The first time I laid eyes on Agricola was a few years back. I found the theme to be not terribly interesting (you’re a farming household on a plot of land with a two-room hut) and the little marker tokens to be impenetrable. Cubes, disks, and little dowels. It turned a game about farming into something that felt about as fun as farming would be.
Agricola has changed, significantly since then. I played it last week with the new and improved 4th edition and it has been improved dramatically by doing little more than making available little pieces (“meeples”) into shapes that look like what they’re supposed to be. No longer is a sheep a little white disk, it’s now a little white sheep. Vegetables look like carrots instead of orange cubes. (This may sound silly but it completely changes the experience of the game.) (Sadly, the animeeples and vegimeeples and whatnot are expansions rather than things that come with the game. They’re pretty much essential for the game to be enjoyable.)
Now, having played the new version with the new and improved meeples, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s got some downright brilliant design inspiration (this game launched a thousand others), it still has theme issues, and I’ve established that you need to set up your Food Engine then start having kids and, having done that, the game plays itself. With that said: this is the “Candyland” of worker placement games. If you’re introducing worker placement to friends? This is the game to do it with. Additionally, the theme, while not particularly interesting to me, is safe and family friendly. D&D might raise eyebrows with some of the gramma types, after all. (You may have to worry about jokes about how kids are made, when the time comes that you need to make new workers. There’s also the potential for the “I have wood, now I need sheep!” joke that anyone who’s played Settlers of Catan is already familiar with. If you can get past those two things, you’re golden.)
While it’s not to my taste, I can see how tons of folks out there would *LOVE* to have this on a shelf. If you’ve never played a worker-placement game: start with this one.
So… what are you playing?