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Agricola» Forums » General

Subject: "Struggle for food", "Misery Farm", "Fighting for life" rss

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Sebastian Zarzycki
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These were among the comments I've read about Agricola, before I've tried (or actually revisited, played it like 10 years ago for the first time) it myself. Many people (especially in Agricola vs Caverna threads) often said, that it's hard to obtain food and that it can really create this unpleasant experience of struggle.

Imagine my surprise, when I sat to the game and experienced none of that. There are multitude of ways to get food and you don't need that much of it (for the first half or more, of the game, you need like 2-6, tops). The Major Improvement cards are especially provided for everyone, to make sure they will get all the food they want. There are few spaces on the board that get you food. There are many Minor and Ocupation cards that give you food.

The game is tight, that is absolutely true. You never get much of everything and you have to meticoulously plan your moves, to that you can squeeze things to the max, point-wise. Sure thing. But struggle for food? Na-ah. And I'm pretty sure we've played all the rules correctly.

So I wonder, does the feeling come from earlier version of the game? (I have revised, 2016) Or is it just a function of people's general experience with board games? (i.e. less experience person will struggle with Agricola more) Is is simply not true (the food "problem")? Or is there something else I'm missing here?
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Greg
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In the dozen or so games I've played, I don't think I've ever seen anyone take a begging card, even with new, inexperienced players. The penalty is just too high to ignore getting food.

I think it's true that the game gives you plenty of opportunity to get the food, but I think the "struggle" that many talk about is because in the first half of the game, you have to spend a considerable percentage of your actions getting the food and it doesn't really help you get VP directly. You need to get a food engine running first, before you can finally start getting a farm together that will score well. In that way, food feels more like an obstacle to get out of the way before you can start making progress.
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Noble Knave
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It also depends on player count. Food is tighter in a 3P than a 2P, and slightly looser in 4P than 3P due to traveling players.

The occupations, minor improvements, and timing of when sheep come out can make food much tighter or looser in a given game.

You ignore food at your peril, particularly among strong players. Begging cards can happen if you get blocked or don’t plan ahead.
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Glaucio Siqueira
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If you manage to build a food engine, the game runs smoothly! But if you don’t, and that happens sometimes, specially to beginners, you get caught in the “Agricola loop”. You dedicate most of your actions to avoid the begging cards and don’t do much else. Just selling your lunch to buy your dinner! Some games just flourish, it also depends on the order in which the cards show up. Early sheep can provide lots of food unless someone performs the nasty move known as the “sheep swipe”, sending the critters off just to block someone... and You also have to avoid a position in which someone could block your last chance for feeding your family, because there are mean players out there that will do it even if they don’t need to!
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Rich Charters
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Yes agreed. Although you will feel a lot of pressure to feed your family....and the opportunity cost of getting food inefficiently is very high. Example: You won't want to 'go fishing'....because it'll mean you can't 'sow your field' until the next round....but it's always possible to get enough food.

Of course I still list Agricola as my favorite game....so that tension to get food as efficiently as possible is what makes this game so engaging.

If all the 'negative press' has kept you from trying Agricola, give it a try....you might be pleasantly surprised!
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Chris Willett
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No you are about right, OP. Agricola is harder on food than Caverna, but I don’t know that I ever have starved. That said, the challenge can come from wanting to build something, but having to abort due to food. Starving is extremely punishing if you get docked, but it isn’t impossible.

Some players will certainly have more trouble than others.
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Prokaryote
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rattkin wrote:
There are multitude of ways to get food and you don't need that much of it (for the first half or more, of the game, you need like 2-6, tops).


2-6 food needed for the first half of the game? You'll need more than that. Did you feed correctly?
 
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David Larkin
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The challenge is to get a food engine going while extending your house in time to take advantage of Family Growth when it appears.

If you can’t feed efficiently and don’t grow your family reasonably early you are unlikely to win
 
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Sebastian Zarzycki
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Why would I need more than that? (assuming 3 workers)
 
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Scott Seifert
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Because the first half of the game requires two harvests, costing a minimum of 8 food, plus food for occupations, plus family growth.
 
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Sebastian Zarzycki
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Sorry, I meant "per harvest". And, indeed, it should be rather 4-6. Still, I never felt like it was a serious trouble to get that amount of food.
 
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Ryan Feathers
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I agree with many of the other posters here.

I also would bring up this point: If you're experienced with Euro games and in particular engine building resource management type games (which looking through your profile you are given you've presumably played several hundred different games you've rated) then I think the game isn't that hard to figure out good paths to feed. (As you immediately picked up on, those major improvements can help out dramatically). If you're even average at planning ahead and kind of forecasting what will occur, you can plan and set up well for your food needs.

I think the main issue comes from those who are newer to these sorts of games and don't "see" the possibilities as quickly and don't prepare for the harvests as they should. This leaves them scrounging for food as they're reminded this round is a harvest, and that often involves inefficient actions to just directly acquire food.


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Siddharth Venkatesh
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Food denial is a viable strategy in 2p and starvation is definitely possible. Take the first fireplace and if your opponent is really lax about taking clay and building a cooking improvement but still grows aggressively, they will probably starve. Food is also tight at 3p in the first two harvests, especially if sheep come out late.


At 4 and 5p, food is only a source of inefficiency. As people have pointed out, no one should starve but being forced into taking food can lead to falling behind in the Family Growth queue, or losing out on playing important occupations or improvements, and it also limits how many occupations you can play early. Being able to develop your engine and ignore food early are why cards like Almshouse and Borrower can work well, and why even Mendicant is playable at times. Similarly, cards like Dancer and House Goat that give you easy access to early food are valuable. Still, you can take lots of risk with your feeding in a 4p game especially and focus more on taking efficient actions early.

The stage 2 and 3 harvests tend to be the most difficult to manage efficiently in 4p, since you have to spend actions working through the Family Growth queue and haven't gotten your feeding engine setup.
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Pete Martyn
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One of my favorite things about Agricola is that even after a couple dozen games, I still often spend the first half of the game convinced that THIS is the game where nothing is going to work out and I'm doomed to failure and starvation.

And then, almost inevitably, by the end of the game my large family is looking out from their stone house over their abundant herds of cattle and fertile fields, and I feel like I've really accomplished something.

There is an experience of struggle and I can appreciate how it could be jarring for a new player. But for me it creates an appropriate and persistent sense of tension that makes for a really satisfying payout once your engine clicks into place and your farm starts thriving.
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Adam P
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Such is the strong game arc here, and why this game is a classic.
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cecil worthington
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Caverna is a game for people who just find Agricola too hard.(particularly those nice people at the dice tower). Agricola remains a fine game for those who want a real challenge.
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