The first game of the evening was Ice Flow, the cute strategy game where players have to cross the Bering Straight from Alasaka to Siberia by jumping from ice floe to ice floe. We had played a quick game last time just before we finished, and this game started the same way as that one with Black making all the running and Red following on behind. The first explorer home was Black with a Yellow explorer was hot on her heels. Black’s remaining two explorers were very close to home though and ready to pounce. This meant that Yellow was forced to try a bit of blocking to prevent Black and Red getting home, but unfortunately it needed a couple of moves too many and it was an easy win for the Black as the youngest player, with Red a close second.
The other game we played was the “Feature Game”, Agricola, which is a highly regarded game about farming in the middle ages and since half the players hadn’t played it before, it was very much a learning game. The idea is that players are medieval farmers living in a two room wooden hut with their spouse. Life is hard, and success is measured by the quality and size of your home, the number of animals you keep, and your ability to put your land to good use. However, your priority is simply to get enough food to survive and survival is difficult without resorting to begging. Each round, the family go out to work to try to obtain materials to improve their homestead or to work on the land to avoid starvation, but there are always lots of things players want to do, and never enough turns. To make matters worse, at intervals during the game, there is a harvest when the animals breed and the grain is brought in, but everyone has to be fed.
It was quite difficult for the players who had not played it before to grasp how to start, but Cyan and White started out collecting all the wood, while Green hoarded all the clay. In the absence of anything better, Blue scraped together enough wood to extend her hut and decided engaged in a little procreation which meant she could send the children out to work on the land and an early age. Meanwhile Cyan moved into animal husbandry building lots of fences and breeding sheep while Green got all house proud building a clay oven and extending and renovating his hut from a wooden shack to a brick cottage. Unfortunately Green failed to use his shiny new oven before harvest so famine arrived and his burgeoning family had to beg to survive. Although Cyan had a very impressive flock of sheep, without an oven, her family were forced to live on fish and it showed in the final score. Green’s large family and building a huge paddock in the last round offset some of his five begging cards and he came home a close third, however, Blue ran out clear winner 11 points ahead of White in second place.
Learning Outcome: You needed to do a little bit of everything to be a successful farmer in the middle ages.