Sniffen Packets

With a name like Sniffen, it's got to smell good.

Z-Man Games' Agricola

We tried a few games of Agricola yesterday. It’s been celebrated as “the new Puerto Rico,” and I see some of why: each player is running his own economy, with the only interaction with others’ the consumption of scarce resources. Three resources dominate the interactive game: purchase of unique Major Improvements for your farm, tapping of the raw-material accumulators when they pass interesting thresholds, and access to one-per-turn abilities. Everybody plays until the end, at which point all are scored by success in agriculture, husbandry, and construction. You lose a few points for neglecting an area, but can make it up with extraordinary success in one of the other two.

The extra decks of power-ups (“occupations” and “minor improvements”) add a great deal of re-play variety. The simpler “family game” dispenses with the power-ups, and I’m looking forward to learning to play without the fluff—we saw at least one person lose a game due to focus on the fluff over the meat of victory points. The hardest part will be figuring out how to attack others: how to play a competitive game, rather than a race. Puerto Rico at least let players ride on the side-effects of others’ roles. Agricola so far looks like a parallel solitaire.