We've got funny ideas about agriculture in The Netherlands. Not unlike the phenomenon of phonebooth stuffing before there were mobile phones, people seem curious about how many animals fit in the smallest amount of space. So you get your bird flu, your swine fever, and crazy amounts of poop and pee. We've created a nitrogen bomb that's slowly killing us all - food poisoning got a whole new meaning. But let's not dwell on that, let's get back to the good old days. I grew up in the countryside. I love the quiet and peace. I love how nothing ever happens, ever.
Bill Callahan - Let's Move to the Country
Agropolis finally reached shops in Europe, and it should be just the game for me. It's an 18-card tile-laying game just like its predecessor Sprawlopolis. Except this time, we're laying down orchards, vineyards, wheat fields and livestock pens. And while I didn't enjoy my plays of Sprawlopolis, this version brings a few simple improvements right out of the box:
the colours are less pale
illustrations are more pleasing
like I said, I prefer the countryside to the city
Which all in all makes it better to look at, and that's already half the way to enjoyment (or perhaps: when a game looks drab, I don't feel the urge to put it on the table or to go through the motions of playing).
And then there's the animal pens. These blocks replace the parks from Sprawlopolis, and they contain one or two pens. With free-ranging animals, yay, like in my childhood. For scoring, you count pens, not blocks. This is a fun change.
The cards now also provide a harder scoring option in which you have to "feed the animals". It just means that some cards will have an optional extra scoring goal on it, that depends on the amount of animals pictured on the other scoring cards. It doesn't change gameplay, but you can now go for normal or hard in your sessions.
Given a choice, I would pick Agropolis over Sprawlopolis. If you already own one, I don't know how much sense it makes to buy the other one. You'll get more variety in scoring options, but in the end it's more of the same. And there's enough replayability in one box to keep you busy a long time. The retail version of Agropolis does come with the Combopolis expansion though. It provides a few cards to combine both base games - you'll have another selections of goals to reach and every turn you'll draw one card from the Sprawlopolis deck and one from the Agropolis deck. Place one, discard the other. For me, it isn't interesting to complicate things like this. I enjoy simple ideas in games, and going to a 42-cards game feels like overkill. Also, it means looking at those dull city cards again and that's just drowsing. But it may be just the thing for you.
In Invasion a UFO will land on the countryside, abducting all nearby livestock - which means you'll get scoring penalties for adjacent pens. Huh. If that's an expansion, I can make them as well! And so I did. Inspired by current Dutch farmers protests, I designed the Blockade expansion. It's just one card. When you draw it, you cover up the last placed card in your tableau. From then on all roads adjacent to the farmers protest are blocked by tractors, leading to a lot of dead ends. These roads suddenly are a lot shorter when you try to score a "longest road" and they can't count as a loop either. It's hard!