Agricola, designed by Uwe Rosenberg and published here in the US by Z-Man Games, is a German-style (Euro game), agriculturally themed board game for up to 5 players including a solitaire variant. If you’re not familiar with the Euro game distinction, they are often abstracted, low luck, high strategy games with oftentimes simple rules and short to medium play times.
As a basic overview, Agricola is played across 14 rounds, organized into 6 stages. Before the game begins, players are dealt a hand of 7 occupation cards and 7 minor improvement cards that can be applied to their farm. The players take actions, the number of which corresponding to how many family members they have (starting value of 2). There are basic actions like collecting clay or reed, or collecting seeds. Then there are randomized actions that become available as play progresses through each round, such as collecting sheep or cattle or sowing grain. Only one player can take a particular action each round. The object of the game is have the most points, achieved by building the best possible farm, utilizing as much space as possible. It is also important to not have your family go hungry, as players will accrue negative point cards if they are unable to feed their family members at the end of each stage.
Tab was very excited when I borrowed my friend’s copy of the game so we could play. She grew up on a farm, and so was intensely curious as to how the designer would implement crop and animal management in the game. The excitement slowly morphed into an amused frustration. Tab expressed again and again how the mechanics used in the game were next to nothing like actual farming, and would verbally berate the board at multiple opportunities. It became one of the most enjoyable negative experiences of gaming we’ve had, as Tab grew increasingly emphatic that “that’s not how it’s done!” to my continued quips “but it’s a game.”
I am, admittedly, not a big fan of Euro games in general. While fine in low doses, I find the lack of variance fairly off-putting. The first few plays feel novel and engaging, but increasingly become same-y and dull. Agricola doesn’t break the mold, but does what it can to keep you playing with the randomized actions across the stages. Tab, however, is big fan of Settlers of Catan, another game under the Euro cloth, and I’ll assume her take-away was tainted mainly by expectations in the theme. Ultimately, Agricola is fun and challenging game, but past the 4 or 5 plays I’ve had it loses it’s appeal.