Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why I Like - Agricola Through the Seasons

"All good things are wild, and free." Henry David Thoreau

• As with my recent quick and dirty little review of Agricola X-Deck I'm going to start off by saying first and foremost that Through the Seasons is FREE and as you can see that's the criteria for being a "Good thing." Thank you Mr. Thoreau.

• As with my recent quick and dirty little review of Agricola X-Deck I'm going to also state that it's an expansion for Agricola! So what's not to like there right?

• As with my recent quick and dirty little review of Agricola X-Deck I'm going to also state that I've got over 100 games of face to face Agricola challenges in and it's nice to shake things up a bit.

• As with my recent quick and dirty little review of Agricola X-Deck I'm going to ask again...did I mention it's an Agricola expansion...and it's free?!?!

I admit that tactic I used there was a cheap shot (Or maybe it was a quick and dirty) as getting my review going but hey I also have to admit that I'm willing to take them sometimes! Hell if I were to be totally honest with you I'd be telling you right here and now that those bullet points were my intention from the get go I just didn't get around to writing this review as quickly as I suspected I would...but that's usually the case with me anyway.

Here we are half way done with the review and I've not really started talking about Through the Seasons yet. Maybe I should get to that. So the genesis of this thing was a post card job that got sent out to whoever or however, I don't really know or care as I wasn't one who got one of the post cards! No it's one of those frustrating deals where if you aren't "in" the right circle somewhere or signed up to the right there here you just aren't suppose to be graced with the presence of an addition to your favorite game. (Well one of my top favorites anyway.) Fortunately for the rest of poor schleps out there you can find high resolution images and files of said rarer and wondrous post card game board in the entry for the expansion. Woooooooooo Hoooooooooo. As I consider myself a print-n-play junkie anyway throwing this one down was a no brainer. I simply printed the sucker out on regular paper and ran it through the ole laminator and bam I'm now. I could have used card stock but didn't figure it was totally necessary as this was a board not a card set. I've had absolutely zero problems with this creation method so far.

Now you know what TtS is but what does it do? Well as I said it shakes the game up just a tad by adding variable board effects to the game each and every round as well as giving you 4 new action spaces to land on. Well not a total of 4 but a total of 4. Was that confusing? See there's 4 spaces but only 1 (the active season) is available every round. Probably the coolest part of the expansion is you are suppose to start in the season that it currently is for you. This means every 3 months you start off in a seasons. Now you might think that's not that big of a deal (and it's not) but it is cool.

The first thing TtS does is impact the resources. Each turn 2 of the 4 main resources (Wood, Clay, Reed and Stone) are either added to or subtracted from. This impacts only the resource locations that build from round to round. In other words let's take Spring for example. Spring is set to -1 Wood and +1 Stone. This would mean when loading the board any action spaced that would get wood (like the 3 wood space) would get 1 fewer wood pieces while the stone action spaces would receive one extra stone. It's fully balanced to all 4 resources gain one and lose one over the course of 4 rounds.

In addition to resource adjustment each season brings some universal impacts to the entire board/game as well. Winter is cold and the ground is hard so to plow a field costs 1 food during this time and you can no use the fishing location at all until after round 11 in winter. Spring is the time to get things done, so if you build fences during this time you get 2 free. Summer comes and things are goind well if you build rooms you get a free stable for each you build. Furthermore spring sees an extra food token on the fishing hole and a grain token added to day laborer. Fall makes all major improvements construction cost one resource less.

Finally this tiny little postcard expansion gives us 4 new action spaces with one available each turn. Winter acts almost like the lover. You can exchange 2 wood and 3 food to family grow without room. Spring gives an instant animal breeding phase and/or sow. Summer is time to take a holiday. When you place your family member here you recieve a bonus point for that member and all members played before it. Summer allows an instant field phase and/or take 1 veggie.

I simply love this little expansion and won't play Agricola anymore without it. It adds some serious goodness to the game and unlike X-Deck is well within the theme of the game. It's easy to understand and if you have people who are new to it, just remind them at the beginning of the turn what the effects of the current season are. I would highly suggest any owners of Agricola go print this out and throw it in you box. You will be happy you did.

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