521557_largerAgricola [$6.99] is a farming sim set in 17th century Europe. You may think you know what a farming sim is, but until you've played Agricola, you don't know anything. There are no timers in Agricola, no virtual currency, and the only people whose farms you'll be paying attention to are those of the 0-4 people (or AI opponents) you are playing against.

Agricola began its life as a board game, and it still had cards, chit-like icons, and other traces of its roots, but Playdek's adaptation is so convincingly themed and touch-friendly that an innocent soul could be forgiven for thinking that they were playing a iOS original with board game styling.

In the board gaming community, Uwe Rosenberg's Agricola is one of the most celebrated games of the new millenium. Originally released in German in 2007 (two years before Zynga's Farmville), it is a worker placement game like Caylus [$4.99] and Stone Age [$6.99].

Each turn you allocate the members of your family to tasks like collecting resources, plowing, sowing, and building. You start with two adults, but will need to add children as soon as you can. The game's most basic goal is to be able to feed your family come harvest time.

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That sounds simple, but each action can only be taken once per round. Need clay to build an oven? If someone else collects clay before you, you're out of luck this round. Children are invaluable additional "hands", but they're also mouths to be fed, and if you have to send your family out begging it's going to kill your score.

You see, no one dies in Agricola. Instead there is a complex scoring system that rewards a well-developed and diverse farm. You might be able to feed your family a diet of nothing but mutton, but you'll score more points if you also have cattle, fields of grain, veggies, and an upgraded dwelling.

The way you need to plan ahead, but are in danger of being thwarted by other players, gives the game as much tension as any 4x strategy game. Add on the scoring system, and you'll come to the (probably accurate) conclusion that peasant farming is harder and more interesting than waging war.

mzl.fjwhdsxlPlaydek has really outdone themselves with this one: the straightforward action cards from the board game get transformed into a village commons as they are drawn from the deck, becoming shops, quarries, livestock pens and workshops. Your farm is similarly laid out in an attractive but also very lucid plot, with fields and pastures to the right of your dwelling, while occupations (like the Plow Driver, which improves plowing) and improvements (like that Clay Oven, which allows you to bake bread) are off to the left.

Both the village and the farm are full of small atmospheric touches, like the animated hen and chicks that pace back and forth by the village fountain, and the period music used for the game is appropriate and unintrusive. I found the game's more "click-y" sound effects tedious, so I turned them off. You can speed up or slow down the game and animations separately, and toggle text descriptions of what everything does at will, aiding both novices and those who don't want any of the pretty window-dressing.

The AI is solid enough, with three difficulty settings, and there's async online play. I've also become obsessed with the "Solo series" where you get to keep (some) occupations between games, but have to earn an ever higher score to play the next game in the series. This mode maximizes the importance of planning ahead, and shows of the precision of the game's "you don't have time for everything" balance.

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The base game includes the basic deck, with the more advanced Complex and Interactive decks slated for release as IAP. I experienced one crash, while trying to use an occupation to exchange resources in the middle of a two-stage action (on my iPad Mini), but was able to resume without problem right where I'd left off.

Agricola is a superlative port of an equally exceptional game. Just don't mistake the cute styling for simple mechanics. Even in "family mode", Agricola is both challenging and competitive. The scoring system alone will put off some people who would otherwise find the concept appealing. That's not a design flaw, it's entirely intentional and the reason the board game has a devoted fanbase. In Agricola, farming is for the master strategist.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Bischi777

    Deserved.

  • StVincent

    I love the fact that TA is publicly calling out these awesome new board games for what they really are: awesome new games!

    • Nick

      Amen indeed.

      Now this is a very long shot in regards to your name, you don't happen to like the band, do you? ;)

      • StVincent

        Originally it was because I always wanted to start a band named Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, but then I later discovered that a much more talented person beat me to the punch :) tldr, yeah, I like her a lot.

      • Nick

        That's pretty amazing man. What did you end up naming your band?

        And yes, Annie is pretty freakishly amazing. I had the pleasure of seeing her in concert at a really small venue and my god, I loved her even more. Her album with Byrne?  Sheesh. Just awesome.

        You are truly a man of good taste ;)

  • howitzer

    This is definitely the high water mark for boardgame implementation on iOS!

    • caaalrb

      I think you mean benchmark

      • StVincent

        Lol. "It's all downhill from here..."

  • DtheGOPkiller

    Game is fun. Still trying to figure out its deeper dynamics.

  • Joeavery

    I have the board game and play it quite a bit. It's a hit with all my friends. If they pulled this off well it should be awesome, but maybe a bit hard to figure out for newcomers?

    Well worth figuring out, folks.

  • VeganTnT

    Personally I didn't like the way implemented Agricola. They put style over form so battery life suffers from unnecessary animations, they made the game board a long rectangle that you have to scroll along, and they default to having the job locations HIDE what they do (you have to drag a token over a spot to see what it does)

    That being said... Agricola is such a damn good game that you'll still want to look into picking it up.

    3.5/5 stars - a good game full of bad design choices and over complications.

    NOTE: I gave Playdek's Can't Stop a similar score at 3 stars. It was also a great game that was hampered by unnecessary, battery draining, animated backgrounds. For that amount of battery drain you might want to consider something else with more substance.

    • crispin

      Hit the question mark to reveal all the jobs like in the board game.

      • VeganTnT

        Only works for jobs that are currently available. If you draw a new job it does not automatically show the action it takes.

        I keep missing out on great actions cause the little square with the action description never appeared.

      • crispin

        Yeah I hope they fix that. You can hit it twice to get them.

      • StVincent

        It's a known bug and will be fixed.

    • StVincent

      I totally agree with you on the battery life count. I think it also has something to do with the way the manage checks for new moves in online games. I have noticed similar battery issues on summoner wars and ascension.

      Usually when new playdek stuff hits I just plan on dragging an iPad around with me to share the processing power :)

      • VeganTnT

        That may be it but it also has to do with the animations. They made it one one large scrolling board so all those little animations like the rivers or the people moving about are all moving at the same time, regardless of being visible or not. It's not a big deal on my iPad but my iPhone 4 really suffers.

        Games as good as Agricola don't need all that stuff, ya know? By forcing me to look at animations instead of oh I don't know... What that space actually does, it ends up making the game more complex. Which is a shame since the game can be played on just common sense but you really need to understand the mechanics to stay competitive.

      • Alex

        Give it a rest. It's not that big a deal. The animations are NOT using that much processing power. There are tons of games out there that drain battery life. Carcassonne is one and that is an excellent board game.

        To be clear, you can program a game so the only parts using processing power are ones on screen. I have written stuff when I was in school and it behaved that way.

        Frankly, I like the animations.

    • bwort110

      Lol...hit the question mark in the top left...
      Agricola is perfectly fitten for the ipad. I dont know how it could be better... Perhaps u can?

      • VeganTnT

        As I said before the question mark only works on currently available actions. When a new one becomes available it is NOT shown. You have to double tap the question mark after after each round's action is drawn.

        And I placed all my thoughts on how to make it more user friendly in the appropriate thread.

  • abodi

    Or enjoy the game for what it is? Which is awesome!

  • http://www.tap-start.com/ Mirkwood

    Well written review, good job :)

  • xx99

    Love this game to pieces, but I have experience with board game (it's my favorite). That said, I have no clue how good this implementation is for a newcomer. Agricola has a big set of rules to swallow.

    Let me offer two pieces of advice.

    1) Play the Family Game first. It takes out the Minor Improvements and Occupations, and modifies a few of the actions. It makes the game easier to learn while still preserving plenty of deep strategy. Once you've got that down, go ahead and try playing the full game with the Easy deck.

    2) Your top priority should be feeding your family and your next priority should be expanding your family. There are exceptions to these rules of thumb, but you will learn to recognize them on your own with a lot of practice.

  • dlehman

    Is there a "pass and play" mode to play with others in the same room? Or only against online opponents?

    • Peter

      I guess there is, all Playdek games usually have a pass and play mode.

    • StVincent

      Totally has pass 'n play.

  • deadclown

    Any idea how soon (if at all) a sale might happen? How often Playdek has sales?

    I hate to be such a penny-pincher, but I'm trying to keep my REAL family fed right now...

  • xmr

    Bought this on the back of this review and the glowing comments and now regret it. I'm new to this game and have spent 20 minutes or so tapping through tedious tutorials and getting completely baffled by all the rules. I'm sure it's great if you play the board game but so far am close to deleting it already. It's not fun tapping through this many tutorials.

    Also, given that this is at a premium price point I'm surprised to find poor quality images (not retina, jagged edges) and use of basic Helvetica in parts of the app. It looks nasty.

    Not sure whether to trust touch arcade reviews any more...

    • Terpentine Cat

      There are enough videos out, that show you what you get. There even is a 40 minute video of all the tutorials. Toucharcade does not have to be your only source of information, in order to make an informed decision.

    • http://winterdrake.com/ Dehumanizer

      If you prefer simple arcade games requiring no thought, and obsess over "not retina, jagged edges", maybe you shouldn't have bought a conversion of a board game... just saying.

  • DemoEvolved

    Stone Age is a good prerequisite to this game and fits on a single screen

  • Caccia

    The game is not very friendly to beginners. If you are new to this game or game of such genre, you might find it a little bit too complicated and less fun. Fully impressed by AppsGoer’s review on Agricola.

Agricola Reviewed by Tof Eklund on . Rating: 5