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Subject: Starting Player Issue... rss

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Yao-ban Chan
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If you're willing to house-rule a variant, you can try Caylus-style turn order: at the beginning of the game, player order is determined randomly, but whenever you take starting player, you become first and everyone above gets shuffled down one spot. Simple and an easy fix.
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Todd Parker
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I never liked the straight clockwise turn order. Another option might be something like Viticulture. I havent given any thought to how it would play out, but some kind of diminishing reward for choosing to go earlier. And taking starting player would give you first choice of resource bonus.
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Noble Knave
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I really dislike the Starting Player mechanic in Agricola (in fact, I've got a BGG thread somewhere looking for variants on the topic), but I think you're overstating how bad it is to go last. If your opponents spend all their first moves grabbing the button, they're leaving lots of goodies for you. It's a mild disadvantage, but it can pretty easily be overcome. I almost never see SP taken with a first action, unless it's to set up for an FG or other crucial play.

A simple variant would be to have a Turn Order track that is made every round. You may pass your turn to go to the first available spot on the track. SP space works the same way, but you also get the Minor for using an action. If you've used up your actions and aren't yet on the track, you place the next time it would be your turn.
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Fernando Robert Yu
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Knowing WHEN to grab the starting player action is a key element in the game. Someone who ALWAYS goes for it is actually inefficient so this balances out someone who always hogs the action.

Going last is not really fun BUT I haven't really noticed it as an issue everyone complains about in my 40+ games, since everyone usually gets a turn to be the first player in the course of 14 rounds...
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Royce Calverley
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+1

Sometimes it takes a little more flexibility when you're playing late in the turn order. But the great thing about this game is that there is always something you need to do. There is always a good option. I'd suggest if you can't find the good option, you need to play a few more games until it clicks.
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Matthew Johnson
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I would not want to be learning the game with 4 or 5 player games. I think with a 3 player game the problem is a lot more manageable, you might want to encourage the more vocal complainers to try a few practice games with a smaller group.

It would be easy to say here that some people just like to complain, or blame their circumstances, but I think that this is exactly the kind of problem that causes the game to get so much hate.

I just lost a 4 player game because, even though I was the first to get a 4 bedroom house, I was never able to get a family growth action or the start player space, and so I ended the game with 2 family members. I haven't played many 4 player games, and for me it's like learning the game all over again.

I can understand why many people just give up at that point.
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Pieter
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I have been in a game where I found that the player to my right would ALWAYS grab start player if it wasn't him. The other player who occasionally grabbed start player was the one who was in last place when the person to my right was first. The consequence was that I always was second or third (usually second) in player order, without having to spend any actions on grabbing that stupid start-player spot. Totally unbalanced.

But this is the typical syndrome that haunts many games that play clockwise around the table: if you are sitting to the left of a weak player, you have a definite advantage. Many of the top-rated games on BGG suffer from that (Puerto Rico is notorious for it).

The Caylus-style influence of seating order is a nice solution, though then there should be quite a bit more difference in initial goods distribution than Agricola offers now.
 
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LudoH LudoH
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Hi all, my 2 cents ...

I agree more or less with the comments here;

I think that for a first game clockwise order is sufficient; the game is not broken and doing differently makes one more thing to track

I agree that it might be unfair (you can be 2nd or 3rd most of the time in a 5 player games without ever picking the first player action ...)

I also think that the problem is not a big issue at 3 players but it is still kind of unfair

With players that know the game and that might complain about fairness I would apply a caylus like order (picking the first player action you become first but the order of the others is unchanged) and give initially 4 food to 4th and 5th player to compensate

Ludo
 
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Ben Bateson
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MatthewJohnsonApps wrote:
I would not want to be learning the game with 4 or 5 player games. I think with a 3 player game the problem is a lot more manageable, you might want to encourage the more vocal complainers to try a few practice games with a smaller group.


3 players is probably the hardest and leanest player-count, and the one where taking the SP can do the MOST damage.
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david landes
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I have played hundreds of games and do not see this as a large problem. There are a couple occasions when it can come up. One is when a weaker player to your left is sitting on the Start Player.. hopefully weaker players do not stay that way indefinitely.. they don't in our group.. .

A second case is when someone to your left builds their game around minor improvements and actually needs SP to implement their strategy. This is more likely to happen if you are just dealing seven MIs and keeping those seven MIs. We have found that deal 10/keep 7 generally means that everyone has good shots at minors.. encouraging others to desire the SP and taking care of the problem. As an added bonus, the increased choice means players can pursue a wider array of strategies more often.

As a minor point, because it is not easy to do, understanding where your left opponent is headed and getting in their way where feasible may force them to take other actions than SP. I think it is every player's strategic duty to at least look at the player to their left and know what they need from the board.. even better, one should roughly try to see where everyone is headed.
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Ben Holle
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dklx3 wrote:
We have found that deal 10/keep 7 generally means that everyone has good shots at minors.. encouraging others to desire the SP and taking care of the problem.


This, except I'd go further. The best way to play this game is to draft the cards.

Deal out 7 occs and 7 minors to each player. Each player takes one of each and then passes to the right. Repeat until all the cards are drafted.

It ensures that no one gets a lop-sided deal because they only choose one and then pass.
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Matt Shields
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Orntt wrote:
If you're willing to house-rule a variant, you can try Caylus-style turn order: at the beginning of the game, player order is determined randomly, but whenever you take starting player, you become first and everyone above gets shuffled down one spot. Simple and an easy fix.


The problem with this house rule is that you can get locked into last place. With the regular rule, if you start the round going 5th, and somebody takes start player ahead of you, at least you know your position improved a little bit, and the next round you won't still be last. (Unless the guy going first literally took SP with his first action.) But with this house rule, if you start the round in 5th, and start player is taken before your turn, then you are still in 5th the next round.

Start player goes early a lot in 5er games because it's hard to play improvements. This rule can make the situation even worse for one person.

The problem is even worse in 4 player games though, because someone can get locked out of family growing. If the first 3 actions are SP, build rooms, and family grow, then the guy in 4th will never be able to grow their family because the important spaces will always be gone before his turn, and his place in the turn order will never improve from 4th.

The only way this would work in Agricola is if everyone could go to the start player space, so the person who goes there first gets first next round. The guy who goes there 2nd gets to go 2nd next round, etc. But if you do this you make it very easy to play minor improvements, so that would change the game a lot.
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Ben Holle
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TwitchBot wrote:

The problem is even worse in 4 player games though, because someone can get locked out of family growing. If the first 3 actions are SP, build rooms, and family grow, then the guy in 4th will never be able to grow their family because the important spaces will always be gone before his turn, and his place in the turn order will never improve from 4th.


Well - they will grow but it will be last. Your point stands though; it is very hard to win in 4er if you are last to grow your family.

Most experienced players do not see this as a problem. Once a group has played enough to realize how important family growth is they will jockey to be first or second. In essence, it (along with first fireplace when sheep come out early) has become the game. At least it is the major focus of the first half of the game (or thereabouts).

It is the reason why Wood Hut Extension is commonly banned among experienced players. It allows you to jump ahead in family-growth thereby negating all the well-laid plans of your opponents.

Simple Fireplace does the same thing but instead of sniping family growth you snipe the giant pile of sheep.

Wood-Hut Extension and Simple Fireplace are the ameritrash cards that somehow found their way into the euro game
 
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Ben Bateson
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bholle wrote:
It is the reason why Wood Hut Extension is commonly banned among experienced players. It allows you to jump ahead in family-growth thereby negating all the well-laid plans of your opponents.


This is really only valid in 4P games

Quote:
Simple Fireplace does the same thing but instead of sniping family growth you snipe the giant pile of sheep.


This is really only valid in 2 (MAYBE 3, but it's unlikely)P games.

Neither of these cards are broken.
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david landes
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bholle wrote:
dklx3 wrote:
We have found that deal 10/keep 7 generally means that everyone has good shots at minors.. encouraging others to desire the SP and taking care of the problem.


This, except I'd go further. The best way to play this game is to draft the cards.

Deal out 7 occs and 7 minors to each player. Each player takes one of each and then passes to the right. Repeat until all the cards are drafted.

It ensures that no one gets a lop-sided deal because they only choose one and then pass.


Lots of people eventually migrate to drafting.

I am not sure I would recommend it for the first several games though.. it means that relatively new players are going to have to read/review/understand on the order of 22 MIs and 22 Occs (in a four player game) (not to mention re-reading when they come round again).. that's a long time just to get the game set up. For some folks, that alone might chase them from playing again.

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Todd Parker
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dklx3 wrote:

I am not sure I would recommend it for the first several games though.. it means that relatively new players are going to have to read/review/understand on the order of 22 MIs and 22 Occs (in a four player game) (not to mention re-reading when they come round again).. that's a long time just to get the game set up. For some folks, that alone might chase them from playing again.


I agree completely. Not only reading and understanding, but the true power of some cards wont be noticed by newer players. If all players have roughly equal experience, drafting will even the playing field and mitigate the luck of the draw. If some players are more experienced, a draft will usually make them even better off.
 
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Matthew Johnson
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ousgg wrote:
3 players is probably the hardest and leanest player-count, and the one where taking the SP can do the MOST damage.


I don't agree because:
TwitchBot wrote:

The problem is even worse in 4 player games though, because someone can get locked out of family growing. If the first 3 actions are SP, build rooms, and family grow, then the guy in 4th will never be able to grow their family because the important spaces will always be gone before his turn, and his place in the turn order will never improve from 4th.


In a three player game you are more likely to be able to grab that start player space (if you need to) whilst someone else is doing room building or family growth.

At least in a 5 player game there is an extra space for that, and at this point I'm starting to think the 4 player game is broken, or at least not fun. I suspect that a lot of people just stop playing at this point, but I have other motivations for persisting with it.
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Ben Bateson
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MatthewJohnsonApps wrote:
ousgg wrote:
3 players is probably the hardest and leanest player-count, and the one where taking the SP can do the MOST damage.


I don't agree because:
TwitchBot wrote:

The problem is even worse in 4 player games though, because someone can get locked out of family growing. If the first 3 actions are SP, build rooms, and family grow, then the guy in 4th will never be able to grow their family because the important spaces will always be gone before his turn, and his place in the turn order will never improve from 4th.


But the Start Player space doesn't govern these interactions in the 4P game. It's the room building space that does that. I think both you and Matt are overstating the problem - yes, there is a 4P Family Growth 'carousel', but the false assumption is that you are able to resource all these rooms properly AND carry out feeding with no other problems. I've been in fourth place on the carousel, not made my first family growth until Round 9 and still won the game. You only have to look at a successful Storehouse Clerk strategy to see how that's possible.

A lot of 3P games are incredibly food-lean, as well as being reed-lean. SP becomes incredibly important during the first 7 rounds just to get your food engine up and running and the average score is often below 30, which means your decisions are pro-rata worth a lot more. I recently scored a grand total of 6 points in a 3P game because I didn't take the start player when I should have!
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Matt Shields
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MatthewJohnsonApps wrote:
At least in a 5 player game there is an extra space for that, and at this point I'm starting to think the 4 player game is broken, or at least not fun. I suspect that a lot of people just stop playing at this point, but I have other motivations for persisting with it.


Certainly it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I'd point out that the 4-player game is by far the most popular online. If you go to www.playagricola.com and just check out the histories you'll see that 4-player is extremely common. I believe it's also the most common on www.boiteajeux.net although not to the same degree I don't think.

But you're right that the 4-player game is overwhelmingly driven by the fight for family growth, especially when you're talking about experienced players. In some ways I think 5-player games are the most fun, even though they are chaotic and probably less fair.
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Matt Shields
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ousgg wrote:

But the Start Player space doesn't govern these interactions in the 4P game. It's the room building space that does that. I think both you and Matt are overstating the problem - yes, there is a 4P Family Growth 'carousel', but the false assumption is that you are able to resource all these rooms properly AND carry out feeding with no other problems. I've been in fourth place on the carousel, not made my first family growth until Round 9 and still won the game. You only have to look at a successful Storehouse Clerk strategy to see how that's possible.


Sometimes Start Player governs these interactions and sometimes it doesn't. I'm not claiming this is an issue in every game, but it's definitely an issue sometimes.

It depends how many extra resources are injected into the game from early occupations and minors. It depends if anyone is able to significantly reduce the cost of rooms. Importantly it also depends on what round Family Growth comes up in. Especially if FG comes up in round 7, it's often the case that multiple players have accumulated enough resources for their second room before they've had a chance to actually take FG for the first time.

I'm in an online game right now where I had to take SP in round 6, so that I can take build rooms in rounds 7, so that I can take take FG in round 8. If I didn't, the guy who grew in round 5 would take SP and build rooms in round 6, and I'd be shoved to the back of the queue. So in this game the bottleneck is room building, meaning we're fighting over SP so we can be the one guy with a spare room the next round to FG into.

But I've been in lots of games - especially when FG comes out in Round 7 - where all 4 players have more rooms than people. And feeding is no trouble cause we're all still at 2 for so long.

If you are playing with the variant that was suggested, you can easily imagine a game where FG comes out in Round 7, where SP and FG get taken within the first 3 actions every round between, say, rounds 7 and 11. The guy going 4th would never improve beyond the 4 seat, so would never have a shot at either of these spaces. He'd be locked out of FG, and the other players would have no trouble continuing to build more rooms to keep this advantage because they now have a peep advantage too.

Sure we've all won games were we grew last. I'm not claiming that's impossible. But there is a very strong correlation between the total number of actions you have and whether you win the game. If you're short on peeps you'd better have some kind of card support that makes up for the action deficit.
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Geoff Burkman
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TwitchBot wrote:

Sure we've all won games were we grew last. I'm not claiming that's impossible. But there is a very strong correlation between the total number of actions you have and whether you win the game. If you're short on peeps you'd better have some kind of card support that makes up for the action deficit.


I absolutely agree with this.

Interestingly, though, I just played a game with fellow Ugoi, Ron, an "FotM" session, in which he used Wet Nurse to grow in Round 4. FG didn't come up for me until Round 7 (ouch!) and Ron grew again in Round 8 (and could have done so in Round 7 if he'd had the nerve). He then used Chamberlain to secure his fifth peep in Round 11; meanwhile I finally hit my fourth peep in Round 13. We pretty much broke even on Special Actions, but Ron still enjoyed a stunning base Action advantage of 47-36!

I won the game by nine points, 47-38, with support from Travelling Salesman, Layabout (played in Stage 2), Pieceworker, and Conservator.

We were both rather bemused.

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Matt Shields
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Sounds like something that should become a session report! *nudge, nudge*
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Geoff Burkman
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Sadly, with the intent of not over-extending the game, I neglected to record this one. I do, however, have one in the works that I'll hopefully be posting soon. Hopefully.
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Matt Shields
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MisterG wrote:

Interestingly, though, I just played a game with fellow Ugoi, Ron, an "FotM" session, in which he used Wet Nurse to grow in Round 4. FG didn't come up for me until Round 7 (ouch!) and Ron grew again in Round 8 (and could have done so in Round 7 if he'd had the nerve). He then used Chamberlain to secure his fifth peep in Round 11; meanwhile I finally hit my fourth peep in Round 13. We pretty much broke even on Special Actions, but Ron still enjoyed a stunning base Action advantage of 47-36!


Totally off topic, but I'm still not in love with the Wet Nurse in 2 player games.

It's not that hard to play defense against the Wet Nurse by just hoarding all the food. If the Wet Nurse player is having to Day Labor to feed, those early actions aren't so helpful. 2-er games aren't so much a competition for family growth as 3 and 4 I don't think. I think 2er is more about efficiency and playing smart denial.
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Ben Bateson
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TwitchBot wrote:

Totally off topic, but I'm still not in love with the Wet Nurse in 2 player games.

It's not that hard to play defense against the Wet Nurse by just hoarding all the food. If the Wet Nurse player is having to Day Labor to feed, those early actions aren't so helpful. 2-er games aren't so much a competition for family growth as 3 and 4 I don't think. I think 2er is more about efficiency and playing smart denial.


I agree with this (unusually for me!). Wet Nurse is a third or fourth pick in a 2P draft most of the time. The opportunities to play Ocks in Rounds 1-4 without letting your opponent have a massive resource advantage are surprisingly limited (would you really play a non-megacombo Ock in Round 2, for instance?). If you play Wet Nurse in Round 1, your opponent just denies Reed. Best you can hope for is to sneak it out along with 3 Fishing during Round 3, otherwise you're likely waiting until Phase 2 to Grow anyway.
 
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