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Subject: Caverna-style family member scoring? rss

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Richard Ham
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So we GREATLY prefer Agricola to Caverna, but one thing I liked a LOT about Caverna was the scoring change where family members are only worth 1vp instead of 3.

I'm far from an expert in the ways of Agricola, but I'm wondering if anyone besides me thinks this change might be a good one to retrofit back to the 'gric? I'd so like to make smaller families a more viable path than they currently are... it's my only real complaint about the game, that we always end our 2p sessions with each of us having 5 (sometimes 4, but usually 5) family members.

Thoughts?
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ArrBeeDee Dial
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Come over the Dark-Stone side... its nice and comfortable... See, pillows and Sheep to snuggle with...

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Geoff Burkman
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I think you'd end up with games scoring, on average, about 6-10 points lower per player. I don't really see a lot of advantage to that.
 
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Suzy Vitale
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On one hand, it would relieve a little bit of the points pressure to get those extra family members. On the other hand, you still feel pressure to get extra family members for their extra actions.

If Jen has more family members than you, even with the adjusted scoring, she would likely still beat you because she was able to do more than you. At least that how it works with me and my husband...if he has 1-2 more family members than I do, he always wins and not just because of the scoring bonus.

Try it a few times and see how it goes!

 
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Ken Dilloo
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Interesting. Just played my first game of Caverna, after many games of Agricola. I see your point, and I did find it interesting that family growth seemed a bit less vital in Caverna.

That said, as opposed to Caverna, all the tension in Agricola is being filtered through Family Growth, and the steps needed to get there. Take away the incentive, in points, and it will certainly affect the scoring. I suppose if everyone scores the same, it should be fine, but whether it is possible to be competitive without Growing Family, or not growing much is an interesting question.

Try it and report back!
 
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Richard Ham
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suzyvitale wrote:
If Jen has more family members than you, even with the adjusted scoring, she would likely still beat you because she was able to do more than you.

We played a game today... I went the whole game with only 2 family members, getting a 3rd for the 2nd to last round, and a 4th only on the final round (actually after the harvest, thanks to ice skate sharpener). Jen beat me by six points, in part because she had 5 family members to my 4 (I had a nearly perfect set of cards for going without extra workers... a houseboat that gave 2 extra helpers for free fishing, and the ice skate occupation which i used ever single harvest, and another one that was a huge help too which I can't remember). If we were scoring 1vp per fam instead of 3, she still would have won, but it would have only been by 2 points, lending more credence to the validity of a strong "small family" strategy. Which is what got me thinking about it...

bigloo33 wrote:
That said, as opposed to Caverna, all the tension in Agricola is being filtered through Family Growth

Not really in 2 player. We've always found that if you put your mind to it, you'll get the full family by games end, and thanks to the HUGE amout of points it generates, it's insane not to.

Quote:
and the steps needed to get there. Take away the incentive, in points, and it will certainly affect the scoring. I suppose if everyone scores the same, it should be fine, but whether it is possible to be competitive without Growing Family, or not growing much is an interesting question.

Try it and report back!

It is definitely competitive, if not for the 3vp. I've had games in the past where I've topped out at 3 fam and done really really well, but never won, even when both Jen and I agreed that what I accomplished on my farm, with less than her, playing better, simply because you can't ignore that 15vp at the end.

So yeah, I think from now on, we'll adopt the 1vp/fam... it just makes sense
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Guillaume
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Seems like a good idea. I love Caverna for this.

The only thing that I can think of is it could upset the "balance" (if there is one) between the points coming from cards and the points coming from the game's usual things. Someone with poor cards will have an even harder time beating someone with good cards, making the game a little more luck based.

For example, instead of going for a 5th worker at the end of the game you build a minor improvement worth 3VP (or even 5!), while your opponent only had 1VP cards gets his last worker and gets only 1VP.

This is just hypothetical, it could be totally fine too .
 
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Michael Z
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3 points per family member is one thing thing that strikes me as particularly limiting in the Agricola strategy sphere, as well. Having extra actions is already so strong, it's a bit overkill to reward it so heavily via points as well.

It'd be interesting to see how it would play out if the points were instead awarded to rooms. That way instead of making sure to fill the rooms up, you could just sit on a large house for a while. It'd make the chain of events of room building -> family growth a bit more interesting as well, I feel.

Heck, even more interesting would be if there was some bonus awarded if you had more rooms than family members. Luxury bonus! We may be starving, but we're dying in comfort!

All that said, I really do love the inevitable race to plug all the gaps in your board at the end of the game.
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Matt Shields
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I agree that awarding points for family members in Agricola is probably a mistake. In fact I'd say family members simply shouldn't be worth points at all. More than being the dominant strategy, family growth is practically the only strategy. No reason to make it worth points as well. In fact I have a suspicion that taking away the points for family members actually wouldn't change the game much, which says to me that you REALLY don't need the points.

However I disagree with making rooms worth more points. If I have extra rooms I'm going to grow my family ASAP whether they are worth points or not, unless it's quite late in the game. The actions are just too valuable. The real cost you pay in growing is not feeding your family, it's building rooms. Most of the time, feeding your family is a trivial challenge compared to getting the rooms built and getting the action.

I think if you made rooms worth extra points you'd essentially cancel out whatever benefit you just gained by taking away the family member points.
 
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Geoff Burkman
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I still don't really understand the complaints about scoring peeps, to be honest. Reducing the value of family members to one, or even zero, ultimately does nothing to discourage family growth; the fact of the matter is that all that's accomplished by that is to take points out of the game.

Agricola is all about growth; that is the raison d'etre of the game. It's about accumulating actions, which yield points, by and large. With occasional exception, the player who takes more actions is going to win the game. Players who dawdle about with two actions per turn are going to lose virtually 100% of the time; there are rare exceptions, of course, but the game is quite definitely not intended to reward a non-reproductive couple. This is bad news for dedicated LGBT farmers,* I admit, but quite reflective of the exigencies of subsistence agriculture. You simply must grow your family in order to achieve the action count necessary to accomplish the things you need to do.

Removing points from peeps does next to nothing to discourage growth; it simply penalizes it.


*Past readers of my once-regular session reports will recall that I rarely referred to additional peeps as "offspring," but rather preferred referencing them as "hired hands" or similar cognomens.

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Matt Shields
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MisterG wrote:
I still don't really understand the complaints about scoring peeps, to be honest. Reducing the value of family members to one, or even zero, ultimately does nothing to discourage family growth; the fact of the matter is that all that's accomplished by that is to take points out of the game.


It doesn't do nothing, it just does very little. I agree with you that reducing or eliminating points from peeps will have little impact in 98% of games. Absolutely the game is about growth. To me though, that's the reason they shouldn't be worth points. You're providing points for simply doing the thing that you should be doing anyway in the vast majority of cases. The points are superfluous.

To me the biggest flaw in Agricola is that growing early and often is so clearly the dominant strategy. In fact it's so dominant that it hardly qualifies as a "strategy" at all, because it's almost required. Giving points to peeps just makes it that much worse.

BUT - there are those very rare edge cases where players can win the game without growing. People have posted on here once or twice about the practically mythological 28-action win. Obviously the main reason that's hard is because of the action deficit. But the other reason it's hard, is that you're spotting your opponents 9 points for the 3 peeps you don't grow. That's not nothing.

I think that if family members were worth zero, the 28-action win might go from a 1-in-10,000 occurrence to a 1-in-1,000 or 1-in-100 occurrence. Still rare, but vastly more common. I think from a game balance perspective this would be an improvement. True that it would change nothing in the vast majority of games, but it would open up a viable strategy in a handful of cases where it isn't one now.
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Geoff Burkman
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Fair enough. I regard the points for peeps as recompense for the actions it took to gain them and the food it takes to maintain them.

One of the beauties of this game is that it basically models an economic system that can be easily tinkered with. That's a win-win for all sorts of gamers! Play on!
 
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Doug Henning

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If you really want to shake things up, in addition to reducing points per family member, try changing the rules so that a house scores a set number of points (say, 10 points for a stone house and 5 points for a clay house) regardless of how many rooms it has. This motivates players to spend less time adding rooms to their houses (and by extension, growing their families) and more time doing other things.
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Alexander DeSouza
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@Rahdo I recall listening to your video review of Agricola + Farmers in which you had said that the addition of heating requirements reduced players' urgency to expand their families. Although I have not played Agricola with the expansion, do you mean the heating requirements still do not reduce the urgency for house-expansion and family growth enough to warrant additional changes to the scoring mechanisms?
 
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Richard Ham
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bobbymcferrin wrote:
@Rahdo I recall listening to your video review of Agricola + Farmers in which you had said that the addition of heating requirements reduced players' urgency to expand their families. Although I have not played Agricola with the expansion, do you mean the heating requirements still do not reduce the urgency for house-expansion and family growth enough to warrant additional changes to the scoring mechanisms?

Well, basically, the heating requirements make it more expensive to expand your family, because you need a bigger house to have a bigger family, and therefore your heating costs rise. I think it's good to introduce additional cost to extra family members because they're so powerful... almost too powerful by default. Also, another nice thing about heating is that it changes the house upgrade priority as well. In base Agricola, you're generally best off expanding house size while staying wooden, and then only near the end of the game, skipping past clay house and going straight to stone. But now since clay & stone houses are cheaper to heat, it makes alternate approaches more viable, where you might upgrade earlier than before.

If that makes sense?
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Todd Parker
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rahdo wrote:


bigloo33 wrote:
That said, as opposed to Caverna, all the tension in Agricola is being filtered through Family Growth

Not really in 2 player. We've always found that if you put your mind to it, you'll get the full family by games end, and thanks to the HUGE amout of points it generates, it's insane not to.


So yeah, I think from now on, we'll adopt the 1vp/fam... it just makes sense


3 points per family member makes family growth relevant late in the game. FG without space is one of the best spots in the game. If it comes out in round 13, it would be pretty worthless if FM were only worth 1 point. It would cost 1 action and 3 food to get 1 point and 1 action the following round. And it would never be taken in the last round.

I usually play 4 or 5 player where there are far fewer action spaces per person, so fewer ways to snatch points in the last couple rounds of the game. Having that additional 3 point spot is very important. In a 2 player game, I can see it being less valuable as there is less competition for the other spaces.
 
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Macabeo Dude
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So much this.

It makes no sense that having more peeps gives you more actions AND a significant amount of points, no wonder it's the predominant strategy. With 1 point per peep a small family strategy is probably not completely viable, but at least the gap is closed by 2-6 points.

As pointed out, this may render a late FG spot irrelevant, and give an additional advantage to players with lots of VPs in their hand. I'm fine with the former, and the later is not a huge problem when drafting and might be avoided by letting everybody get every minor improvement instead of belonging to one player (first come first served, as the major improvements), for instance.
 
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Geoff Burkman
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Well, heck, now that I think about it, why not simply revalue Family members to -1 each? That should fix the problem, am I right or am I right?

I mean, really, it's just not fair that players should benefit from growth in a game that focuses on growth. We're all winners, just for playing!

Next up: trigger warnings for Agricola! whistle
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Macabeo Dude
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Ok, I thought a bit more about how to keep a late FG without space important to avoid altering the current flow of the game and came up with this tweak:

Family members give no points, but if you end the game with five family members, you receive three extra points.

Families with two members close the gap by 6 points (3 points difference instead of 9 points difference), and families with three members by 3 points. No changes for 4 and 5 family members in relative terms.
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Thomas
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Richard,

Did you ever get more time to experiment with this?
 
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Richard Ham
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LunarSoundDesign wrote:
Richard,

Did you ever get more time to experiment with this?

nope, sadly i haven't had a chance to play agricola since i started this thread... rarely do i get to play anything other than games i'm preparing to do a runthrough of, these days...
 
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