"Out on the Farm"
Board games are a bit out of my range of frequent experiences (I can't remember the last time I played Monopoly, for instance). Mobile video game adaptations of board games are even more so, which is why, when I saw Agricola for the first time, I had two thoughts. The first, "Hmm, mobile game adaptation. Ought to be interesting." The second, "What on earth is Agricola?"
For the record, here's what the board game version looks like.
Busy, to say the least. But I must say the iOS version of Agricola does a pretty good job of translating all that card clutter into video game form without making it too inaccessible for newcomers. There is a bit of a learning curve to understanding the rules of the game, granted, but a series of interactive tutorials make it possible to figure them out quickly.
The overall objective of Agricola is actually pretty straightforward. You are given a small hut and field and are tasked with building it up into a prosperous farm. To do this, you need to gather up resources like wheat, livestock, and building materials through the action spaces spread around the virtual game board. These also allow you to plow fields, erect fences and stables, increase the size of the farmhouse, and grant key enhancements and buffs to strengthen the farm.
Every game of Agricola, which can be played alone or with four other players online, is divided into 14 turn-based rounds, which are further divided into 6 stages. At the end of each stage, the game enters a harvest phase, at which point you need to have enough food to feed your workers and enough room for your livestock to breed and expand. Sound decision-making is necessary to avoid coming up short and getting penalized for it.
Making things even more challenging is the fact that the number of actions you can take in any one round is limited to the amount of workers you have at your disposal. Over time, you can increase the number of workers, enabling you to do more in less time and taking some of the edge off the choices you need to make. The catch is more workers means more mouths to feed at harvest time.
In the end, it's all about getting as high a score as possible. Every action, good and bad, adds or subtracts from a score that rates you on several factors, ranging from the size and diversity of your crops and livestock to the number of your workers. And when you are vying for the same resources with multiple players, it can be a bit of a daunting task.
Like I said before, there is a bit of a learning curve in the game. Learning all the ins/outs and advantages/disadvantages for each and every action at any time is something that will take a few games to figure out. Mastering the game will most likely take a while, and while that's not really a problem in multiplayer (unless you're playing against pros), the single-player experience suffers because of it.
The problem is that the series of solo games available are, I believe, too difficult from the get-go, tasking you to reach a set number of points that is way too high for most newcomers to come close to. Believe me, I tried, and I didn't even come close to beating the first game in the solo series.
But that is a small gripe, one that won't break the experience of playing Agricola by yourself (just one that will limit the appeal of farming solo). Like any board game, though, it's best played with others, and if you can find others to play with, you can all have a good time putting your decision-making skills to the ultimate mobile farming-based test.
There may be better mobile board games out there –as I haven't played any of them, I can't say– but Agricola has enough going for it that fans of boarding on the go won't be board… whoops, pardon… won't be bored with it (couldn't resist).
GameDynamo's Score for Agricola (Mobile)
A writer, journalist, and aspiring storyteller, Peter Grimm has been gaming since the days of the Nintendo 64, and reporting on the goings-on in the World of Gaming since late 2011. His base of writing operations is located within the void between Here and There, or so he would have you think.
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