You may have already discovered whether or not i find the venerable farming game Agricola any fun, but how do you actually play it? The game is reasonably simple to teach, and takes less time than i’ve spent here, because i made sure to cover off some variants and curb cases. If you’re teaching the game in person, i recommend starting with the endgame scoring, explaining the common and Stage 1 actions, and then diving right in!

(click to view transcript)

Hi! It’s Ryan from Nights Around a Table, and this is Agricola, a worker placement subsistence farming simulation board game, for 1-4 players, or 1-5 players, depending on the version you own. I’ll be showing you the original version of the game with some upgraded components, but you might own the Revised Edition. My family member pieces are round discs with stickers on them, while yours may look like little farmers. My boards are separate, while yours may jigsaw together. My fences are fat, while yours may be skinny. My copy has three huge decks of cards, while the Revised Edition has a thinned-out selection of cards. Wherever possible, i’ve tried to use cards and components that are common to both versions, so this video will teach you the game regardless of which copy you own. So… let me show you how to play!

You and your friends play farmers in the 1600s who are struggling to build their little farms and keep their families fed year after year. You’ll be travelling to town to gain resources that will enable you to expand and upgrade your farmhouse, have babies, build fences and stables, breed and eat livestock, grow vegetables, hire contractors, and make minor and major improvements to your farm. But the spaces in town are limited and exclusive, and you’ll have to duke it out with your fellow farmers to get all the stuff you need. Every year, harvest time seems to come sooner and sooner, and you’ll always have a number of hungry mouths to feed. If you’re short on food, you’ll have to go begging for it and lose points. At the end of the game, you’ll earn points for how large and varied your farm is, and you’ll LOSE points for how large and varied it isn’t. Whoever has the most points after the final harvest wins!


Your starting digs include a patch of undeveloped land, with a humble two-room wooden farmhouse and two family members. The common board changes depending on the number of players you have, but it generally depicts a number of spaces with actions you can choose. Each round, you and the other players will take turns placing one family member on an action space and performing that action. More and more powerful actions become available as the game progresses. All of the spaces can only be used once per round, so if someone takes the spot you want, you’ll have to wait until the next round after everyone has cleared out of town to try to get that spot again.

That’s the whole main game loop: you deal out a new action for the next round. Sometimes that space gets a new resource or animal on it that someone can take. Certain spaces have red arrows on them, which means you fill them up with the depicted goods… so certain ‘accumulation’ spaces can grow more and more valuable the longer they’re ignored. The first player places a family member, and then everyone in clockwise order follows suit, and you keep going around the table until everyone is out of family members. Then, everyone takes their family members back to their farm. If a harvest happens at the end of this round, you harvest your crops, feed your family, and breed your livestock. Then you start again from the top, placing a new action card, paying down all the resources the board requires, and beginning again with the starting player placing a family member, until you’ve played through all 14 rounds and the game ends.

As you can imagine, turn order is really important in this game, because whoever goes first gets to pick the best spot. Thankfully, there’s a space in town that lets you become first player. i’ll show that space to you in a bit. Let’s dive right in and see what all the action spaces do, and that’ll teach you the finer points of the game.


There are a bunch of different resources in the game, including wood, stone, reed, clay, food, sheep, boars, and cattle. There are fence pieces for penning in your animals, and stables that help you house your critters. There are tiles that let you expand your farmhouse, and extra tokens that represent additional family members. Having more family members means that you can take more actions in a round, but it also means you’ll have to scrounge together more food to keep everyone’s bellies full.

So place a family member here to take all the wood on the space. This space accrues 3 wood every single round, so as the game goes on, if nobody chooses this space, that wood can really pile up. So the minimum number of wood tokens you can get here is three.

It’s the same with these three spots: place here to get a minimum of 1 clay, here for a minimum of 1 reed, and here for a minimum of 1 food.

The Day Laborer action gets you 2 food, but notice that there isn’t a red arrow on this space. That means that food won’t accrue here every round – the most food you’ll ever get here is 2 tokens.

This space lets you play an occupation card from your hand.

You begin the game with seven of these occupation cards, all of which represent a labourer you can hire to provide some sort of perk or benefit to your farm. Taking this action lets you play one of these cards. The first one you play is free. If you take this action and play an occupation on a later round, you’ll always pay 1 food to do so. FIRST ONE’S FREE, MAAAN. We’ll take a closer look at what some of these occupation cards do a little later on.

The Plow 1 field action lets you take one of these plowed field tiles and cover up any green space on your farm. Crops can’t grow in untilled soil, so you’ll need to churn the earth if you want to plant any crops later on. And if you already have 1 or more plowed fields when you take this action, the next field you plow has to be adjacent to an existing plowed field.

At the end of the game, each space on your board left undeveloped costs you a point, so plowing your fields is one way to avoid a negative score.

Take this action to gain 1 grain from the supply. That grain’s not going to do you much good unless you plant it or bake it into bread, which we’ll talk about shortly.

Place your family member here to wrest first player privileges from whichever son of a jerk is first player right now. This doesn’t instantly make you first player – it means you’ll take the precious and coveted start player… uh… cylinder… to become first player starting at the beginning of the next round.

Optionally, when you take this spot, you can play one minor improvement card. In addition to your hand of occupation cards, you have a hand of minor improvement cards. These cards do exactly what’s on the tin: they provide some small boost to your farm to increase its efficiency. Some minor improvement cards are free to play, and some will cost you resources – if they do, that cost is listed up here. Some minor improvements have a prerequisite to play them – if so, that appears up here in the top left. In addition to the benefits they provide, some minor improvements also earn you endgame points.

I won’t go over all of them, but here are a few of the minor improvements:

You can play the Big Country card if you’ve used up every farmyard space on your board. You get 1 bonus point and 2 food for each round left in the game. We’ll see what counts as a “used” farm space in a bit.

The Wool Blankets improvement requires 2 sheep, and scores you more points if you have a wood house than if you have a more energy-efficient clay or stone house by the end of the game. More on home renos in just a sec.

And the Shifting Cultivation card lets you plow one of your fields right away, but you have to pass the card on to the player on your left, and the card goes in that player’s hand.

And while we’re at it, here are a few of the occupation cards in the game:

The Mushroom Collector lets you pick mushrooms off the town’s timber, so you can trade 1 of the wood logs you collect for 2 food.

The Seasonal Worker gets you grain and veggies from the Day Laborer action space, depending on which round you’re on.

And playing the Grocer lets you stack a pile of stuff on top of the card. You can buy this stuff from him at any time, from the top down, by paying 1 food for each item.

If you really, really like Agricola, there are literally thousands of extra cards you can buy for the game in expansions and promo packs.

The most complex of the standard spaces is this one: the Build Room(s) and/or Build Stable(s) space. Let’s look at the rules of building rooms and stables separately.


Your farmhouse can be made of either wood, clay, or stone. At the beginning of the game, everyone’s hut is made of wood, but there’s an action that appears later in the game that will let you renovate your home to use one of the other materials. And it’s all-or-nothing – you can’t have a farmhouse that’s a mix of different materials. It’s either entirely wood, entirely clay, or entirely stone.

When you take this action, you can build as many rooms in your farmhouse as you want or can afford to. If your house is made of wood, you pay 5 wood and 2 reed per room. If you’ve already upgraded it to clay, it costs 5 clay and 2 reed per room, and 5 stone and 2 reed per room if you have a stone house.

The rooms must connect adjacently to your home’s existing rooms, so they can go like this, or like this, or like this, for example. Diagonal adjacency is a no-go.

Building extra rooms in your house is one way to avoid losing points for undeveloped land at the end of the game, and houses built of better materials are worth more points. But the most compelling reason to expand your house is that later in the game, actions that let you gain extra family members become available, and each new family member you birth out needs its own room in your house. You can build as many rooms as you want to, but keep in mind that the size of your family caps out at 5 family members before daddy finally gets the snip.

This space also lets you build stables. The stables cost two wood apiece, and you have four of them that you can build. They can go on any empty space on your board, as long as the space doesn’t have a room… or a field on it. Each space can hold one stable at a max. Stables can also go inside fenced pastures – we’ll see how fences work shortly. An unfenced stable can hold 1 animal.

This section of the board has additional action spaces depending on your player count. In a 4-player game, these additional actions are available off the top of the game. They should be easy to understand at this point, but notice that this Occupation space is slightly more expensive than the default one: if you place here, your first occupation costs you one food, and each occupation you play later using this space costs you two.


Now for the rest of the actions. The game is divided into six stages – one, two, three, four, five, six – and so you split out the round cards into those different stages and shuffle them up in those piles. That means that the same four actions will always come out in stage 1, but you can never be sure in which order they’ll arrive. Here’s one possible way they could be dealt out as the game progresses through the first four rounds.

This is the space where you can pay to build fences, so that you can raise animals on your farm and prevent them from running away before you can eat them. Each piece of wood you pay at this moment buys you 1 fence. If you’ve already created some pastures on a past turn, your new pastures have to be built orthogonally adjacent to your existing pastures. Diagonal fencing is not allowed. Your fences have to fully enclose something – no danglers. You can’t rope off fields – nobody’s worried about their vegetables running away – but your fences can certainly border your fields if you need them to.

A fenced-off pasture can hold 2 animals of a single type. If the pasture is 2 squares, it can hold 4 animals. 3 squares can accommodate 6 animals, and so on. You can’t mix different types of animals inside the same pasture, because that’s how you get some freaky Dr. Moreau nonsense going on. You can encapsulate a stable that you’d built previously, or you can build the fences first and add a stable later. A stable doubles the number of animals a pasture can hold. So this pasture can hold two animals, but add a stable, and it can hold four.

If you build fences again on a later turn, you’re allowed to drop fence segments in to subdivide the pastures you’ve already fenced off. Once your fences are down though, you can’t move – or remove – them for the rest of the game. And each player is limited to building 15 fences total.

Take this action to grab however many sheep are on the space – minimum 1 sheep. You can’t just let your livestock roam free in an open field – you’re gonna need some fences or a stable – but by default, your house can store 1 animal as a pet. So until you build fences or stables, this sheep’s gonna cuddle with you on the couch while you watch HGTV together. Having an animal in the house doesn’t displace any family members.



This space lets you build either a minor improvement from your hand… or one of the major improvements available from this common board.

Just like the minor improvements, the major improvements have a cost listed here. They’re each worth a certain number of points, which shows up here. Since they’re common to all players, these major improvements are first come, first served. A few major improvements have extra copies, but it’s still a bit of a race. The first person to buy the Cooking Hearth pays 4 clay, while the second Cooking Hearth sells for 5 clay. Alternatively, you can build the Fireplace, and then use it to pay for one of the Cooking Hearths later. The Fireplace goes back on the board where another player – or perhaps you – can buy it again later.

Most of these major improvements are different types of ovens that let you convert the resources in your supply to different amounts of food, so you can feed your family. You can convert a grain or a vegetable to 1 food at any time, but that’s the worst possible exchange rate in the game. A major improvement like the fireplace lets you convert a vegetable to two food tokens. And it may surprise you to learn that you can’t just wander out into your pastures and take a bite out of a wild boar – you have to cook your animals before you can eat them. Building different ovens lets you convert your animals into various amounts of food depending on their type.

Some of these major improvements even let you convert non-food resources into food – the idea being that you’ve opened an Etsy shop, and you’re selling crafts to feed your family. So the Joinery lets you convert wood to food at harvest time by selling your Live/Laugh/Love driftwood sculptures, and the Pottery lets you do the same thing, except with clay. The Basketmaker’s Workshop lets you essentially eat reed. The Well lets you pepper the action spaces with food tokens that you gain as the game goes on.

There are 10 major improvements up for grabs, but in the original version of the game, the moment the 9th major improvement gets bought, the last one becomes unavailable and you flip the board. You place the last unbought major improvement here. The rest of this stuff just reminds everyone of how endgame scoring works. This last improvement rule isn’t in effect in the Revised Edition.

This sow action lets you take grain and/or vegetable tokens from your personal supply and plant them in your plowed fields. It’s one token per field. You can only plant something in an empty field, but you can plant as many things as you can afford or want to in a single go. When you plant one of your grain tokens, you get to add two more grain tokens from the general supply on top. Vegetables are tougher to grow. When you plant a vegetable, you add one vegetable from the general supply. You’ll reap one of these crop tokens per field each harvest time until you run out of tokens on the field in order to feed your hungry family.

If you’ve built an improvement to your farm that has this bread icon, then in addition to, or instead of, sowing, you can use the grain in your supply to bake bread. So you’re converting the grain into a certain number of food tokens, depending on the exchange rate on the improvement you’ve built. You can’t use your planted grain to do this – that grain is still growing, and is sort of locked into your farm until harvest time. 1 grain is always worth 1 food, but baking it into bread lets you squeeze 2, 3, 4, or even 5 food tokens out of it. You can only bake bread if you take an action that explicitly says “Bake bread” – this isn’t an inherent ability of your oven that you can use any time, like the conversions higher up on the card.


At the end of each round, everyone takes their family member tokens back to their farm, and you deal a new action out to the next empty space. Then you begin again, taking turns placing your family members, starting with the first player, who may now be a different person, depending on whether someone took that starting player action. If no one took that space, the first player remains the first player. When all of the rounds of Stage 1 are finished and everyone has placed their final family members, it’s harvest time.

Harvest goes through three phases:

In phase 1, you get to reap your fields. If you have any fields with grain or vegetables growing in them, pop 1 token off the top of the stack and put it in your personal supply. If you pluck the last token off your field, the field stays plowed. This is also the moment when some of your occupations or improvements, like the Basketmaker’s Workshop, may let you convert certain supplies into food.

In phase 2, you have to feed your hungry family. Each of your family members eats 2 food. Pay the food tokens to the supply. Remember that a grain or veggie token can convert to 1 food if need be. If you’re short on food, or if for some strategic reason you don’t want to feed your family, then for each food token that you can’t or won’t pay, you have to take a begging card. So if you’re down 2 food, that’s 2 begging cards you’ve gotta take, and each begging card dings you 3 points at the end of the game.

I think this is a fine time to point out just how difficult farming crops is in Agricola. You might think “Oh – i’m a farmer. i need to grow food. No problem.” But think about all of the effort it takes to grow food: first, you have to take an action to get the food. Then, you need to take an action to plow the field. It’s a separate action to sow the field. That’s three distinct actions – so, more than one round if you’ve only got two family members, and if nobody else takes those spaces. And you still have to wait until harvest to actually GET the food! And the food you get can only be converted into one measly meal! That’s why the occupations and improvements are so important: if you can figure out a way to cook your crops squeeze more food out of them, or better yet, eat your animals – or even your inedible resources like wood and stone – you’ll have a much better shot at survival in Agricola.

Finally in phase 3 of the harvest, your animals get bizay. For each type animal – sheep, boars, and cattle – that you have 2 or more of, you get an extra animal of that type, as long as you can accommodate it. So here, you’ve got 2 sheep, so you get a baby sheep, which is okay because this pasture can hold 4 sheep.

And here, you’ve got a sheep in your house and a sheep in this stable. You meet the 2-sheep minimum, even if the sheep aren’t in the same spot, so you get a baby sheep. Don’t ask me how THAT works. There’s no more room in the house for a pet, and this stable can only hold 1 sheep, so the baby has to go in this stable.

In this situation, you have 2 sheep in a pasture, so you get a baby sheep, but the family already has a pig for a pet, so the baby sheep can’t go in the house, and you don’t have a stable for it to live in, so the baby just runs away. “Not so fast,” you say, “i’ve built the SheepCooker 9000!” Well unfortunately, Agricola doesn’t let you eat newborn baby animals (you monster) so you’ll have to say goodbye to that sheep.

In this example, you have a huge pasture with two, four, six sheep, and there’s a stable here, so that doubles the pasture’s capacity. It can hold up to 12 animals. That means that each pair of animals makes a baby sheep, right? So you get three babies? Well, no… due to the questionable mores of this supposedly family-friendly board game, your six sheep all get together for one wild night, put their keys in a bowl, and wake up the next morning having conceived ONE baby sheep together. It IS the 1670’s, after all.


You’ve survived the first harvest! Hopefully! The trick, though, is that as the game progresses, harvest comes sooner and sooner, with fewer rounds happening between you and the pressing need to feed your family. The good news is that there are opportunities to make more food, and expand your family, so you can take more actions in a single round. Let’s dive in.

These are the three actions that arrive in a random order as you play through each round of Stage 2. This card introduces stone into the game – although depending on your player count and the game mode you’ve chosen, you might have already been able get stone from one of the extra actions on the side board.

I mentioned the Renovation action earlier. You can convert your wood hut into a clay hut, or a clay hut into a stone house. The cost is 1 clay or 1 stone per room, plus a single reed for the roof. So if you’re renovating a 3-room wood house into a clay hut, you’ll need 3 clay and 1 reed. Unless you have an occupation or improvement that lets you break this rule, you must first convert wood to clay, and then in a separate, future renovate action, clay to stone. If you’ve got a 5-room clay hut, you’ll need 5 stone and 1 reed to turn it into a stone house. You have to be able to renovate your entire house at once, because you’re not allowed to have rooms made of mixed materials.

After you take this action to renovate, you can also play 1 major or minor improvement card.

The family growth space lets you add a new family member to your household. Each family member requires 1 room to live in, so if you’ve got two family members, you can only take this action if you have at least three rooms in your house. The new baby family member stacks on top of the family member who took the action, and you get to retrieve both family members at the end of the round. Remember that each family member needs to be fed two food tokens at harvest time. If there’s a harvest at the end of this round, and you have a baby family member on the board that you haven’t been able to use yet, the baby only eats 1 food. The family growth action also lets you play a minor improvement. Note that these two options are in addition to family growth and renovation – they’re not and/or, or then. They’re also. So you have to grow your family or renovate your hut if you take these actions – you can’t block these spaces with your family member and take the easy secondary action just to lock them off from your opponents.

There are only two rounds in the next few stages. The new actions for Stage 3 are: take at least 1 wild boar, or take 1 vegetable. The wild boar space accrues animals round after round; the vegetable space doesn’t accrue vegetables. There’s no red arrow. So it’s 1 vegetable, max. If you take a boar, remember that different animal types can’t commingle. You are allowed to rearrange the animals in your farm at any time, as long as you follow the rules. If you just can’t fit certain animals any more, you can release them into the wild to let them lead their best lives. If you take one or more animals from an action space and there’s no room for them on your farm, but you do have a way to cook them, then by all means: fire up the barbecue!

The two new actions in Stage 4 get you more stone, or 1 cattle.

In stage 5, you can plow a single field and/or sow, combining two previously separate actions into one. But the big show is here: you can get an extra family member even if you don’t have enough rooms in your farmhouse.

The final superpowered action that comes out in Stage 6 lets you first renovate, and then build fences.


After the final harvest phase of Stage 6, it’s time to count up the points you’ve won – and lost – for building a diverse and thriving farm.

If you have fewer than 2 plowed fields, whether they have crops on them or not – you lose a point. You gain points for having 2 or more fields, to a max of 4 points for 5 or more fields.

That’s how it goes for the rest of the scoring categories: if you have too few of something, you lose points. Once you cross a certain threshold, you gain points. When you score your pastures, you count the number of fenced off areas, not the number of squares in the pasture. So this counts as three pastures, but this only counts as one pasture.

When you score your grain and vegetables, you earn points for the tokens in your supply, and for the ones stuck on fields that you didn’t harvest during the game.

Animals earn you more points, with sheep being the least valuable, and cattle being the most valuable.

For each unused farmyard space you have, you lose a point. It’s only unused if nothing’s been done to it. If it’s got a fence, or a stable, or a field, or a room, it’s used, and you don’t lose a point for it.

If you’ve renovated to a clay hut, each room in your hut gets you a point. If you have a stone house, each room in your house gets your 2 points. A wood hut gets you… a-nothing.

Each member of your family gets you 3 points – even newborns.

Tally up the points showing on the major and minor improvement cards you’ve played – look for the yellow coin symbol. Some occupations and minor improvement cards have little coins at the bottom indicating they might gain or lose you endgame bonus points – if you’ve played any of these cards during the game, make sure to account for those points as well. In the revised edition, this little coin symbol will be up here instead.

Finally, subtract 3 points from your final score for every begging card you had to take.

Whoever has the most points wins the game, and tied players share in the victory!


To set up the game, lay the three common boards side by side. If you have the revised version of the game, you’ll have two boards that puzzle piece together, and you’ll want to use whichever board matches your player count. If you’re playing a 3 player game, add these cards to the left board in any order. In a 4-player game, it’s these ones. The original version supports up to 5 players – so in that case, lay out these cards. There are no extra actions in a 2-player game. However, if you have the revised edition, you can lay out this extra actions board. When you place a family member on it, you get to choose one of these four actions – and then they all become unavailable to the other player until you clear off for the next round.

For a 3-player game, the Revised Edition offers this board, which works the same as the extra 2-player board, but has fewer options.

Split the round cards by their stages, shuffle those piles, and then reunite them into one deck, with the Stage 1 cards on top, down to the Stage 6 card on the bottom.

In the original version of Agricola, you’ll get to choose between three different decks of cards – E, I, and K – each with varying levels of complexity. Regardless of which version of the game you have, you’ll have to peel out certain cards from the occupations deck. Cards with a 1+ on them are good to go for any player count. The 3+ cards should only be used for a game with 3 or more players, and the 4+ cards should only stick around for a game with 4 or more players. Shuffle the deck, and deal 7 occupation cards to each player.

Likewise, shuffle the minor improvement cards and deal out 7 cards to everyone. If you’re an expert at Agricola, you may want to draft the occupation and minor improvement cards. Take 1, pass the rest, and keep doing that until everyone has 7 of each type.

Lay out the 10 Major Improvements.

If you’ve got these summary cards, give one to each player. The Revised edition has a scoring summary on the main board.

Keep the begging cards, tiles, and resources handy.

Each player takes a farm oriented any way they like, and 2 rooms for their wooden hut. You get 15 fence pieces, and 2 family members, with the other unborn foetuses held in reserve. Take 4 stables, too. The starting player is the last person to have died from starvation in the 1600s. That player takes the starting player marker and 2 food. Everyone else gets 3 food. Flip over the top card from the deck for Stage 1, Round 1 to begin the game. Play goes in clockwise order from the starting player.


If you want a toned-down version of the game to play with your kids, or that cousin of yours who thinks an apostrophe is what happens when a hurricane hits, try family mode. Use the reverse side of the board, and use these cards, these cards, or these cards depending on your player count. In Family Mode, you don’t deal out any occupation or minor improvement cards. In the Revised edition, you’re advised to add this Meeting Place board if you’re not using any occupation or minor improvement cards. And this Side Job board is also recommended, especially in a 4-player game.

The Revised Edition rulebook lists a bunch of other variants you can try, which are also playable if you have the original version, so check them out. Both versions talk about a solo mode, but the original version additionally describes a solo campaign that has you farming your way through a challenging series of games.

If you want to play solo, you don’t get any food to start the game. There are no extra actions on the left-hand board. If you play any minor improvements that are meant to be passed on to other players, you just remove them from the game. Your adult family members each require 3 food at harvest time, but your newborns still only need 1 food if they’re born just before harvest. The 3 wood space only gets 2 wood whenever it’s replenished. Then, just play the game as usual. Your goal is to beat 50 points.

If you play a subsequent solo game, you can choose one of the occupation cards you played, and keep it in play at the beginning of your next game. You only deal yourself 6 occupations instead of 7, to account for the in-play occupation you started with, and you’re trying to beat 55 points this time. Then if you survive to game 3, you can choose another played occupation to make permanent, and your target score goes up again. For every two points over your target that you achieve in any given solo game, you get 1 extra food token to start the next game.

And now, you’re ready to play Agricola!

Did you just watch that whole thing? Oh – hey! To 100% this video, click the badge to subscribe, then click the bell to get notifications when i’ve got new stuff! [Music – Board Game Boogie by Ryan Henson Creighton]


At 14:55, i outrageously suggest that in the original edition, the 10th major improvement can’t be purchased. Page 10 of the rulebook’s appendix, halfway down the page, in 6-point font, clearly states that it can! Thanks to Gareth Reynolds on YouTube for pointing this out.

Get Your Own Copy of Agricola

If you’d like to add Agricola to your own board game collection, certain purists will advocate buying the original version that you see in my video, but keep in mind that i’ve spruced up my original copy with stickers and improved ccomponents from an expansion called The Goodies. The Revised Edition adds nicer components than you’ll find in the base game, but loses a lot of cards. You can chase those cards down in various expansion decks that the publisher will be happy to sell to you, but in my experience, i’ve played a lot of Agricola, and have barely ventured very much outside the included “E” deck. There’s a LOT of gameplay in that box!

Anyway, if you shop for Agrciola using the Amazon link below, i’ll receive a small commission, and you’ll receive my thanks!