Game Length: 2 hours
Best enjoyed: With 2-5 players who want to plan ahead and aren’t afraid of making hard decisions.
Agricola is well-known among boardgamers as being a ‘gamer’s game’ – one that enthusiasts can play for years without getting tired of it. It is a prime example of a worker placement game, whereby each player has a number of ‘workers’, and once a worker takes a given action (such as ploughing a field), no other workers can take that action until the next round.
In Agricola, you will be constantly forced to make difficult choices. Each round, more resources will pile up on spaces that were not chosen in the last turn, making those options more attractive. If you don’t take that pile of 6 wood, your opponents will definitely jump on it – however, you still need to feed your family. If you don’t have enough food, you will take ‘begging’ cards that cause you to lose a large number of points at the end of the game. You can expand your family to allow you to take more actions each turn – but you’ll need to feed them even more. And, much like in real life, you’ll definitely start to feel the pressure to grow your family once all your friends start doing it!
At the end of the game, you will score the most points for having some of all the plants and animals, a large house (worth more if made from clay or stone) full of family members, lots of ploughed land and a minimum of unused space – much like in the image below.
Agricola has a lot of rules to learn the first time you start playing it. You’ll need to know the rules for holding and breeding animals, growing crops, baking bread, not to mention everything that can get added when you start playing with the Occupation and Minor Improvement decks, all while staving off hunger and trying to collect the materials to build improvements (like an oven) or a larger house. The rules do fit together nicely and make thematic sense, and it is definitely recommended to start using the Occupation and Minor Improvement decks once everyone knows the base game. Expert players will draft these cards between themselves to add an extra tactical element to the game, and Agricola owes a lot of its longevity to these decks.
If there is critisicm of Agricola, it’s that the game can feel like it ends just when your farm is really starting to get off the ground. Also, the final scoring rewards diversification, and penalises not having any of a given animal or plant – meaning that the final turns will result in a mad grab for that cow or vegetable you couldn’t get earlier, and everyone’s farms will tend to look very similar, with about the same amount of land set aside for animals, housing and crops. All the same, it is an excellent game that has earned its reputation as one of the great modern board games.