Inspired by the articles of the fellow wargamers and bloggers – The Players’ Aid and Swords & Chits – I decided to take a look at the Agricola, Master of Britain from Hollandspiele by Tom Russel. It should not come as a surprise that the title got my attention. I am big fan of ancient warfare (recently I was even accused that I am too much into earlier ages rather than modern warfare, lol) and the COVID isolation time forced me to play much more solitaire games (which actually was a good thing).

So without further ado let us talk about small jewel created by Tom Russel which will give you hours of interesting and complex puzzle to solve.

The Game

For all those who do not know this title, couple of words of introduction. The game takes us to first century AD, to ancient Rome ruled by Flavian dynasty – Vespasian and Titus. The empire is at peace with exception of one, distant province resistant to the will of their Roman masters – Brittania. Our role will be to change that situation and make sure Pax Romana is spread and accepted to the farthest corners of the empire.

Gnaeus Julius Agricola – I was in Roman Baths in Bath (UK) in 2015 where his sculpture stands; luckily, I did the photo of the monument

Agricola, Master of Britain is a solitaire game – both of political and economical governance as well as combat and conquest. You really need not only a blunt force but great deal of diplomacy, bribery and cunning. And be aware – each of your actions (literally) will cause tribes reaction.

To add to this, the game uses chit-pull mechanics with three cups (Friendly, Unfriendly, and Hostile) representing the allegiances of the units contained within those cups. After each of your actions you draw from one of the cups and resolve the tribes reaction. It can be painful, as Britons can ambush you, destroy your settlements or garrisons. If you are lucky, and there is no Roman nearby, they can also turn against each other!

What Agricola achieved historically was a true masterpiece – it was so exceptional that it draw “too much” attention and he was recalled by emperor Domitian before fully finishing the job. The game sets a very hard challenge in front of us to repeat successes of  the great general – you need to gain defined amount of Victory points each turn while not losing any battle to have any chances for victory.

The Sessions

Note: As the game is currently not available in Europe – Second Change Games webpage allows only for pre-order – I decided to give the game a try in Vassal while waiting for the box version to arrive.  Thus all pictures below come from the fantastic module created for this title.

So far I have tried to play that game four times. I failed miserably in the three first attempts but was marginally successful in fourth. What follows is short photo-session report – hopefully you will get more idea about game mechanics from it.


Game set-up – you drew tan tribal units unit you have 1 in each tan location except Ordovices where you need to have 2. Then you draw 4 green tribes. No barbarian leader appeared so far. 11 tribes in total will face Romans in first turn.

Turns 1-3

Turns 1-3: I am building settlements in blue and green tribes locations, which by Turn three are “+3 Settlements” providing constant inflow of VPs. The tan area of map is being mercilessly pacified but new, discontent tribes appear after each Roman hostile action. Some “pass actions” are needed to get enough VPs.
Battle display – one of “tan tribes” pacification battles which will cause the Tan leader death and the end to resistance of Ordovices and their allies.
A very unusual situation – no unit sin Friendly and Hostile cup!

Turns 4-6

Turns 4-6: Agricola raids through remains of tan tribes (battle) and interior of green tribes territory (large battle) only to arrive to red zone. In the meantime another “+3 settlement” is built.
End of Brigantes resistance – with 5 legionary units and 7 auxiliaries the enemy has no chance
Legio XX Valeria Victrix ready to hunt Calgacus! Without him defeated (while present on map) I will lose the game.

Turn 7-8

Turn 7: Calgacus is not shy – once we reached northern part of Britain he immediately appears – the most important battle ensues.
Mons Graupius – set-up – I have already lost this battle in my previous attempt. This time two legions arrived to fight with full pack of auxiliaries. Each enemy requires 2 hits to be eliminated.
Mons Graupius – the outcome – that was bloody battle. I managed to inflict 26 hits on enemies (required to win) but took 8 causalities. Still, a victory!
Turn 8: That was not the end of story, I still needed enough VPs to win the game. Fortunately with two dead leaders and 3 settlements I achieved 81 VPs and won!
My three legions at the end of game – pretty thoroughly mauled by Mons Graupius battle!

The impressions

I fell in love with the game almost immediately. It is very uniquely designed – chit-pulling mechanics combined with three tribe cups and reaction to each of your actions. On top of this you have flexible set-up which allows for a great replayability. The graphics created by Anna Ziolkowska are very thematic, allow you to immerse in epoch. Still, they are very clear, unambiguous and beautiful in it simplicity.

Last but not least, the game is tough. Yes, it is difficult and to win you need both great preparations as well as full commitments of your forces to crush Calgacus at  Mons Graupius. I managed it once – barely, and I will try again as each attempt is different and gives me hours of exciting time.

Be sure more reports will come once I can get my hands on the box version of the game:)