Fields of Arle is a 2-player only game by Uwe Rosenburg, famed designer of Agricola, Le Harve, Caverna and others. Uwe calls this game autobiographical, as it is set in Arle, the town where his father grew up. The game is agriculturally themed, much like his most famous game Agricola. It takes about 2 hours to play and primarily uses a worker placement mechanic.
Some people balk at the price point for Fields of Arle, which is $79.99 MSRP for a 2-player only game. I have no issue with the price point, as Arle comes with a TON of high quality bits in a HUGE box. The main board is a trifold, which I don’t like as it does not lay flat on the table. Z-man games has been doing this often lately and I’m always opposed to it.
Each player has two boards of their own: a home board and a barn/travel board. Both are high quality. The game has three types of Animals: horses, cattle and sheep. All are wooden pieces of a very high quality that look like the animals themselves. The cows are even cooler as they have stickers that go on to provide spots. There are a number of resources in the game and most are tracked with wooden markers along each player’s home board. A few other resources are small cardboard chits and the peat are represented by black wooden cubes.
Most of the game is cardboard: the vehicles that go into the barn, the plows for fields, the peat boats, and the three different materials to be turned into clothing. In addition, stalls to hold animals, fields of grain and flax, and much more are all cardboard. This game has a lot of pieces, a lot of choices, and includes great components overall.
Fields of Arle is a game with a ton going on. I am not going to explain all the rules for it, but here is the general idea of the arc of the game. Fields of Arle is played in 9 rounds, and each player places 4 workers each round. The rounds alternate between the summer months and the winter months, in that there are different actions available for the summer and winter.
The goal of the game is to run the most impressive farm (ever hear of Agricola?), and this is judged by attaching victory points to just about any action taken. For example, acquiring animals earns victory points and having close to the same amount of each animal is optimal for end game scoring.
There are a number of buildings that can be bought each game, 9 of which are in every game and, in addition, there are 9 others. Every building is worth victory points and has some other effect. Some are as simple as giving items one time while others have different benefits. Yet there are other ways to get victory points! This other point-earning method involves the buying of plows, peat boats, and vehicles. Vehicles are very important in fact, as they are used to trade items with nearby towns for food. Doing so also provides victory points called “Travel Experience” points which are awarded for having over 10 of a number of goods endgame, and for upgrading tools a number of times.
How do you get these points? By taking actions, of course. In the summer months, it is much easier to build buildings and acquire building materials. In the winter, it is much easier to get food by slaughtering animals, baking grain, or selling pottery. Some spaces just give you stuff, simple enough. For example the “Grocer” winter action provides 1 peat cut from your board, 1 animal of your choice, 1 wood, and 1 clay. Other actions provide goods based upon how well you upgrade the tool associated with them. For example, upgrade your fish trap and you get more food when you take the “fisherman” action in the summer. Upgrade your “ovens” in order to be able to bake more grain with one action to provide more food.
I have only scratched the surface here on the game and how it is played, but I hope this helps you understand the general nature of gameplay. Acquire resources, raise animals, harvest grain and flax, and, lastly, sell goods to neighboring towns. There are few notes to hit for those familiar with Agricola or Caverna however. Animals here breed after the winter and only if they are in stables. Animals can live in peace on open space, 2 per space, but only breed if enclosed. One animal can even live on top of dikes. Oh yes, you start the game with only part of the home board available for use because part of the board is flooded. In order to use more of it, the dikes must be pushed back.
To those who say that Fields of Arle is 2 player Agricola, they are wrong. It is not a rehashing of Agricola, Caverna, Glass Road or any of his other games. It clearly has his imprint, and is a great game. My wife Lynne and I heard that Rosenburg was making a two-player Agricola -style game and we were immediately on board; we are not disappointed.
Some complain that this game is a two-player only game, and to that I don’t complain at all, but instead I am very happy that that is the case. The truth is that most of the games we like are made for 4 players and are retro-fitted into being able to be played for 2 players. Some of those games do that very well, while others do not. Even our favorite game, Agricola, which we still play multiple times each week with only 2, shines brightest when being played with 4 players.
Most great two player games are, by their very nature, adversarial. Each player attacks and tries to outwit the other. Many people like this, and it is the easiest way to make a good two player game. Lynne and I don’t go to these games often because it is just not our style. We both enjoy building something up and then, at the end, seeing who was bested. There is enough tension in the choosing of action spaces alone and going for particular spaces. A rule I did not mention earlier is the break season rule. Once each round, one player can choose an action from the opposite season. Doing so gives up 1st player for the next turn. This set up by Uwe makes tension without attacking because once if one player chooses to hop season, the other can’t do so that round.
I have now played Fields of Arle 6 times, and I believe it is a great game. Will it replace Agricola for us? No. Why not? Well it comes in the lack of diversity of buildings. So each game 9 buildings are the same and 9 are different. There are 7 green buildings, and 4 of those are chosen at random each game to use. There are 6 blue buildings, 3 used each game along with 5 yellow buildings, 2 used each game. It is easy to see how these buildings can get worn out. I already see a synergy between two of the buildings that I feel is almost a no-brainer to do. Agricola offers us over 500 cards of which we use 28 between us. The replayability is through the charts. Each time we play, we feel like we are doing something we have not done before.
But enough about Agricola! This is the Fields of Arle review. It is an amazing game in its own right. The game is worth it for the right person, and I am the right person for sure. When the expansion with more buildings comes out, I will have that one on pre-order and that is really the last thing this already great game needs.