One of the most iconic eurogames on the market today has to be Agricola. Designer Uwe Rosenberg created this masterpiece back in 2007 and it’s still being played today, both in on the tabletop and iOS as well.
Today, we are going to be looking at an offshoot from this fantastic worker placement game, called Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small (from hereto referred to as Agricola: ACBAS for brevity’s sake). While it doesn’t have the depth that Agricola does, Agricola: ACBAS still offers a great gaming experience for two players. It’s a bit lighter on the rules, yet still offers plenty to do. So let’s dive in and see if Agricola: ACBAS successfully made the transition to our tablets.
In Agricola: ACBAS, players will shift from running a full farm (as in Agricola), to simply managing their livestock. The simplified gameplay in Agricola: ACBAS will skip growing plants or even feeding your family. It’s all about optimizing your turns over the game’s 8 rounds.
At its heart, Agricola: ACBAS is a worker placement game. You get three workers per round to carry out your actions. Your actions range from collecting raw materials (wood, stone, and reeds), to building your farm (fences, stables, and buildings), to collecting and breeding animals. Animals must be kept in pens or stables that you build for them, and will breed at the end of every round (assuming you have at least 2 of a type). Players will score points at the end of the game based on how many of each type of animal they have.
We reviewed Digidiced last entry into the iOS board game market with their great translation of Patchwork. You can read the full review here, but suffice to say, they know what they are doing.
The game’s menu system is pretty much lifted from Patchwork, so veteran players should feel at home here. Once into the game proper, players are greeting with a screen showing the available worker placement spaces. When it’s your turn, simply drag a worker to the spot you want them to go. The game will automatically deduct the resources required to go there, and give you the options for the action. If you don’t have the required resources for a space (or it has already been used), then the space will be darkened. If you are unsure what a space does, a quick tap will bring up the explanation.
On the left side of the screen (and right for your opponent) houses all your player information. The top shows how many of each animal you have and below that, your current resources. Under that is your score, which you can tap ant any time to get a break down of how the points are scored. Finally, in the bottom corner, you can tap a picture of your farm, to switch the main screen to show your farm, instead of the worker placement locations.
The graphics and sound are excellent, as I’ve come to expect from Digidiced. There are cloud animations that will pass by, little animals that move around the farm, and other thematic elements. Digidiced has also released a number of bug patches and updates since the game debuted, so any early issues we had have long since been patched. I’m glad they are staying on top of its development.
I own the tabletop version of Agricola: ACBAS, and have always been a fan. Its lighter game play makes it much easier to get to the table than its older brother. In addition to that, its small footprint makes the game much easier to take with you on the go. More than once we’ve played Agricola: ACBAS in a hotel on a vacation. So I was definitely eager to see if this digital version would finally let me leave the cardboard at home.
Agricola: ACBAS offers three different ways to play. You can play VS the AI (with three difficulty levels), local pass and play, and online matches. The game starts you off with an interactive tutorial to teach you the basics. While not perfect, it does do a great job of giving you a basic understanding of the game play. If you are new to Agricola: ACBAS, it will still probably take you a few games to get a feel for the strategy.
Playing vs the AI is probably where most people will start. Your first game should only be on easy if you’ve never played Agricola: ACBAS before. The easy AI is really easy. If you’ve played the game before, then I’d suggest playing your first game on normal, just to get a feel for the interface. After that, almost all players will be sticking with the Hard AI, as that’s the only one that feels at least somewhat competent. I can still routinely beat it, but at least it puts up a bit of a struggle.
However, if you really want a challenge, then your best bet is to jump online and play against a random opponent. I found matchmaking to be pretty quick, and was matched up with a random player with a minute or two. Players have 24 hours to take their turn, but rarely did it ever take that long. Usually turns happened quickly enough that it was almost in real time. But it was still nice to have the timer should life get in the way except the challenge vs real opponents to be much more difficult than vs the AI.
One issue I have with Agricola: ACBAS is with the “more buildings” DLC. As the buildings are an expansion for the cardboard game, I understand why they have it as a DLC. And for $3, it’s not exactly crippling. Still, what is odd is that if you play online, random buildings will be added to the game, even if you didn’t buy the DLC.
On one hand, it’s nice for some added variety to the game play, on the other, anyone who has bought the DLC and played vs the AI with have a nice advantage of having experienced using all the buildings ahead of time. I think that users would have been better served if Digidiced had just raised the price of the game a couple of bucks and included the “more buildings” expansion with the game.
Overall I found Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small to be a pretty fantastic translation of a board game I already enjoy. The thematic animations were a nice touch, and I also liked that I could speed up the game play animations if I was getting impatient.
While I’m not the biggest fan of the game’s menu system, it can be a bit clunky to find your way around, the actual game’s interface is pretty spot on. The game will not only teach you how to play, but is quick to explain what a location does if you forget.
If you are a fan of Agricola: ACBAS, or even worker placement games in general, then buying Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small should be an easy decision. The app only costs a fraction of what the cardboard version does, and it has all the same great gameplay.
If you’d like to download a copy of Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small, you can get it for about $4.99.
Final Score: 4.5 Stares – A great translation of an already stellar board game. The AI could use a little tweaking, but other than that it’s solid.
• Nice, thematic interface
• Online play was quick and easy to start
• Game information is all readily at your fingertips
• AI could use a little tweaking
• Inconsistent use of DLC buildings