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I've been thinking about getting Agricola for a while, primarily due to how much the gaming world seems to love it. But I want to make absolutely sure that the investment will be worth it. Currently my Mom and I end up playing games together fairly frequently, just the 2 of us. Usually we play Dominion, Carcassone, or Blokus. When I saw it ranked highly in this thread for 2-, I realized that even if all of my other friends end up hating it, I'll still get to play with 2 people fairly often, making it well worth the money.

Here are the main questions I'd like to pose:

Playing time. I've heard 1/2 hour per player from a wide variety of sources. Is this true? I don't care if our first several games take longer, but once we've played it 5+ times, will we be able to get through a game in an hour or less without rushing?

Aggressiveness. Take this scale:

  1. No aggression. You win by building yourself up faster than your opponent and rarely if ever do something that hurts them. Each turn you try to figure out what helps you the most. (Group Solitaire, Dominion with no attack cards)

  2. Occasional aggression. You're trying to build yourself up, but putting down your opponent is often a good idea as well. You have to compromise between building yourself up and hurting your opponents. (Dominion with attack cards, Puerto Rico, Citadels)

  3. Frequent aggression. You're often trying to find out how to hurt your opponents as badly as possible, but it's not the entire goal of the game. Some fighting over resources. (Settlers of Catan, Carcasonne)

  4. Purely Aggression. The only way to win is by hurting your opponent. Each turn you try to figure out how to put your opponent in the worst position possible. (Chess, Risk)

Where do you think Agricola ranks on this scale? How 'aggressive' do you need to be to win?

Complexity.

Complexity of rules scale:

  1. blokus
  2. Ticket To Ride, Bohnanza
  3. Carcassone, Settlers
  4. Pandemic, Diplomacy
  5. Puerto Rico
  6. Arkham Horror

Complexity of strategy scale:

  1. Go Fish
  2. Ticket To Ride, Bohnanza
  3. Carcassone, Settlers
  4. Dominion, Puerto Rico
  5. Chess, Go

Where does Agricola rank on each of these? I know the scales aren't great, so feel more than free to add your own opinions and comments.

Finally, what's your overall experience with Agricola as a 2-player game? Do you think it will work well for my Mom and I? Thanks!!! :D

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3 Answers 3

Playing Time: I think with practice, a 1 hour game of Agricola is certainly possible, if you don't think every decision to death and you work out a quick way to restock the supply! But I think you'll be (or at least feel like you are) rushing. Especially with setup and teardown. I've played 4 player games in 2 hours, but it doesn't scale precisely. 1 hour games of the "family" version I think are quite within reach.

Aggressiveness: 2 - Occasional aggression. Aggression in Agricola (like most action-selection games) is in opportunity denial. I've seen varying degrees of aggression win. It also can boil down to which combinations of minor improvements and / or occupations occur in a given hand.

Complexity: 5- Puerto Rico. I think it's very comparable to PR in complexity. If you don't have PR, I would highly recommend it as a 2 player as well (there is an official 2-player variant from the designer). As in PR, the complexity comes from the tradeoffs that various decisions demand and from the emergent effects of multiple improvements, etc.. It should be noted that complexity goes up as the game progresses, because more actions are made available each turn.

Complexity of Strategy: 4 - Dominion, Puerto Rico. Frankly, I think that Dominion and Puerto Rico are in different leagues, but I'm a Dominion noob, so pay no attention to me on that score! The point is that Agricola has a lot of the same goals as PR - you have to pick a strategy but you have to be flexible. Agricola punishes specialists with negative points, but rewards high accumulation of any one thing. So every decision has rippling implications. You want to emphasize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses, just like in PR.

I love Agricola as a 2-player game. My wife and son and I used to play it in 2s and 3s all the time. But it just didn't hold up at my house under the onslaught of games like Dungeon Lords, Galaxy Trucker, and London, so it doesn't hit the table as much as it used to. Will you like it? Will your mom? I have no idea! Does your mom like challenging games? Or is Ticket to Ride her limit for the length of a rulebook? I think you'll like it - but my mom would hate it.

Do you have a FLGS you can go to and play it? If not, try moving! ;)

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Although, I would add that when both players know the game well, even with the standard game a match can be played in 45 minutes (including setup time). –  Alex In Paris Dec 24 '13 at 15:07

Agricola is an excellent two-player game. In fact, I find that I prefer the two player version of the game to higher numbers of players. I originally bought the game so I would have something less aggressive to play with my wife, and it works brilliantly for that purpose, both because of the game mechanics and because the theme is quite peaceful - Agricola is about building, not destroying or dominating.

It does take about 30 minutes per player, so yes, around an hour to play once you've got the hang of it is a reasonable estimate.

Agricola would probably be 'occasional aggression' on your scale. You are mostly concerned with improving your own farm, but there's a strong strategic element where you consider what actions you need to perform before your opponent. Usually it's more about making sure you get what you want, rather than deliberately trying to make your opponent's game harder, but you can definitely play it several ways. I know one friend who likes to try and deny animals to the other players, and constantly picks them up, even when he doesn't need them. What you tend to find though is that this type of behaviour is sub-optimal for your own game. In other words, if you concentrate on making your opponent's lives harder, you will have a tougher game yourself, because in general you will make less productive actions.

Agricola is quite a complex game, if you play the full rules with the occupations and minor improvement cards. Your first few games will probably be quite overwhelming. I would rate it as a 5 on your scale without the cards, 6 with. It's as complicated as Arkham Horror, but in a different way. The rules are much more precise, in my opinion, so I found once I'd learnt the game I very rarely have to actually look anything up.

Agricola is a pretty deep game. There are many different strategies, and one of the best features is that the random cards you draw each game often mean you are incentivised to play a strategy other than your preferred one. I have played Agricola hundreds of times, and it's one of the very few games in my collection that I don't really get bored with. It's much more strategic than Carcassonne or Settlers of Catan. However, no game I know is as deep as chess, so I guess that makes it a 4 on your scale.

Summary: If you like interesting board games, I don't see how you could not like this. There's a reason everyone loves Agricola. And for the amount of replayability this game holds, I think it is excellent value for money.

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I've upvoted the other two answers, as I agree with them completely, but I just wanted to throw in my couple of bits:

  • It's definitely a great 2 player game, and I might even go so far as to say that the 2 player games I play with my wife are my favourite way to play Agricola. Certainly I don't ever think "yeah, this is fun, but if only we'd been able to get a few friends around for the full experience", when I'm playing 2-player. One thing I think is worth stressing is that Agricola changes with different numbers of players. There are Occupation cards that you remove from the deck unless you have 3+ or 4+ players, and the available actions are different for different numbers too. Actually that's really the best argument I can think of for playing it with more players: you get to play with some cool Occupations that you don't otherwise get to see!

  • In a similar vein - one of the beauteous things about Agricola is that you can scale up the complexity based on the experience levels of your players. The Family Game dispenses with the Occupation and Minor Improvement cards, and becomes a fairly chess-like (or at least Caylus-like) experience with a very small randomness factor. A beginner will probably still be a bit baffled by the intricacies of how to successfully bake bread, or breed animals, as both of these are multi-step processes and not initially easy to discern. But once you've got over that hurdle I guarantee you'll be hooked. At which point you can introduced the "E" or "Easy" deck of cards, and then build up gently to the "Interactive" and "Complex" decks. If ever a boardgame bent over backwards to have a graceful learning curve, it's Agricola.

I have met players who took an instant dislike to Agricola, on complexity grounds: there is a danger that, in your first game, especially if it's a 4 or 5 player game against experienced players, you might think "oh God, I have no idea what's going on, I don't have enough actions to get anything to work, all my people are going to starve to death". But many more newbies I've played with have taken to the game instantly. Because the ways to attack other players are non-obvious, it's very easy to just get on with building the best farm you possibly can, and not feel too harrassed or victimised. Plus, Harvest Moon, Farmville, etc etc: everyone loves building farms, don't they? With a theme this universal, and the attractive components, it's pretty hard to go wrong. Agricola is more or less the best game ever. Get it at once!

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