The Illusion of Persistence

I have played a bit of Agricola recently. It drives home the appeal of virtual worlds and persistent online games in that it very much is neither. You do not always want that persistence, but Agricola is an economic game that ends potentially open-ended and just as everything is coming together. You set up your farmyard, you upgrade it, you learn an occupation or three, and you’re done — score your farmyard. You want that Civilization “just one more turn” button sometimes. Of course, you are free to extend the rules and do that, or just play freeform, but that’s not really the game.

The single-player version adds a little persistence: keep one occupation per game (and try to beat a higher score), so you become quite the renaissance person although your minor improvements go away.

Or maybe that’s just my having spent too much time with trade skills in-game. There is something satisfying about the stately simplicity of virtual farming, which I suppose explains part of the success of Zynga.

: Zubon

Useful Agricola resource: common mistakes. I am gratified to see that I was making only one, and minor at that.

2 thoughts on “The Illusion of Persistence”

  1. I’d argue that roguelikes are very similar in a way. You can have persistence, but hardcore dying is so integral to the game no one can feasibly see a character as a persistent thing.

    I’ve been wanting Agricola for awhile. Hopefully this will give me the push to pick it up.

  2. Many of my favourite games are like this: the game doesn’t give you unlimited time to build a mega-engine, and if you focus on doing so the game will end just as you start to feel you are “ready” (see also Puerto Rico, Race for the Galaxy, San Juan, for example).

    In Agricola, those last 2-3 rounds are your chance to convert everything into points, so you need to be ready to go from round 12, not for a non-existent round 15 or 16.

    With the cards mixing things up every game, my wife and I find that Agricola has enormous replay value. We’ve played a hundred or more games of Agricola over the last two years, and can sometimes do two in one evening. The only problem is that it can take 4-5 games to get fully up to speed, which makes it hard to easily recruit others to join us when we have friends over.

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