A few weeks back, the iOS version of Agricola hit the iPad world, and I, long owning the original game and finding the manual indecipherable, was hoping that I would finally figure out how to play this game.

And to my pleasant surprise, I did. I understood the worker placement, the setting up of the engine, the multiple resources, and at last, I got the mechanics of the game.

However, before I sat down with the iPad to play this, so did Max.

And I’ll also be blunt — I’m not sure if I’m writing this because I’m impressed or terrified of his ability to understand the rules to this game. It’s a game that, right on the box, is rated 13+.

However, before you call me a bad dad for even THINKING of teaching this game to him, let me offer an explanation in my defense. While driving him to school, I let him play with my iPad. It motivates him in the morning to eat, get dressed and get a move on. Besides, if he does it in a timely fashion, he may get an extra minute or two of playing.

Aside from arm chairing when Valerie or I use our iPads, this is his ONLY game time.

So what does he do?

Over the course of a few car trips to school, he figures out how to play “daddy’s new game of Agricola”… by himself.

(Remember, I’m driving and assuming he’s playing Pitfall or Minion Rush.)

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picture of Agricola iOS from camera

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picture of iOS Agricola board – that’s about half of the options available

The basics? You are a farmer with your spouse and you are improving your farm and your land. Before I knew what was going on – he had figured out the basics of (a) making sure there is enough food for the people before the harvest (or you have to take begging cards which are “minus points”), (b) how to get more people (though certainly not the REAL mechanics of such an action…) and (c) how to improve his farm by upgrading it to clay or stone, and (d) setting up fences so that (e) he can have animals.

Aside from plowing fields, sowing them, or baking bread, all of which translates to victory points at the end, he’s figured all this out without me.

In fact, Max’s question to me of “Daddy, what does plowing a field mean?” was my first clue that he was playing the game in the car! And he also knows that daddy has the “real no-Ipad version” too.

Now the story of “me not being able to figure out Agricola” has been a family story for nearly two years. I’ve blogged about it in the past. I originally bought the hard copy of the game during a 40% sale at Dr Comics based on the recommendations of many.

However, after deciding the manual was truly wretched (c’mon – the manual was translated into English from German and put into varying 10 pt font down to 6 pt font size – and that’s not exaggeration but the honest truth – I watched multiple videos and how-to’s, and it never really clicked for me.

That all said, I knew that when I was ready, I should take the time to figure it out because my wife and sister-in-law are very much non-gamers, and want to have it spelled out before any play took place.

Therefore, when the iOS game came out, I thought “Aha! I’ll have the computer do most of the work and I’ll figure out through the iOS version how to finally play this indecipherable monster board game!”

What I didn’t foresee was that Max would learn the basics before I even touched the dang thing!

In addition to the iOS version tutorial, what made it finally click for me was that I finally started to play other worker placement games (Lords of Waterdeep, Alien Frontiers, Fresco, all mentioned previously) and once I was able to draw the proper analogies in my skull, I was able to put it all together.

So with Max clamoring to Valerie that “we [three] should play the board game Agricola”, Valerie finally agreed (relented?) and we played two full games. And not the family version, either!

Our first game was 3 players, and on our second game Pete joined us to make it a four player game (those that do in fact try to do this themselves please note that the setup for a 3 player game and 4 player game IS different)…

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3 player version picture taken later
(Lynn-Pete-Dave)

We played cards face up for the first game so that everybody could learn. Max (and the rest of us) quickly figured out many other elements to the game, such as occupations and minor improvements. Max even corrected my own play when he noticed that my occupation gave me a bonus I would have otherwise missed.

Perhaps the most amusing part of the first game was watching Max discover that getting the starting player option meant “he could do something before ANYONE ELSE”, to which he added a grind/prancerize dance to go along with his game action choice.

(Sorry, no video.)

And perhaps even more to our delight, Valerie liked the game a lot as well – beating me during the first round of instruction and tying me for the win on the second game.

Everyone who clamored about this game – you were right.

And all of the Steelarazas get it now.

And with Max already getting Agricola at the age of six, I’m beginning to truly wonder what sort of stuff he will be into or doing at double his current age (12).

I’m hoping it’ll involve whatever the kids are calling kickstarter in the future and using the profits from his game design to fund his first car or college education.

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