Geoff Burkman
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Kettering
Ohio
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Hold the presses! I admit up front that this isn’t the session report I intended to post next, but a recent game by my crew turned out to be sufficiently unique enough to merit altering my schedule. (Man, give a guy a copper microbadge and the hubris just goes right to his head!) As the casual reader will hopefully see, this report offers clear evidence that there are, indeed, exceptions to prove every rule. In this case, the illustration has to do with the somewhat “accepted knowledge” that playing too many cards will in all likelihood lose you the game. The truth is that it depends on the cards, their synergy, and one’s efficiency in playing them. This game was standard card-driven Agricola with no draft; we played the cards we were dealt from a well-shuffled combined deck. Again, please note that harvest/feeding details are omitted for brevity, but no one had to take any begging cards. Let’s see how things developed….

Round One/Sheep
Brian – Occ/205/Reed Collector (4R>
Skyp – 3W(3)
Ron – 2C(2)
Geoff – Occ(1)/301/Wood Carver
Brian – 2W(2)
Skyp – 1R(1)
Ron – RSf
Geoff – PF

The competition gets underway in fairly normal fashion as Brian trades an early action for two upcoming reed hits, Skyp and Ron routinely nail the wood and clay, and Geoff coughs up a food for an Occupation that translates into a solid 7Wood> and much-improved ease in getting out Minor Improvements. The “BS&R Express” snatch up everything else worth having except the means to work the earth, odd conduct for ostensible farmers. Eeny-meanie chili-beanie, Geoff plows.

Round Two/Sow & Bake
Brian – 3W(3)
Skyp – SP + Chicken Coop(8f>
Ron – 1W(2)
Geoff – Occ(1)/178/Hut Builder
Brian – Occ(1)/276/Constable (4W)
Skyp – PF
Ron – 2C(2)
Geoff – 1G

Brian hits the woodpile, then drafts a local gendarme into his timber-hauling efforts, little realizing that said representative of the law is “on the take” and may potentially cost him the win. Skyp smartly snags Starting Player (say that five times fast!) and shows exactly why he took an otherwise premature reed move last Round, gaining eight food for two actions—not outstanding, given the installment payoff, but far from bad, and certainly a welcome aid to whatever food engine he can manage to get going. Geoff swaps an action for a free room down the line, never a horse’s mouth to be sneezed at, and after Skyp plows, picks up seed for his field. Ron scratches for what he can, lucky enough to get the clay he covets. Everyone seems happy enough with his lot…so far.

Round Three/MIMI
Skyp – 2W(4)
Ron – 1R(2)
Geoff – 1C(3)
Brian – 2C(2)
Skyp – 3W(3)
Ron – MIMI/CH4
Geoff – Occ(1)/160/Farmer
Brian – SP + Grain Cart

As Skyp sweeps up wood, Ron snags the ever-popular reed. Under mock pressure from Geoff and Brian, Ron then obligingly picks up his hearth, which he nicknames “The Carnivorator.” Geoff plops down his third Ock (one he’s never played before so what the heck) that nets him about an even swap of actions for animals and more than a modicum of timely convenience getting out Minors, and Brian nabs the button to get his Grain Cart in gear.

Round Four/Fences
Brian – 1G (+2G)
Skyp – RSf
Ron – 3W(3)
Geoff – Fish(4f)
Brian – TP(4f)
Skyp – Occ/282/House Steward (4W)
Ron – Sheep(4)burn4(8f)
Geoff – SP + Spinney

After Brian enjoys some go-karting, Skyp craftily takes the mixed-goods spot and Ron hauls in the predictable lumber. Geoff gratefully feeds his face, likewise Brian. Skyp gets out his first Ock, a 4Wood with a bonus he proceeds to disregard, to his regret. Ron happily fries up the critters, while Geoff nabs a reed-bound button and troll-ifies the 3Wood for an eventual 4Wood payoff and a chilling effect on his opponents’ play. Not too shabby. All are happily fed and the contest continues.

Round Five/Stone
Geoff – 1R(2)
Brian – MIMI/Fp2
Skyp – 2W(4)
Ron – 1W(3)
Geoff – 3W(3)
Brian – 2C(4)
Skyp – RSf
Ron – BR(1) +1s

Geoff takes the expected reed, Brian the expected fireplace (even if it is a surprising Round late), Skyp and Ron the expected wood. Man, we can be a predictable lot; is this a fault of the game, or of us? Who knows, and Who ain’t sayin’. Geoff eviscerates the potential 6Wood, should anyone take SP afterward, but none do. Brian scoops up the bargain clay, Skyp grabs the requisite reed for his impending room, and Ron makes his even more impending room a reality, fingers crossed for immediate family growth.

Round Six/Family Growth + MI
Geoff – SP + Wood Cart
Brian – 1C(3)
Skyp – BR(1) +2s
Ron – FG + Millstone
Geoff – MIMI/Fp3
Brian – Sheep(2)burn1(2f)
Skyp – 2C(2)
Ron – Occ/187/Clay Deliveryman (8C>

Geoff tightens his grip on the button, adding an item to his inventory of perks that makes wood even easier for him to get. Brian sidetracks with a bargain clay that he doesn’t use for four Rounds, Skyp extends his hut on schedule, with passable animal storage to boot, and Ron takes the requisite family growth, playing a Minor that he uses all of one time, hardly worth the stone it cost him. When Geoff threatens with his own fireplace, Brian promptly nips the woolies, to their consternation. Skyp then inexplicably veers off track, taking a weak 2Clay instead of insurance food for growth in the next Round. Ron plays his own first Occupation, a long-term 8Clay that very possibly lures him into ignoring that resource from then on, much to his detriment. As we approach the halfway mark, it’s hard to say who’s got the edge.

Round Seven/Renovation + MIMI
Geoff – Fish(3f)
Brian – 3W(6-1)
Skyp – 2W(4)
Ron – 1R(2)
Geoff – TP(3f)
Brian – MIMI/Fp>CH5
Skyp – 2C(2)
Ron – SP + Lasso
Ron – 1G

Suddenly aware of a great and overpowering sensation known as hunger, Geoff fishes, breathing a sigh of gratitude for the size of the haul. Once again, troves of wood disappear, Ron commandeers the reed, and Geoff has a rip-roaring good time with a passing band of actors, keen on joining them until he discovers their wretched salaries and instead settles for stealing their supplies. Brian powers-up to a hearth, Skyp again ignores growing his family to dig clay, and Ron nips the button, unleashing the Lasso. Will its unique utility prove advantageous, or has Ron played it too late? Has Skyp gone insane? Only Time will tell, and It ain’t sayin’ much more than Who did back in Round Five.

Round Eight/Boar
Ron – 1W(3)
Geoff – 2W(2+2)
Brian – BR(1) +1s
Skyp – MIMI/Clay Oven
Ron – 1S(4)
Geoff – SP + Swing Plow
Brian – FG + Stone Cart (3S>
Skyp – 1G
Ron – 3W(3-1)

Halftime show over, Ron exemplifies wood fixation, pausing only to grab cut-rate stone. Skyp persists in miscues, building his pet oven before—instead of after—the grain meant to be cooked in the thing. Waste not, want not. And why he fails to grow again, even in the face of Brian’s new room, is an impenetrable mystery. Perhaps his weakening interest in the game is a function of how much attention he’s willing to give it. Then again, he does love that Clay Oven. The rest of us hope it’s just a temporary thing, something personal, perhaps, but not potentially lethal; Brian takes advantage regardless, pleased to lay claim to the stone he’ll need for a second renovation, not to mention his third peep. Meanwhile, Geoff carries on with his card-playing Mission, grabbing what he needs to regain the button and unveil a handy plow.

Round Nine/Vegetables
Geoff – Sheep(3)burn3(6f)
Brian – Boar(2)burn2(6f)
Skyp – 2C(4)
Ron – S&B(5f)
Geoff – BR(1)
Brian – RSf
Skyp – 1R(2)
Ron – SP
Brian – 1G (+2G)
Ron – PF

Ron’s interest in denying Geoff a 6Wood simply leaves a ton of mutton for the cooking. Brian scorns the Carnivorator as well, roasting up piggies. Skyp settles for renovation materials, now apparently utterly oblivious to growth (and who are we to say anything about that?), Geoff builds his first room—at last!—as Brian stocks up on goods and grain, and after using his Millstone for the first and only time, Ron weakly nabs the turn start with no Minor to play, plowing a first lonesome field. His apprehensions kept him from building a room, much to Geoff’s advantage and Ron’s eventual sorrow.

Round Ten/Stone
Ron – 3W(6-1)
Geoff – FG + Stone Tongs
Brian – 2W(4)
Skyp – Occ(1)/243/Bricklayer
Ron – BR(1) +2s
Geoff – SP + Mini Pasture(-2f +1b)
Brian – 1S(2)
Skyp – Ren + Fp2
Ron – 1G
Brian – MIMI/Stone Oven(8f)

Again Ron delays hut expansion to satisfy his voracity for lumber, while Geoff takes advantage of the resultant graft to finally take on some help, along with a pair of tongs he never uses. Probably broken anyway. Brian steps on the woodpile, Skyp pops an Ock that merely serves as an effective 2Clay to enable his follow-up play; why not accomplish the same result with a 2Clay grab (thus removing that much more from your competitors, btw) and save the food otherwise spent on the Ock? However, the K-Man moves in mysterious ways, and the rest of try to accommodate. Ron finally builds his fourth room, perhaps hoping Geoff won’t notice. Geoff’s subsequent button grab, replete with boar-equipped pasture (remember that Farmer played back in Round Three?), indicates that, yes, notice was paid. Ron picks up a grain, and Brian bakes up a pair of his own surfeit with a brand new oven that—sadly—he never fires up again. At least he got fair use out of his Grain Cart.

Round Eleven/Cattle
Geoff – FG + Forest Pasture
Brian – 1W(3)
Skyp – 1V
Ron – Boar(2) + 1R(2)
Geoff – 2W(2+2)
Brian – Occ(1)/150/Baker
Skyp – TP(4f)
Ron – SP
Geoff – Fish(4f)
Brian – Ren + Field(-1f)

Geoff opens the endgame with a roundhouse blow to Skyp’s and Ron’s dreams of lebensraum as his retinue enjoys a most timely expansion into quarters provided way back in Round Two. The ultimate uselessness of his Minor is of no concern. After Brian and Skyp let the reed slide in favor of lesser things, Ron utilizes his Lasso for the one and only time, scooping up boar and reed simultaneously. Geoff gathers a penultimate load of bolstered wood, Brian slips out an arguably tardy, though still handy, Occupation, and Skyp belatedly feeds. Ron nabs another weak button, while Geoff gorges on sushi and Brian renovates to clay, playing a cheap Minor in the process.

Round Twelve/Family Growth w/o
Ron – 3W(6-1)
Geoff – Fence(5 +1c)
Brian – 2C(6)
Skyp – SP + Planter Box
Ron – FG w/o
Geoff – PF (+2PF)
Brian – BR(1)
Skyp – FG + Wooden Path
Ron – Cattle(2)
Geoff – Sheep(3)
Brian – RSf
Geoff – 1C(6)

Plow`n’Sow fails to show, and Ron settles for a tithing 6Wood. Geoff promptly fences a new pasture and the bull to go with it, Brian scarfs up the budget clay, and Skyp takes the button, activating a Minor that he, too, uses only once. Ron, unwilling to push his luck any further, knowing that Geoff and Brian are highly unlikely to let the opportunity slide again, claims growth without room. Geoff adapts, using his plow to advantage (though he never does get to sow and reap like a proper farmer ought), Brian throws up another clay room, and Skyp finally, finally, far-too-late-but-finally grows, claiming longest road privileges to boot (Oh, wait! Wrong game! My mistake!) Ron belatedly claims the somehow unmolested cattle, Geoff the walking mittens and coats, and Brian the essential goods he’ll need for final renovation to stone. Geoff tops things off with the bargain clay he’ll need for his own renovation plans.

Round Thirteen/Plow & Sow
Skyp – S & B(1Vf +5f)
Ron – 2W(4)
Geoff – SP + Spices
Brian – Fences(10)
Skyp – Cattle(1)
Ron – Boar(2)
Geoff – RSf
Brian – P&S(2Gf)
Skyp – MIMI/Field(-1f)
Ron – Ren + Well(1f>
Geoff – 3W(3+2)
Brian – FG + Mini Pasture(-2f)
Ron – 1V
Geoff – FG w/o

After Skyp perplexingly sow`n’bakes instead of plow`n’sowing (but then, his food concerns have always been a bit skittish since the early days of one too many begging cards), Ron takes a last, bold, major risk by seizing his last decent shot at wood. More’s the pity, but Geoff immediately counters with the final button grab and the notable-yet-meaningless play of his seventh and final (and otherwise ineffectual) Minor Improvement. The applause is easy to miss. To Ron’s horror and disappointment, Brian fences, virtually guaranteeing that Ron can’t next turn. Such is life in sequential subsistence farming. Geoff gathers up essentials for final renovation and fencing, finishing off with a somewhat premature fifth peep (better safe than sorry). Brian puts his fields in the positive, generating a few grain points, while Skyp plows a field the hard way. Pressed by Geoff and Brian, Ron renovates to clay, nabbing the Well. Brian nips another peep and a cheap pasture, while Ron erases another scoring negative. Shame about the fencing, though.

Round Fourteen/Renovation + Fences
Geoff – Ren + Fences(6 +1c)
Brian – Ren + Goose Pond
Skyp – Fences(10)
Ron – P&S(1Vf +1Gf)
Geoff – PF
Brian – Cattle(1)
Skyp – TP(3f)
Ron – Boar(1)burn(3f)
Geoff – Sheep(2)
Brian – FG w/o
Skyp – 1G
Ron – 1V
Geoff – Occ(1)/165/Yeoman Farmer
Brian – SP + Beehive
Ron – Occ(1)/236/Hide Farmer
Geoff – Fish(3f)

Full strength at last, Geoff makes the safe play of renovation and fencing, and maxes out his pastures, leaving all but one space on his board filled. Brian gooses his house to stone, enjoying a Minor pun and a solid handful of points. Skyp fences, which doesn’t really do him a lot of good, but pretty much seals Ron’s doom nonetheless. Ron settles for a 4-point plow`n’sow, and Geoff quickly follows up with an aesthetically pleasing fifth plowed field. A run on animal flesh is halted by Brian’s last grab for the brass ring. Skyp and Ron flounder for last points. Geoff then reveals his secret weapon, a wonderfully serendipitous Ock that leaves him a point behind Brian by virtue of cancelled negatives, and then awards him the win by virtue of those selfsame cancelled negatives garnering him the bonus promised by Brian’s corruptible Constable. How poetically ironic can you get? Or would that be ironically poetic? Ron’s final Ock saves him a half dozen points, with no effect on the standings. Geoff picks up the last edibles to end the competition, and ceases referring to himself in the third person.

Final Scores (Occupations played, Minor/Major Improvements played)
Geoff – 39 (4 Occ, 7/1)
Brian – 35 (3 Occ, 6/2)
Ron – 29 (2 Occ, 2/2)
Skyp – 17 (2 Occ, 4/2)

The easiest mistake to pinpoint is Skyp’s failure to grow his family in a timely manner. Increasing one’s available actions is possibly the single most important objective in a player’s game, with the possible exception of feeding the family. In Round Seven, Skyp lost out on a minimum of five future actions due to his unfathomable refusal to expand, especially considering he had plenty of food on hand. This failure to grow was also mystifying considering his play of the House Steward. Brian’s second place finish seems due to his play of the Constable, which resulted in Geoff gaining five bonus points thanks to his Yeoman Farmer. Of course, there was no way for Brian to foresee such an event, but his late play of the Baker might also be criticized, especially with the Grain Cart at his disposal; had he swapped the two, things would have gone quite differently.

As for Ron, his failure to grab the button in Round One was surprising; apparently, Skyp’s jump on the reed dissuaded him, since there would subsequently be no 1R(2) to conveniently take in Round Two. Still, he would have had dibs on MIMI if it had appeared, as well as first shot at getting down a free Occupation. His belated play and indifferent use of the Lasso may have been a significant factor as well, especially in light of the early appearance of Sheep; a first move of RSf followed by a button grab and the Lasso could have sent him in a far more profitable direction. Ron has a tendency to fixate on early wood gathering and gaining a means of cooking animals. An early fireplace or hearth is always nice to have, but hardly a guarantee of long-range success. It takes far more than a food engine to win Agricola.

My own course of action was practically a direct repudiation of the “common knowledge” that unbridled card play (especially Occupations) is typically a recipe for losing. In this case, I had a pretty good synergy between my cards, and used them effectively (with the exception of the extraneous Spices and Stone Tongs). I was certainly encouraged in my strategy by having so many Minors that required three Occupations in play. I can’t recall what my three unplayed Occupations were, but I’m fairly certain none of them would have bettered my scoring. Getting the Wood Carver into play, and eventually the Spinney and Wood Cart, went a long, long way toward accomplishing goals: the Carver saved me seven wood over the course of the game, allowing some very timely acquisitions, while the Spinney dampened my opponents’ appetite for the 3Wood, luring them into other plays, and the Wood Cart provided another 6Wood as well. In toto, the three cards garnered me 17 wood and better efficiency in play (I took a mere ten wood outright, ignoring the Wood Cart bonus, over the course of the game); that’s a very tough payoff to beat. Then again, if I hadn’t had the Yeoman Farmer to back me up, I may well have played much differently. The combination was simply too encouraging to ignore, and as it turned out, more than worthy of due consideration.

Next report: the delayed appearance of “The Agony of Success, or What Do You Mean I Just Scored My Best Game and Still Lost By One Point?”

All comments and questions competently or otherwise answered. Meanwhile, happy gaming!
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Lord Chambers
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Excellent write up. I had to work hard to understand some abbreviations but the reading was more fun than actually playing! :blasphemy:
 
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Geoff Burkman
United States
Kettering
Ohio
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Thanks! I have to admit that I have almost as much fun writing up these post-mortems as I do playing the game. There's something about activating my 20-20 hindsight that appeals. Hopefully, whoever reads these things may well glean some useful tips.

And if I can elicit smiles, chuckles, or outright laughter, so much the better.

I suppose I should post an abbreviations list with one of these, for those who aren't privy to my thought patterns. Hmmmmm....

 
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Brian Bastage
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I have to admit I have almost as much fun reading the reports as I do playing the game, especially since I'm one of the players.

Sometimes they're even more fun to read because we aren't falling asleep waiting for Ron to take his turn!!



As usual great report!



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Geoff Burkman
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Oooooh, currying favor, are we?
 
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Brian Bastage
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Of course. Can I use the taster next game? Please?
 
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