Agricola, the award-winning German strategy board game, is now available on iOS. If your family has played the real-world version or loves games like Puerto Rico or Dominion, then this is a must-purchase app — one of the best converted board game apps we’ve played on the iPad.
In Agricola, you play as lowly farmers who are starting their very own family farm. The game begins with your two-person family in a humble three-room hut and a unplowed field. During each turn, you must compete with other farmers for resources to improve your farm and prepare enough food to feed your growing family. This may sound simple, but rest assured the game’s two modes, “family” and “basic,” add a host of strategic complexities to the game. With that in mind, you’ll want to make sure your kids have mastered simpler games like Catan, Cascarone or Ticket To Ride. We suggest ages 11 and up for tackling the Agricola challenge, but only in terms of gameplay; there are no mature themes in the game. Unless your family are hardcore vegans, and you are offended by chowing down on animals. For example, one way to feed your family is to raise animals and then eat them.
The app version is beautifully ported to the iPad. I was extremely impressed with the design of the virtual board, especially considering all the different pieces and boards that the traditional game requires. The tutorials are an absolute must for this reason, and considering the effort that was put into them, they are well worth your time. In addition, the “help” features throughout the game translate the playing field into a nice smooth layout that I hope more app publishers will follow. And the way users interact with the screen is natural and user friendly. Your kids will probably adapt to the gameplay quicker than you. The developers not only used common sense when designing the interaction, but also added fail-safes to prevent accidental “touch” mistakes.
The app offers several modes of play. You can play online with others by signing up for a free account — against up to four AI controlled players — or pass the tablet around and play with the family. For those of you who have never played the game and have younger children, I highly recommend buying a physical version of the game to help explain the different mechanics and rules. Honestly, Agricola is not a pick-up-and-play game like Catan or Ticket to Ride. Luckily, the app offers both versions of the game; a simpler and more complex rule set.
One of the great things about the game is that there is zero violence or bloodshed (besides the farm animals that you choose to eat). You are simply preparing plots of land for crops, creating animal pens or upgrading your hut. These three factors affect the scoring at the end of the game. The complete rules are available during play via the help menu.
Overall, the Agricola app is a testament to board games making their appearance on the iPad. Friday night with the family will be enhanced as your children learn about resource gathering and the responsibility of feeding a family in 17th-century Europe. Developed by award-winning publisher Playdek, the game is available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch at $6.99. Two $0.99 in-app expansions are planned for the fall of 2013.