Friday 8 April 2022

boardgaming in photos: Agricola, Ra, Puerto Rico

Previously I complained about losing some of the boardgames I had bought on the Apple AppStore. I wanted to download some of them again to play, but they had been removed from the AppStore. A reader suggested another way to search for them. It worked! I looked up my purchase history instead of the main listings in the AppStore. Of the games I have purchased in the past, many can still be downloaded. I assume those which cannot be downloaded are not compatible with my current hardware or software. 

One game I have been wanting to download and play was Agricola. I am happy it can still be downloaded. I own the physical game, and in the first few years that the game came out, I played it a lot. That was why I felt nostalgic about it and wanted to download the digital version. I remembered that the AI players were not strong, so when I booted it up to play, I picked the strongest AI's available. 

That was the right choice. Even the supposedly strongest AI did stupid stuff. Look at this farm built by the AI. There is still so much unused space! This is horrible. Granted it does have a nice grand stone house, but it hasn't done any plowing or sowing, and it has so few animals. Does this even qualify as a farm? It's more a holiday home. 

This interface lets you see how poorly this particular AI managed its farm. Darker green is unused land. I wonder whether it's because of the player count. Possibly the AI is bad at handling 3-player games. I later tried a 4-player game and the AI's seem to be a bit more normal. In fact I lost that game to one of the AI's. This interface allows you to see cards everyone has played. The occupation cards, major improvements and minor improvements are on the right. 

This is the detailed scoring interface. I have forgotten to take a screenshot of the main interface. That is done well too. The physical Agricola has a large footprint, taking up much space at the table. The digital version is done well enough that it is not hard to use. It is no easy feat to create something practical and not unwieldy. My digital copy of Agricola has just the basic cards. Medium and advanced cards are sold in separate bundles. I am a little tempted to buy them, even though I only intend to play against the AI's. Perhaps I should bring out the physical game again. I already own physical versions of the medium and advanced cards. In fact I have bought some expansions too. 

Puerto Rico is another game I downloaded recently and played. This used to be the #1 game on The world's highest ranked game! It was one of the earliest games I bought when I got into the boardgame hobby. At the time I was not yet familiar with German games. After reading the rules, I thought they seemed too simple and I wondered how this could be fun. It was only later that I learned to appreciate the strategies behind the simple rules of German games. 

One thing I like about the digital version of Puerto Rico is how you can see almost all the information in the game at one glance. With the physical game, every player has his own player board so you need to examine them one by one. I also like the artwork of the buildings in the digital version. I like how the number of doorways lit up represent the number of workers in a building. Recognising and remembering the buildings is a challenge though. Some buildings have an icon which makes it easier to know what they are. Quite often I have to turn on the reference menu (screenshot above) to check which building does what. 

The AI's in Puerto Rico are just so-so. Initially I didn't dare to play against the hard AI's. I started off with the medium ones. One thing which the AI's do well is to save money to buy the large buildings. Large buildings usually help you score many points, so it is indeed important to have a large building strategy. I was a little rusty and didn't plan for this very well. In this particular game I didn't have any large building. I managed to win, but just barely. 

Playing Puerto Rico again reminded me of how nice a game it is. There were quite a few good games released around the same time (2000 - 2005). Many are classics. Maybe that's nostalgia speaking, since that was the time I first got into the hobby. 

The digital version of Ra looks a little dated now. This was one of the earlier boardgames released on the AppStore. The artwork, animation, music and sound effects all feel amateurish by today's standards. 

The AI's are not strong. Sometimes they make weird choices. One thing I have noticed is they sometimes spend a god tile to take a civilisation tile, when they already have a civilisation tile. It does make sense to do so if you don't have any civilisation tile, because not having any costs 5VP, and a god tile is only worth 2VP. However if you already have a civilisation tile, taking a second civilisation doesn't gain you any points. You need at least three different civilisation tiles. Is the AI just being optimistic? 

The AI's also seem to be poor in collecting monuments. In this screenshot you can see that I (first row) have scored 35VP for monuments. The AI's scored at most 5VP for this category. 

I collected all five of the 6th monument (Abu Simbel). That was satisfying. Once I also managed to collect all 8 types of monuments. That felt good. 

Race for the Galaxy is still the boardgame I play the most on the iPad. It's quick and I often play a few matches back-to-back. The AI's are decent and I often lose. Sometimes I feel I want to play Agricola or Le Havre, but the thought of committing to a longish game holds me back. Race for the Galaxy feels bite-sized to me. 

Lately I have been playing a lot of 2048 too, but that's a mobile game and not a boardgame. It's a fun puzzle and even after learning the strategies, it's not easy to win. 

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