Got another chance last weekend to play one of my all-time favorite boardgames: Uwe Rosenberg’s Agricola. The game came out in Germany a couple of years ago, then American publisher Z-Man Games snapped up the rights to an English-language version. It’s a worker placement economic strategy game, to use some semi-industry specific terms. At the start of game, each player controls one farmer in early-Modern Europe, with no resources but a little spare food, a two-room wooden hut, and some empty land. Each turn the farmer takes a single action–gathering wood or clay, plowing a field, going fishing, having a child, building fences, gathering sheep, etc. There are always more fun and useful actions to be taken than a character can do, but at the same time the most optimum choice may have already been taken by another player on that turn. The available options differ slightly depending on the number of players, and the game supports everything from five players down to solo play equally well. Given the number of cards and the plethora of choices available every turn, Agricola has a higher replay value than any boardgame I know.
The game uses victory points to determine a winner at the end–how big is your family? Have you improved your house? Plowed field and fenced in pastures? Stored up grain and vegetables?–but it doesn’t seem to matter much in play. Others have remarked on the phenomenon, and it was our experience this weekend as well. It’s so fun to grow your little farm that even the most hardcore gamers don’t start to really analyze and optimize their strategies for the first few sessions. It’s an expensive game, with several boards and many wooden pieces, so it lists for around $70. I still recommend it without reservation–look for a used copy or wait for a sale if you have to, but Agricola is one of the best boardgames out there.