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Two Moms Game review Agricola

Review

This review originally appeared on our blog Two Moms Game. Read it in it's original format here: https://twomomsgame.com/agricola/

Agricola
A classic worker placement farming game with resource and hand management for 2-5 players (2-4 in the revised 2016 edition)
~30 min per player


Agricola is a worker placement game where you are a farming family working to grow your farm. The game is played over 6 stages, each with several rounds where players execute actions based on the number of workers they have.

Note: we own the 2013 Z-man version of the game. There are actually multiple versions of the game, including a “family” edition that is a simplified version, the revised edition with meeples (instead of disks), and many card deck expansions. In this review we will focus on the base game, but we almost always play with the Farmers of the Moor expansion that adds a few fun elements like horses and family members falling ill from cold homes.

Gameplay*
*This is a general overview that does not include every rule

Each player starts with two workers, a two room wood house, and a hand of cards – minor improvements and occupations. A preset number of worker placement spaces are available at the start of the game with additional spaces being revealed in each of the 14 game rounds. Play is structured as follows:

Reveal new worker placement space

Add resources to all action spaces as applicable

In turn order, players place 1 family member on an action space – limit of 1 worker per space. Action spaces allow players to:
E Gain resources (building materials, animals, food, crops)
E Build new rooms in their houses
E Build fences
E Grow their family
E Play occupation and improvement cards

Repeat step 3 until all workers have been placed

Return workers to houses

Check to see if a harvest was triggered. Harvests are triggered after several rounds and get increasingly closer together as the game progresses. During a harvest, players:
E Collect crops from fields
E Collect food and other benefits from occupation and improvement cards
E Pay food per worker
E Animals reproduce

Repeat 1-6 until the game ends after the 14th round.

Agricola has a pretty simple ruleset for its weight class. What makes this game stand out compared to similar worker placement games is the constant stress built into the game mechanics. Even at 2 players, your play will often be ruined by your opponent taking your spot. You’ll always need a plan B, and possibly C. You will feel the tension of needing to balance building your engine with planning to feed your family. And you will feel throughout the entire game like you are running out of time. (Emily’s advice: if your table is too heavy to flip after your opponent ruins your amazing plan you spent forever building, just find your hidden chocolate stash and try some deep breathing).

The gameplay and the available action spaces remain the same each game, but there is some variability on when certain action spaces become available. The heart of the game and the variability come from the card decks

This game would be nothing without the cards. Occupation and minor improvement cards may give players bonus resources or allow players to create combos and build engines to help their farms become as efficient as possible. Having cards that allow you to get additional resources or do things before your opponent is gloriously satisfying. Cards also contribute to end game scoring and can come as a surprise when you didn’t realize how many bonus points your opponent was accumulating.

Sarah's Take
This is my favorite game of all time. I absolutely love the precise planning each round takes, the race to set up the most efficient food engine, and the punishing aspect of having to feed your family, all while trying to expand your house, and family, making it even more difficult to obtain resources to feed them. I would never turn down a game of Agricola and if playing with experienced players I will always want to play with the Farmers of the Moor expansion.

Emily's Take
I’m not a fan. We play it mostly on Sarah’s birthday or when I beat her too many times in a row in other games. My perfect heavy game is one where I can think in my tiny bubble and accumulate a million points, which is not this game. I might also be biased in that I am really terrible at effectively combining the occupations and improvement cards, which are really the only thing that make the game worth re-playing since the board barely changes. I also don’t love that there’s one mechanic that’s a huge predictor of who will win – whoever is first player. Becoming the first player is a matter of choosing the first player marker space as one of your actions. You have very few options available to you, and taking back the first player marker over and over is incredibly inefficient, but letting the other player choose their spot first at the beginning of every round also is a HUGE advantage. The Farmers of the Moor expansion helped a lot by adding the special action cards, but I still won’t choose this game most of the time.

First Play
The game itself is relatively simple as far as the mechanics go. The real difficulty comes later in actually learning how to play well.

Rulebook
Uwe Rosenberg games usually have pretty good rulebooks (good thing too because his games are INTENSE). The overall game structure is outlined clearly on the first couple of pages which makes it great for referencing as needed throughout the game (or as a quick reminder when playing again later). Additional detailed information on the action spaces takes up another 4 pages or so. That’s pretty much it, about 10 pages altogether. The rulebook provides tips and reminders throughout and is easy to understand. Most experienced gamers should be able to learn from the rulebook fairly easily, and inexperienced gamers shouldn’t have it too rough.

Subsequent Plays
Absolutely. Emily usually doesn’t want to play as often as Sarah, but we both improve our strategy each time we play. There’s so much variety from the card decks that it doesn’t feel like you are playing the same game over and over again. There are also about a million expansions decks that add new cards.

Play Time, # Players
Playtime is pretty much in line with 30 minutes per player. New players and those unfamiliar with the cards will take longer to read and understand the benefits and interactions of the cards. If playing just the family game (without cards) this could probably be dropped to 20 minutes per player, if not less.

The game scales well for all player counts. We have played at 2, 3, and 4 players. More players unlocks more available action spaces, but the economy on resources remains tight.

Parent Perspective
With so many plays under our belts, we can knock out a 2-player game in just about an hour, so it’s a great game for after bedtime, even if bedtime wasn’t as smooth as we’d all like. And while Rowan isn’t old enough to play just yet, he could probably handle the family game of place a person, get stuff, in about 2-3 years. (Sarah’s note: Yay! I cannot wait to have someone to play my favorite game with)

Our Rating:
We disagree:

Sarah – 5: Would play constantly if allowed

Emily – 3: Would play again with enough time and distance

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Linked Games
Agricola: Farmers of the Moor Expansion
Agricola