A cute board game with some not-so-cute decisions to make.
I half expected a board game recreation of Harvest Moon when I first set eyes on the iPad implementation of Agricola. Much like Harvest Moon, though, Agricola hides some serious mechanics behind its pleasant facade. It is a game during which I find myself thinking more critically than I do during most board games, a game with minimal luck, and a game that I can play for hours on end.
Agricola operates on the premise of risk vs. reward, players expand their farms at the risk of not being able to feed their families come harvest time. While a larger, more upgraded farm earns more victory points at the game’s close, focusing too much on expansion can cause players to lose sight of accruing food. At the end of set rounds, players without enough food to allocate to their family will be forced to beg, and thereby lose points at the end of the game. Growing the farm means adding people, but additional people mean additional mouths to feed.
The delicate balance within the game gives weight to each decision made. I enjoy having the game to myself, and having the ability to practice against AI opponents. The complexities of accruing materials and animals, building stables, fences, upgraded stoves and more take some time to fully understand.
I would argue that the tutorial could have been implemented differently, it felt too segmented. I definitely had to spend some time in the rulebook to grasp some of the game’s concepts. I can’t fault the game for being complicated, but I don’t think the tutorial is on par with simply having a friend to play your first match with.
The differences between Agricola the board game and Agricola the app are largely stylistic, but I much prefer the artistic rendering of the iOS version to the real-world board. There is also the benefit of avoiding the tedium involved with assembling the game, but I know there are gamers who enjoy setup nearly as much as play. For me, being able to jump in and out of a few rounds is a major benefit.
Agricola for iPad also supports multiplayer, and the pass and play is implemented well. Inserting additional human players to the mix makes the acquisition of resources a bit more personal, and this is definitely one of those games where you can come out hating whoever you started the friendly game with.
I will continue to play Agricola for its atmosphere and for its brief yet impacting segments that make it a perfect fit for mobile play. This is yet another fine board game conversion in the growing pantheon of such games available on iOS.
Agricola is available as a Universal App for $6.99