking advantage of space that lets you play a Minor Improvement in addition to an action like renovating your house. Minor Improvements can also be played when taking start player, which is another very interesting valuation as you try to determine how important it is to move to the front of the turn order. There is a certain level of stress that comes with navigating these tough choices in the tight decision space, but for those seeking interesting and meaningful decisions, they will find an endless well of them here.

✅  Great Balance of Strategy and Tactics - Few games blend such clear “master-planning” strategy with such rich tactical maneuvering the way that Agricola does. At times you will zoom out and try to think of the big picture: what cards do I think I am going to play, and by which round do I need to get them into play? But minutes later you will be thinking of nothing but where your last two workers should go this round, weighing the the value of spaces made ambiguous by a sea of interesting variables. A game of Agricola opens with the strategic analysis of a unique hand of cards, but then puts you in the trenches where you will need to make tough and satisfying tactical decisions from beginning to end.

✅  Extremely Fulfilling Game Arc - And at the end of the game, you will look down and see your unique farm that carries the story of all of the grueling decisions that you made over the course of the game. It is a satisfying conclusion (well, depending on how your plans came together) and it just feels good to see how you journeyed from just two wooden rooms to a full, and hopefully thriving, farm. For those that find satisfaction in building something tangible and challenging, Agricola delivers an extremely fulfilling game arc.

image

Things to Dislike

❌  Unforgiving Nature Can Be Punishing - As much as we talk about Agricola rewarding repeated play, none of that matters if a players first impressions are negative enough that they don’t come back. And that is where the tight and unforgiving systems in Agricola can kind of work against it. It is not uncommon for a new player to reach the end of the game feeling like they never really could get things going, and watch as they get negative points across a variety of categories, potentially getting destroyed by more experienced players in the group. Some people just flat out won’t like that kind of unforgiving gameplay, while others would maybe love it with additional plays, but never find out because the game was too merciless their first few times around.

❌  Family Growth Arc Can Be Predictable - While a lot of the arc of farms in Agricola is predictable due to the well-rounded end state the players are targeting, growing your family for additional workers in particular can start to feel a bit scripted. Experienced players will realize the importance of getting additional workers as soon as possible, and with only a single family growth action appearing for the majority of the game, it can often feel like a race to just get that third worker. This is something that we think the Farmers of the Moor expansion helps improve by making the “family growth rush” a little more difficult as you balance the additional requirement to heat your home, but it is a minor issue that some players might be put off by.

image

Our Ratings

Ryan (88 Plays) - 10 Daniel (75 Plays) - 10

Is It For You?

If you don’t enjoy the stress of tight and challenging games, are overwhelmed trying to find combos within a hand of card effects, or you simply don’t play the same game that many times, Agricola might not be for you. 👎

But if you enjoy the satisfaction of working through a difficult puzzle, like building something and seeing the final product, and want a game that rewards repeated play with endless unique variations, then, as far as we’re concerned, Agricola is as good as it gets. 👍