To watch a full solo playthrough of Agricola, click here.
What is the game about?
Agricola, designed by Uwe Rosenberg, is a worker placement game in which you grow your farm and your family as much as you can over the course of seven years (rounds). You can acquire building materials to add to and upgrade your house. You can acquire livestock, plough fields, and even take the "family growth" action—sexy! But be careful, because you need to pay attention to your food supply every year. You get "begging tokens" that decrease your score by every portion of food you fail to provide, and the years get shorter and shorter throughout the game.
How does it play solo?
In the multiplayer version of Agricola, competition stems from the fact that not only are you trying to score higher than others, but you are competing for limited action spaces on the board. Do you want to pick up some sheep, or vegetables to plant? If someone else has already used that space during that turn, too bad for you!
In the solo version of Agricola, you are competing against yourself for higher and higher scores over the course of several rounds. To help boost you from round to round, you can keep occupations and get food bonuses that give you a head start. The solo mode turns Agricola into a puzzle where you are wringing every action for all that it's worth to see how high you can get your score to go.
For me, Agricola is extremely absorbing. I love the satisfaction I feel as I watch my farm grow, or as I learn to exploit new occupations and generally maximize the resources provided to me. You can play the game with different sets of cards, meaning that you can experiment with different improvements to your farm and with different occupations that add a bit of variety to the game.
However, Agricola can also get very repetitive, especially in the earlier rounds of a given game. Before long, I developed set patterns to follow in the beginning, which made the game less interesting over time. Agricola will give you a lot of pleasure when you are first playing it or when you come back to it after a break, but it's probably not going to sustain a solo player for all that long. You can definitely get to a point where you feel like you've "solved" Agricola, at least to a point where most of your decisions in the game are set before you even begin.
Do I recommend it?
For the joy that I got out of it during my initial obsession period, I recommend Agricola. It's a great choice for you if you're the type who will push for a high score again and again, or who likes to pick apart how different actions work together for maximum advantage. You will need to take a break from this game after your first big burnout, but there are enough different occupation and improvement cards to offer some variety over time.
Also, if you want to keep solving the puzzle but you are tired of performing the same actions and moving the same animeeples around repeatedly during early rounds of the game, Agricola has a pretty good app that includes the solo campaign mode. It's easier to speed through the early turns that way. Definitely give it a shot if that sounds interesting to you.
Overall Score: 3 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.