FarmVille has a lot to answer for. A career in agriculture is difficult, physically demanding and requires a huge degree of forward planning, not to mention the ability to adapt to unexpected situations. Zynga's ridiculously popular social game, meanwhile, boils all this down to clicking on things every few hours and spamming your friends with Facebook posts that will generally ensure no-one will ever want to speak to you online ever again. It requires no strategy, no thought and is little more than a timewaster. I hate it. Hate it.
Uwe Rosenberg's Agricola, a farming game set in the 17th century, is an altogether different beast. Originally released as a board game in 2007, Agricola requires you to make use of skill and strategy in order to ensure that you can both keep your family fed and create as profitable a farm as possible by the end of the game. While you're doing this, other players are also attempting to do the same thing, and their efforts will often get in the way of your best-laid plans if you're not careful.
iOS developer Playdek has finally released its long-awaited mobile adaptation of Rosenberg's classic. Playdek was previously responsible for some of the best board and card game adaptations on mobile platforms, including deckbuilding games Ascension and Nightfall; chaotic card game Fluxx; and the official mobile adaptation of the Penny Arcade card game. Agricola is the team's most complex project to date, and the results are impressive.
Rather than literally translating the board game from tabletop to small screen as with many of their previous titles, Playdek has instead opted to place a more friendly skin atop Agricola's interface, making it accessible and less daunting to newcomers while simultaneously allowing veterans to feel immediately at home.
The mobile version of Agricola includes the ability to play in four different ways: the simplified Family Game, which removes the Occupation and Minor Improvement cards from the game; the Basic Game, which includes the cards and adds a great deal more variety and strategy; the Solo Play variant, which has a few twists on the normal rules; and the Solo Series variant, which challenges the player to complete a series of solo games while attaining increasingly-challenging point targets.
As is the norm for iOS board game adaptations, Agricola supports both pass-and-play and asynchronous online gameplay for 2-5 players. For those who prefer the immediacy of a real-time match, live play is also possible. If you play with someone who consistently takes hours to decide what they're doing, you can even play with game clocks to speed things along. Those who like to analyze the way they play can take advantage of game overview, turn log and event calendar facilities to stay abreast of their asynchronous games and work out where they could perform better. This is something I very much need, as I suck at the board game version. Like, really badly.
Agricola is available now as a Universal download for iPad and iPhone for $6.99. Grab it from the App Store here.