02 July 2012

Living off Livestock - Agricola: All Creatures Big & Small Review

Do you enjoy Agricola? If you don't, it maybe because it's too long, too complicated, too involved, or just too much going on. Maybe it's because you feel like your brain has been smashed with a baseball bat after playing. If you enjoy Agricola, it's probably because you enjoy the difficult decisions, you like the theme of farming, or it's the fact that you start with almost nothing and work your way up until you build a great farm. If you are either person, Agricola: All Creatures Big & Small could be for you.

Overview
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small was designed by Uwe Rosenburg and is published in English by Z-Man Games. The game is for 2 players and plays in 30-45 minutes. The game uses worker placement and resource management. The object of the game is to score the most victory points over the course of eight rounds. This is done by raising livestock, building buildings, and expanding your farm. You score points for each animal in your farm, and for each of the different kinds of animals you have. Then, you score for expansions that have been completely used, and buildings that are on your farm.

Gameplay
All Creatures Big and Small, at its core, plays very similar to its mother game, Agricola. Each player takes turns placing three workers that give them resources, animals, fences, the opportunity to build buildings, expand your farm, and a first player token. Once players have placed all their workers, everyone takes their workers back into their stockpile. They then replenish all the possible placements. Finally, players breed their animals and the next round begins. Spots that are not claimed by either player will begin to accumulate more and more resources/animals/goods, which make them more enticing to both players.

Their are about 16 different spots on the board. Here are a few of them to get you an idea of what is available. There are four spots that give you the four different livestock (cattle, horses, swine, and sheep). These spaces have differing species and some of them have two different species that replenish at different rates. Because of this some of the livestock are harder to obtain than others. Horse and Cattle are more difficult to come by and sheep and swine are easier to obtain. There are three different resources in the game that are needed to build buildings, wall, fences, and to upgrade your home. These are stone, wood, and reed. There are spaces for each of these and one space that gives you one of each of these resources. Finally, there are spots to buy fences/walls, feeding troughs, buildings, and expansions to your farm. Buildings are limited in this game, so it's important to make the proper upgrades before they are all gone. For example, there is only one tile to upgrade your house and besides stalls and stables the other special buildings only have one a piece. These can be very valuable as they can hold animals and give you a good amount of points at the end of the game, usually between 3-5 points.

Each player is also given their own player board. This is where you will be building your farm. You are also given nine fence sections in your stockpile and three workers to use on the worker placement board that we just discussed. Your player board is where you will build your buildings and keep your animals. The board is a 3x3 grid that has nine spots to hold your animals and buildings. One of the spots is your house and can hold one animal as well as your workers. You will build fences/walls in your pastures to hold your animals as well as buildings. Buildings also have four walls that hold your animals in your pastures. Each of your pastures/buildings can only hold one type of animal and each square can only hold two animals. You can increase your capacity by building feeding troughs (double capacity of buildings and pastures) and creating larger pastures. Using and building expansions is also important as each one that you completely fill gives you four points at the end of the game. Managing your land is important as you have limited resources and space, so you need to be efficient so that you can hold as many animals as possible. If you don't have a place for an animal you lose them, which end the end will lose you points.

Review
The components for All Creatures are good. You get a nice size bag of animeeples. These are nice wooden horses, sheep, swine, and cattle. The fences, workers, and resources are also made of wood. These are more generic. The fences are simple wood sticks and the resources are workers are wooden disc. The workers are bigger than the resources, but the representation of these resources feels lacking. It would be great if these resembled their actual items much like the animeeples do. I understand their is added cost into doing this, but it would help. If you have already upgraded your standard Agricola with these types of pieces then you can just grab some of these out of your Agricola game. You can also use the animeeples from All Creatures for your standard Agricola. The artwork and boards look like the standard game's boards and don't bring much to the game. However, that is good. It will allow for Agricola veterans to feel at home. The price does seem high at $40 MSRP, but the gameplay is rich and the animeeples make it worth the higher price tag. When you see the box you'll think it should be less, but the price is still in the range it should be.

The game play of All Creatures does stay true to the original. You have to make the hard choices just as in the original and you are unable to do everything that you want to. The rules and game are streamlined. There is no adding onto your house. No adding people to your family. No vegetables to be grown. No bread to be baked an no people to feed. The game takes the raising animals aspects and focuses just on that. There are also no cards in the game. The worker placement board stays the same for every game. This really helps with setup and tear down time. This streamlined version also allows for faster rules explanation and easier learning curve. For those who have never played Agricola this is a great entry into the game play of the full version without the large time commitment and learning time. It also allows for people to get an Agricola fix without having a long time commitment. We finished our first game in just under 40 minutes. My second game was played with another new player and we knocked it out in about 30 minutes. The game is deep and does truly give you an Agricola feel. So if you have been trying to get someone to try Agricola and the shear mass of the full game scares them away, this might be a good alternative to get them into the game.

Is it Good with Two?
This is a solid two player only game. Many games that are based off a series, (I am talking to you Carcassonne New World) fail to compare to the original. They come off as a money grab and leave fans of the series disappointed. This especially true when two player variants come out for multi-player games and vice versa. However, All Creatures does a great job implementing the look and feel of Agricola in a shorter game time and streamlined rules. It works well and does exactly what it sets out to do. If you enjoy playing Agricola with two then this is definitely worth picking up. If you have been hestiant to get a copy of Agricola because of the depth and length (this is me), then this maybe a good alternative that allows you to get the Agricola experience in 30 minutes.

Overall, this is a another solid game by Uwe Rosenburg. The game plays great. It stays true to the Agricola & Rosenburg name, and can stand on it's own. I am interested to see if other games come out in this series that focus on other aspects of Agricola. I don't know if they will, as the Animals are one of the more intriguing parts of the game. I would also like to see this implemented as a four player game. This could easily be done with an expansion. The game would still be over in about an hour. That all being said. A solid game that I am hard pressed to say anything negative about. I am not an Agricola expert, but I don't think you need to be one to appreciate this game. As I said, it stands on its own two feet, which says a lot for a name branded game.

5 comments:

  1. Nice. Thnx. Will picknthisup ASAP.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Awesome. This is a great game little game.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I really got into this game. It's really great!!!

    ReplyDelete
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  5. Nice review, I'm going to get it and maybe launch into full size Agricola later.
    Thank!

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