This game is great. Period.
Thanks for reading the review, I would write more but I really just want to get back to playing the game.
… goes off to play more Agricola …
Part 2 – Summer of Discontent
App Rating: 5 out of 5 Baked Breads
Ok, well I had my iPhone taken from me by my editor here at AppAddict.net and was informed that I must write this article properly or he will make my Agricola family take begging cards (which give you negative points at the end of the game) rather than feed them the bountiful crops I spent multiple rounds growing and harvesting to ensure my family’s solvency.
Well I won’t give in.
The game is still great, even though my editor is currently taunting me with the simple and subtle in-game music that plays while you make your decisions in-game. Now that I think about it, I could simply listen to this music all day long. It fits the game perfectly and doesn’t distract you from the job at hand: Farming and managing your workers. Through the sound alone, I can almost see the crisp graphics now. Icons that are clearly showing my family member tokens (read: free labor) and a fenced off area where my livestock will breed, bringing me more food and points as the seasons go on. That’s pretty much the game anyways, moving tokens and assigning your family to work for you to keep fed and earn points for having the best farm in…Agricola-ville?
Sure it sounds boring on paper. I mean, come on, a board game about farming? Somehow it works. It even works as the concept for the physical game, which has won numerous awards since Agricola’s original original European release in 2007. This version is a perfect port, and maybe even better for beginners since there is less of a financial investment and less wooden bits to intimidate them.
Wait a minute. This sounds like my rantings are quickly becoming a legitimate review. Ah Hah! I see what he did there…but I know I can outlast my editor. I have the willpower. I mean Agricola is turn-based anyways, so it isn’t like I am losing time or anything.
Forget I said anything, the game is simply swell. I’ll just sit here for a while and wait until he finally gives back my iPhone and I can play again. How long could that take, realistically?
… waits impatiently for Agricola fix (just ignore the reviewer going into cold sweats) …
Part 3 – Desperation sets in as the final harves approaches
App Rating: 5 out of 5 Cattle
Fine. He wins. As long as I finish this review, he will let me feed my family and won’t waste turns (seasons) tilling fields without planting. That is the entirety of the game, which blows this American gamer away.
You see, games like this are referred to as “Euro Games” which are games that have a heavy focus on strategy, communication, player interaction and everyone usually plays through until the end when scores are tallied. Euro Games typically will have a pretty mundane theme to them, which allows you to focus on pure strategy rather than randomized outcomes.
Most people, especially those in the USA when getting into board games play games that are deemed lovingly as (and for the record I hate this term) “Ameritrash”. These are the games that are often “Theme-First” or licensed properties, and typically feature cutthroat player vs player gameplay, dice rolling, or player elimination components to them.
Back to Agricola. The concept is really simple. Place your family tokens in the various spaces and get whatever they say. Need wood to make a fence? Place a token in the “gain wood” area. Need to buy some livestock to feed or breed? Then place a token there. The catch to all this worker placement is that only one token can be in each spot on the board. So you might be concerned your opponent will take the “Gain Sheep” space that you desperately need next round. Just place a token in the “Starting Player” spot and you can place your token first next round. Of course that means you will have one less action this turn…so is going first worth it? In the end the player with the most developed farm and most varied livestock wins the game.
Every decision feels like it matters, as it should. As the game progresses, you start worrying whether or not upgrading your oven is really worth the resources and lack of food production for a round. You find yourself asking if this could this be the action that causes your family to have to beg for food and in turn cause you to lose the game. This is what made Agricola so compelling in the first place and Playdek has captured it perfectly, even on the small (compared to iPad) iPhone screen. Many board game ports are iPad only, but Playdek has shown that if Agricola can work on the small screen, nearly any board game can.
The biggest flaws I have found really are unavoidable. The learning curve for Agricola is something that those unfamiliar with the “Eurogame style” will find quite daunting. Thankfully Playdek has an excellent tutorial that walks you through the basic game and eventually gets you comfortable enough to play on your own. Agricola is very complex and has a huge amount of options available to you at all times, so the fully realized tutorial is the digital equivalent of your board game geek friend sitting you down and teaching you how to handle your farm from start to finish.
This really isn’t a pick-up and play game, a fact in which some people may be disappointed, but it really is an engrossing experience once you get the hang of things. This is an experience that hopefully will have you checking out your local game stores to see if they have Board Game nights to try your (farm)hands at the physical game.
The fact that this game translated so perfectly to mobile devices is a game-changer. I really hope more traditional board game manufacturers see this and understand that they too, could be the next addicting thing on millions of devices. I personally would happily pay a premium price to see games like Pandemic, Legendary, Smash Up!, Quarriors, Level 7, Power Grid, or 7 Wonders given the same loving treatment that we see here with Agricola.