Agricola by Z-Man Games
I have to say that there is nothing quite like spending a warm summer evening sipping iced tea, eating watermelon, and playing a strategic agriculture-based Eurogame with family and friends. Being a city girl through and through I was a bit slow on the uptake of the concepts of farming, building, and harvesting in Agricola, but once I got into the groove of the game it was fun and engaging.
Basically in Agricola you and your spouse have settled in a little wooden house on a piece of land, and your goal is to cultivate the land, raise animals, have kids, and make some home improvements. Each of these elements is worth victory points; moreover, you receive a penalties if you don't have some of everything. The game works in phases, each one allowing you opportunities to take new actions (plant a field, acquire livestock, build a fence etc.) and each phase ends in a harvest when you will be expected to reap the fruits of your labor and have enough food to feed your family. The game ends at the end of the final harvest phase, and the player with the most victory points wins.
It was highly entertaining to watch the strategies my friends and family tried to use. For example, my younger brother decided that it would be beneficial for him to expand his house and have more kids so that they could help "work" the farm (the number of actions you can take on your turn directly corresponds to how many family members you have) but he was always in a wild panic come harvest time because he would not have enough food to feed his giant family. His stress increased as harvest came sooner and sooner with each phase of the game, but he was always able to barely scrape by. I hope that this is not a reflection of how he will provide for his real family in the future.
Overall, we all enjoyed the game. It was the first time playing for most of us, so from explanation of the rules to declaration of the winner it took a little over 3 hours to complete the game. Hopefully the next time we play we'll be able to take faster turns and the game will move along more quickly. As the manufacturer recommends, this game would be best for ages 12+ due to it's pace and the amount of reading involved.
Below is the picture of our actual game. Please excuse the random food and napkins :)