What is Agricola?
What It Is
Latin for “farmer,” Agricola is a worker placement game with an agriculture theme. Each player controls a farmer and his wife (and possibly children, as the game progresses) as you do all the various things farmers do…plant, harvest, plow, breed animals, build fences, bake bread. Theme is a heavy part of this game, and a big part of the fun is that the game mechanics mirror real life. Own two animals? They’ll have a baby periodically. Plant a crop? It takes an initial investment, but eventually yields larger benefits. Want to have a child? You need a room for them to live in, first. Each player works to build up their personal farm, earning victory points for being successful at as many agricultural pursuits as they can juggle together. Agricola has been one of the top-regarded board games since its debut in 2008 with good reason…replay value is high, luck factors are relatively low, and there is no one “correct” path to victory. Each game plays out differently, allowing you to experiment as you go without sacrificing competitiveness to do so.
How It Plays
Players alternate turns placing their family members on communal spaces to gather building resources- wood, stone, etc- or take actions such as building a room or taking up an occupation. More family members= more actions…but you have to feed everyone, too. Agricola is a constant cycle between generating food and feeding your family, and your ultimate goal is to get that process rolling enough to be able to devote more actions to other things that generate victory points. Player interaction is relatively light…you can’t directly target your opponents, so most times the biggest way you’re affecting what they do is by choosing a resource/action space that they wanted, thereby slowing down their strategy. Purposefully trying to blockade someone else’s aims rarely helps a whole lot, though, so generally the best bet is to concentrate on your own farm and what you need to do to succeed personally, taking opportunities to block them when it synergizes well with your plans. A game of Agricola usually runs about 30 minutes per player, placing it in the medium-length category for most groups.
It May Be For You If…
Worker placement games, mostly Euro’s, are their own subset of board gaming these days. Agricola is one of the best of these, and if you’re excited by the strategy challenges of something like Le Havre, Puerto Rico, or Caylus, this is a game for you. As noted above player interaction is light, so if you’re someone who prefers the opportunity to march out and pummel your opponent’s, you won’t find that here. Also, be prepared for the mental exercise of constantly needing more actions to do everything you want to do. The more you’re able to plan several moves ahead the more efficiently your farm will develop, but it can take a lot of concentration to keep track of all the different threads of paths being pursued as a game goes on. If you have poor dice luck you are at home here- Agricola contains no dice at all! There is some luck involved in what occupation/minor improvement cards each player receives, though you can easily eliminate that luck almost entirely by drafting cards. (once your group is familiar enough with the game to know what cards work well together)
How To Dominate Your Friends
The first thing you need to learn in Agricola is that you need a food engine, and the faster you get it up and running the better off you’ll be. Generally you need to either bake bread or ranch animals, and it takes a lot of actions down either path to get them developed well. Look for cards in your hands that make either side a better option. By the time the second and third harvests come around you want to be able to devote most of your family member’s actions to other things…not going fishing just so the family doesn’t starve.
Grow your family. All the time, as much as you can. More family members= more actions, and a new child should always be able to provide more value in actions than the time it takes to get the extra food for them. You can get 15 VP’s just by having the maximum family size…in a game that is often won by someone with 40-60 points, that’s a solid start.
Diversify…but be willing to sacrifice some pursuits, too. In Agricola you generate points from just about everything on your farm so you’re much better off having a couple of everything than having a whole ton of just one thing. Ultimately though like in any good worker placement game, there’s never enough time to do everything you would like to. Be prepared to skip acquiring a certain animal, vegetables, more fields, etc, if you need all your actions for your core paths. (or if your opponents seem to keep blocking those other areas) You can win with some negative points on your scorecard.
The Many Decks of Agricola[accordion][pane title=”In the base game” start=open]
E- Deck: The Basic deck, with relatively simple cards. I-Deck: The Interactive deck, cards that more often lead to interactions with other players K-Deck: The Complex deck, cards that tend to have a lot of variables or obscure combo opportunities[/pane][pane title=”In The Goodies expansion”]
CZ-Deck: The Czech Republic deck, cards based on famous people, places, and events from that country Ö-Deck: The Austrian deck, cards based on cultural references to that country X-Deck: The Extraterrestrial deck. Alien encounters invade Agricola! L-Deck: A deck of complete silliness[/pane][pane title=”In the Farmers of the Moor expansion”]
F-Deck: Advanced deck of cards that make use of the new FotM mechanics[/pane][pane title=”Stand-alone expansion decks”]
NL-Deck: The Netherlands deck, cards of all things Dutch! G-Deck: The Gamers deck, cards created and playtested by Agricola fans Z-Deck: A deck of crazy powerful and weird cards[/pane][/accordion]