See 'n Say ad, 1983

The first true worker placement game (as far as I’m concerned) was called “Agricola“. It remains a lovely little game that is appropriate to bust out for any given evening that involves somewhere around four people and that’s if you know for a fact that each person has played something at least as complicated as Monopoly before this particular evening and gone on to win using the knowledge they had.

Here’s the basic conceit: you and your wife are running a farm. You need to generate enough food for you and your family and anything extra translates to nutrition points. There are a handful of other things, of course, that can generate nutrition points but the *MAIN* thing that generates points is the whole “have kids” thing (they don’t pay off in turn 2, but they sure as heck pay off in turns 3-5!) and the various residual issues that revolve around deliberately not being as deliberately dumb as everyone else who happens to be playing with you.

There’s no dice rolling. After the initial setup (that does involve *SOME* chance, insofar as different people are dealt different abilities), the die is cast. What happens is based on the choices you make rather than on whether you rolled a 1 or a 6 or a 20.

There are a lot of various choices to make as well. Enough to make you freeze up and say “I don’t know what I should do!” and/or “augh! all of these choices are unpleasant!”

On top of that, each choice you make will prevent your co-players from making the same choice. So if you decide to go fishing, nobody else will be able to go fishing.

You’re not really messing with your co-players that much… unless you consider making a choice that prevents them from making a choice to be messing with them.

At the end of the game, various points are counted up and people compare themselves to each other and the person with the most points wins.

The only real problem with the game is that the setting is a hair dull. I mean, you’re running a farm with your wife. What a game like this would need is a more fantastic setting to really be awesome… but we’ll get to that next week.

So… what are you playing?

(Picture is HG Wells playing a war game from Illustrated London News (25 January 1913))

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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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10 thoughts on “Saturday!

  1. If you’re going to invest in Agricola, I highly recommend investing in the Deluxe European Token Set and a set of meeples (two adults, three children in different colors which I can’t find a link for). The game comes with little colored wooden disks to represent people, cheese, cows, wheat, fish, etc., but I’ve found that the game is much more immersive and enjoyable with tokens that really look like people, cheese, cows, wheat, fish, etc.


    • Aha… thanks for the link, will definitely add that to our game this Christmas.

      Agricola is one of those great games where everyone can play out an idea and they might just win. Its maybe trite to say its a game that isn’t played to win, but that you win by playing; but I’ll say it.

      Simple enough that you can play with new people, complex enough that you can think ahead a few turns and devolve a possible strategy, but not so engrossing that you can’t just enjoy the folks you are playing with. Great with mixed generations too.


  2. My D&D group are playing Seafall as a palette cleanser. This is the first legacy game we’ve played and its a surreal experience in a lot of ways. Cards have been torn up, stickers placed on cards and the board and whole new mechanics have been added to the game out of sealed boxes.


  3. It sounds interesting, but I think I would like it better if I were the religious leader at a commune of a bunch of hippies, competing against other hippie communes.
    Then I could win religious converts from other communes, and send the VW van to get some booze every once in a while. A religious leader needs his booze, ya know.
    Otherwise, it sounds like a great game.


  4. I haven’t actually got to play it as much as I want, but Manhattan Project: Energy Empire is my worker placement game of choice. Unlike most WP games, you’re not locked out of a space when another player places a worker there–instead, you just have to pay extra energy to access it. My last game I went with a clean energy + Nuclear strategy and developed my commercial base, while my opponent drilled for oil and mined steel to fuel his industrial sector. The game was decided on a tiebreaker.


  5. Scramble around the appliance failure.

    Sometime yesterday we noticed that our refrigerator wasn’t running. Critical things like milk went into the cooler with ice. Sunday morning we called our appliance guy and left a message. Sunday afternoon he returned the call — he’d been up in the mountains out of cell coverage — and said he’d stop on his way home to see what parts were needed. When he got here he looked at the control board first* and it was obviously toast. “Not a problem,” he said. “With these it’s always the control board, and it’s the same board for lots of models, so I just keep a half-dozen of them in my SUV.” Replacement board in, things getting cold again.

    The board was silly expensive for what it is, but at least it was available. The refrigerator is 12 years old. A friend had the controller fail in a fancy seven-year-old range. In that case, the manufacturer had stopped making the boards after five years, and the inventory was gone. None available through the repair inventory networks, none on eBay. They had to replace the range. My friend is now an advocate for the right-to-repair movement, demanding that manufacturers provide all of the data necessary for owners to reproduce the control boards and software, at least functionally, once the manufacturer quits building them.

    Given how often appliance failures are the control board, and that finding replacements can be problematic, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe when I buy a new appliance I should just routinely get on eBay and buy a replacement control board to tuck away until needed.

    * One of the big capacitors in the power supply section had obviously failed and at some point the voltage regulators probably shut down. The cap had leaked electrolyte, which had scorched. That probably explains the occasional “something’s burning” smell that would come and go a few weeks ago that we never could pin down.


  6. Went to Nerd Castle (literally, stayed in the top floor of a tower).
    Lords of Waterdeep
    King of Tokyo
    Dominions Intrigue

    Playing games with two people often isn’t a lot of fun (caged some other guests for King of Tokyo and Snakeoil).


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