Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Agricola All Creatures Big and Small - First Play

My wife snatching the horse for her farm.
Take your hand off the horse I was going to get!
Gwen and I finally got to sit down and enjoy the first of our three games from Christmas.  Abby was asleep for a short afternoon nap, so we picked Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small for a first play.  The box says a game can be played in about 30 minutes, and given it was a first play and it took just over an hour, I would say that is a fairly accurate estimation, since it included briefing the rules.  Rules are nice and clear, and they encourage play of parents with children, suggesting one parent team with a child against the other parent, letting the child choose two of the three actions and giving input on how to build the farmyard.  The box says 13+, but I would think this method would allow a child much younger to play and learn the game.

Nearing the end with growing farms.
Our growing farms...
Unlike the original Agricola, this is a two player only stripped down version.  There are eight rounds instead of fourteen, and you have 3 family members to use for actions throughout the entire game.  You no longer have to worry about feeding your family.  Whew!  Even with these changes, gameplay is fast paced and you reach the end of eight rounds very quickly, and realizing you didn't get to do half the things you planned on doing.  While I felt like there was a lot of things to do left undone this first game, I'm not sure how I'll feel after twenty games.  The original Agricola had decks of cards to add some variety for replay, and this version does not have anything like that.  I'll have to see if the lack of random elements will hurt replay value, but for now, it's a fun game that you can fill a small chunk of spare time with.

My final farm layout and animals.
My final farm - complete with failed expansion plan...
Each round has four phases.  The refill phase is first, when you place resources and animals on the game play sections according to the nicely printed picture instructions on the game board.  The work phase is second, where you take turns placing your family members on the game board to collect resources or perform actions according to the section of the board you claim with your 'farmer'.  This starts with the player with the starting player marker (which can be stolen via a board space) and continues until all 3 farmers from both players is on the board.  The home phase is third and easiest - bring all your farmers home to the cottage on your land.  The breeding phase is the last phase, and nets you one animal for each type you have two or more of.  The rules comically point out that you cannot get more than one of a single type of animal this way each round "regardless of whatever romantic preconceptions you might have."  This made me chuckle and compliment whoever wrote the rules...

My spouse's final farm layout and animals.
Gwen's final farm - Hey! I think a couple of those pigs are illegal...
We both felt the pressure of the last couple rounds to get in all we wanted to.  In comparison to the original Agricola, this is a great feeling shared by both games.  I always feel that time is short by the time you are in the last stretch, and there is still too much to accomplish.  Choices have to be made based on how many point you'll gain, and it gets a bit easier to see what choices are necessary, and what well made plans are bust.  I managed to pull off a heavy victory today, but I know I shouldn't underestimate my wife as she picks up strategy.  Also, I know I have to watch her closely - if you inspect her farm, she's keeping one extra pig (black figures) than is allowed in an open pasture...  Maybe she forgot to place her fence when she bought it...  Gwen managed more stables than I did, but I managed more pastures with feeding troughs (orange buildings).  Next game I'll try for a better balance and see if it makes a difference.  It was always a race for space for the livestock.

And the winner is....
Scoring is fairly quick and simple, with points for each animal, bonus points according to the number of animals (too few and you get -3), scoring for fully used 3 space expansion pieces, and buildings. A little basic math and...  Oh oh...  Note to self, be nicer to wifey next time...  After our first taste, we're both eager for a next time!

A quick word of warning, in case you for some odd reason want to ditch the box - the bonus points for the animals are listed on the sides of the bottom part of the box.  Don't throw them out!

I noticed there is an expansion for the game already, adding more special buildings.  We didn't manage to use all the special buildings this game, nor could I have seen us coming close with all there was to do.  I imagine this expansion will be what will add the random element for replay value with more options in the game, but we'll hopefully see sometime in the future.  I linked both the main game and expansion below in case you are interested in delving into the world of Agricola on a small scale. 

For more information about the game, visit Z-Man Games website.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome write up! My boyfriend and I are big Agricola fans and he bought this for me. I was sceptical at first for the longevity that you mention. but to mix it up we bought the expansion and to add the randomness that we desire we pick 4 special buildings at the beginning and play them throughout the game when we've collected the resources--somewhat like occupations. It works better for our interest level that way :-) Hope you've been able to play again.


Please be courteous to others. All comments are monitored and comments containing degrading content or profanity will be deleted.