By Mark Taliaferro
TFW Contributing Writer
There’s a website called BoardGameGeek.com that is the ultimate resource and authority for board games. The site features every detail known to mankind about every board game on the planet.
Perhaps the most useful tool on the site is a ranking system for games. It’s based on user ratings with each game’s rating being weighted to account for the number of reviews submitted. The No. 2-rated game on that list is Agricola.
Agricola is one of those things in life that is just impossible to explain. The mechanics are easy enough to communicate, but just try telling someone how much fun they’re going to have building a farm and feeding their family. See? I’m trying to do it, and you’re already rolling your eyes.
As crazy as it may sound, Agricola is a ton of fun. The goal is to build the best farm possible, and best in this game means diverse and efficient. A good farm in Agricola includes growing wheat and carrots in your fields, raising sheep, cattle and wild boar in your pastures, buying ovens to turn all this into food, etc. There’s a lot going on.
Along the way, you must feed and grow your family. You start with two family members — a husband and wife — but having children gives you extra little laborers. Put that kid to work and get an extra action per turn so you can plow another field or build more fences.
Agricola is a semicompetitive game. There is a winner at the end of the game when the scores are added up, but the beauty of the game is that while you are playing, any option you choose helps you make your farm better.
The game also scales its difficulty and complexity very well. The game comes with lots of cards that can be played during the game, but you don’t have to use them. Everyone should start with the family version of the game, which doesn’t use the cards. The cards make the game deeper and more complex but not necessarily better. It’s purely a matter of preference.
Agricola’s rating on Board Game Geek is 8.27 out of 10, but its rating on the Wife-o-Meter is a solid 10. I know there are plenty of women out there who love all the board games I love, but for most gamers, our descriptions of dungeons, spaceships and World War II battlefields are met with yawns and blank stares. Agricola solves that. Nongaming wives tend to enjoy this game.
The ideal number of players for Agricola is three or four, though it is one of the better two-player games you can find. It also comes with a set of rules for solo play. Five is the maximum number of players.