I have to admit being a relatively recent convert to the world of Agricola but it’s already taken its deserved position as one of my favourite games. I’ve only picked up my copy a while ago (pimped out with animeeples, veggiemeeples and resourceeples) and will do a proper review sometime in the near future, but rest assured… it’ll be somewhat positive. As it is pretty bloomin’ excellent.
For now though, I want to talk about All Creatures Big And Small, the all new two-player only Agricola release designed again by Uwe Rosenberg and available now through Lookout Games and Z-Man. While initially appearing to be a stripped down version of its big brother, a few plays will reveal it to be very much a different little beast. Sure, there are a fair few similarities between the two releases, but they’re more like two awesome pies with equally excellent fillings.
The game focuses on breeding animals on your farm and completely removes the ploughing fields, reaping crops and family growth of regular Agricola. Played out over eight turns, each player will always have three actions which they use to collect the necessary resources that will help them build up their farm. By collecting wood, stone and reed, buildings and fences will be erected that will hopefully house your animals… assuming the other player doesn’t get them first.
Each turn will see various spaces filled and refilled with resources and animals which can be claimed by placing one of your workers on the board grabbing them for yourself. Other spaces allow you to construct fences and troughs (to make pastures for your animals to live in) as well as special buildings that grant bonuses and points. If you’re looking for more space, you can also expand your tiny farm and you’ll need to for once you start getting animals, they breed. More animals means you need more space because if you don’t have it, they must be set free – not exactly what you need when you’re trying to get as many as possible.
However, victory in Agricola: ACBAS isn’t about just grabbing loads of one animal – spreading your acquisitions out and getting a little of everything is the best path to claiming the win. Management of your ridiculously limited space is paramount, as is making sure that you get at least three of every animal as if you were some slightly greedy Noah.
The production quality throughout is excellent. The resources are the same discs you find in standard Agricola, but you’ll invariably be delighted to know that the animals aren’t represented by boring little cubes… no, you get little wooden sheep, pigs, cattle and horses too. The artwork is charming, rules are straightforward and tight as anything… it’s an incredibly high standard showing exactly how well a game can be made.
For such a small box, there’s an incredible amount of play in there. While you’re both trying to do the same thing, your approaches will be tempered by what your opponent chooses for their actions. It’s a game of never having enough stuff to do the things you want, of constantly fighting for the meagre supplies available and hoping that you’ll somehow manage to do better than the other person. While your options may initially seem quite daunting, you’ll soon work out how to build an engine and what must be done to maximise your resources.
This isn’t a simple game to win, but it’s certainly easy to understand and get into. A couple of plays will see you understand the rules, then everything’s up to you to see who the better farmer is. An excellent addition to the family, it’s a fun and brain-burning way to pass half an hour or so. Have we found the two-player game of the year already? I wouldn’t bet against it…
Agricola: All Creatures Big And Small was designed by Uwe Rosenberg and was released through Lookout Games and Z-Man in 2012. Strictly for two players, it’s currently available for around £23. Well worth it!