We have friends with a son the same age, and we like to schedule regular or semi-regular game nights to just hang out and have fun. Last weekend, we got together and I got to play Agricola, my favorite board game, twice! Then the next day we played with just our family of 3 again. I remembered all of the reasons why Agricola is my favorite board game.
I get to tell a story.
Agricola is a board game about farm life in 17th century Germany. Wait! Don’t stop reading! It’s really fun, I promise. It was the #1 game in the board gaming community for a long time. Each player begins their farm with two people in a two-room wooden hut. They bravely sally forth each round, taking different actions–planting grain or vegetables, chopping down trees, rounding up animals, and even growing the family to have more people who can take more actions. By the end of the game, you have a farm. It can have more rooms, pastures, fields, and a bunch of different improvements. You also play “occupations,” which give you special talents and added bonuses.
In the picture below, you can see my 53-point farm with a Traveling Salesman who was a jack of all trades. My little farmer family of 4 people baked bread, fished for carp, and milked cows to survive. They even got bees (and honey) in round 13!
There are infinite possibilities.
Agricola comes with a base set of cards. You can skip the cards entirely and play the “family game.” This is especially useful if your kids can’t read much or well enough to understand the cards or their interactions. If using the cards, each player gets 7 occupations and 7 minor improvements to play throughout the game. There are additional decks and expansions (we love the Fairy deck and the UFO deck) that give the game endless variety. To make it more interesting, you can draft the cards at the beginning of the game. (That means look at your 7 cards, pick one, pass your cards to the left, choose one from the hand passed to you, and so on, until you have the 7 cards you’ve selected.)
All the little pieces are adorable.
Sheeples! And piggies and cows! The original version came with cubes to represent the animals. We have the 2008 version with animeeples, which are ever-so-cute. My son gets attached to his, so he tends to end up with a lot of them, refusing to turn them into food. Instead he will only eat fish, bread, and vegetables in the game. That means his score can tend to be lower. As we started the game, I announced that we would double his score and add five, which resulted in a tie. Score adjustment is one of our favorite ways to adjust a game to make it work for our family.
The giant meeples don’t come with the base game either. My husband painted those for me as a Christmas present one year. This game has a ton of pieces. We use small Rubbermaid containers and an extra shoebox to store them. Our friends use an egg carton.
Agricola reminds me to look for opportunities.
This game is all about choices, and there are a lot of good ones. Do I plan for the future, or do I grab the pile of resources in front of me? Do I try one strategy or another? There’s definitely a lesson here, as with many resource management games, that you can’t do everything you want to do. It’s a good way to experiment with being flexible (or with being stubbornly wedded to a strategy–whatever works for you).
The best opportunity is the opportunity to play your favorite board game with friends and family. We practice the rules of Friday Night Meatballs. (Learn more.)
To adjust Agricola for younger or less experienced players, use any combination of the following:
- Let them start with some extra resources — one of everything, a couple of cows, whatever makes sense
- Skip the reading on the cards and play the “family game” version included in the rules
- Instead of explaining all of the rules and action spaces, give younger players 2 or 3 valid choices per turn. They’ll pick up on the rules quickly enough.
- Play on teams or add your scores together. Or add points to their score at the end. (Even adults will often have a negative score on their first play — you can give them extra points, too!)
- Focus on specific goals and the story. “Our farm may not have the best points, but we have the most sheep!”
- If Agricola has too many pieces for you, try the 2-player version All Creatures Big and Small. You still get to build a farm, and it only goes 8 rounds.
Do you have a favorite board game? Add a comment below.