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Subject: Boy, what do you know about farming? 1st time 4p family game. rss

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Neil Ikerd
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Last night I took the plunge and played my first game of Agricola. I had read the rules and a few session reports ahead of time, so I felt I had a reasonable grasp of the basic concept. My wife, Amy, was unfamiliar with the game except in concept. Jeff, who organizes the weekly get together, taught us to play; and our friend Don, who has played before, joined us as well. Originally, Jeff was just going to teach and let us play, but we insisted that he play as well. Watching Jeff play a game is an education in how a game should be played in most cases, and every game I have learned from him I've always felt I had an excellent grasp of the game when it started. We knew he would probably win, but that was okay by us.


We played the family game. I had wanted to use the occupations and minor improvements, but Jeff suggested we just play the family game for the first time. I'm glad he did, because I had enough to keep track of as it was. Amy suggested we let Don play first, so that Don and Jeff would go before Amy and I did, and we would get the idea from them. It meant I went last, which I knew probably wouldn't work well, but it turned out okay.

In the first round, all the wood disappeared by the time it got to me, so I took the clay with an eye toward improving my house. and then plowed a field for my second action. Nobody challenged for starting player, so Don went again. Again, all the wood disappeared, and this time I took the Start action and collected 2 food. More building materials were collected by others. For my second action I took 1 grain. The new action was fence building, and as starting players I took the 3 wood and for my second action I picked the "Take 1 stone, 1 reed, and 1 food." Jeff took start player. Finally, Improvement came up and Jeff went fishing and picked up 4 food in one shot. Amy did the improvement and picked up the oven. I sowed my field just before harvest, and picked up the the start player and last food I needed to feed my people for my second action. I felt I was laggin behind at Harvest time, but my people were fed and I had a field to harvest and a stockpile of wood.

The second phase opened with Sheep, and I set up by taking the wood I needed, and then building a 6 section fence to enclose 2 spaces in a pasture. I was also trying to keep track of what Jeff was doing, and he used his acitons to build another room and collect food. I looked down at my pitiful stockpile and sighed inwardly, 1 stick and 1 reed does not build a house. There was so many things I wanted to do, but couldn't because I just didn't have enough actions or stock pile. I went to buy a fireplace, and realized I didn't have the requisite clay (I wish the print on the Major Improvements was easier to read at a distance.) I sucked it up, gathered what I needed and hoped to buy the clay oven instead of a fireplace, but my wife scooped me (in part because I didn't realize you could buy the improvements out of order), so I was stuck with a fireplace producing barely enough bread to make it worth while. However, in compensation for losing the oven, I picked up 3 sheep and put them in pasture, instead of the house like every one else. Jeff had the first baby, then Amy grew her family just at Harvest so she only had to pay 1 food upkeep for it, a good move completely by accident. I built a stable and baked some bread just before harvest. I had just enough to feed my family, and more important, my sheep began to breed.

In phase 3, I was finally able to grow my house and my family, and the extra action really paid off as I fenced a second pasture of 2 squares. At this point I had 4 fenced pasture squares, 3 house sqares, and 2 ploughed fields. I felt I was finally getting into the game. I was hoping to stock that second pen with pigs (wild boar), but everyone else was snapping them up almost as soon as they hit the board. I picked up a stack of Clay though and began to plot.

In phase 4, Jeff continued to grow his house and began collecting stone. Amy decided she was rancher- beef was what's for dinner. I collected a bit more clay, and then turned in what I thought was my best single move all night. I upgraded my house to clay, used the allowed impovement to buy the clay oven, and used it's free baking action to produce the 5 loaves I needed to feed my growing family just in time for harvest.

The first card up in phase 5 was the "Family growth with out room." Amy was first player and snapped that up. I followed her by taking the start player action so I could do it next turn. Don finally got his 3rd family member, and Jeff continued to stockpile resources. I picked up a veggie and gathered some wood. In the bottom of the 5th (those 2 turn phases go fast), I was able to sow a wheat and a veggie, then plow a third field, and lastly, bought a stable and baked bread just before harvest. I ended up eating some of my sheep, but was able to keep enough for breeding stock. Amy swiped the first player back from me.

In the last round, Amy opened by breeding without growth again. She tried to catch up on using her fields, but was too little too late and now had 5 hungry mouths to feed. I had 4 active people, which was good because I needed every action. I plowed and sowed veggies, collected 3 wood, fenced another pasture, and collected the remaining food I needed to feed my family. Jeff went on a building spree and upgraded to a 5 space stone house, then built a fence that enclosed 5 pasture fields, and finally picked up food. Don, who had struggled the entire game with a small family, surged by collecting a bunch of reed to stock his basket weavers and building stables.

In the final scoring, Jeff showed his mastery of the game by scoring 37 points despite having empty fields and only 4 family members. He was the only one with a 5-room house, and the only one with a stone house. Much to my surprise, I scored 26 points. Having extra vegetables offset my lack of pigs and cows, and I only had 3 empty fields, the same as Jeff. Don scored 17 points, including 3 for reeds with Basket Weaver. He had the most of any single type of animal, 5 pigs after breeding. Amy made a good fight of it at 16. She was the only one with 5 family members. However, she had never upgraded her house and scored 0 points for a 4 room house. Her focus on getting animals to feed her family also kept her from accumulating stores of building equipment and improving fields. She had 5 or 6 empty fields, the most of any of us.

I like the game, but I probably won't play it all that much because I don't think it fits the flavor of my home group. They would probably enjoy Pandemic, or would rather play Chez Geek or Apples to Apples. Unfortunately, the game is too long to play fully on our Tuesday nights as well.

edit: plowed, not sowed in the first round. corrected phrasing.
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Geoff Burkman
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eldrwyrm wrote:
...We played the family game. I had wanted to use the occupations and minor improvements, but Jeff suggested we just play the family game for the first time.


Your pal is a smart guy. Probably has to do with his name.

Quote:
In the first round, all the wood disappeared by the time it got to me, so I took the clay with an eye toward improving my house. and then sowed a field for my second action.


With what, and when did you plow? Or did you mean to say plow in the first place? I'm thinking you did.

Quote:
...then building a 6 section fence to enclose 2 pastures.


You mean two spaces. You only built one pasture.

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...I went to buy a fireplace, and realized I didn't have the requisite clay (I wish the print on the Major Improvements was easier to read at a distance.)


Never be afraid to read the cards. Plus, once you've played the game a few times, you'll have all the Majors memorized soon enough.

Quote:
...so I was stuck with a fireplace producing barely enough bread to make it worth while.


Fireplaces are best used for cooking sheep, and upgrading to a hearth when convenient.

Quote:
... and then turned in what I thought was my best single move all night. I upgraded my house to clay, used the allowed impovement to buy the clay oven, and used it's free baking action to produce the 5 loaves I needed to feed my growing family just in time for harvest.


Excellent play, and exactly what is called for in competitive Agricola: efficient use of actions. Good work!

Quote:
...I like the game, but I probably won't play it all that much because I don't think it fits the flavor of my home group. They would probably enjoy Pandemic, or would rather play Chez Geek or Apples to Apples. Unfortunately, the game is too long to play fully on our Tuesday nights as well.


Well, give it at least another try or two, and you'll definitely have to try it with the cards before giving up entirely (or you'll never have played the game as it's meant to be played). Experience will tend to shorten playing time as well, assuming no one suffers from analysis paralysis.
 
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Neil Ikerd
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MisterG wrote:
Well, give it at least another try or two, and you'll definitely have to try it with the cards before giving up entirely (or you'll never have played the game as it's meant to be played). Experience will tend to shorten playing time as well, assuming no one suffers from analysis paralysis.

I'm sure I will. I've been invited to a large group later this month, and I'm sure someone will break it out. I may also try some online solo play after reading a couple of other session reports. Thank you for the corrections blush and commentary.
 
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I.M. Jeremic
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It's more fun and interesting with cards. This is why I even start out new players with cards. I find the game lacks zip without cards and players don't get a true feel for the game.
 
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Robert Schwartz
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tzinc wrote:
It's more fun and interesting with cards. This is why I even start out new players with cards. I find the game lacks zip without cards and players don't get a true feel for the game.

Whereas, I feel there's plenty of fun and interest to be had in the family game, and that it gives players an opportunity to get a "true feel" of the game's flow without having to deal with fourteen additional sources of information and decision. This is why I never start out new players with cards.
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Werner Bär
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eldrwyrm wrote:
I sowed my field just before harvest, and picked up the the start player and last food I needed to feed my people for my second action.

Do your forget so start with some food (2 for starting player, 3 for everybody else)?

Quote:
[...]and then turned in what I thought was my best single move all night. I upgraded my house to clay, used the allowed impovement to buy the clay oven, and used it's free baking action to produce the 5 loaves

nice play
 
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Jeff W
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eldrwyrm wrote:
Originally, Jeff was just going to teach and let us play, but we insisted that he play as well.


It is always a dilemma whether or not to play when I am teaching a game like Agricola. One one hand, I think the game plays faster and smoother with fewer people, but on the other hand, sometimes I come back and found out that the players made some egregious rules error. I do think that a 3 player family game is the way to learn this game. I have seen these games finish in just over an hour with everyone enjoying the game and ready to go for the full game. I've seen five player regular games that drag on for about 4+ hours with everyone drained after the game.
 
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Neil Ikerd
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Well Jeff, let me say thank you once again for teaching us how to play. It was fun, and you made the rules easy to understand.
 
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