Friday, April 1, 2011

Agricola (Z-man Games) ~ "2-player scenario"

Game: Agricola (Z-Man Games)
Scenario: 2-player (E Decks only)
Participants: Rikk "The Pirate" M, Myself
Time: Saturday, Mar 26th ~ 6.30PM - 7.30PM (Tempe, Arizona)

For the past 30+ years I have marveled at the reaction Rikk gets from the opposite sex. I could devote many blog posts to this very topic, yet I will spare you all this. However, if you ever have the good fortune to be in Arizona (he rarely travels) and go out to diner with him, you are sure to be entertained by the dynamics he evokes from the fairer gender (could it be those big ears, or perhaps the diminutive size?). The reason we ended up playing Agricola today was Rikk's encounter with an energetic sales-girl in a game store in the mall. Rikk and his crew had recently played Puerto Rico (an excellent Euro) and this triggered a discussion on Agricola. Thus Rikk was very susceptible to the enthusiasm displayed by our game-store girl; who certainly has mastered the art of retail sales.

At any rate, we walked out of the mall with a new copy of Agricola and another expansion for Dominion. I was excited as this weekend was turning into a Euro-centric gaming marathon. Rarely do I have the chance to play this many Euro's in Missouri. Rikk had never played Agricola, so I spent a half an hour going over the rules and the objective of the game with him. For those that don't know, Agricola was the game that unseated Puerto Rico as the number one game on BGG (oh by the way, the last time I looked, Twilight Struggle has taken over the number one spot.../nice). It was this (#1 ranking on Board game geek) that got my attention. I have PR and we've played it a good number of times and really like it. When I heard that Jim (a local gamer) got Agricola and liked it I decided that I would pick it up and give it a shot. We have had about a dozen games of it in Missouri.

A very busy Euro

The premiss of the game is pretty straight forward, you start as a farmer (and wife) and a plot of land (during the middle ages), your goal is to make a big thriving farm, one that is better (more VPs) then your farmer neighbors (players). The game has 15 turns, during each turn your people (farmer + wife) can take an action. The actions are as simple as gathering goods (wood, clay, stone, grain) or learning a profession (represented in the game by decks of cards) or making an improvement (again via cards) to your farm (like a fireplace or a well). Once each player has taken all their actions the turn (or round) is over. Early in the game you have 4 rounds before the Harvest phase, as the game progresses you have fewer and fewer rounds between harvests.

The harvest phase has each player feeding his people (failure to do so results in a -3 VP "begging" card), harvesting crops (taking one grain/vegetable from each field) and then making new farm animals (each pair of animals can make a new one). At the end of the game players will add up their scores to see who won. Turn order is very important in this game (as in PR) as there are times where some of the other players will want to take the same action you are wanting to take. This is the main point of player interaction in the game (one of the actions allows you to take the first player position in the next round). Aside from this, there is not much player interaction.

My Farm at game end

There are three decks for Occupations and Minor Improvements. This feature really adds to the re-playability of the game as their are all kinds of card interactions to ponder. The decks start with a simple one (occupations give players benefits to their actions as do the improvements), then a complex deck (which isn't really that much more complicated) and finally an "interactive" deck where the cards have features that will trigger other cards in the deck.

I made the mistake of including the cards in the first game with Rikk. The rules come with a family version (sans cards) and recommends doing that for the first game or two. It's not really that the cards are any more complex to new players, its just that they (the new players) tend to spend a lot of CPU time on the cards when in fact there are only 2-4 cards out of your starting 14 that you want to get into the game. The important thing for new players to focus on is setting up your farm and making sure your people get fed during the harvest phase.

Rikk's farm...

The game only took about an hour and Rikk quickly grasped the basics, only begging for food on the first harvest. Rikk enjoyed it and we decided to talk Chazzy into a game of it the next day.

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