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Subject: Close But No Cigar, or The Wood Hog Doesn't Always Win rss

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Geoff Burkman
United States
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Not much of a preamble to this one; the contest involved a standard 4-player game using all three main decks shuffled together, and the usual “pass the garbage” draft to spread the wealth around a mite. Plain ol’ straight up Agricola….

Round One/Sheep
Brian – 3W(3)
Skyp – Occ/235/Wood Collector (5W>
Ron – 2C(2)
Geoff – Occ(1)/188/Clay Mixer
Brian – 2W(2)
Skyp – 1G
Ron – RSf
Geoff – 1C(1+2)

Brian takes a standard opening dose of wood, Skyp follows with a nice 5Wood on the installment plan, and Ron snags usable clay, as he so often does. I put out an Occupation that ends up being worth a 12Clay and dead last. What a deal! Shoulda gone with the Thatcher. The other woodpile goes to Brian, Skyp picks up a grain, Ron nabs the utility space, and I weakly exercise my Ock, thinking I’m oh-so-clever. Well, clever is as clever does, as others soon demonstrate….

Round Two/Sow & Bake
Brian – 1R(2)
Skyp – 3W(3)
Ron – 2C(2)
Geoff – RSf
Brian – BR(1)
Skyp – SP + Stone Exchange>(2W>2S)
Ron – Occ/164/Master Forester
Geoff – 1C(1+2)

Brian secures the hut-building reed, Skyp nabs the only worthwhile woodpile, and Ron assures himself possession of a hearth when MIMI appears. I keep options open, Brian builds his room (though perhaps too early), and Skyp secures the button, swapping off wood for stone. Ron then ocks a strong wood source, ultimately securing nearly half the 32Wood he grabs up throughout the game. I close out the round with another enhanced clay, hoping against hope that MIMI doesn’t show next Round, profoundly ruing my failure to take the button myself.

Round Three/MIMI
Skyp – SP + Wood Oven (3f)
Ron – MIMI/CH4
Geoff – 2W(4)
Brian – Occ/192/Patron
Skyp – 1W(3)
Ron – 3W(3)
Geoff – Fish (3f)
Brian – Occ(+1)/180/Hobby Farmer (1V)
Skyp misses the chance to hinder Ron, utilizing another button grab to get out his Wood-fired Oven instead of blocking off the MIMI space. Ron, of course, immediately secures his hearth, thankful in the extreme for Skyp’s oversight. The woodpiles disappear on either side of Brian’s first Ock, one that gains him a modicum of food and greater ease in getting out more Ocks. I make a weak denial play taking the fish; in retrospect, I should probably have taken the opportunity to get the Thatcher out early, even if it would have delayed Brian’s Hobby Farmer, possibly allowing him to get more out of it than mere pumpkin seeds.

Round Four/Fences
Skyp – 1R(2)
Ron – Sheep(4)burn(8f)
Geoff – 1G
Brian – 2C(4)
Skyp – Occ(1)/234/Wood Buyer
Ron – 2W(4)
Geoff – SP + Millstone
Brian – TP(4f)

Skyp takes the obvious reed, while Ron suffers mutton gluttony. Deterred by Ron’s butchery, I settle for a grain. It always finds a way of coming in handy, grain does. Brian takes the budget clay, Skyp puts out one of his favorite Ocks, though it avails him little (why he didn’t build a room is beyond pondering), and Ron clears the spare woodpile. Seeing some small opportunity, I nab the button, playing a Minor I end up using once, and Brian “taps a square meal” to finish the Round. I silently eye the 3Wood. Everyone pays the “vig” and we carry on.

Round Five/Family Growth + MI
Geoff – 3W(6)
Brian – 2W(4)
Skyp – BR(1)
Ron – Occ/168/Green Grocer
Geoff – 1C(3+2)
Brian – FG + Builder’s Trowel
Skyp – RSf
Ron – SP + Stone Cart (5S>

How can one pass on a 6Wood, especially early in the game? Answer: not me. Corollary: not that it’ll do me any good. Brian follows suit, and Skyp builds, day late and a peep short. Just think, if he’d built his room last Round, he could have forced Brian to FG, and gotten the 4Wood himself. Ron plays an ock that ultimately serves as little more than a placeholder, I pile up clay, and Brian gains himself a peep and a “free” renovation move. Skyp stumbles, missing an opportune button grab in his quest for oven dominance, and Ron happily picks up the torch, assuring himself the means to renovate to stone in the endgame.

Round Six/Stone
Ron – 1R(2)
Geoff – 2C(4+2)
Brian – 1W(3-1+1f)
Skyp – 1G
Ron – BR(1)
Geoff – RSf
Brian – Occ(+1)/300/Schnaps Distributor
Skyp – SP + Baker’s Kitchen (5f)
Brian – 3W(3)

Ron takes the obvious reed, I pile on yet more clay, and Brian feels the first sting of Skyp’s Wood Buyer. Skyp takes an innocuous grain, again failing to grow, not a good strategy in Agricola by any means. Ron, of course, builds a new room, ready to take advantage of any further oversights by his opponents. I pick up the stone I’ll need for an intended oven, Brian sets out the Veg-O-Matic machine, which he uses in the endgame, and Skyp nabs the button again to activate his kitchen and rustle up some grub. Brian closes the Round by denying Skyp a 6Wood in the next Round.

Round Seven/Renovation + MIMI
Skyp – Occ(1)/311/Magician
Ron – 2W(6)
Geoff – Ren + Clay Oven (7f)
Brian – 2W(4)
Skyp – TP(3+1f+1G)
Ron – FG + Crooked Plow
Geoff – Fish(4f)
Brian – 3W(3)
Brian – SP +Turnip Field

Skyp adds insult to his own injury by again refusing to grow his family, despite having just accumulated food for three, instead choosing to play an Ock to keep himself in grain. Plowing and sowing might be a better way to do that, though. Surprisingly, Ron spurns growth himself to grab the sheltered 6Wood; this is amazing largesse in light of Skyp’s earlier misplays. Still intent on Claymation™, I renovate my rinky-dink hut, nab everyone’s favorite oven and fire it up for a healthy feast. Brian hits the wood, and Skyp, seemingly at the mercy of a devastating case of sterility, stuns me to silence as he ignores growth yet again to exercise his Magician. Ron, stunned as well but not at the mercy of any comparable affliction, quickly adds a peep to his roster and gets out his plow, essentially saving two actions. Nice. Forlorn, I fish, if only to keep the food from Brian. Brian then deprives anyone else of a 6Wood next Round, and grabs the button again, guaranteeing himself stacked reed. His play of the Turnip Field is anticipatory, but somewhat premature; he has nothing to sow and nowhere to sow it. Everyone feeds, and we move into Act II of the game.

Round Eight/Boar
Brian – 1R(2) + Ren
Skyp – FG + Animal Yard
Ron – 2C(4)
Geoff – MIMI/CH5
Brian – Occ(+1)/242/Clay Hut Builder (10C>
Skyp – TP(1+1f+1G)
Ron – Sheep(4)burn4(8f)
Geoff – Occ(1)/157/Thatcher
Brian – 3W(3)
Ron – PF (+2PF)

As anticipated, Brian snaps up the reed, utilizing his trowel to immediately renovate to clay. Back from his vacation in Bizarro World©, Skyp grows at last, adding a Minor he only barely uses. Knowing the woolies are temporarily safe, Ron indulges in some budget clay. I promptly scarf up the other hearth to keep him honest. Brian ocks a couple of rooms’ worth of clay, Skyp gets more mileage out of his Magician, and Ron quickly stews up the woolies—no dummy he! I alleviate future reed problems with the Ock I should have played ages ago, Brian begins restocking wood, and Ron gets fair use out of his plow. Every action saved is an action earned, with a tip of the hat to Mr. Franklin.

Round Nine/Vegetables
Brian – 1V
Skyp – PF
Ron – 2W(4)
Geoff – 1S(4)
Brian – 1C(4)
Skyp – S&B(10f)
Ron – 3W(3)
Geoff – 2C(2+2)
Brian – RSf
Skyp – Boar(2)
Ron – Occ(1)/216/Animal Keeper

Brian stocks up on seed, Skyp plows his first field, Ron hits the woodpile, and I can’t pass up the bargain stone. Brian takes the discount clay, and Skyp bakes with a vengeance, probably regretting not having done some real farming a bit earlier. More wood for Ron, more clay for me, and more stuff for Brian; Agricola is a very capitalistic game: more, more, more. Skyp starts tending piggies, while Ron chooses to democratize his future livestock holdings. The endgame approaches, slouching roughly.

Round Ten/Stone
Brian – 1R(2)
Skyp – 2W(6-2f)
Ron – 1W(4-1+1f)
Geoff – BR(1) +1s
Brian – 1V
Skyp – 2C(2)
Ron – Fence(12)
Geoff – RSf
Brian – Occ(+1)/303/Stone Breaker
Skyp – MIMI/Fp2
Ron – Sheep(2)

Brian preps for more room building, Skyp pay Ron’s vig for a 6Wood, and then another food for a slice of Ron’s woodpile. At long last, I build a room and a stable, knowing that Brian will if I don’t. He settles for erasing a negative, Skyp nabs clay, and Ron fences, ready for some ranching. I hit up the sundries, Brian reserves himself another renovation-at-will, Skyp picks up a cookery, and Ron gets flocked. Time do fly when you’re having fun.

Round Eleven/Cattle
Brian – BR(2) +1s
Skyp – 3W(6)
Ron – 2W(4-1+1f)
Geoff – FG + Baker’s Oven
Brian – PF
Skyp – 1V
Ron – Boar(2)
Geoff – Fish(4f)
Brian – S&B (2Vf)
Skyp – TP(3+1f+1G)
Ron – Ren + Well(3f>

Brian effects a double build plus stable, Skyp can’t resist the generous woodpile (nor Ron the other), and pressed by Brian’s move, I add a peep and upgrade my oven despite the lack of grain to bake. Brian plows, Skyp shops for seed, and Ron expands his livestock holdings. Somewhat gratefully, I fish (always feed your family!). Brian maxes out his veggies, Skyp does more magic tricks, and Ron ends the Stage with a strong, simultaneous renovation and Well acquisition. The three extra food certainly don’t hurt. It’s looking more and more like a race between Ron and Brian, and Skyp and me.

Round Twelve/Plow & Sow
Brian – Cattle(2)
Skyp – Occ(1)/207/Stablehand
Ron – 1R(2)
Geoff – RSf
Brian – P&S (1Vf)
Skyp – 2C(4)
Ron – 1G(+1V)
Geoff – 1C(3+2)
Brian – Fence(14)
Skyp – Ren
Ron – 2W(4-1+1f)
Geoff – SP + Wooden Path

Brian opens Stage 5 with some rustling. Skyp then misfires with a near-pointless Ock, and Ron obligingly jumps the reed. I secure goods for final renovation, Brian squats on a prime action, and Skyp hits the clay. Ron finally exercises his Green Grocer, erasing two negatives, I stock clay for a double room build, and Brian puts up some timely fences. Skyp weakly renovates, Ron nips a bit of wood, and I say what the heck and nab the button, sliding out a 2-point Minor.

Round Thirteen/Family Growth w/o
Geoff – 3W(6-1+1f)
Brian – 1S(3)
Skyp – Fence(15)(+1s)
Ron – RSf
Geoff – FG w/o
Brian – SP + Herb Garden
Skyp – S&B (1Vf +5f)
Ron – 2C(2)
Geoff – Sheep(3)burn2(4f)
Brian – FG + Clogs
Skyp – TP(2+1f+1G)
Ron – Ren + Holiday House

Aware that the fencing window is closing fast, I grab the 6Wood, taxed or not. Brian hits the stone bargain, Skyp fences, and strangely, Ron taps the general store. What’s he up to, I wonder? Desperate for points, I grow; building my rooms would have been a better idea. In retrospect, renovation would have been an even better move, as the reader can tell from Ron’s closing move. Brian secures the final turn start and a stray point, while Skyp, blinded by hunger, plants and bakes instead of just cooking lambchops. Ron now makes what turns out to be a crucial error, scooping up the 2Clay. Why? Because he misread the costs of the upcoming Minor he wanted to play, but was reluctant to ask about it for fear that someone would hijack the Renovation action (Skyp is no threat, not having the necessary resources, but I might be and Brian definitely is), spoiling his plans—he thought he needed wood and clay for the Holiday House, rather than either/or! I’m forced to take the sheep to feed my family. Brian grabs another peep and plays an eventual 2-point Minor, Skyp marks time with more food, and Ron finishes the Round with his big play. Will it be enough to give him the victory?

Round Fourteen/Renovation + Fences
Brian – RSf + Ren
Skyp – P&S (1Vf)
Geoff – Boar(3)burn3(9f)
Brian – FG
Skyp – Cattle(2)
Geoff – BR(2) +1s
Brian – Sheep(1)
Skyp – TP(1+1f+1G)
Geoff – FG w/o
Brian – PF
Geoff – Ren + Fence(10)

The final Round is fairly anti-climactic. Brian accomplishes his own final renovation, Skyp grabs three points, and I gratefully snap up the meat needed to feed my family. Brian maxes out his peeps, Skyp cancels another negative, and I build my last two desperate rooms and a puny stable. Brian grabs a woolie, Skyp scrabbles for food, I max my peeps, Brian plows, and I bump to stone and get out my pitiful pasture. It’s all over but the final feast, and (of course) the scoring.

Final Scores (Ocks played, Minor/Major Improvements Played)(Wood taken + or - via Wood Buyer + Occupation Wood)
Brian – 36 (5, 4/0)(22-1)
Ron – 34 (3, 3/2)(32-3)
Skyp – 28 (4, 4/1)(18+5+5)
Geoff – 26 (2, 3/2)(16-1)

With a mere ten points between first and last, this was one of the closer games we’ve played. The application of 20-20 hindsight shows that any number of different early moves, and several later ones, could have easily altered the outcome. Ron’s typical domination of wood was certainly a factor in his eventual score, as was my own lack of wood gathering (or surfeit of woolgathering, though not literally). Interestingly, both Brian and Ron had more negatives than Skyp at game’s end, but his failure to grow in a timely fashion sealed his third-place finish. My own poor finish seems due to a foolish reliance on the utility of clay, or perhaps mishandling what I got in the first place. Getting out the Thatcher early and concentrating on expansion would have been much more productive. Live and learn. I also note that Brian managed to win without picking up a single Major Improvement; I can’t say I’ve seen that happen very often.

Well, that wraps up what I hope was a somewhat illustrative session report. I’d have loved to detail the 5-player rematch with our new gaming pal, Jimmy, but the Fates had other plans. A portion of the record was accidentally destroyed, and I was unable to reconstruct the missing actions. Perhaps next time….

As always, comments and/or questions happily answered to the best of my ability.
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Oliver Cheng
United States
Rhode Island
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Cool. I quite like the Schnaps Distiller, the occupation that Brian used to feed his family. I once had him along with the Schnapps Distillery and the Gardener. I gained 9 food at each of the last 3 harvests.
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