Agricola Expansion Deck Compatibility

 
by Stephen Venters
Revised Edition

Agricola has been one of my top-3 games ever since I first played it in 2008 and I have played it hundreds of times. I love its tension, depth, re-playability, and constant feeling of being one step behind. I have competed in Agricola tournaments and my friend once won the Agricola World Championship (I've never beaten him).

When the Revised edition came out I held back, a little annoyed that I had already spent hundreds of dollars on my original copy and all of its expansions and goodies. And now I had to spend it again? Typical! Well, I eventually did and now have two sets of nearly identical games. I have since played the Revised Edition a number of times, too, and have a pretty good feeling for how the two editions compare.

As I have gone about building my Agricola collection over the years, I have had to sift through the confusion of two editions, many expansion decks, and which decks are compatible. Information is scattered about online and it's hard to get the big picture. Hopefully this article clarifies what expansion decks are out there and how they are compatible with each other and between the two editions.

A Tale of Two Agricolas

Z-Man Logo

The original version, which I'll call Original Agricola for this article, was published in 2007 by Lookout Games and was distributed in English by Z-Man Games. It is now generally referred to as the "Z-Man Edition". There are a lot of copies of it in gamers' collections and for sale on the used market, but new-in-shrink copies are becoming harder to find. Z-Man's publishing license eventually ended and Mayfair took it over.

Mayfair Logo

In 2016 Mayfair (now owned by Asmodée Éditions) published the Revised Edition (or Second Edition). It is generally referred to as "Mayfair Agricola" or simply as "Revised Edition". If you purchase a copy of Agricola from a retailer such as Amazon, it will very likely be the Revised Edition. Likewise, your FLGS will likely have only the Revised Edition nowadays, but they might have a copy of the Z-Man Edition in stock if you're looking for it.

There are a number of minor differences between the two editions; most of which, such as layout changes, updated artwork, and upgraded components, aren't related to game play and are 100% compatible between the two editions. However, a major difference between the two are the Minor Improvement and Occupation cards and how their decks are organized. There are also multiple expansions for each edition which can be grouped into the Original/Z-Man era and the Revised/Mayfair era. This article is going to try to clear these differences up.

Agricola Deck Definition

The Agricola system has a loose definition of the term "deck". Most gamers would define a deck is a stack of like-cards from which you deal hands and/or draw singles. During setup you take a bunch of Minor Improvement cards, shuffle them into a deck, and then deal out hands to each player. You repeat this process with the Occupations. During the game, a player might draw a card or three from one of the decks, but usually they aren't used again.

However, Agricola also uses the term "deck" as a way of grouping the Minor Improvement and Occupation cards into expansions and themed sets. Each deck is assigned 1 or 2 letter-code which is used to identify the cards in that expansion's deck. Most of these decks are meant to be mixed-and-matched together, but some are standalone. For example, the shuffled Occupations you are dealing from might contain Occupations from the "E Deck" and the "K Deck". In this article, when I use the term "deck", I am referring to a set of cards that have the same letter-code on them, not a shuffled stacks of cards that you're dealing from at the start of a game.

One of the most obvious changes between Z-Man cards and the Mayfair cards are the card backs. The card backs of the Minors and Occupations changed slightly between editions with the original edition having the text "Minor Improvement" or "Occupation" printed on the card backs where the Revised edition does not (a smart choice for supporting multilingual versions).

Original/Z-Man era card backs with textRevised/Mayfair era card backs without text
Z-Man Card BacksMayfair Card Backs

The Decks of Original Agricola

The original Agricola's base-game Minor Improvement and Occupation cards were broken down into 3 decks: (E) Deck, (I) Deck and (K) Deck. Officially, they were Basic (E), Interactive (I), Complex (K), but they can be thought of as Beginner (E), Intermediate (I), and Advanced (K). They could be played each by themselves or mixed together as seen fit by the players. Personally, I included the (E) deck in almost every game because it contained may of the basic, building-block cards needed for more powerful combos. I found that only using the (K) deck lead to many useless cards in my hand because they needed more basic cards to build up to them. Thus, I usually mixed the (E) Deck and (K) Deck for my games. But I digress...

As new expansion decks came out, things became complicated. In general, new decks were given their own names and letters. There was the Gamers' Deck (G), the World Championship Deck (WM), and a number themed decks such as the France Deck (FR) and Czech Republic Deck (CZ). But then there was the the Belgium Deck which contained the two separate codes: (FL) for the Flanders sub-deck and (WA) for the Willonia sub-deck. Then there was the (L) Deck which wasn't really a deck, per se, but an amalgamation of every promo card given out. Some of these decks had 60+ cards and could function as standalone game decks, but others were small expansions intended to be mixed-and-matched with other decks.

Gamers Deck

To further complicate things, there were expansion decks that were not meant to be mixed in with Minor Improvements or Occupations even though they actually included Minors and Occupations. Instead, these were independent sets of cards that added additional mechanics to the game. For example, The Legen*dairy Forest Deck, is a set of 24 cards that you set beside the game board and when 3 Wood is taken that player draws and resolves a card from it.

Many of the decks were sold independently. Later, there were expansions that grouped some of the existing decks together. The promos were given out at cons and could later be purchased on the aftermarket.

There have been endless discussions about which decks played well together and which ones didn't, but that is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, in terms of compatibility, all Z-Man era decks are more-or-less compatible with each other.

In the end, there were many decks out there that added up to over 1,000 Minor Improvement and Occupation cards. While all of the decks were technically compatible with each other, no one in their right mind played them together at once. I mean, have you ever tried to shuffle 500 cards at once? But aside from that, some decks simply didn't play well with others. On the other hand, some decks didn't play well alone. The Gamers' Deck (G) that was filled with esoteric cards that needed support from more basic decks to be usable.

Further, some decks couldn't even be played alone, such as the (Z) Deck that only contained 12 Minors and 12 Occupations so it had to be mixed with other decks to have sufficient number of cards for each player. However, it was so small you had to limit the decks you mixed them with. Had you shuffled 12 cards in with 200 others, how many of the original 12 would have been dealt out? Not many.

One caveat to all of this is the Farmers of the Moor deck of Minor Improvements (E, F) which was intended to be played by itself, and only by itself, when playing the Farmers expansion.

Deck / ExpansionLetter(s)Description
Base Game Decks (2007)E, I, KThese are the Minor Improvement and Occupation decks included with the base Agricola game. They loosely translate to E=Beginner, I=Intermediate, K=Advanced. Includes 139 Minors and 169 Occupations.
Z Deck (2008)ZThis deck is a promo deck developed for the first printing of the Z-Man game in English. Includes 12 Minors and 12 Occupations.
Ö Deck (2008)ÖTheme of this deck is Austria. Includes 12 Minors and 12 Occupations.
L Deck (2008)LThis deck is a collection of the various promo/specialty cards given away at Spiele Essen and other cons. Includes various Minors and Occupations.
X Deck (2008)XThis deck is a not-entirely-serious expansion that contains alien themed cards. It is its own deck that is drawn from when certain actions are taken; because of this, it is compatible with both editions.
Rozšírení Deck (2008)E, I, KThe Czech version of Original Agricola was published without Minor Improvements and Occupations cards. This expansion adds them. Includes the same 139 Minors and 169 Occupations as the base game.
CZ Deck (2009)CTheme of this deck is Czech Republic. Includes 12 Minors and 12 Occupations.
Farmers of the Moor (2009)E, FThis is a major expansion that replaces the Minor Improvements from the base game. Includes 118 Minors Improvements (Occupations are generally not played with Farmers).
Gamers' Deck (2010)GThe deck is playable alone but it is best when mixed with EIK. The cards were developed and tested by users of Play-Agricola (Lookout Games' online test group) to fill in gaps in game play that had developed since Agricola first released. Includes 56 Minors and 60 Occupations.
The Legen*dairy Forest Deck (2010)🌲This deck is a not-entirely-serious expansion that contains fantasy themed cards. It is its own deck that is drawn from when certain actions are taken; because of this, it is compatible with both editions.
NL Deck (2011)NLTheme of this deck is Netherlands. It can be played as a standalone deck or shuffled into other decks. Includes 60 Minors and 60 Occupations.
World Championship Deck (2011)WMThis deck was created for the first Agricola World Championship in 2011 in Vienna. The card set was designed and tested by users of Play-Agricola. It is divided into 5 sub-decks (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon) that can be shuffled together to form a single deck that can be played by itself or mixed with other decks. Includes 60 Minors and 55 Occupations.
Belgium Deck (2012)FL, WAThis deck is Belgium themed and contains the Flanders Deck and the Wallonia Deck. It can be played as a standalone deck or shuffled into other decks. Includes 60 Minors and 60 Occupations.
Pi Deck (2012)ΠThis deck was designed and tested by users at Play-Agricola. It is meant to be mixed with the World Championship Deck (WM) deck to support a 5 player tournament game. Includes 12 Minors and 12 Occupations.
Bielfield Deck (2013)BIThis deck has cards that relate to the German city of Bielefeld. Includes 13 Minors and 11 Occupations.
France Deck (2014)FRTheme of this deck is France. It can be played as a standalone deck or shuffled into other decks. Includes 60 Minors and 60 Occupations.

Then came the Revised Edition and everything changed.

The Decks of Agricola-Revised

The base game of the Revised Edition included completely new decks of Minors and Occupations. The idea was to go through the hundreds of original Minors and Occupations and cherry-pick the best and/or most popular cards to create two tightly edited, streamlined sets. Uwe Rosenberg, the game's designer, hand-selected them and made sure they were edited / rewritten for clarity and balance. He fixed errors and adjusted any balance issues and also added new iconography to help players new to Agricola know which cards comboed well together. Many were from the original (E), (I) and (K) decks. Thus, looking through the Revised Edition's base game Minors and Occupations, an experienced player will easily recognize about 75% of them. This meant that out-of-the-box Revised Agricola had a very similar feel to its predecessor.

Bubulcus Deck

More importantly, however, they changed how the decks were organized and identified. Gone are the many confusing letter-codes. Instead, there are simply 4 decks now: (A), (B), (C), (D). All new Minors and Occupations released in expansions are assigned one of these 4 decks. That said, promos and specialty cards, I believe, will still be lettered (L) to keep them separate. An example of this is the 2018 mini-expansion Changelings which are designated to the (L) Deck.

Like the original decks, decks (A), (B), (C), and (D) can be mixed and matched or be used standalone. Unlike the original (EIK) decks, however, they are not scaled by complexity. In addition, as each deck's main expansion was released, it became the sanctioned tournament deck for that year: (A) was tournament-legal in 2018, (B) was in 2019, (C) was in 2020 and (D) will be the deck to play in 2021.

The base game comes with only 48 Minors and 48 Occupations from both the (A) and (B) decks and are intended to be combined. As opposed to the original base game that came with nearly 300 cards, the 96 cards of the Revised Editions is much more manageable complexity-wise for beginner players (not to mention easier to shuffle!).

The Revised Agricola has two main types of expansion decks: the WizKids expansions and general deck expansions. The WizKids expansions each include a few Minors and Occupations from the (C) and (D) decks but are mainly meeple upgrade kits (there's one for each player color in the game). Then there are the serious deck expansions that heavily expand the (A), (B), (C), and (D) decks.

One caveat to all of this is the Farmers of the Moor deck of Minor Improvements (M) which, like the original, was intended to be played by itself, and only by itself, when playing the Farmers expansion.

Deck / ExpansionLetter(s)Description
Base Game Decks (2016)A, BThese are the Minor Improvement and Occupation decks included with the base Agricola - Revised Edition game. Includes 48 Minors and 48 Occupations.
Changelings Expansion (2018)LThis is a 5-card promo deck to be mixed with 5 random Minor Improvments at the beginning of the game. It is its own deck that is drawn from when certain actions are taken.
Farmers of the Moor-Revised (2018)MThis is a major expansion that replaces the Minor Improvements from the base game. Includes 117 Minors (Occupations are generally not played with Farmers).
Newdale Deck (2019)n/aThis is a 6-card promo deck. Each player chooses one at the beginning of the game. Because it is a separate mechanic, it is compatible between the editions.
Agricola-Revised Expansion for 5 & 6 Players (2016)A, B, C, DThese decks are additional Occupations to be added to be base Agricola-Revised game to allow for 5+ players. Includes 48 Occupations.
Artifex Deck (2017)AThis deck is an expansion deck containing additional Minor Improvements and Occupations and is meant to be mixed with all other (A) deck cards. Includes 60 Minors and 60 Occupations.
WizKids: Blue, Green, Purple, Red, White, Yellow (2017) C, DThe six WizKids decks are included in meeple upgrade kits, each one matching one of the 6 player colors. Each color included 9 unique Minors and 11 unique Occupations. In total, there are 54 Minors and 66 Occupations.
Bubulcus Deck (2018)BThis deck is an expansion deck containing additional Minor Improvements and Occupations and is meant to be mixed with all other (B) deck cards. Includes 60 Minors and 60 Occupations.
Corbarius Deck (2019)CThis deck is an expansion deck containing additional Minor Improvements and Occupations and is meant to be mixed with all other (C) deck cards. Includes 60 Minors and 60 Occupations.
Dulcinaria Deck (2020)DThis deck is an expansion deck containing additional Minor Improvements and Occupations and is meant to be mixed with all other (D) deck cards. Includes 60 Minors and 60 Occupations.

Deck Compatibility

Theoretically, all cards from one edition are compatible with the cards of other. But, of course, it's not that simple.

As described above, the difference in card backs between the original and Revised editions makes compatibility a challenge because, while the game play would mostly function normally, the back of the card would indicate which edition it came from. This can be solved if you sleeve the approximately 2,000 cards in question with opaque-backed card sleeves. More importantly, however, is the chance of duplicate cards in play. Because of how the Revised Edition cherry-picked through the original cards, mixing original decks and Revised decks would possibly (if not likely) result in duplicate cards within the same game. Further, any duplicates might not be exactly the same due to the balance updates and fixes.

Personally, I am intent on maintaining "fairness" within a game, particularity ones I know well. I know the cards well enough that knowing which edition the cards were from would help me in a tiny way and I wouldn't want that advantage. Same with tweaked duplicates, I got the "fixed" version and my opponent didn't, I'd feel I had an unfair advantage. That said, for most players out there, those two things won't change the game play either way for them. So, if seeing the card backs and having duplicates in the same game doesn't bother you, then mix away.

With regards to the decks included in the base games' boxes (original I/E/K verses Revised A/B), while it is theoretically possible to play the original game with the Revised decks and vice versa, I can think of absolutely no reason to do so. Further, you would certainly not want to mix them together as you would get many duplicate cards. If you own both editions, play them with their respective decks. This goes for the Farms of the Moor decks as well. In short: do not swap them, do not mix them.

In reality, the million dollar questions is, "Are expansion decks from one edition compatible with the other?" The simple answer is, probably yes (card-back issue aside). Mixing in the France Deck (FR) with the Revised Edition's (A) and (B) Decks would work fine. Mixing the WizKids (C) and (D) cards in with the Gamers' Deck (G) would work fine, too. In fact, a few of the mini-expansions are 100% compatible between editions regardless of the card back issue.

Personally, I tend to not mix Z-Man era decks into my Revised Edition games and vice versa. That said, I really enjoy playing the Legen*dairy Forest-Deck with the Revised Edition. So, have fun and mix away and leave your findings as a comment. If you need guidance, below is a handy chart to help you visualize deck compatibility between Agricola editions:

Deck / ExpansionPublisherLetter(s)Original Agricola
(2007)
Agricola-Revised
(2016)
Original Agricola Base-Game Decks (2007)Z-ManE, I, KCompatibleNot Compatible
Farmers of the Moor (Original) (2009)Z-ManE, FCompatibleNot Compatible
Agricola-Revised Base-Game Decks (2016)MayfairA, BNot CompatibleCompatible
Agricola-Revised Expansion for 5 & 6 Players (2016)MayfairA, B, C, DNot CompatibleCompatible
Farmers of the Moor-Revised (2018)MayfairMNot CompatibleCompatible
Z Deck (2008)Z-ManZCompatibleCompatible*
Ö Deck (2008)Z-ManÖCompatibleCompatible*
L Deck (2008)Z-ManLCompatibleCompatible*
X Deck (2008)Z-ManXCompatibleCompatible
Rozšírení Deck (2008)Z-ManE, I, KCompatibleCompatible*
CZ Deck (2009)Z-ManCCompatibleCompatible*
Gamers' Deck (2010)Z-ManGCompatibleCompatible*
The Legen*dairy Forest Deck (2010)Z-Man🌲CompatibleCompatible
NL Deck (2011)Z-ManNLCompatibleCompatible*
World Championship Deck (2011)Z-ManWMCompatibleCompatible*
Belgium Deck (2012)Z-ManFL, WACompatibleCompatible*
Pi Deck (2012)Z-ManΠCompatibleCompatible*
Bielfield Deck (2013)Z-ManBICompatibleCompatible*
France Deck (2014)Z-ManFRCompatibleCompatible*
Artifex Deck (2017)MayfairACompatible*Compatible
WizKids: Blue, Green, Purple, Red, White, Yellow (2017) MayfairC, DCompatible*Compatible
Bubulcus Deck (2018)MayfairBCompatible*Compatible
Changelings Expansion (2018)Lookout GamesLCompatible*Compatible
Newdale Deck (2019)Lookout Gamesn/aCompatibleCompatible
Corbarius Deck (2019)MayfairCCompatible*Compatible
Dulcinaria Deck (2020)MayfairDCompatible*Compatible
* Compatible if using opaque-backed sleeves and the risk of duplicate cards in the same game is acceptable.

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