I finally got my hands on a copy of Agricola. I wasn't too happy about paying the $70 for it but it feels pretty hefty so I guess I can't complain too much.
The bits are your standard Euro fare - little wooden circles, cubes and etc. I like the bits but we did get a little cube confusion towards the end of the game. I think that Z-man should have provided the Animeeples instead of the cubes (especially given the price of the game). Each player gets his own little card for his farm and a reference card. In the middle of the set up is a board which shows the actions that can be performed. The artwork is a little on the cartoony side but it sort of fits.
The rules are fairly well written with some examples although the examples are on the bottoms of some of the boards which doesn't help when you're actually playing the game. We did have some confusion about placement of the supplies (we did it in the reverse of what we were supposed to do). I think they would have been better served putting the examples in the book instead of on the boards. At the end of the rules are some clarifications of the text of the cards.
The game itself consists of 14 rounds (or turns) which is broken up into 6 phases. At the end of each phase is a harvest where you harvest your growth and feed your family. If you can't feed your family, you get deducted points as y0u get a begging card (I assume this is because you're begging your neighbors for food). Each family member gives you an action so the more you grow your family, the more you can do.
My complaints about the game:
1. When someone does an action, you can't perform that action yourself. While this makes sense in terms of the game, it doesn't make sense in terms of the theme. I should be able to plow and sow my fields even though someone else is. Same with adding to my house and building fences. I can understand limiting the other actions. Although I guess there are cards that let you do multiple things.
2. The minor improvements and occupations. You are dealt a set of these at the beginning of the game. If you are stuck with useless cards, there are no mechanism within the game to change them. (Although there are optional rules for this but they seem a bit harsh).
3. The timing of the game. Just as things are going swimmingly for your farm, the game is over. Would it kill designers of Euros to add a couple of turns to a game so that you can feel like you are doing something?
My likes of the game:
1. It actually feels thematic. I actually felt like I was running a farm. I had to get seeds to plant the fields. I had to plow the fields before I could plant them. I could turn that stuff into food.
2. I can make improvements to my farm. There is a pretty hefty variety of improvements in the game some seem unbalanced and some seem useless. These give a different feel to each of the farms.
3. The occupations. See above on improvements.
Yes, I was one of the folks that complained aobut this game. I even gave it a "1" on another gaming site at one point. But there was somewhat of a fascination with this game. The theme is not overly compelling but the game does fit the theme. It is a fun but frustrating game. Not the greatest game ever but certainly a solid game.