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Board Game Review – Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small

2012 June 25

Review copy kindly provided by Z-Man Games.

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small satisfied that itch for a worker placement game, that plays in a very short amount of time. And it does a wonderful job at it!

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small

Designer: Uwe Rosenberg

Number of players: 2

Age: 13+

Time: 30 minutes

What’s the game about?

A description from the publisher…

Agricola for 2 players: a small box full of animals.

Agricola, a game that needs no introduction! Players from all around the world have gone crazy for this return to the world of Agricola. From agriculture to animal breeding, Agricola is an enormous success on all game tables.

It is at the beginning of June that you will be able to get your hands on Agricola – All Creatures Big and Small, a game designed exclusively for 2 players! In fact, for the last year, Uwe Rosenberg has been working on a whole new version of the game. His objective: to offer a specialized two-player version of Agricola that would offer the same sensation as the original, but in a much shorter, more direct form. The result is that Agricola for 2 players is impressively efficient for such a short game (30 to 40 minutes)! It is not only fast to play; it takes seconds to set up. This gives you the possibility of playing the game over and over!

In Agricola – All Creatures Big and Small, you become an animal breeder (horses, cows, sheep and pigs) and try to make the most of your pastures. You will start the game with a personal board that you must make bigger by adding additional parcels of land or by building new infrastructures, because as the game advances, your herd continues to grow!

Basic idea in my own words…

In Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small, you are a family member of three, that is trying to raise the most animals on your farm. Your ultimate goal is to get the most points and beat your opponent. This is done through a few different means. One of a few of these ways, is to have more animals than your opponent. In this 2-player version of Agricola, the game lasts only around 30 minutes (can you believe that?), has fundamental mechanics of Agricola and no farming or cards.

How do you play…

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small

For setup, you place the main board in the center of the tables, along with all the chits, expansion boards, 8 fence pieces, special buildings and stalls. Give each player a farm board, 9 fence pieces, which they place to the side, their three family member discs and decide who goes first. The game consists of 8 rounds. Within each round, there are 4 phases.

    1. Refill Phase – In this phase, your looking around the main board for any actions spaces that have little red arrows next to them. If they have this, you refill the pre-printed number of the respective item, in that location, regardless if there’s a wooden piece there or not. For instance The spot that has two stone, will continue to receive two stone, if there’s stone there or not. The difference here is that there are spaces for “good 2”, in parenthesis. For these spots, you’d only place 1 of these parenthesized goods in the spot, if Good 1 (the item not in parenthesis), is presently on that spot.
    2. Work Phase – This phase is the bulk of the game. This is the phase where you alternate turns, placing your player discs on the action spaces on the main board. Starting with the starting player, this player may place his disc on any action space, as long as he can afford to pay the required resources to fulfill the resolution of the space. For instance, if you want to take 1 stone, and the starting player marker, you would place your disc in that spot. If you place a disc in the location that enables you to build a stall, you must first have the required resources. Once you place your disc, resolve the space, meaning, do whatever the action is. Like build something or take something. Then its the other players turn. This continues until each player has placed all three of their discs. Keep in mind that only one disc can be on an action space at a time. The only exception is the build a special building action space.
    3. Home Phase – This phase just consists of players taking their action discs back to their own boards.
    4. Breeding Phase – In the breeding phase. Players can get 1 (only one!) extra animal of each type, if they have two matching animals. For instance, if you have 2 pigs, you’ll get another pig to immediately place on your board. If you can’t place it, the pig just goes back into the general supply. If you have 2000 pigs, you get one pig only – get it? Now, this can apply for each animal, so this is something you must consider when planning out your actions. You can then, get one of each animal, each breeding phase, if you have parents for these animals.

There you have it! I have just given you a basic rundown of the games mechanics. Now I’ll share some more details of the game, like the rules for animals.

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small

Basic Animal Placement Rules

  • Only two animals per square.
  • A section of enclosure represents a pasture. A fenced in area, for instance, is a pasture.
  • Each pasture can only have the same type of animal. No mixing of animal types.
  • A feeding trough (the little yellow houses), basically enable you to double the animal capacity in a pasture.
  • Buildings, such as stables or stalls, or even your house, can act as a enclosure piece, similar to fencing.
  • Stalls, for instance, may have troughs. This will enable you to make the animal capacity, 6.
  • Open pastures cannot have animals in them – but uncompleted pastures are allowed.

I really enjoy the rule set and limitations for animal placement. It makes this game feel like a puzzle game and very challenging.

Now, for my breakdown!

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small


Breakdown

Components: 4/5

Very similar quality as Agricola. Excellent stock cardboard and chits. The box is just the right size the for game and the rules are extremely simple to understand. I love the graphical style of this game. It’s approachable by people of all ages and has that same light-hearted Agricola feel.

Theme: 4/5

Let’s be honest. It’s a cutesy theme. But I still love the game. If you’re playing a 30 minute game, that’s filler length, it doesn’t need to be about killing and monsters. The theme is perfect for what the game is. Breeding animals on a farm. I give it a 4 out of 5, compared to the original Agricola (5/5), because the original has more to it. Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small’s premise of raising animals is one that will appeal to players of all ages and gender.

Luck Factor: 1/5

I don’t think there’s any luck in this game at all. There’s absolutely no shuffling – there’s no cards! The only thing that’s random is the player selection at first. But even still, if there’s a tie, the non-start player at the beginning of the game, wins. I tend to like games more where there’s less luck involved.

Strategy: 5/5

For the complexity of this game and the time to play, you’d may be surprised that I’m giving this game a 5/5 for strategy. Well, there’s no cards, no random element so what is there? Strategy! It’s all about timing, and trying to outwit your opponent’s strategy.

Overall Feelings: 5/5

I love Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small. Uwe Rosengerg set out to create a streamlined 2-player version of his classic, Agricola and he hit another home run! I throughly enjoy this game. It’s a short play time and set-up time, so you can play multiple games in one sitting. This game is extremely fun and challenging. I know, I know. “How can it be this great for such a small and short game?” Well, it is. And as a bonus, my wife really enjoys it. If you read back to one of my older articles, Introducing board games to the non-gamer wife, you may recall I mentioned how my wife likes simple games that are quick to setup and tear down. Well, this game fits that to a ‘T.’ In fact, my wife likes it so much, she mentioned bringing it up to her parents house when she goes to visit. What I really enjoy is the timing mechanic, where you can see when the game is ending based off the number of fence pieces left. The timing mechanic, coupled with the idea of trying to race against your opponent for more animals and a better score really gives a sense of urgency and slight anxiety – which is one of my favorite things about a lot of Euro games. This game is so simple, yet fun.

I would highly recommend, Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small by Z-Man Games.

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