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Subject: Balanced Starting Turn Order? rss

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AMK
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I recently started playing Agricola. I've played 3 game this week. Two 4 player games and one 5 player.

It seems really odd to me that the first player on the first round is randomized and the first player gets 2 food while the rest all get 3. This means the second player has a distinct and indisputable advantage over the fifth player (and every other player) in terms of getting more choices for both of their actions on their first turn.

How is this justified? I've played Uwe's games before and he's not a bad designer, but I don't understand how a game could have such an obvious inequality among players at the start of the game.

I have heard great things about this game, so I feel like I must be missing something. What am I missing? Is there an official variant for the game that fixes this, or is it fixed in the revised edition?

As is, I'm not sure the game is playable in my group anymore. Starting inequalities is a no-go for us.
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Keele047 wrote:
As is, I'm not sure the game is playable in my group anymore. Starting inequalities is a no-go for us.
Just play more and you will find no inequality. I can tell you this after 293 plays with all the possible number of players.

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vradipous1 wrote:
Keele047 wrote:
As is, I'm not sure the game is playable in my group anymore. Starting inequalities is a no-go for us.
Just play more and you will find no inequality. I can tell you this after 293 plays with all the possible number of players.



But there is indisputably an inequality. The second player has x-1 choices. The fifth player has x-4. In a game where more choices are better, it seem pretty clear player 2 has an advantage over player 5 and there is nothing to balance it.

You might be able to make the argument that with more experience, the impact can be mitigated, but it is hard to make the argument that there is no inequality.

By your response, I am assuming there is no official variant that fixes it and that it is not fixed in the revised edition?
 
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Keele047 wrote:
By your response, I am assuming there is no official variant that fixes it and that it is not fixed in the revised edition?
I have never seen something official. But never was a problem.

I think that if you change the starting food for the starting player to 1 it will be a strong disadvantage. On the other hand 4 food for the others will be too overpowered because they will have all the food they need for the first stage.
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Keele047 wrote:
vradipous1 wrote:
Keele047 wrote:
As is, I'm not sure the game is playable in my group anymore. Starting inequalities is a no-go for us.
Just play more and you will find no inequality. I can tell you this after 293 plays with all the possible number of players.



But there is indisputably an inequality. The second player has x-1 choices. The fifth player has x-4. In a game where more choices are better, it seem pretty clear player 2 has an advantage over player 5 and there is nothing to balance it.

You might be able to make the argument that with more experience, the impact can be mitigated, but it is hard to make the argument that there is no inequality.

By your response, I am assuming there is no official variant that fixes it and that it is not fixed in the revised edition?

It is the same in the revised edition, where it is also equally not a problem.
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Will
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This has been discussed in a lot of threads here before. Search back through the threads and you will find them pretty quickly. There are some talking about turn order, some talking about starting food.
At some point I think Play-Agricola analyzed this...found it:
http://play-agricola.com/forums/index.php?topic=4383.0
http://play-agricola.com/forums/index.php?topic=1090.msg4133...
There are a bunch more discussions, but that should get you started.
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We feel that 4th player is at a slight disadvantage (only play Agric at 4p), and sometimes house rule that they start with a 4th food. We are more likely to do this if 4th player is a less experienced player. If someone is especially new, we are likely to give them an extra food regardless of where they sit in player order.
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Temelin wrote:
This has been discussed in a lot of threads here before. Search back through the threads and you will find them pretty quickly. There are some talking about turn order, some talking about starting food.
At some point I think Play-Agricola analyzed this...found it:
http://play-agricola.com/forums/index.php?topic=4383.0
http://play-agricola.com/forums/index.php?topic=1090.msg4133...
There are a bunch more discussions, but that should get you started.


Thank you all for the responses. I looked through some of Temelin's forums and a few others here on BGG (Thanks Temelin). I had looked through a few before posting but most were pretty old and my hope was that the revised edition changed something. I found this interesting post, which I liked:

https://boardgamegeek.com/article/2640009#2640009

I didn't find any other references about this, so I suspect it was something that Jonas made up. Does anyone have more better evidence that this actually came from the designer? If so, I really like this solution. Either way, I think I'll suggest this for my group going forward.
 
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Will
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I can't speak to anything being official. But I was doing a little bit more reading and I think this is a fairly comprehensive list of feasible changes:

1) Based on the excellent data from play-agricola.com I think giving the 2nd player -0.5 VP and the 4th player +0.5 VP at the end of the game is a fairly clean way to remove any imbalance. It might be the closest you can get to "perfectly" balancing the game.

2) You can play the first turn with a wheel. Player order for 1st turn is 1-2-3-4-4-3-2-1. Continue as normal for all subsequent turns.

3) A 1-2-3-4 food distribution is probably too harsh on the 1st player and changes the game slightly for the 4th player, already being able to feed in the first harvest. Another option is to give 2f - 2f+1w - 3f - 3f+1w.

4) I created a thread a long time ago (here) about possibly using a Caylus style turn order, but it really affects the gameplay significantly. Some others have also tried things like this, but I haven't heard about much success.

I think these are your best options, but please post anything more that you find!
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Stephen Woll
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Our house rules currently are 5th player starts with +1f.
I like the idea proposed in others house rules of 4th getting 1f at the start of round 5.

I like that idea in both 4ers and 5ers. But we've never done this.

I also totally agree with wsefranc at the end of the other thread posted that tie breaker would be 5th, 4th, 3rd, 1st, 2nd. Regardless of player count.
 
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Andy Kerrison
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Keele047 wrote:
How is this justified? I've played Uwe's games before and he's not a bad designer, but I don't understand how a game could have such an obvious inequality among players at the start of the game.

I have heard great things about this game, so I feel like I must be missing something. What am I missing? Is there an official variant for the game that fixes this, or is it fixed in the revised edition?


You're only considering the first round of the game. Obviously, yes the 4th or 5th players get a raw deal compared to the second player in round one. But it's very likely with good players that player 2 either has to waste an action taking starting player when he didn't want to, or else be last in the turn order in round 2, where the actions become slightly more powerful due to the leftover resources from round 1. I won't get into any further complexities of the turn order/starting player issue, but as you'll start to see from my example above, overall the difference works out to be minimal. Far less than the impact of *who* you are sitting on the left of will be, for example.
 
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We play second actions in reverse turn order 1-2-3-4-4-3-2-1 (but everyone starts with the same food). I mentioned this on a thread where Uwe asked for varients that people were using and he said he was going to include as a variant in in the new edition. I haven't seen it yet so don't know if he did
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We are talking about a seriously small imbalance. Small enough that it really is only going to be relevant among an experienced group of players where skill levels are equal. If you are inexperienced or skill levels different then other factors are far more relevant - the quality of the decision making of the person before you, the quality of your cards, etc.

Play enough games and you will wonder why you got caught up on this.
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Keele047 wrote:
As is, I'm not sure the game is playable in my group anymore. Starting inequalities is a no-go for us.


I agree with you that it's unbalanced, but I think you're overreacting a little bit.

The problem is real, but it's also very small. The randomness of what cards you have, even if you draft, tends to overwhelm the advantage that player 2 has over 3-5. (To say nothing of player skill overwhelming it.)

That said, in 3-player games my group has player #3 start with 4 food. This is mostly because there are really not 6 decent spaces in 3er in round 1, so the #3 player usually has a pretty bad action for their second action in round 1. Giving them an extra food makes that 2f Occ space a bit more viable. And even with 4 food I'd still rather go 1st or 2nd so I don't think that's too big a boost.

If I was going to do anything to modify the 5-player game it would probably be to take a food away from player 2. So players 1 and 2 start with 2 and players 3-5 start with 3. In this case I think the drop-off in action quality really occurs between the 7th and 8th actions in round 1. 4W, 3W, 3C, RSW, Occ, Occ and Start Player are all decent actions. After that you're left with Plow, Grain, DL, 1R, etc, which IMO are notably worse.

I don't think it's as much of a problem in 4-player because really food is pretty plentiful in 4 anyway. You could give player 4 an extra food if you wanted, but it wouldn't really change things much IMO. I acknowledge that there aren't 8 great actions in Round 1, but there's no clear drop-off where a certain player is getting screwed.
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Zark wrote:
We play second actions in reverse turn order 1-2-3-4-4-3-2-1 (but everyone starts with the same food). I mentioned this on a thread where Uwe asked for varients that people were using and he said he was going to include as a variant in in the new edition. I haven't seen it yet so don't know if he did


Do you do this every round, or just in Round 1?

It seems like it would make the start player space pretty bad if you did this every round...
 
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David Larkin
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Just the first round. It makes it more viable for the 3rd or 4th player (or 5th) to take start player ..... grab resource play minor
 
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Zark wrote:
Just the first round. It makes it more viable for the 3rd or 4th player (or 5th) to take start player ..... grab resource play minor

Its really frustrating when first player plays an occupation or takes the RSF spot, then takes SP with their second action (house goat, clay roof, mini pasture...) Then you are last for the first 2 rounds and are way behind. Second player might have an occ and 3 wood, or 3 wood, 1 reed, 1 stone, while you have 2 wood and a field.
 
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TwitchBot wrote:
Keele047 wrote:
As is, I'm not sure the game is playable in my group anymore. Starting inequalities is a no-go for us.


I agree with you that it's unbalanced, but I think you're overreacting a little bit.


Thanks. I think I was overreacting a bit in my original post. I wrote it right after the game concluded. I wasn't the last player, but was 3rd and still felt at a disadvantage compared to player 2 (which, of course, I was). The last player got an extra raw deal because the first player had a zero cost improvement and did select the start player space. We also played with card drafting for the first time, which I think we agreed made the problem worse because it increased the value of the occupation spaces. I don't think the last player saw an occupation space until round 4. As 3rd player, I didn't see one until round 3. This caused the whole game to feel imbalanced.

Regarding my statement about the game being a no-go for us; we'll give it another try with the 1-2-3-4-4-3-2-1 mechanic, which sounded more fair to me. However with so many great games to play (by Uwe, or someone else) it just isn't worth it to play a game that can't start all players on equal footing. If this doesn't fix it, we probably wont give it another try.

I understand that the cards are also unbalanced, but this is due to randomness and I am generally more forgiving of random imbalance. I dislike it, but understand that in the long run it will balance itself out. I'm not as forgiving of a designed, non-random, mechanic that favors a particular player.
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Keele047 wrote:
TwitchBot wrote:
Keele047 wrote:
As is, I'm not sure the game is playable in my group anymore. Starting inequalities is a no-go for us.


I agree with you that it's unbalanced, but I think you're overreacting a little bit.


Thanks. I think I was overreacting a bit in my original post. I wrote it right after the game concluded. I wasn't the last player, but was 3rd and still felt at a disadvantage compared to player 2 (which, of course, I was). The last player got an extra raw deal because the first player had a zero cost improvement and did select the start player space. We also played with card drafting for the first time, which I think we agreed made the problem worse because it increased the value of the occupation spaces. I don't think the last player saw an occupation space until round 4. As 3rd player, I didn't see one until round 3. This caused the whole game to feel imbalanced.


I think drafting can actually help with this, but it doesn't do so until the players have some experience with the game and with the cards and know what they're drafting for. You want to draft for flexibility as much as power so that no matter where you are in the turn order you have things you can productively do. If you draft for killer combos or cards that are time sensitive you're taking a risk.

If you're in the playing at the tail end of the round, it's a great idea to try to draft minors that you can play quickly. Things with no prerequisites and that are free or cost only food. Even if the power isn't that great, it's often worth it to have a productive card you can play when you can take start player. There's nothing wrong with playing Building Materials (Gain 1 wood or Clay) in round 1 or 2 to go along with a start player action. And Private Forest is gold if you're going last.

Likewise, if you know you're in the 4th seat, try to draft occupations that you don't need to play the first couple of turns. There are lots of great occs that will provide just as much benefit if you play them in rounds 4, 5 and 6 as in round 1. Don't load up with too many occs you want to play immediately.

Let everyone else scramble to play their sexy occupations in the first few rounds and you just keep taking the resources they're bypassing. Playing tons of occs and finding killer combos is fun, but very often the game is won by the guy who just took more resources off the board.

Keele047 wrote:

I understand that the cards are also unbalanced, but this is due to randomness and I am generally more forgiving of random imbalance. I dislike it, but understand that in the long run it will balance itself out. I'm not as forgiving of a designed, non-random, mechanic that favors a particular player.


I get your frustration, but I still think the issue appears bigger than it really is. Turn order doesn't have a significant correlation to who wins the game. IIRC the guys over at playagricola.com have run stats on this, and they've got tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of games over there by now. It's a negligible difference.

But of course over the course of a few games anything can happen, and we've all had annoying games where we didn't get to pull off what we wanted to because the guy to our left kept taking start player over and over. It happens.
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Chad Weaver
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The first turn inequality is offset by the impact of the starting player being moved. The second player only stays in the top two if they take SP or if the first player does. There are three players after him motivated to take it, so the original second player will likely become 5th, 4th, or 3rd in Round 2, or will have to use a generally weaker action to take SP.
 
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Keele047 wrote:
I understand that the cards are also unbalanced, but this is due to randomness and I am generally more forgiving of random imbalance. I dislike it, but understand that in the long run it will balance itself out. I'm not as forgiving of a designed, non-random, mechanic that favors a particular player.

you can remove some of the useless/most powerful cards. there are enough that you still have enough variety.

we've been playing 1-2-3-4-4-3-2-1 for 8 years now and it seems the best solution.
 
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