Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Agricola Week, Part One
What is Agricola? First off, it's pronounced /aˈɡri.ko.la/. Like this: . Second, it's the Latin word typically translated as farmer. But most importantly, it's a German-style board game (think Settlers of Catan) by Uwe Rosenburg in which players compete to develop the most productive farm from raw materials and supplies.
The gameplay is relatively simple. Each round, a player may place each of his family members on a particular action, which consist of either taking materials or using those materials to develop something new. One can plow and sow grain or vegetables, raise sheep, boars, and goats, renovate your house, build improvements like ovens or stables, and increase the size of your family. Along the way, one must also grow enough food to sustain your growing family.
To assist you in this task are occupations and minor improvements, which allow you to bypass certain restrictions, take additional actions in a turn, or provide free or reduced-cost materials. You might be a Baker, specializing in cooking grain into bread; a Stable Hand, who allows you to build additional stables; or a Grocer, able to convert food into other types of useful resources. With 169 occupation and 139 minor improvements in the base game, these create a surprising amount of variance between games.
Still, at its heart, Agricola is a game that involves very little luck. While there is some variation as to when certain options become available, otherwise the only difference from one game to the next will be the occupations and improvements that the players have access to.
At the end of the game, a player receives points based on what he or she has built and acquired over the course of the game. Diversity is favored over specialization, since any resource that has been ignored will be penalized, while the total points for any particular resource are capped. Certain cards can also provide bonus points, but even these are almost always tied to some resource or another.
The quality of the components of the game is quite high. The cards for the occupations and resources are thick cardstock (and feel and smell much like Magic the Gathering cards), which the other components are solid wood. The artwork is similarly good, evoking the rough 17th century European setting in which people are final recovering from the Great Plague that swept the continent.
Overall this is an amazing game, and one that I highly recommend. It can be played with anywhere from 2-5 players, with two different single player variants as well. The occupations and minor improvements are also organized into three different decks, which can be mixed altogether or used separately for any given game. There is even a beginner version of the game, complete with its own board, for newcomers. All of these options are included in the base game, and it's this variety, more than anything else, that makes this game such a gem. More on that next time.
Intrigued? Check out Agricola's page from boardgames.com, watch this video on how to play the game, or purchase the game using using this link, and a portion of your proceeds will go to support Writer Adept!
Have any of you ever played this game before? What did you think? As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading.