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Subject: FIRST TIME FARMERS rss

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Freddy Dekker
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Agricola… the farmer…
You know in my area of the country it is not an uncommon surname and yet I’ve never understood what it means. It always made me think of some new kind of diet coke or something.

I bought the game last Christmas for the whole family to enjoy.
I’d been aware of it for some years, but hey, a game about farmstuff must be boring so I didn’t bother with it.
This year however, … well I reckoned I needed some games to even things out with my wargame purchases, games that the whole family (read wife) would enjoy. My boys will jump at any game old dad puts on the table, but…..

So I took another look at this one and after checking out the videos I gathered it seemed like a fairly simple game and this to one who’s not really experienced in worker placement games.
Years ago we bought NEULAND and it was a rather disappointing experience, confusing and boring.

Now one thing that deffinatly influenced my decision to go for this game was that I could get a Dutch version. As the rest of my group will have a problem reading English that would make things much more fun and easier.
It even prompted me to buy the LAGE LANDEN expansion cause it was in Dutch as I had a feeling that if I thought about it too long I might find it no longer available.
After now having become a bit familiar with the game, I wonder if this was a good buy as it’ll probably take years till we’ll even need to use this one.

This Sunday it than was going to happen, Agricola was going to hit the table, my youngest was jumping for excitement and I guess we were all curious.
I’d made everybody select a color to play with and than had them pick sticker people from the LAGE LANDEN box so they'd all already been creating their own families.
I know it doesn’t seem like something you’d need but personalizing these disks does really make the game come more alive. I for one enjoyed that little detail.

So I put the boards on the table, family game as advised by experts, and than it took some time to sort out all the biddies and stuff.

I was surprised that I’d remembered enough of the rules to actually teach them to the others without needing to refer to the rulebook, there’s not many games that could make a claim to be that easy passed on to new players.

We soon got into it and it was funny to see how everyone took a different approach to farm building.
While my eldest was trying to get as many beasties on the map as he could, my youngest took a far more modest approach trying to fill one bit of field at a time this in the end meant of course he was left with to much empty space which lost him the game.

My wife seemed more interested in building a larger house and getting an extra family member to only than realize this also meant she had to pay 6 food every turn. Luckily she had this card which allowed her to convert one reed in 3 food every harvest which saved her.

I myself, well I was going to get me some livestock but as my eldest kept beating me to it, I than decided I might grow some crops, especially as they were easily converted into food.
I should add that none of us had bothered to look up how you could actually win this game, we were just planning to have some fun with it, so it took us a number of phases to realize we had to get us some food. I’d of course warned them about this.

FOOD, it didn’t take long for us all to become very frustrated about the food situation.
We’d all started the game anticipating this nice little farm with beasties and crops to than discover we were not free to build and grow as we liked as there was the continuous fear to not have sufficient food come harvest time.

I reckon this rule ads a bit of realism to the game and I imagine we felt the same frustration as the real farmers would have felt. It completely changed the game cause suddenly everybody needed to think ahead and find ways to get food.

At this point we started to look at the major improvement cards and found some of use.
Some confusion at one point when I had a cooking spot [?] offering me to convert 1 grain into 2 food and at the same time a clayoven, that allowed me to convert 1 grain into 5 food.
I assumed I would be allowed only one of these actions although it did leave the question what the use was of owning both, possibly there is none.

At some point in the game we got the feeling this game is too short. Just when you are about to build something that resembles a farm, you find the game to speedily reach its end.
So disappointing, just when you feel you’re getting the hang of this.
Almost made me feel like we did something wrong.

Before we knew it we were down to this last card and the final count.

Oh, so that’s how you win it.
We counted all the bits we had and did not have and especially the non existent fields are a drain on your points. Something to remember for next time.

The thing which surprised us all was the fact that you don’t get any points for stuff you have in your ware house. At one point my wife seemed to not have a clue asto what to do next and she started stockpiling stuff, loads of stone which in the end didn’t count for anything at all.
Somehow we’d expected that stuff you had left would at least bring you some points after all you can sell it on the market.

There was only one card [improvement] which added a point – as I understood it you look at the coin center bottom of the card, and yes I did count the coin value on them.

My eldest won the game with 17 points
Both me and my wife ended up with 16, so that was close while my youngest, only got 4.
He sort of build his farm like a small garden, but he’s a quick learner and I think he’ll give us loads of trouble next game.

One thing the others really had to get used to in the game is the fact that you don’t actually go and buy stuff.
I explained this as: when you want wood you don’t go and buy it, no, you send one of your family into the woods and chop some.
Or you don’t go buy a pig, you go into the woods and catch one.

All in all a very enjoyable first experience although we all felt the game ended to quickly and we wondered why we have so many cards available as it’s unlikely we’ll get to ever use them all.
I did wonder about them phases, they turn up with the same cards for every phase so phase 6 is always going to be fence building, there will be a good reason, but I do wonder why they didn’t make these variable.

Next time well have a stab at playing with improvements and occupations.
I reckon that’ll make for a whole different game.

I intend to go buy me more meeples for the game.
New stuff for the ones that are represented by disks and probably more wood etc. cause we didn’t really like the 4x counters.

I also plan to use my spare disks and glue the food counters on them, so they will be easier to handle and I think it looks better.
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Kevin Douglass
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Great review! I had a few comments:

sagitar wrote:
FOOD, it didn’t take long for us all to become very frustrated about the food situation.
We’d all started the game anticipating this nice little farm with beasties and crops to than discover we were not free to build and grow as we liked as there was the continuous fear to not have sufficient food come harvest time.

I reckon this rule ads a bit of realism to the game and I imagine we felt the same frustration as the real farmers would have felt. It completely changed the game cause suddenly everybody needed to think ahead and find ways to get food.

I've found that the food situation isn't so stressful when you start planning for it during your first couple of turns. In this case, it is much easier to keep up than to catch up.

sagitar wrote:
At this point we started to look at the major improvement cards and found some of use.
Some confusion at one point when I had a cooking spot [?] offering me to convert 1 grain into 2 food and at the same time a clayoven, that allowed me to convert 1 grain into 5 food.
I assumed I would be allowed only one of these actions although it did leave the question what the use was of owning both, possibly there is none.

Depending on the major improvement, some bake or conversion actions can only be taken once, so it's not always a bad idea to have multiple improvements. In addition, ALL major improvements are worth points at the end. In my edition, the points are represented by small gold coins on the face of the card.

sagitar wrote:
There was only one card [improvement] which added a point – as I understood it you look at the coin center bottom of the card, and yes I did count the coin value on them.

All the improvements should be worth at least one point at the end, at least this is how it is in my English edition.

sagitar wrote:
I did wonder about them phases, they turn up with the same cards for every phase so phase 6 is always going to be fence building, there will be a good reason, but I do wonder why they didn’t make these variable.

The phases should be shuffled for each respective stage. i.e. the first four phases are always the same, but not necessarily in the same order. The same goes for phases 5, 6, and 7, phases 8 and 9, etc... The only phase that is guaranteed to be in the same position each time is the last phase. The back of the player reference cards shows which actions belong to which phase (and the cards themselves are marked with phase numbers).
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Geoff Burkman
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Great account, Freddy; it's always fun to learn how the uninitiated approach the game. I'm sure that the more you play it, the quicker you'll come to realize mistaken strategies and how to avoid them.

A note about the Round cards: they will turn up in a limited variable order each game. Sheep might show up in Round One one game and Round Four the next. Family Growth might be Round Five one time and Round Seven the next game. Be careful that you're shuffling each Stage's set of cards so that you don't know exactly when they'll be available. Some people do this by putting the cards face-down on each Round space, while others simply place the cards in a stack, arranged in Stage order, face-down next to the board. The main point being: you know roughly when each card will show up, but not precisely.

I look forward to when you incorporate the Occupations and Minors; I think you'll find that opens up the game in all sorts of interesting ways.

Remember, early in the game you want to be concentrating on growth and setting up a food supply, then as the game play matures, you want to focus more on filling up your board with fields and pastures as well as pursuing points by gathering stuff and/or amassing card points and continued growth and renovation.

You're very right, the game offers a constant tension of not being able to do everything you want to do, and just when it seems like you've got things under control and feeling a bit comfortable, the game ends.

Time to play again! laugh
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Mark Judd
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aartdouglass wrote:
...
sagitar wrote:
At this point we started to look at the major improvement cards and found some of use.
Some confusion at one point when I had a cooking spot [?] offering me to convert 1 grain into 2 food and at the same time a clayoven, that allowed me to convert 1 grain into 5 food.
I assumed I would be allowed only one of these actions although it did leave the question what the use was of owning both, possibly there is none.

Depending on the major improvement, some bake or conversion actions can only be taken once, so it's not always a bad idea to have multiple improvements. In addition, ALL major improvements are worth points at the end. In my edition, the points are represented by small gold coins on the face of the card.

Don't forget that the Clay Oven is only used to bake, converting grain into food when the "Bake Bread" action is taken. The Fire Place (referred to as Cooking Spot) is beneficial because it can also be used to convert vegetables and livestock into food at any time. So it is very useful to own both a Fire Place and an Oven.

Quote:

sagitar wrote:
There was only one card [improvement] which added a point – as I understood it you look at the coin center bottom of the card, and yes I did count the coin value on them.

All the improvements should be worth at least one point at the end, at least this is how it is in my English edition.

To expand on this, if there is a coin symbol at the bottom of the card, it is worth a variable amount of points at the end of the game. You must read the card text to determine how much it is worth. If there is a coin symbol on the left side of the card with a number on it, that is how many points that card is worth at the end of the game. Every major improvement is worth some points, either the fixed number on the left side or a variable amount as indicated on the bottom. When you progress to Minor Improvements, the same rules apply for scoring but not every Minor Improvement is worth points.
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James Derbyshire
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I haven't played 'gric for probably two years but your account of the game with your family has made me want to dig it out this week! Thanks!

If you like the stickers for pimping, you can get really nice resources to replace the standard cubes - animals, corn etc that are really cool.
 
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Great review! A couple of things not mentioned yet (or mentioned briefly):

-As you saw, there's a lot of rules. The first time you play it, it seems overwhelming, but after maybe 2-3 times, it should all make perfect sense. Don't give up!

-Your wife was really on the right track, she just stopped too soon. Growing her family early was a great move. Getting a bunch of stone and other resources CAN be a great move, you just need to turn those resources into points, usually by buying improvements. Have a look at them again, you'll see they all give some bonus points at the end of the game and some give bonus points for having a bunch of resources left over. Those would have helped her quite a bit!

-I completely agree, those silly little stickers help a lot, as do the replacement meeples.

-Unless someone was completely lost, give the game a shot with Occupations and Minor Improvements next time. They really add very little complexity to the game in terms of what you need to keep track of, but add a LOT more variety, strategy, and fun.
 
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Jens Kunst
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I like your point of review. (See what I did there? ninja)


It's good that you enjoyed it. Have fun with your first E-deck game!
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Freddy Dekker
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I'm very pleased you all enjoyed the review, with all the threads on the game we have on the geek I figured the last thing you'd need would be another review.

If you like I'll write another one after our 2nd experience which should include occupations and improvements.
My boys were very excited when they learned there was even more to the game.

In reply to comments about the food issue.

First I think I should yet again congratulate the creators of this game on the easy rules. I watched a video and read through the rules once rather quickly and than allready felt comfortable enough to explain them to the others without aid of the rule book.
We of course did have it ready just in case but only needed it a few times for minor questions such as: can I move my livestock around.

Okay the food: now at first everyone receives at least two food and that really is a good thing because at first you don't really care about that. All we focused on was getting beasties on our farms, everybody loved them meeples and wanted them and some complained when cattle wasn't available.

Now halfway of stage 1 I decided to warn everybody again that come harvest time they would all need to feed there familie members.
At this point we all took a look at our food, realised we were two short and we all started to figure out ways asto how each of us could survive without begging.

It's funny but once you realise you need food at the end of the stage, it seems to become a priority.
I might even say it can become an obsession.
"shall I build fences and get me those sheep or should I instead go fishing and get me the 4 food that are there..."

Decisions like that ad to the exitement and at times force you to think ahead and figure out how you can do what you'd like to do and than still manage to get the food you need before harvest time.

Asfor the improvements:

At some point in the game we all had at least one major improvement.

My eldest son had the stone oven wich was more by force than by choice as all the cooking spots were gone.
This allowed him to get 4 food for 2 grain every time he baked bread.

The one question we did have.
The card says that when you take this card you are allowed to automatically bake bread i.e. convert grain.
So we wondered if that ment you had to put a family member on bread baking. We decided that as it was a bonus you do not have to.

He at one point also considered getting the well, but we couldn't really decide if the food that you have to put on the next 5 turns has to come from the general stockpile or from your own.
My guess was the previous, but he figured it was to confusing and to forgot about it.

My youngest, the micro farmer, had a cooking spot which was good as you can convert beasties into food aswell.

My wife had taken up the craft of basket making which gave her 3 food for one reed come harvest time. Those 3 really helped her to feed her family of six.
Allthough - as I now realize looking at the card - she should have gathered reed rather than stone, as this would have given her extra points, in the end she did have the only card that awarded an end game bonus.
All the other cards we had gathered didn't have the coin down under.

I myself first got me a cookingspot as it would enable me to create food out of anything, later on I than also went for the limeoven making live easier with 5 food.
It raised the question again if we must place a worker on the baking action but yet again we decided against it.

As said it is a bonus and when you have you 2nd worker on getting the improvement this would mean you couldn't go bake.
Playing it this way was also good for the other players as it enabled others to still bake some bread.

In hindsight I realise I never payed any attention to an icon that's on the cooking spot.
On the right you have the baking icon in the lower corner, while on the left there is a black icon.
The furnace also has it and I wonder if it has something to do with the conversion of animals into food.

 
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Antony Liken
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Nice review. It makes interesting reading to see someone having a first go at this great game.

It reminds me of my first game where the person explaining it did not mention how the final scoring worked. So I spent the entire game kind of doing bits and pieces with no idea what I was supposed to achieve! Then when they produced the scoring chart at the end, I was thinking ... why are you telling me this now?? The game suddenly made much more sense.

Most of your queries seem to be about the major improvements:

The Well - you definitely take the food from the general supply, 1 each on the next 5 rounds, obviously if there are less than 5 rounds remaining you can only put 4 out or, 3, or 2, etc. Still it's worth 4 victory points as well so it's handy points if you have spare stone somehow.

Stone Oven is good, 4 food per grain, so 1 grain for 4 food, or 2 grain for 8 food. It seems you might have been using 2 for 4 food as you've written it. Clay Oven is 1 grain for 5 food but only 1 grain. The other cooking implements have a poorer grain conversion but you can convert as many grain as you like on a bake bread action.

You are correct, when you buy an oven you get a free bake bread action simply by purchasing an oven, you don't have to place another family member on the bake bread action. Note however that it gives you a free bake bread action so this applies to ALL ovens or cooking implements that you own not just the one you have purchased. As an example if you owned the clay oven then purchased the stone oven in a later turn you could with the free bake bread action convert 3 grain to 13 food.



 
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Jens Kunst
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sagitar wrote:

My eldest son had the stone oven wich was more by force than by choice as all the cooking spots were gone.
This allowed him to get 4 food for 2 grain every time he baked bread.

The one question we did have.
The card says that when you take this card you are allowed to automatically bake bread i.e. convert grain.
So we wondered if that ment you had to put a family member on bread baking. We decided that as it was a bonus you do not have to.

He at one point also considered getting the well, but we couldn't really decide if the food that you have to put on the next 5 turns has to come from the general stockpile or from your own.
My guess was the previous, but he figured it was to confusing and to forgot about it.

You played with four, right? To me it seems strange that all the cooking places were gone. Unless someone deliberatly took two of 'em.

One mistake we made is that you don't have to pay the clay for a cooking hearth if you trade in a fireplace. You are allowed to pay 4 or 5 clay, but trading it in is most likely cheaper.

The well is powerfull. 4 points and free food for the coming rounds; you get it from the general stock. I always try to get it.

//edit
Corrected translation error. Thanks sybrwookie
 
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Wulf684 wrote:
One mistake we made is that you don't have to pay the clay for a stove if you trade in a fireplace. You are allowed to pay 4 or 5 clay, but trading it in is most likely cheaper.


To be clear, you're talking about the Cooking Hearths, not stoves. Very different things, there
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Mark Judd
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I think I noticed a few more issues with this update.
sagitar wrote:
...
My eldest son had the stone oven wich was more by force than by choice as all the cooking spots were gone.
This allowed him to get 4 food for 2 grain every time he baked bread.

He should be turning 1 grain into 4 food or 2 grain into 8 food. If he is only turning 2 grain into 4 food, the Stone Oven would not be much better than the other cooking spots.
Quote:
...
My wife had taken up the craft of basket making which gave her 3 food for one reed come harvest time. Those 3 really helped her to feed her family of six.

How was your wife able to get a family of six? You can build as many rooms as you want on your house, but family size is limited to five.

I haven't played Agricola too many times yet either, and it seems like each time I pick it up or hop online I am able to find something else in the rules that I messed up on. But it sure is nice to have an online community like this to help you learn as you go!
 
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Freddy Dekker
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antliken wrote:
Stone Oven is good, 4 food per grain, so 1 grain for 4 food, or 2 grain for 8 food. It seems you might have been using 2 for 4 food as you've written it. Clay Oven is 1 grain for 5 food but only 1 grain. The other cooking implements have a poorer grain conversion but you can convert as many grain as you like on a bake bread action.

You are correct, when you buy an oven you get a free bake bread action simply by purchasing an oven, you don't have to place another family member on the bake bread action. Note however that it gives you a free bake bread action so this applies to ALL ovens or cooking implements that you own not just the one you have purchased. As an example if you owned the clay oven then purchased the stone oven in a later turn you could with the free bake bread action convert 3 grain to 13 food.


You caught me on a typo there as we did figure out that it was 8 food for 2 grain, very helpfull that.

Good point asto the bread action as I never would have considered to involve other ovens to become active in the same bread action.
Mind you if I convert grain with one action, say I get 5 food for one grain, am I still allowed to convert grain according to the other card should I still have grain left?
Oh sorry asked to quickly, from your reply I see that is actually an option.
 
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Freddy Dekker
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Wulf684 wrote:

You played with four, right? To me it seems strange that all the cooking places were gone. Unless someone deliberatly took two of 'em.



There are 2 cooking places.
There is one limeoven.
There is one stone oven.
There are also two furnaces, but you'll have to trade in a cookingplace to get one of those..
 
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Freddy Dekker
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Mark, did I say a family of six.
Oops must have made an error in my enthousiasm.
What I meant to say was that she had a family that cost her six food.
Sorry about that.

Any one have a clue about the bottemleft icon on the cookingplaces?
Not found what is means as yet.
 
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sagitar wrote:
There are also two furnaces, but you'll have to trade in a cookingplace to get one of those..


I'm assuming these are translated from another language, hence the different name. The text on the Cooking Hearth (which I think is the furnace in your game) says you can either trade in a Fireplace (cookingplace) OR spend 4 or 5 Clay depending on which one you purchase.
 
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Jens Kunst
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sagitar wrote:
Wulf684 wrote:

You played with four, right? To me it seems strange that all the cooking places were gone. Unless someone deliberatly took two of 'em.



There are 2 cooking places.
There is one limeoven.
There is one stone oven.
There are also two furnaces, but you'll have to trade in a cookingplace to get one of those..

That is what I tried explaining. We made the same mistake.
It 's either traded-in or bought for 4 or 5 clay.

//edit Ninja'd by sybrwookie
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Freddy Dekker
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Ah now I see.

Thanks Jens, missed the buying option... bloody small print.
 
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Craig Hallstrom
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I have found that it is a somewhat less tight game with the cards than without them. My family didn't enjoy the family version much as being 'too competitive' with everyone doing the same things at the same time. When I got them to play with the cards (once youngest old enough to be comfortable with conditional text) the greater options for food production provided by the cards increased their enjoyment greatly.

When teaching card use - encourage them to limit the number of occupations they play. It is rare that a new player can effectively use more than 2 (maybe 3) occupation. Each one takes an action to play - and actions are the most valuable resource in this game. You get 7 - but you should think carefully about playing them. Always have them ask themselves, "Will is this occupation worth at least 2 actions over the course of the game?" If the answer is 'no' then don't play the occupation.
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Derakon Derakon
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One suggestion I've seen for transitioning to the cards is that everyone gets dealt some small number of occs (3, say), and they get to play 1 for free at the start of the game. That way nobody falls into the trap of playing too many cards because they only get to play 1. Dunno what to do about minors, though, as well as whether you should use the family side of the board or not.
 
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Mark Judd
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sagitar wrote:
...
Any one have a clue about the bottemleft icon on the cookingplaces?
Not found what is means as yet.

Lets take a look at the card - Fireplace is the English translation.

You probably already figured out that the symbol on the bottom right means that it can be used when you are allowed to bake bread.

The symbol on the bottom left indicates that you can use that improvement at any time to convert animals to food. So if you were to pick up a handful of sheep but only have space on your farm for one, you can use the Fireplace immediately to cook the extra sheep into food. The symbol is explained on Page 4 of the English Z-Man Games edition rule book. Not sure if that would be the same page in the Dutch rule book.
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Moe45673
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sagitar wrote:


My eldest son had the stone oven wich was more by force than by choice as all the cooking spots were gone.
This allowed him to get 4 food for 2 grain every time he baked bread.


This is hastily written without reading ahead, but the stone oven allows you to get up to 8 food with one bake bread action. Each grain you pay gives you 4 food and you can pay up to 2 grain

Also, another rule you may have missed, when you trade in a major improvement, it goes back to the Major Improvement board. When you trade a minor improvement, it is removed from the game. One of the minor improvements is called a "Small Cooking Place", and as you can trade in any Cooking Place for a furnace, you can trade in this minor improvement as well (and it is removed from the game)!
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Freddy Dekker
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Thanks Moshe,
I probably should have rephrased that as 4 food per grain as we did understand that correctly.

As for the minor improvements, we haven't played with them yet, but thanks for pointing this out as we now for sure won't miss that.
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