The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Agricola Pre-order?

Thanks to my bad back, I spent BGGcon at home.

I guess it worked, since someone watching my gait would peg me at 50, instead of 85 (last week). But that means that I missed trying out Agricola before making the pre-order decision. So I am appeal to faithful TaoGaming Readers (especially those who know me) to supply me (and the other readers) with their thoughts.

After careful deliberation I’ll go ahead and order, but appearances have to be maintained.

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Written by taogaming

November 19, 2007 at 4:39 pm

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23 Responses

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  1. Well, I like it. It isn’t a 10 yet, but it starts out as an 8 and could easily rise to a 9. Even the family game is fun, but it really comes into its own with the cards. They give you a completely different set of objectives each hand and the challenge of optimizing the combinations within the scope of the system (and the other players’ actions) is very enjoyable. And of course, the variety is astonishing. Not quite ready to unseat Phoenicia as my game of the year (although it conceivably could), but still well worth the many hours spent pasting up the cards. I’ll also be buying the English edition.

    Larry Levy

    November 19, 2007 at 6:25 pm

  2. Well, I like it. It isn’t a 10 yet, but it starts out as an 8 and could easily rise to a 9. Even the family game is fun, but it really comes into its own with the cards. They give you a completely different set of objectives each hand and the challenge of optimizing the combinations within the scope of the system (and the other players’ actions) is very enjoyable. And of course, the variety is astonishing. Not quite ready to unseat Phoenicia as my game of the year (although it conceivably could), but still well worth the many hours spent pasting up the cards. I’ll also be buying the English edition.

    Larry Levy

    November 19, 2007 at 6:25 pm

  3. I think it’s a good game. It’s Caylus length, fairly quick with players who don’t dawdle, agonizing with those who are subject to AP. Two three player games were 2 hours apiece. Only one player had played before. With experience it should drop to 1 1/2 hours, making for 1/2 hour per player. I think it’ll be a good 2-3 player game, I’m not sure about 4, 5 will be far too chaotic and slow. They do adjust the number of actions available based on the number of players, but I don’t think it’ll eliminate the greater potential for screwage with more.

    There’s a lot of replay value due to the variety in the Improvements and Occupations. My first game I completely ignored the Major Improvements since I could generate extra food from gathering wood or fishing. The second game I scrambled for the Major Improvements as I had several cards that benefitted from them.

    There are two possible sticking points here. Was I playing my hand or was my hand playing me? Is the benefit from the Occupations and Minor Improvements strong enough that it forces you down certain paths? Second, are there certain card combinations that are too powerful? I haven’t looked at the cards at all other than those we played with in our two games, so I can’t make a reasonable estimate. I do know that there are cards that synergize well, and having them is much better than not.

    A few comments about the theme as well. The theme doesn’t fit the game at all. After a certain number of rounds there’s a harvest and you have to feed your family. It seems odd that the number of rounds until a harvest shrinks as the game goes on. Global warming? As a game mechanism it works quite well, the greater number and utility of the actions each player gets means you need to have more frequent harvests to make food a pressing concern. As any kind of connection to a farmer’s seasonal cycle it makes no sense.

    The action selection mechanism makes for some odd situations as well. It’s logical that only one player can take a resource, there’s only so much wood. Limiting activities based on action selection is bizarre. I can’t plow or build fences because someone else already did? Even worse I can’t bake bread because someone else sowed their fields? I even have to use contraceptives when someone else has a kid.

    This is more of a rant than a criticism of the game though. The gameplay is fun enough that while you are playing you don’t think about such things. I’m looking forward to playing again.

    frunk

    November 19, 2007 at 6:59 pm

  4. I’m rating it a weak nine after two games without the cards, with cards, who knows – but definitely a potential ten for me.

    I think the theme’s pretty good! Sure, it doesn’t make sense if you break it down, but as frunk says above, you don’t think about it when playing. I also like the scoring: I think most people will start minmaxing their points on the last round, not before.

    We played a four-player game in an hour without cards, and I’m hoping it’ll stay under Caylus length even with the cards, it doesn’t have to be that long if people know what they’re doing. I’ll steer clear of the AP folks with this one, though.

    Currently Agricola is the only reasonable contender for my game of the year, but I think it’ll remain close second after Race for the Galaxy (Phoenicia is third, but I think this is better than Phoenicia).

    Mikko

    November 20, 2007 at 5:02 am

  5. After 6 plays I rate it a 9. The card variety makes for an interesting game, and while the theme objections raised above are valid, it feels a lot more themed to me than many other games I enjoy.

    There are some issues with balance (someone who gets a combo is likely to do better than someone who does not), but once you know the game it plays fast. We finished a 4 player, with setup, in under 2 hours.

    Geoff Speare

    November 20, 2007 at 8:42 am

  6. Okay, I played a solo game last night and based on how much I enjoyed that, I’m picking my rating up to a 9. You have to understand, I NEVER play solo games (have no real interest in doing so), but this was a lot of fun. That’s a huge plus and should also translate into greater enjoyment of the multiplayer game. This really is a brilliant design and suddenly Phoenicia is in a real dogfight for game of the year.

    I agree with the others, Mark; ya gotta lighten up with your feelings about theme! The theming in Agricola is great as long as you’re not looking for a simulation. It definitely adds to the appeal of the game.

    By the way, we also played Brass last week and I think I enjoyed that game even more than my Agricola one. I don’t know what your tolerance is for Valley these days, but you might consider picking this up if you’re fond of Wallace designs. The rules are squirrely, but you can get through them if you take enough time.

    Larry Levy

    November 20, 2007 at 12:15 pm

  7. Okay, I played a solo game last night and based on how much I enjoyed that, I’m picking my rating up to a 9. You have to understand, I NEVER play solo games (have no real interest in doing so), but this was a lot of fun. That’s a huge plus and should also translate into greater enjoyment of the multiplayer game. This really is a brilliant design and suddenly Phoenicia is in a real dogfight for game of the year.

    I agree with the others, Mark; ya gotta lighten up with your feelings about theme! The theming in Agricola is great as long as you’re not looking for a simulation. It definitely adds to the appeal of the game.

    By the way, we also played Brass last week and I think I enjoyed that game even more than my Agricola one. I don’t know what your tolerance is for Valley these days, but you might consider picking this up if you’re fond of Wallace designs. The rules are squirrely, but you can get through them if you take enough time.

    Larry Levy

    November 20, 2007 at 12:15 pm

  8. I agree with the others, Mark; ya gotta lighten up with your feelings about theme! The theming in Agricola is great as long as you’re not looking for a simulation. It definitely adds to the appeal of the game.

    I mentioned that the theme doesn’t bother me while I’m playing. I wanted to note my issues with theme as an immersive aspect rather than a play criticism. There’s been a lot written about how it’s dripping with theme, to me it’s dripping with chrome which doesn’t fit the theme. I certainly don’t feel like a farmer when I’m playing it, but I still have fun.

    frunk

    November 20, 2007 at 12:29 pm

  9. I agree with the others, Mark; ya gotta lighten up with your feelings about theme! The theming in Agricola is great as long as you’re not looking for a simulation. It definitely adds to the appeal of the game.

    I mentioned that the theme doesn’t bother me while I’m playing. I wanted to note my issues with theme as an immersive aspect rather than a play criticism. There’s been a lot written about how it’s dripping with theme, to me it’s dripping with chrome which doesn’t fit the theme. I certainly don’t feel like a farmer when I’m playing it, but I still have fun.

    frunk

    November 20, 2007 at 12:29 pm

  10. I haven’t played Agricola yet. I’m a bit scared of the potential AP (given my normal gaming group). My other concern, reading reviews and comments, is endgame fragility. In the early going, apparently, if a player takes an action you were planning to do, you can generally work around it. But, in the endgame, you apparently can’t, so I worry about the potential for player frustration over endgame screwage (which then tends to lead to even more endgame AP among competitive players). This is making wonder if the game is more an “experience game” than one that works for highly competitive players. Can someone who has actually played in a competitive (as opposed to learning) setting comment? Are these concerns valid or am I reading the wrong things between the lines of reviews and comments?

    Tom Lehmann

    November 20, 2007 at 7:24 pm

  11. I haven’t played Agricola, but man, I sure want to. I can’t even find a Canadian retailer to order it from. I would have to be paralysed to skip an opportunity to try it.

    jacob

    November 20, 2007 at 9:01 pm

  12. But, in the endgame, you apparently can’t, so I worry about the potential for player frustration over endgame screwage (which then tends to lead to even more endgame AP among competitive players).

    On the last turn you’ll generally be playing for two point swings, picking up any goods/animals that you don’t have or filling in spaces on your board. Sometimes they’ll be a bigger play available, but presumably if it was such a big play I would have tried to get it done on an earlier turn rather than wait. There will be some advantageous actions to pick, but those will get picked in player order and will be quite obvious.

    frunk

    November 20, 2007 at 9:17 pm

  13. But, in the endgame, you apparently can’t, so I worry about the potential for player frustration over endgame screwage (which then tends to lead to even more endgame AP among competitive players).

    On the last turn you’ll generally be playing for two point swings, picking up any goods/animals that you don’t have or filling in spaces on your board. Sometimes they’ll be a bigger play available, but presumably if it was such a big play I would have tried to get it done on an earlier turn rather than wait. There will be some advantageous actions to pick, but those will get picked in player order and will be quite obvious.

    frunk

    November 20, 2007 at 9:17 pm

  14. The AP is a potential problem, Tom, but I don’t really think the endgame is fragile. By the last couple of turns, all of the actions have been duplicated (but in different combinations, so that there are no true duplicates), making it easier for players to grab the things they need. I think there has tended to be more screwage (usually due to mutual need) in the beginning and middle game than at the end. Of course, if you leave a bunch of activities for the last turn that HAVE to be accomplished, you’re just looking for trouble, but that sounds more like bad play. You COULD get hosed at the end, but I don’t think it would happen enough to consider it an experience game. Our games have been highly competitive, not just pleasant experiences. However, I haven’t played all that much, so you may want to check with some of the others.

    Larry Levy

    November 20, 2007 at 9:26 pm

  15. The AP is a potential problem, Tom, but I don’t really think the endgame is fragile. By the last couple of turns, all of the actions have been duplicated (but in different combinations, so that there are no true duplicates), making it easier for players to grab the things they need. I think there has tended to be more screwage (usually due to mutual need) in the beginning and middle game than at the end. Of course, if you leave a bunch of activities for the last turn that HAVE to be accomplished, you’re just looking for trouble, but that sounds more like bad play. You COULD get hosed at the end, but I don’t think it would happen enough to consider it an experience game. Our games have been highly competitive, not just pleasant experiences. However, I haven’t played all that much, so you may want to check with some of the others.

    Larry Levy

    November 20, 2007 at 9:26 pm

  16. On the last turn you’ll generally be playing for two point swings, picking up any goods/animals that you don’t have or filling in spaces on your board. Sometimes they’ll be a bigger play available, but presumably if it was such a big play I would have tried to get it done on an earlier turn rather than wait.

    I agree with this, as this has been the case in our games as well. I wasn’t sure if that was the way others played, but it did seem that leaving big point swings (like renovating your hut) to the last turn was risky, UNLESS you know you’ll be the only one who’ll be able to take the action.

    Larry Levy

    November 20, 2007 at 9:32 pm

  17. Thanks for the replies. That eases my mind quite a bit. I look forward to trying it at some point.

    Tom Lehmann

    November 20, 2007 at 10:09 pm

  18. On the last turn you’ll generally be playing for two point swings, picking up any goods/animals that you don’t have or filling in spaces on your board. Sometimes they’ll be a bigger play available, but presumably if it was such a big play I would have tried to get it done on an earlier turn rather than wait.

    Completely agreed. You generally have 4 or 5 different ways to score points in the last round, even if it’s just grabbing a stray animal or sowing that extra vegetable to get a point or two. I agree with Larry – if you have actions that you just HAVE to do on the last turn, that’s probably bad play. Other players might screw you out of a point or two, but it’s not generally a problem.

    I rate the game a 9 after two plays. I’m as excited as I was about Caylus, but I think there’s longer staying power with Agricola due to the card-based nature of the game. The number of card combos is huge, and it forces you to think of new strategies with each play. It also lends itself well to expansions, since even the actions on the board are cards. Those could be replaced with a new turn deck, ala Power Grid. And of course there are new occupations and improvements that could be added.

    All that said, the game is definitely one big “efficiency engine” game. If you enjoy that kind of game, you’ll probably love Agricola. If that doesn’t do it for you, play before you buy. I tend to think most Euro gamers are efficiency fans, which is why games like this get such rave reviews.

    It’s a fine, fine game – well worth a blind preorder.

    Jeff Coon

    November 21, 2007 at 2:23 am

  19. To me, one of Tom’s best designs is the “expert” game for Outpost. I’m guessing that “efficiency engine” games are right up his alley.

    Eric Brosius

    November 21, 2007 at 5:28 am

  20. To me, one of Tom’s best designs is the “expert” game for Outpost. I’m guessing that “efficiency engine” games are right up his alley.

    Eric Brosius

    November 21, 2007 at 5:28 am

  21. To me, one of Tom’s best designs is the “expert” game for Outpost. I’m guessing that “efficiency engine” games are right up his alley.

    Eric Brosius

    November 21, 2007 at 5:28 am

  22. I do think the serious AP problems will occur in the first 1-7 turns. Once you get to the two round harvest cycles you are committed to most of your decisions, and are playing out your strategy. There’s still some decisions and important moves, but the number of sensible choices shrinks.

    frunk

    November 21, 2007 at 11:22 am

  23. AP-prone people may have their heads explode during the rules explanation…it’s one of those games where the rules /seem/ overwhelming, but once you start everything falls into place. Once you get your head around the basic setup (and your initial hand of cards), there should be less propensity for AP.

    Geoff Speare

    November 21, 2007 at 1:43 pm


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