Agricola : All Creatures Big & Small Review

Agricola : All Creatures Big & Small is the two person stand-alone board game version of the award winning Agricola.  Surprisingly, the game manages to keep both the theme and essence of Agricola while shortening the game length and number of players.  Overall, I’m a fan and have added it to my (limited) number of 2-player games.

Appearance: Those familiar with the Agricola artwork will find no surprises here.  Keeping to the same artist, Agricola : All Creatures Big & Small has a clean, clear design that is easy to follow.  In addition, the main board and tiles are of a good card stock, though the player boards are rather thin.  The design is clear and simple to understand, with players able to grasp the main mechanics using just the symbols on the board.   In addition, animal meeples are provided in the game which make differentiating between each animal type and the resources quite simple, speeding up gameplay and adding a touch of cute.

Rules / Ease of Learning: In All Creatures Big & Small, players start with 8 fences, a farm board and 3 family members that they will place on the main game board each turn.  As a worker placement game, players place the family members on the main game board to take the allocated resources or actions immediately.  Actions that are available include:

  • taking resources (wood, stone and wheat)
  • building a stall
  • upgrading stalls to stables
  • building one of the 4 special buildings
  • building fences
  • taking new fences & a farm land expansion
  • taking animals (4 actions with different animals in each section)
  • adding a feeding trough(s) to their farm land

Players can only keep animals if the animals are either kept in a building or in a fenced off location (exception, 1 animal can be kept next to a free-standing feeding trough).  In addition, animals may not be mixed together and are limited by the building / space on how many animals that can be kept at the location.  However, feeding troughs do double this number and one feeding trough can be placed per spot on the farm land map.  In addition, at the end of each round any animal type that a player has a pair or more of will breed a single additional animal that must be properly housed.

The player with the highest victory points at the end of the game wins, with scoring based on the number of animals a player has as well as building victory points and the amount of additional land completely used by a player.  Each of the animal types begin scoring points after a certain number, with all animals costing 3 victory points if players do not have a minimum of 4 of those animals.

Gameplay: Dry rules aside, how does the game play? Pretty well.  It’s a fast two player game that runs between 30 to 45 minutes each game.  It carries much of the same flavor / feel of the original Agricola so players familiar with that game will find picking up All Creatures Big & Small much easier.  Action choices in All Creatures though do not feel as ‘tight’ and the lack of a feeding phase for your workers reduces the tension in the overall game compared to Agricola.

For all that, All Creatures Big & Small is quite fun.  It’s a compact 2 player worker placement game that plays fast so it can be brought to most locations including cafes and can still provide a lot of enjoyment.  The choices can still be quite tough and after a dozen play I’m still looking at different strategies for winning as I adapt to my opponents moves.  With so few spaces, some level of ‘blocking’ can certainly be added to the game, though in the games we’ve played so far it’s not as prevalent.  I certainly can see some instances (and have had some occur) where blocking tactics have been brought to play but they often seem to be incidental to your own strategic needs.  Admittedly, it could just be the way we have played the games.

The only real concern is that the game could get stale after more plays.  With so few actions and special buildings, there are only a finite number of strategies available.  Sooner or later, especially with more experienced players, all the options would have been ‘played’.  Certainly, the expansion (More Buildings Big & Small) seems to be something you’ll want to add soon enough to keep variety in the gameplay.

Conclusion: Agricola : All Creatures Big & Small is a fun two player game that plays fast and is compact enough to carry around.  It’s fun; but there are concerns of how much replay value there might be in this game.  On the other hand, it’s also a great introduction game to worker placement.