Review: Fields of Arle

It’s no secret that Uwe Rosenberg likes to design games about farming. From his earlier work with Bohnanza to his most popular release Agricola, Uwe uses farming as a central theme in many of his games. In honesty, when I first heard about Agricola being a game about farming, I said something to the effect of, “I’m a city boy, why the heck would I find a game about farming fun?” I’m not looking at all of Rosenberg’s farming games though, today I’m looking at Fields of Arle.

courtesy of BGG
courtesy of BGG

Fields of Arle is no exception to Uwe’s use of the farming theme, but the question remains the same. Is it fun?

Fields of Arle is a one or two player game, even though it comes in a box bigger than a lot of other games made for higher player counts. That’s not a criticism, it’s just the way it is. Like I said earlier, Fields of Arle is about farming. The game takes place over four and a half years and each year is split into the four seasons. Two of the seasons you are placing four workers on actions that are (for the most part) specific to that season. The other two seasons are where you have to feed your workers, heat your houses, breed your animals and several other actions that happen automatically. In the two player game one player may choose to do an off-season action (though it causes you to lose first player if you have it). In the solo game, that is not an option, but that kind of makes sense since you are never getting blocked by an opponent. In order to increase your skills and effectiveness of each task that you send your workers to do, you can also spend resources to get more bang for your buck the next time you send a worker to do a specific job.

The massive footprint - courtesy of BGG
The massive footprint – courtesy of BGG

Most of the actions you can take in the game will improve your farm in some manner or other. You can build a building (some are the same every game while others are random), construct a vehicle to help you travel (exchanging resources/goods for food and then earning points based on the increased trade network you have created) and improve goods , buy animals (sheep, cows and horses), harvest peat (to heat your homes) and many more things that would take me way too long to list. Some of the actions also allow you to gain resources or convert resources to goods. Then at the end of the two action seasons you can send your vehicles to market and upgrade leather to a leather coat, silk to silk clothing, clay to bricks and so on. To put it simply, there are a lot of different actions you can take allowing each player to craft their own way to potential victory.

The two-player game plays very different from the solo game, as a lot of games typically do, but Fields of Arle does it in a way that makes both viable player counts. The two-player game is a tough, make the best of what is given to you type worker placement game. You won’t always get your top choice of moves, but maximizing the moves you can take can still earn you the win. Knowing what your opponent may want can also help you decide what and when to do what you want to do.

The solo game is, like I said, different. Fields of Arle solo is essentially a sand box game. There is no randomness, so whatever you set out to do, you can do, provided that you plan accordingly and have the correct resources. This a planner’s dream, but if you struggle with figuring out how to get what you need, when you need it, you could sit and stare at the board for a very long time. I had the chance to play in a solo challenge (courtesy of @piquergaming) and while I improved vastly from game one to game two, my measly score paled in comparison to others who joined in the challenge.

What’s Good?

  • Both player counts play differently, but are good options and worthy of playing.
  • There are so many options and road to take to victory. The first couple plays can be very overwhelming, but it leaves you wanting more. You want to come back time after time to try to utilize the buildings to their maximal ability. It frustrates you to no end, but in a very good way.
  • There is so much in this box. If you like bits and mini wooden animals, this is a game for you.

What’s Not So Good?

  • The price is a bit steep. The amount of bits in the box account for the price, but if you rarely play 2-player or solo games, then it is hard to justify the price.
  • Analysis paralysis is definitely an issue because of the massive amount of options that you could take on every turn. If this is a problem for you or a friend, then maybe this should not be in your collection.

What’s The Best Part?

  • The best part for me is the solo play. I love the sandbox feel that allows me to do whatever I want. It might not turn out well (my first game netted me 65.5 points), but it forces you to plan and plan well. I love to plan, so this fits very well into my niche, but it also allows you to play around with different strategies to see how well you can do (one entrant into the solo challenge had 54 animals, which is ridiculous).

 

Just a reminder: Mows, not cowples - courtesy of BGG
Just a reminder: Mows, not cowples – courtesy of BGG

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