Review – Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small – The Big Box

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small – The Big Box. Lookout Games, 2018. Uwe Rosenberg, Designer. Klemens Franz, Artist.

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small logo

Back in 2012, my local board game community had Agricola fever. It was one of the games that my gaming club kept set up on a table because it didn’t make sense to pack it up; someone was always going to want to play it. I was really impressed with the game, but it was a little pricy for me, and its longish playtime meant that it wouldn’t see much play at home. When I saw that a smaller, cheaper, two-player version, called Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small was being released by Z-Man Games, I grabbed a copy.

So. Many. Choices.

And it was fun. Sure, it was a less complex experience than it’s older sibling, but it was the perfect size for a game to take to the local coffee shop and play with my girlfriend at the time. However, after a while, we developed our go-to strategies, and the game became stale. And just then, right as the game was fading from our high rotation, All Creatures Big and Small: More Buildings Big and Small came out, revitalizing the game with 27 new buildings and adding infinite replayability. Later, Even More Buildings Big and Small was released, though that was probably overkill. but the game with its expansions became one of my most played games.

Eventually, I broke up with that girlfriend, and when we split our game collection, she got custody of Agricola. By this point, it was out of print (I think) and became one of those games I would have to find used somewhere. That is, until the release of Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small – The Big Box.

What’s going on here?

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small takes the much larger Agricola and condenses it down to a quick, two-player experience. Gone are the Occupation cards, Improvement cards, and most of the crops and resources. Instead, players compete (using worker placement) to gather stone, wood, and reeds in order to place new buildings, fences, and feeding troughs on their farms, and then fill their pastures with sheep, hogs, cows, and horses. Play continues through 8 rounds, and the player with the most points, based on the number of each animal–with points lost for any animal you have three or fewer of–and points given by certain buildings, is the winner.

So. Many. Animals.

The Big Box edition isn’t so much a big box (it’s a base-game Carcassonne-sized box) as it is a collection of the base game and all the expansions. The instructions do not differentiate which buildings go with which of the original two expansions, but they do denote the base game content if you want to experience that–in fact, the instructions recommend using only the base game for your first play.

What’s good here?

What’s not good? For less than the original cost of the base game and the expansions, you get all of the content. And if that were the end of it, you’d have a solid experience worth the price of entry. However, the Big Box goes a step farther with upgraded pieces. The original game came with animeeples for all the livestock, but the resources and the workers were just colored discs. This edition features custom farmer meeples, as well as wooden stone, reed, and wood counters that are shaped like the resources they represent.

Other than that, the game seems to be unchanged from the original edition-plus-expansions, and I couldn’t be happier.

Agricola is a light-but-tight worker placement/resource management game where players each get only three actions per round, and with only eight rounds, you’ll always feel like there’s more that you want to do, and you’ll usually have to make sacrifices to achieve the goals you’re working towards. While it may be a quick game, it’s not a filler game and it has just enough gotcha-factor to please highly competitive players without allowing those players to completely lock out their victims…er…opponents.

What’s not so good?

So. Many. Buildings.

Let me start this off by saying that I love this game, so it’s hard for me to find fault. However, I can see that others might find that the 54 special buildings might be too random, and you can get combinations of buildings that either don’t provide enough synergy or that create combos that are too powerful. For instance, the Timber Shop combined with the Storage building allows a player to constantly generate resources and score points for those resources at the end of the game. While the player can’t just focus on hording those resources and must also breed animals to keep from losing points, that Storage building is going to be hard to beat. That said, you’re not going to see the Timber Shop in every game (though the Storage building is in each game).

Besides that, the only real problem I can think of is that sometimes the game feels too tight. Sometimes, I wish there was more: a longer game, or a game with more options. But that’s what the OG Agricola is for, right?

What do I think?

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small is just as good as I remember, and I am so glad it got a rerelease with all of its expansion content. As someone who mainly plays two-player games with my wife, I’m glad I got to introduce Em to it, even if she keeps beating me. It was a game that I really felt was missing from our collection, and now that I have it, it’s going into heavy rotation.

9/10 victory points.

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