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Coming from A Feast For Odin to Fields of Arle makes the latter seem rather simple. But it's still fun, and great to have a built-for-2-player experience from Uwe that isn't a simplified version of something else.
We found the game unnecessarily complex like Lisboa or Bruxelles 1893. Something trivial in Agricola like animal reproduction is a chore in Fields of Arle. Even scoring animals seems overcomplicated. Three colors of arrows for three different types of conversion. Of course the game has a vast decision space, because actions are a combination of three of four different small steps that sometimes you can all do and sometimes you must choose. Compared to the simple spaces in Agricola, Fields of Arle feels like several steps backwards. It seems like each space in Fields of Arle is a combination of 2-4 spaces of Agricola. Of course, you can do more with each worker, but making a decision is much harder and the whole game feels bloated. Then, there are small exceptions like: "At the Wood Trader, you may pay Grain instead of Food once you run out of Food. This is not possible on any other Action Space." Why was that feature added to the Wood Cutter? Did Wood Cutters traditionally accept grain for payment? Is it trying to balance an unnecessarily obtuse game? In short, we had high expectations for this game, we believed it to be a refinement of Agricola and it turned out the other way. Agricola feels leaner, more streamlined. And then it plays up to 5 and has hundreds of occupations and improvements that really make each game different.
It's not a very [i]deep[/i] game, but it's an incredibly [i]wide[/i] game with seemingly untold ways to score points. Oddly, while I normally dislike sandbox games with "multiple paths to victory," the fact that you are can choose a [i]thematic[/i] path gives the game an identity that isn't there in most other MPS point salads. It's a peaceful, almost relaxing euro optimization puzzle. Fields of Arle manages to invert the Agricola experience from Subsistence Farmer to Abundance Farmer in a mostly pleasant way. Trade condition notes: Excellent condition
Fields of Arle is a sandbox game by every definition. The options are vast and players are exposed to every aspect of the game from their first action. There is no variable setup or randomized objectives to guide a player's early decisions, forcing them to rely on their imagination to guide them. This expansive decision space is incredibly daunting and makes the game feel too open, but the game is actually quite tight, in the sense that each action and resource is vital. There are several paths to pursue, but varied play is purely in the hands of the players. The Fields of Arle are a place of exploration and experimentation, and if one finds a friend with whom to share the adventure they will have little reason to leave.