From the guest pen of Tristan Bourne-Nisson.
First off, I want to make it known that I’m not the usual blogger here. If you are some kind of crazy stalker of this site then you might remember me as Peppers. I occasionally edit Null_Entry’s blogs when I spot enough “howevers” to set off my CDO (because that’s alphabetical order, it’s a joke see?) Moving on.
Null has been a bit busy lately with a nasty illness that I’ll spare you the gory details on, in addition to helping construct a close friend’s site. So I figure it’s probably a good time for me to get off my lazy bum and help out around here. Without further ado, I shall now get on with it.
I looked through the various blogs new and old to discover what I consider a travesty, being that there has yet to be a review of my favorite game. To put this in perspective, the Game Paradise library which resides quite unignorably throughout most of my home currently contains over 730 different titles (relatively speaking of course, as there are about 20 different versions of Trival Pursuit and at least five Monopolys going off the top of my head) and I have played or know what’s involved in playing the vast majority of them. In this gamer’s opinion Agricola is the best board game there is, and yes, it’s about farming.
My idea of a good board game is one that plays well with a good range of people, takes no more than a couple of hours to play, keeps everybody involved the whole time, doesn’t kick anybody out of the game, doesn’t lose its replay value, and stays interesting right up until the game is over. I realize this is not a short wish list, but every game in my pesonal top ten has most of these qualities, and Agricola has all of them.
If you’ve ever gotten addicted to FarmVille on Facebook, and I know you have (you probably secretly sing along with Miley Cyrus too), then you will love this game. Best of all it doesn’t even require you to have 15 friends to build a barn. In fact you can play it by yourself, and if you’re a freak like me you probably have… although like most board games it is better with friends.
Do not let the hefty price tag, the weight of the box, the several pages of instructions, or the hundreds of little wooden tokens fool you. You can learn how to play this game without too much trouble, and it is worth every penny. I know you’ve been burned before, but this isn’t like that time the guy at the game shop convinced you to buy Arkham Horror, I promise.
The basic idea is that each player (from one solitary plow hand to as many as five peasants) has a plot of land, a two room wooden hut, and a breeding pair of serfs (represented by little wooden circles), from which they are to try and create the most diverse and balanced farm in the province. There is a central board that represents jobs that each player can have thier people do. The basic options start off with simple things like collecting wood, plowing a field, making a minor improvement to your farm, etc, and from there a new option gets added each round. Only one token per round may be placed on any given action spot, and thus competition for resources ensues. The whole game goes for 14 rounds at which time the points get tallied and whoever managed to diversify their farm the most wins.
The game takes a lot of things into account without getting too crazy or requiring you to remember a ridiculous amount of rules. They manage this by making it so every action a player does is based on placing your farmer tokens somewhere on the center board. From there you pretty much just read what that action does and do what it says. From such a simple mechanic, fields get plowed and sewn, houses, barns and fences get built, crops grow, animals breed, and babies are born so they can then be put to work. Just remember to make sure that you feed everybody, because begging costs you a lot of points.
The great replay value of the game has to do with the cards. Everybody playing gets seven “occupation” cards and seven “minor improvement” cards. There are also eight “major improvement” cards that anybody can buy. Each one of these cards gives the player who manages to use it a notable advantage or ability of some kind that the other players don’t get. The cards can be divided into different sets such as the “interactive” deck or the “complex deck” and are all for the most part fairly balanced. A really savvy player can almost always find ways to make their cards work together in very satisfying combinations that can help them build a really spiffy farm. There are so many cards that the odds of getting dealt the same hand twice are only slightly greater then winning the power ball, but somehow they all manage to interact in fun unexpected ways.
Now I do realize that not everybody is going to fall for this game the way I did, and that’s fair. There are some good contenders out there for the honored position of my favorite game. I will mention though that it held the top spot on Board Game Geek’s game listing for more than five years. That many geeks can’t be wrong. People have been known to make their own custom replacement pieces for this game, such as sheep that look like sheep instead of little white cubes, because they are just that into it.
In conclusion, I recommend this game to anybody who isn’t afraid of something that requires a little thought and planning to win. Even so I’ve known of individuals who were awful at this game and loved to play it anyways, so you should still give it a try.