Saturday, June 22, 2024

Agropolis Puts Farming In Your Pocket Without Sacrificing Fun

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How small can a game be? Smaller than a breadbox? Smaller than a toaster? What about smaller than a deck of cards? So small that you could fit one in your wallet? “There’s no such thing!” you shriek at me, throwing your coffee at the screen and ruining your laptop. Oh, but there is! And not only do they exist, the folks at Button Shy Games have made over 60 of them. They release one of their “wallet” games every month (that’s 12 a year if you’re keeping score), each one getting short run on Kickstarter and going for between $10 and $12. This month, their release is Agropolis, a stand-alone expansion to their 2018 success Sprawlopolis. It’s currently on Kickstarter until tomorrow morning, and Button Shy was nice enough to not only send me a prototype to review, they also sent me a copy of Sprawlopolis to check out as well!

What’s In Your Wallet?

Agropolis wallet
It’s tiiiiiiny

As with most Button Shy Wallet Games, there’s 18 cards in Agropolis, each depicting a different combination of colored squares with roads going through or around them. These squares correspond to the different types of land you have to combine in creating your farm: vineyards, orchards, cornfields, and animal pens (Pig, chicken, or cow). Unlike its predecessor, which had a more muted color pallete, the cards in Agropolis are richer and more vibrant in a much stranger way; I didn’t know orchards could be THAT red!

How’s It Play?

Agropolis card example

The game, like its predecessor, is a fairly straightforward game of tile placement. Each time you play, you pick three cards out at random and each card has a different rule on it. These are things that give you points for laying your farm out a certain way and punish you for not doing it e.g. putting roads between chicken pens. This is a really efficient way to handle the rules and it gives both games a lot of replayability. Not to mention some of the challenges contradict each other, making the game a little harder and requiring a little more strategy. Which is difficult considering the other big mechanic of the game: Players can’t reveal their hands to each other. You always play one card on your turn and pass the other two to the next player, but you can’t tell people what those cards are. Table talk is fine and pretty necessary, but that element of secrecy makes things harder. I’ll admit, though, it’s very much an honor system going on as there’s not really a disincentive to talking. Plus, as I said, you’re sending cards around so if you have a decent memory you’ll know what people have. This is especially bad with two players, as the hands change less.

The game plays very quickly (you only have fifteen cards to place), and when you’re done its easy to reshuffle and go again. Games like this and Sprawlopolis are perfect alternatives to traditional card games as they’re about as fast and low impact but allow for more interesting games to be played. You can also combine the game with Sprawlopolis with the free “Combopolis” expansion that comes with Agropolis, allowing you to create the mixed use farm/city of your dreams. That is not an easy game, by the way, as the increased card count and more varied spaces means fulfilling the rules is a lot harder. The new included rules, however, do a fine job in making the combination feel organic.

The Verdict

If you’ve not had a chance to check out anything from Button Shy, this is a great opportunity. Everything that makes their games great is here, from portability to efficient design to genuine fun. Obviously it’s not going to compete with bigger and flashier games, but for $10 you’re getting a hell of a value. If you pick up Sprawlopolis as well (which I strongly encourage) then you’ve got even more options to play with. I think these games are especially good if you’re interested in designing your own games, because it’s fun to see how the designers overcome the size limits to implement gameplay normally seen in bigger games.

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You can still back Agropolis on Kickstarter, where it’ll run you $10, including the Combopolis expansion. You can spend an extra $10 and grab Sprawlopolis as well, and there’s lots of add-ons as well as ways to add other Button Shy games to your order.

Images and Review Copy provided by Button Shy Games

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