Flashback Friday - Agricola and an Interview with Hanno Girke

Flashback Friday - Agricola and an Interview with Hanno Girke Hot

Mr Skeletor     
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It's Flashback Friday. Do you still play Agricola? Did you ever play Agricola?

Also, for your amusement, this interview with Hanno Girke, originally published January 29, 2008. 


The Hot Throne: 20 Questions with Hanno!

The John the Baptist of the gaming world, Hanno Girke, leaves the comforts of the farm to come have a friendly fireside chinwag with Mr Skeletor and answer 20 questions.

1) Who are you, what do you do and what are you currently working on? This may be the only time I give you to pimp your shit so make the most of it!

Well, you already told your readers who I am. D'oh. Well, I repeat it for your sake. I'm Hanno. Yeah, that Hanno. I work as a freelance translator, mainly for Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary. Right now, I'm busy with some M:tG translations for a set whose name is not yet released and the Morningtide novel. In my spare time, I run a small game company called Lookout Games. You know, one of those businesses where you're CEO and support help desk at the same time. We're doing about one or two new boardgames and one cardgame per year, and our latest release happened to be the FA antichrist "Agricola".


2) In your opinion does the term "eurogame" hold any meaning anymore? Robert Klarer (Juniper) recently explained what he sees as the division between "German style games" and "eurogames", which basically boiled down to Agricola and Carcassone having very little in common and thus shouldn't be in the same category. Do you agree with this? Are the audiences for both games the same or different? Can you see Agricola reaching the same level of mainstream German popularity as Carcassone has, or is it too much of a different beast?

I don't give any holy grail for labels like "Eurogame" or "German Game" other than for production issues. 
It's not easy to compare Agricola and Carcassonne. They have some things in common: first of all, both games just call for expansions. Both games try to score high on replayability. And so on. Both come from smaller game companies. Both were not expected to have any major influence on the gaming market.

But, Carcassonne developed into a mass-market game. It's a good game, but now it's mainly a cash cow. I still buy most of the expansions, though they don't hit the table at all.

I have no clue if Agricola will ever reach that level. I would love it. Not for the monetary benefits that would come with it, but I'd indulge in the fact that complex games win back against mainstream games. Hey, one-third of the rulebook (the appendix) is printed in font size 6. We haven't seen that since long gone old Avalon Hill days.


3) You didn't really become famous until you cracked the shits on BGG over the Agircola ratings prank, where people who had never played the game gave it a low rating as a joke upon the people who were at BGG con.

Really? I thought I was even famous before that. I will have to fire my public relations weasels and to rewrite my Wikipedia entry. Thanks for letting me know.

Well, I'd never heard of you. You seemed to really take that prank to heart and felt it caused a lot of damage to potential sales. In hind site do you think you overreacted or were you claims justified? Just how much influence does a site like BGG have on sales, and if it is a lot do you think that is healthy for the hobby?

Yes and no. This happened late November, some 4 weeks after the release. At first, I just didn't get the joke. And reacted in a more drastic fashion than everyone expected. Probably you can call that the American way: Shoot first, apologize later. Alas, my main point still stands: Pranks are not at all funny if people don't get it. Play pranks on your homies, not on innocent bystanders.

On the influence of sites like BGG on sales: I can't give you any numbers, because I don't have any. But: without BGG, ZMan's preorder system wouldn't have been popular enough to warrant an English edition of the game. At least not for 2008.


4) Do you think that the fact there is only 1 real board game site a bad thing since it ends up holding a monopoly on board game online public opinion? It does seem that if you or your game gets a bad reputation on BGG it can be a disaster for a small publisher - like what happened with Stein Thompson games.

Is this true? Well, maybe for the English speaking community. Other communities are more diverse. Go and check luding.org - that's a meta-site that just lists the plain data to each game and links to reviews on other websites.


5) You're most quoted line is "Do you also think it's a fun prank if all the folks who you played this prank on call your mom tomorrow and condole her while telling her you passed away eating your own shit at BGG.con?". It seemed to be quite a gloriously harsh line to be going in with so early; normally you wait until after a few blows before you bring mothers and shit eating into the mix. Schweig however in your defense claimed, "When Germans curse they use a lot of fecal terms as opposed to English speakers who are more aligned towards words cursing in sexual terms, at least twenty years ago." Is this true? And does this help explain why German porn tends to be very... bizarre by western standards?

I have no clue who that Schweig swank is. I tried to find out what those pranksters thought to be funny. I imagined them the way I visualize the standard inhabitants of the Orcish Frat House. (If you don't know the Orcish Frat House, you're probably not Ameritrash enough to have earned the right to continue reading any further.) So I tried to find an example those pranksters might understand. Sorry (shoot, I said that word) if I overestimated anyone's capability.

And sorry if this is another disappointment for you: I have no clue what kind of German porn you get to see in Australia and what you consider "western standards".

Well if you ever come to Australia and take a chick back to your hotel room, I don't advise attempting to shit on her chest or pee in her shoes.

I probably wouldn't do that, as I was successful potty-trained. Plus, in Germany, we use something called a "toilet". Maybe this is too innovative for Australia?

And no, I don't want to know what you do with poultry in your hotel room.

Ohh-la-dee-dah Mr. European man, a "toilet". Actually, when I went around Europe most "toilets" were a fucking hole in the ground that I had to squat over, even at supposed high-class places like the Moulin Rouge. I'll stick to my good old outdoor tin shed dunny thanks.

6) While Ameritrash games like to blow shit up, Eurogames tend to have very non-confrontational themes and gameplay. Do you think this is due to Germany's shame over the Nazi party, the fact they just got sick of losing wars, or another reason? Why have German's seemingly become a pack of peace-loving pussies who dream of building churches and kissing noble ass?

Good question. Why do you insist on using an apostrophe for a plural?

Hey. You're talking to the guy who made Bohnanza into a war game. I thought you didn't want to give me a second chance to "pimp my shit", but try playing "Bohnaparte". You can even use plastic pieces instead of cardboard counters. No tanks, but at least cannons, infantry, cavalry, fortifications... you're barking up the wrong tree.

Because apostrophes are Ameritrash, just like capital letters. Bohnanza is one of those rare games that I think works perfect as it comes in the box and have had no desire to look at the expansions for, even if they do involve mass slaughter of beans. It just seems like it would take away from the core gameplay, but maybe I will give them a try.


7) The German government is very strict on the removal of Nazi images and propaganda in Germany, which means many German wargame fans have a hard time acquiring many of the old Avon Hill WW2 games, and modern publishers have to be careful how they develop their WW2 games (using the Iron Cross for the Germans instead of a Swastika for example.) What is your stance on this, is your government justified in taking such measures or do you think it impedes too much on a person's civil liberties?

Every country gets the government it deserves. And do you really want to start a discussion on Hobbes, Locke and Voltaire here? I assume that most of your readers think of Hobbes as Calvin's tiger anyway. 

The term "civil liberties" can be stressed. But as long as there's still a strong neo-fascist movement in Germany, I'm totally fine to give up my rights to brag with Nazi symbols for the common attempt to fight those wienerheads.


8) In Agroicola if you have a child you must build it a room to sleep in unless you have that child on your 2nd action, in which case it can sleep in a room with an adult for that end of turn only.

Wrong. I think I'll have Melissa spank your sorry butt for not listening while she taught you the rules. Bad puppy.

Bah, if the game had more story I'd remember. Anyway, it seems that the time period of going from an infant to teenager is half a turn. There is, however, no such restriction with animals; baby animals can stay in an adults room for more than half a turn, meaning it's a fully grown animal that is staying in the same room as an adult. When you combine this with the fact that the mommy and daddy piece don't sleep in the same room, and when we take a look at the farmer on the cover of Agricola, can we say beyond a shadow of a doubt that Uwe's greatest achievement is that he has brought a game about animal fucking to the masses?

Uwe has done many interesting games. Think about "Yellowstone Park" where all the wild animals are heavy on dope. Or his masterpiece "We're pregnant (by Uwe Rosenberg)".


9) Which nightmare scenario keeps you up all night more:

a) You wake up one day to find yourself in a bathtub full of ice with a letter telling you not to move, as the Russian mafia had abducted you and took your liver to sell on the black market. To make matters worse whoever stitched you up didn't do a very good job and left your entrails hanging out, and in the dim light, you spot a German Shepard gnawing on the end of them, slowly chewing his way along them towards you....


b) You wake up one day to find Agricola has slipped 100 points on the BGG rankings.

The answer is (c) I wake up to find out that I'm an honorary member of F:AT - and that I honestly deserved it.


10) Director Uwe Boll challenged his critics to a boxing match last year, where he proceeded to pummel the shit out of them. Would you jump at the chance to box Michael Barnes and I, and if so which of us do you think you could KO quicker?

Uwe Boll? I thought he was a ping pong pro.
I would jump at the chance to play Wrasslin' against Michael Barnes and you, and I will KO both of you even if you play as a tag team.

11) It has been claimed that Agricola is the greatest game ever invented, made farming sexy again, cured people of blindness in Romania and beat up Chuck Norris in a fist fight. If Agricola is so good then why does Zman need to implement a pre-order scheme to print it in English? Isn't this game a license to print money?

We need the money to finance world domination. This all is a sinister plot. Thanks to your investigative journalism, it is now revealed. You should get a Pulitzer for that, at least.


12) There have been several complaints raised on BGG about the cost of Agricola. Are you and Zev ripping people off or are the Eurosnoots simply the biggest pack of tight asses known to man?

Man, that's capitalism. The manufacturer rips me off. The graphic designer rips me off, too. Uwe Rosenberg rips me off for royalties. So I rip off Zev for a license fee, and Zev rips off his customers.

On the other hand, the complaints at BGG were mostly blatant attempts by FA:T sheep to earn a few troll points. Boys, you can do better. Try harder.

There's also the fact that I hate trees so much. One of my lifetime goals is to cut down all the trees in the world and make them into wooden cubes, meeples and an(t)imeeples. Unfortunately, this is expensive. More expensive than having child slaves manufacture beautiful plastic pieces in China.


13) So you think Agricola works better with colored cubes for animals, rather than having magnificent plastic ones that actually look like animals?

I don't care if it works better or not. Trees must die. Therefore, there will be magnificent wooden animals in future editions of Agricola.

14) If Agricola was printed in China (like the first printing of the Decennial edition of El Grande) about how much would this have potentially shaved off the cost of Agricola?

Maybe a couple of Yen. It would have added 6 weeks for shipping and a couple of days haggling with customs.


15) You win the license from Stalone to make a board game for John Rambo (aka Rambo 4). What kind of game do you make with the license, and Auction game or a resource management game?

Rambo 4 has no plot. So it has to be an abstract game where you just use the images and names. Unfortunately, there's just the chance of a snowball in hell to make this a train game, otherwise, I'd do that. 

If I had the ASL license, too, I'd make it an Up Front stand-alone expansion.

16) The Scepter of Zavandor is a game where players play wizards bent on acquiring the most power so they can become an archmage. Despite the theme, the designer managed to develop the game with no Ameritrash attributes what so ever - how the hell did Jen's manage to do that?!?!

Hey - blame this on Jim Hlavaty, the designer of Outpost. Wait, ain't this an American game? All that Jens did was to streamline the game from 5 hours down to 3 hours and solve the leader runaway problem.

If I also may ask a question: Ameritrash games like Risk tend to have pink plastic pieces. Doesn't that make those games really girlish? And why are there no female inmates on F:AT? Is there any coincidence?

What better color in Risk to represent the French than pink?

As to there being no female inmates on F:AT... well normally here I'd crack a joke at Ubarose's 

expense but with the moods she's been in since working on the site, I'll not risk my testicles.


17) Can you loan me $50?

US$ or AU$? I knew that you're a cheapass to buy Agricola at some internet discounter for $44 plus shipping instead of paying $60 pre-order to make me rich.


18) If I design a board game about the exciting world of collecting road taxes while riding a lame donkey in the middle ages, do you think this would get me magical immunity from being banned on Board Game Geek?

Give it a try. Send me a prototype, I might publish it. As long as there are no pink pieces in it and I can cut down some trees.


19) Will we ever see Lookout Games publish some nice violent Ameritrash titles or are you going to expand your range by publishing a title where you build a church for the local community?

I would love to publish a game like "The Awful Green Things From Outer Space," if this qualifies for Ameritrash. We'll probably stay in our range of games: Train Games, Uwe Rosenberg games, and new editions of games I always liked that are out-of-print.

So no church-building for you, but probably neither a burning-down-churches game.

I haven't played it, but I'm pretty sure Awful Green Things is an AT title. If you do reprint it just make sure you don't change it to "Awful Brown Things", I don't need you upsetting my mother again.


20) Any final words for our readers?

"Where'd that elf go?", said Brion.

Well, that was strangely tame.


Thanks to Hanno Girke for participating.

Flashback Friday - Agricola and an Interview with Hanno Girke There Will Be Games
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Posted: 22 Jun 2018 05:52 by Josh Look #276001
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I actually *like* worker placement games and I don’t play Agricola anymore. For all it’s variability with the cards you get, it’s still really scripted. You have to plan to grow your family and do so as soon as you can. In all my many plays of the game, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who doesn’t do that win. Also, the “You have to do everything and you’re punished for not doing something” angle of the game has wore out its welcome for me.

For worker placement I will play Champions of Midgard (with expansions), Raiders of the North Sea, or Tzolk’in, all of which are top tier for the genre.
Posted: 22 Jun 2018 07:59 by ubarose #276011
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I play it maybe once or twice a year at my monthly game group, which is predominantly Euro-game players. It is one of those "touchstone" games. Everyone knows how to play, and the rules a pretty intuitive, so all it takes is a quick rules refresh to start playing.

I mostly enjoy the toy aspect of the game. I like building my farm and playing with all the little animals.
Posted: 22 Jun 2018 09:39 by Joebot #276027
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I sincerely hope to never, ever play the board game again.

HOWEVER, I still play the iOS app a lot, especially the single-player mode. It's a great way to play, because it turns the game from a boring board game into a fun, thinky puzzle. Over the course of successive rounds, you have to surpass an increasingly higher score, in order to advance to the next round. And it even has a bit of a "level up" flavor, in that you're allowed to keep one Occupation card from each round. So by the sixth round, you've got five Occupation cards in play at the start ... but, you have to score, like, 75 points or whatever. I like it a lot. This is pretty much the only way I'll play Agricola anymore.
Posted: 22 Jun 2018 10:00 by Colorcrayons #276028
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Without timestamps, I'm having difficulties knowing what's a timewarp admin post or if an old poster created a new article from old content.
Posted: 22 Jun 2018 10:16 by SuperflyTNT #276031
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I unashamedly love Agricola and my only complaint is that you’re forced to be a jack of all trades instead of specializing. Granted, I don’t think the game would work well if you could just build a sheep engine and pump them out indefinitely, but the final scoring seems oppressive.

If I had time, I’d like to create a MDK deck which includes pesticide, poison, and fire cards which you can build to respectively kill fields, kill animals, and burn buildings to the ground. That would make the game so much more fun for me.
Posted: 22 Jun 2018 10:44 by ubarose #276032
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I actually had no interest in ever playing Agricola, until I read this interview. I figured, if the publisher has that sense of humor, the game can't be all bad. The interview still, literally makes me laugh out loud when I read it. Also, Hanno sent me the X-deck, to make the game more Ameritrashy.
Posted: 22 Jun 2018 12:40 by Jexik #276037
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Awesome! Whatever happened to Skeletor?
Posted: 22 Jun 2018 13:01 by charlest #276038
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He's still very active on BGG. You can find him in the various forums for massive plastic Kickstarter games.
Posted: 22 Jun 2018 13:02 by Shellhead #276039
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Jexik wrote:
Awesome! Whatever happened to Skeletor?

He rage-quit F:AT many years ago. I can't remember why. I believe there have been occasional sightings of him in specific game discussion threads at BGG since then.
Posted: 22 Jun 2018 13:30 by WadeMonnig #276040
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ubarose wrote:
I actually had no interest in ever playing Agricola, until I read this interview. I figured, if the publisher has that sense of humor, the game can't be all bad. The interview still, literally makes me laugh out loud when I read it. Also, Hanno sent me the X-deck, to make the game more Ameritrashy.
I swear everyone who wanted me to try Agricola described it as "well, it's a pretty dry, somewhat boring Euro that I really like." Wow, don't oversell it TOO much.
Posted: 22 Jun 2018 13:47 by ubarose #276041
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WadeMonnig wrote:
ubarose wrote:
I actually had no interest in ever playing Agricola, until I read this interview. I figured, if the publisher has that sense of humor, the game can't be all bad. The interview still, literally makes me laugh out loud when I read it. Also, Hanno sent me the X-deck, to make the game more Ameritrashy.
I swear everyone who wanted me to try Agricola described it as "well, it's a pretty dry, somewhat boring Euro that I really like." Wow, don't oversell it TOO much.

I guess it depend upon how you look at it. Mr. Skeletor argues that it is a game about f**king.
Posted: 22 Jun 2018 14:04 by Jexik #276043
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charlest wrote:
You can find him in the various forums for massive plastic Kickstarter games.

HAHA. Well that explains why I haven't seen him.
ubarose wrote:
I guess it depend upon how you look at it. Mr. Skeletor argues that it is a game about f**king.

I call this the Stone Age fallacy. superfly has to play Agricola now.
Posted: 22 Jun 2018 16:27 by repoman #276045
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Played it twice. Hated it both times and spent half the game just wishing it would end.

I've no problem with worker placement. I love Dominant Species.
Posted: 22 Jun 2018 17:13 by ecargo #276049
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I still love Agricola. It's among my favorites. I am an unabashed Uwe fangirl.
Posted: 22 Jun 2018 18:57 by SuperflyTNT #276052
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Jexik wrote:
charlest wrote:
You can find him in the various forums for massive plastic Kickstarter games.

HAHA. Well that explains why I haven't seen him.
ubarose wrote:
I guess it depend upon how you look at it. Mr. Skeletor argues that it is a game about f**king.

I call this the Stone Age fallacy. superfly has to play Agricola now.

He’s right. It’s about animals, plants, and people fucking. Legitimately.

I love it.
Posted: 24 Jun 2018 16:01 by The King in Yellow #276101
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Makes me miss Mr. Skeletor, even if he was a hot-head. I forgot how damn funny he was. I fondly remember when he changed his avatar to his namesake humping a statue of a pregnant Britney Spears on BGG until they banned him.
Posted: 13 Jul 2018 12:28 by Pat II #277471
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I enjoy Agricola. I play it quite regularly with my elsest daughter. I sold Caverna though. It's a decent game but more forgiving than Agricola.