original German edition
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"Agricola" is the Latin word for "farmer". Players are farmers back in medieval times when you had little more than a spouse, a tiny wooden shack, and lots of broken land that you needed to tame and cultivate. You have lots of possibilities for improving your land -- collecting clay, wood or stone; building fences; herding sheep, boars or cattle -- but each turn you have only two actions, one each for you and your spouse. You might think about having kids in order to get more work accomplished, but first you need to expand your house. And what are you going to feed all the little rugrats?
The game lasts 60 minutes, plus about 10 extra minutes for each player.
Description written by W. Eric Martin and used with permission of BoardgameNews.com
After playing three games of Agricola (two two-player and one five-player), I think it is time to comment on the playability and sheer enjoyment of the game. Naturally, it is important to remember that the game requires the printing of 45 pages of card expansion translations. These card translations can be obtained from the Lookout Games Web site, and they are essential. Agricola is intended to test whether you can build the best farm and achieve other victory conditions with fields and pastures.
When you open the Agricola box, you will see components of all kinds. You will see large round disks for each family member. You will see smaller disks for clay, stone, wood, and reeds. You will see small cubes for sheep, cattle, and wild boar. You will also need to set up your farm for each player. Your farm has two squares already reserved for the two rooms of the wooden hut. That is where you place your family members. All other squares are reserved for additional rooms, fields, or pastures. You do receive a -1 at the end of the game for each square that is not developed.,
Now, you set up three major boards in the middle of the table. The left-hand board presents you with a series of action spaces and stage phases. The middle board continues your action spaces (rectangles) and the rounds of the game (1-14). The final right-hand board contains the remainder of your round reserved spaces. You also have a family game in the box that allows you to get used to the game mechanics.
Now, you are ready to play the game. You have a number of steps you go through in each round:
On the action spaces appear all kinds of fascinating choices, which include these selections:
Additionally, the phase cards and stage cards allow other possibilities when you are placing your family members each turn. For instance, one card allows you to plant and sow with the same action. You may want the Start Player action space, because you are tired of going last, or your plan requires you to obtain some of the action spaces before the other players. Let's say you want to develop a field before the Harvest Times come in Rounds 4, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 14. You need a grain, a field, and an action to sow and plant. Therefore, crucial planning becomes important. You can't do one without the other. If you obtain the grain, then that grain will languish in Supply until you can get the field and the planting abilities to complete your mission.
When Harvest Time comes, you are confronted with these phases to complete the Harvest:
It is important to remember that not feeding your family members during Harvest is quite costly. You must plan ahead to always be able to feed your family.
On the action spaces during the game one space is devoted to occupation cards, and a later stage card allows you to use a minor or major improvement card. At the beginning of the game, you are dealt seven occupation cards and seven minor improvement cards. These cards allow you to take certain actions that may favor you with additional victory points at the end of the game. However, many of the cards are quite expensive, especially the major improvement cards. In contrast, you are allowed one free occupation card, but each additional card costs one food.
The minor improvement costs vary with their costs; some are free. You want to use any of your cards wisely, because they can help you achieve certain objectives or victory points. Let's say you want to obtain a certain major improvement of the 12 possible on the board. You notice the costs is three stone and two reeds. You need to accumulate those resources before you can even consider purchasing a certain major improvement card. Many of your major improvement cards are ovens for baking or other kinds of processes.
Because Agricola is classified as a complex game, you need to master the mechanics. After the 14th round the winners are declared by victory points allocated to pastures, fields, vegetables, grain, family members, stone huts, and cards. In our game the games achieved these scores: 22, 8, 6, 1, and -12.
Agricola does merit the buzz from Essen and other conventions. However, it should remembered Agricola is not for the fainthearted. No doubt Z-man Games, upon publishing its English edition, will iron out some of the German word concerns. I was still left with these unanswered questions:
All in all, Agricola merits its strong recommendations from many sources.