Saturday, November 10, 2007

Agricola - or, everything I know about 17th century farming I learned from the Internet

As loyal readers will know, I've spent the last 7 weeks or so immersed in translating Uwe Rosenberg's wonderful new game Agricola.

One of the challenges in translating this game was understanding the richly thematic world that the game encapsulates, and reflecting that in the words and ideas used in the translated text.

Nowhere is this more necessary than in the 360-odd cards, particularly the Improvement and Occupation cards.

I've been asked a few times, "Why did you use this word? No-one will know what it means!" - this is my answer.

First, it's important to understand that the names on the cards enhance the theme of the game. We could play a themeless game which says "Swap a white cube for little markers if you have this card" or we could play a thematic game where we put sheep into an oven and they come out as lamb cutlets to feed the family. It doesn't really matter what the cards are called - they still have effect in the game - but Agricola's heavy theming is so tightly bound to its gameplay that I wanted to make sure I did justice to the cards.

That meant spending way more time obsessing about the names of the cards than might have been expected. Thanks especially to John and Ralph who have shared my obsession in the last week and have made suggestions on what to include or have made me think about why particular words should be used, and also to the many others who have emailed or geekmailed suggestions. And thanks of course to Hanno who dealt patiently with my questions about "what did this guy do?" and William who shared his research as we worked through it.

Here are some of the online resources that I've found helpful:
There are of course other, more detailed references that I used for individual items. Some are old, some are more modern. Many led to squeals or at least shouts of "Aha!" - not least this picture of a shepherd's pipe (not shepherd's horn or shepherd's flute - phew) and John's discovery of the term Gypsy's Crock, which sounds much better than my very mundane "Tripod Pot".

I hope this set of references has been interesting. I've certainly found it a fascinating process. Look for the full set of card translations on the Lookout Games website Real Soon Now.

And enjoy!

1 comment:

Racing Hippo said...

Ooh! I'm honoured to be mentioned :D
And doubly so to have been involved, albeit in a teensy-weensy way, in helping the further development of this completely awesome game.