There are 14 rounds in the game. Since you only start off with 2 workers, this leaves you with some challenging decisions to begin with as it only allows you to take two actions (unless a minor improvement or occupation card allows you to do extra); you will only have 2 workers until halfway through the game (in the 5th-7th round) a card will be revealed to allow you to expand your family and gradually add more members to let you do more actions. But beware, more members just mean more mouths to feed; that’s just another added mechanic to make the game more intense since you have to feed your family every harvest time, and if your food is insufficient, you have to claim a beggar card which will deduct your points at the end of game scoring. Not only is that stressful enough, but the difficult part is you are constantly hoping other players won’t block the action space you plan to visit since only one worker is allowed per action space. You will frequently find yourself trying to discover more than one way to earn points by the end of the game. If you haven’t obtained the minimum requirements for having built anything in your farm area with some buildings, fences, animals, vegetables, grain etc. you will lose some points or simply not gain any. A big mistake one can make is to leave too many empty pastures on your player board. That’s a negative point for every empty square pasture.
The theme and mechanics to this game are very unified to reflect that of a family who farms. You collect resources such as wood, brick, stone, and reed; build rooms in your house and/or renovate; “grow”children to help with work and feed the entire family; plow and sow fields to grow grain and vegetables; build fences and raise cattle, boars, and sheep. Each of these play a vital part in developing your farm right onto your playboard. The end product will leave you feeling satisfied over the little farm you just built out of cardboard and wooden pieces. If you like building-type games, this might be right up your alley.
There isn’t much luck in this game, which is great, so you have more control over the decisions you make. There is the small randomness of revealing the Round 1-14 cards, but that isn’t anything drastic, and the rounds are divided into 6 stages, and you’re provided with a card that shows which actions will be available on each stage. Also, every player is given at random 7 minor improvement cards, and 7 occupation cards. Due to the randomness of the cards, some may feel the cards might be unbalanced for each player since some cards are more valuable depending on the player’s objective. A little card drafting of the minor improvements and occupation cards before starting the game can even it out.
They are great quality, and you get a lot in your box for the price you pay; sturdy playboards, cardboard tokens and tiles, wooden tokens and bars, wooden animals (animeeples), and lots of cards with simple, but delightful artwork. The rulebook is pretty straight forward and can refer to it whenever. I mainly learned how to play by watching Rahdo do a runthrough, but I read through the rule book once just to clarify a few things.
This game can be a bit of a brain burner since there are many options to choose from and you’re just not sure which pathway to take for victory; therefore, this causes some gamers to fall victim into this world of the analysis paralysis (AP) player. You can focus on upgrading rooms, raising animals, growing crops, or the meat of the game — playing the cards (from minor/major improvements and occupation cards to aid your path to victory). You would hope you don’t get one of those AP players since that can drag the game a little, but it is almost inevitable and there will be times you just can’t avoid that there will be at least one player, maybe even you, who just need a little more extra time to strategize your next move. However, as annoying as that may seem for some people, it doesn’t really take away from the gameplay, cause one way or another, other players will be strategizing too … unless you have someone taking 5 minutes to put down each worker, then you just want to burn that person’s farm down.
Even the best of boardgames has its flaws. And with Agricola, it is the set up, scoring and pack up time. All I can say is… So much counting and so many baggies… So many pieces!! After all the work you put into your farm, there is still more work after playing the game. As for storing all these pieces, unfortunately, you are just left with a box and no insert. If you are a bit OCD then you may want to invest in some Plano boxes or get a box custom made especially for Agricola.
The game does have some great quality components, the downside is, if you become an Agricola fan, you will probably feel the need to upgrade your pieces to look more realistic cause let’s face it, orange, yellow, brown, rust, white and black round tokens and round workers just don’t cut it anymore… But it will cost you just as much as the game itself, or even more, just to embellish all your pieces. Printing out some stickers, buying farmer meeples, and veggeeples (?), etc. some sell them altogether or separately. I do like Agricola. The upgraded components are on my wishlist, but I haven’t convinced myself to purchase it yet because I’d rather spend the money on a new game.
One thing that was cheap to buy and a great investment was to get a few packs of condiment cups to organize the supply piles during gameplay. It definitely decluttlers the play area. And you can even use it for other games that have numerous pieces (such as Shipyard, Pandemic, Macao, LoWD, Upon a Fable, Ora et Labora). Go get some!
The game comes with many, many, many… (Did I say many?) … cards,; definitely lots of replay value there and plenty ways to use different combos of the cards which can affect how you play the game. Agricola also has expansions available to give you even more replay. First expansion I bought was Farmers of the Moor. Great expansion that adds much more to the game and who doesn’t want horses in their farms!?!
Overall, I think Agricola is a great game. It’s certainly not for everybody. I mean, what game is? Everyone has different tastes. But if you’re looking for a great worker placement game with great theme; you love to farm and build; like to work with animals and food; enjoy a good challenge by making minimal but tight critical decisions, this could be the game for you.