Geoff Burkman
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Kettering
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Ah, once more into the breach, dear friends!

This particular game was the second of a pair. Card distribution was determined in the initial contest via the usual passing draft, Occupations followed by Minor Improvements, the three main decks shuffled together. The outcome of the first game was heavily skewed by a meltdown on the part of Yr Faithful Writer, who opened with the Wood Carver and proceeded to dither about nabbing the button in order to play “free” Minors. That insanity led to four Begging Cards at the end of Round Seven, a derailment of purpose that threw me into spoiler mode, strongly altering the remainder of the game and making it worthless as a subject for a session report. My final score, for those easily amused, was –30 (I took a total of 20 Begging Cards!), while Ron won with 32 and Brian racked up 24. Pitiful, yes, I know, I know. Early stupidity usually translates into abject failure—Agricola is not a game that allows significant recovery from boneheaded error.

So, thought we, having “wasted” several hours already, why not try an experiment? Why not replay the game entirely, with each player retaining the same cards? The order of appearance of the Round Cards was preserved as well. This gave everyone a small leg up, knowing what was coming, as well as a certain advantage in knowing what cards the opposition favored using, but in the long run I’d have to say these “edges” didn’t have much effect, if any, on game play. Note that Ron’s Lover was no surprise, even in the first game, since I’d started with it pre-draft and passed it to him. In both contests, his first Round play of Day Laborer amply signaled his possession of the Lover.

We played with the “Through the Seasons” variant, with compressed “years” and an Autumn start…

Turn One/Autumn/Sheep
Geoff – 1R(2)
Ron – 3W(4)
Brian – Occ/Reed Collector (4R>
Geoff – 2W(3)
Ron – DL(2f)
Brian – Autumn Action (1V)

Instead of an Occupation gambit, I open this time with a reed grab, always good for expansion plans, as well as a solid defensive play. Ron and I clear the wood on either side of Brian’s first Ock, the same one he opened with in the first game, one turn later. Ron telegraphs his intentions with the DL play, while Brian does a passable Frank Zappa imitation with a seasonal acquisition, though it takes him six Rounds to actually do anything with it.

Turn Two/Winter/Sow & Bake
Geoff – Occ/Fisherman
Ron – 3W(3)
Brian – 2W(2)
Geoff – 1G
Ron – SP + Corn Sheaf> (1G)
Brian – DL(2f)

I open Round Two with the same Ock I used on Round Three in the first game, and end up being blocked from using it just about as many times. I’d have been better off with the Charcoal Burner, retrospectively speaking. Ron and Brian chow on the wood, and I take a grain. Ron nabs the button (gosh, I wonder why?) and a free grain of his own. Brian takes food for lack of anything better to do.

Turn Three/Spring/MIMI
Ron – Occ/Lover (FG w/o –4f)
Brian – Fish(3f)
Geoff – 1C(2)
Ron – 1C(2)
Brian – PF
Geoff – MIMI/Fp2

Ron gets the Lover out, Brian fishes (thanks, dude!), and I snag clay for a fireplace. Ron takes the other clay, but I will not be denied. Brian plows, and I haul in the fireplace. Now let’s see if my opponents want to play harsh and rob me of my sheep.

Turn Four/Summer/Fences
Ron – Fish(2f)
Brian – 3W(5)
Geoff – Sheep(4)burn3(6f)
Ron – DL (2f+1G)
Brian – Occ(1)/Resource Seller
Geoff – SP + Cooking Hearth
Ron - 1C(2)

Thankfully, neither one does. Ron is preoccupied with grubbing to pay for the Lover’s bastard offspring, while Brian focuses on the choice wood. I, of course, harvest the woolies, putting most of them to the torch. Ron finishes feeding his peeps (barely), Brian gets out his Resource Seller on schedule, and I retake the button, bumping my fireplace to the convenient Minor hearth. Ron nabs the stacked clay to avail himself to the cheap(er) hearth, bypassing the stacked reed. Ron, I am thinking, is not going to be happy with my Round Five opening move.

Turn Five/Autumn/Family Growth + MI
Geoff – 1R(4)
Ron – 2W(6)
Brian – 3W(4+1)
Geoff – Occ(1)/Charcoal Burner
Ron – MIMI/CH4 (1W/1f>g.)
Brian – BR(1)
Ron – PF

I snag the discount reed, despite the lure of the 6Wood, which falls to Ron, as does the smaller woodpile to Brian. Now I unleash the Charcoal Burner, day late and a Burner bonus short, though I do profit from Ron’s construction of his own hearth. Brian builds his first room, and Ron gets a field in gear, wondering if he’ll ever get some reed.

Turn Six/Winter/Stone
Geoff – 3W(3)
Ron – Sheep(2)burn2(4f)
Brian – 1C(3+1)
Geoff – Winter Action (FG w/o –2W-3f)
Ron – 1G
Brian – FG + Field> (PF-1f)
Ron – Occ(1)/Grocer

I liberate my first woodpile, readying for you-know-what. Ron falls upon the sheep, hungry. Brian takes bolstered clay, and I add a peep via the Winter Action. Pricey, but I can’t afford to fall behind action-wise. Ron nabs another grain, Brian grows his family and passes on the Field, and Ron finishes up with the Grocer, also right on schedule from last game. Ron has effectively gained three actions on us, and doesn’t seem to have benefited all that much from the deal. Time, of course, will tell.

Round Seven/SpringSummer/Renovation + MIMI
Geoff – Fish(4f+4f)
Ron – 1G
Brian – MIMI/Fp2 (1W/1f>g.)
Geoff – 1C(3)
Ron – S&B (1Gf+3f)
Brian – DL(2f+1G)
Geoff – 2W(3)
Ron – Fence (13+2)
Brian – Spring Action (1Gf +1Vf)

I immediately empty the pond, of course, recouping my investment in the Fisherman and still wishing I’d opened with the Charcoal Burner. Ron plugs along with his baking strategy, Brian picks up his fireplace, breaking me even on the Burner, and I scarf up some clay for use down the line. Ron gets his engine underway, Brian oddjobs for the seasonal grain, and I snag the lesser woodpile, fingers crossed. To my delight, Ron fences, looking to ranch, and Brian uses the Spring Action to sow his own goodies. Autumn/Winter won’t be so barren for me after all!

Round Eight/AutumnWinter/Boar
Geoff – 3W(6)
Ron – 1R(2)
Brian – 2W(3)
Geoff – Sheep(2)burn2(4f)
Ron – PF
Brian – BR(1)
Geoff – 1S(3)
Ron – SP + Landing Net
Brian – DL(2f)

I sweep in the 6Wood without a second thought beyond “Two rooms, soon as I’m ready!” Ron finally gets himself some reed, Brian jumps the remaining wood, and I incinerate woolies once again. Ron plows and Brian promptly builds another room. I glom stone, Ron takes the button, playing a low-grade Minor that vaguely pays for itself later, if you can call swapping a reed for two food paying for itself. Brian closes out the Round with a weak food grab. I’m guessing he felt that family growth just wasn’t worth the bother.

Round Nine/SpringSummer/Vegetables
Ron – Boar(2)
Brian – Fish(3f)
Geoff – BR(2) +2s
Ron – DL(2f+1G)
Brian – FG +Corn Sheaf> (1G)
Geoff – MIMI/Well (5f>
Ron – Spring Action (1Gf +1b)
Brian – SP + Rake
Geoff – Summer Action (3VP)

Unsurprisingly, Ron sequesters the boar, and then Brian actually does me a favor by denying me fish. Untempted, I proceed with the double build; it’s hard to turn down those free stables. Ron and Brian get grain-happy as Brian co-opts Family Growth, but I happily commandeer the Well and its perks. My fourth dude can wait. Ron uses the Spring Action to some effect; Brian takes the button for the probable 6Wood and a Minor that definitely fails to pay off. I finish what I can’t help but feel was a strong Round with a 3-point Holiday, fairly relieved that Brian chose the 6Wood over the points.

Round Ten/AutumnWinter/Stone
Brian – 3W(6)
Geoff – 2W(4)
Ron – Sheep(2)
Brian – Occ(1)/Clay Plasterer
Geoff – 1C(4)
Ron – 1R(2) +2f
Brian – S&B (1Vf)
Geoff – Ren>C +Clay Oven (6f+1W)
Ron - PF
Brian – 1BR(1R+1)

The 6Wood disappears as expected, I liberate the other woodpile, and Ron woolgathers. Brian drops an Ock that translates to an eventual 5Clay, easier renovation and expansion, but unfortunately not a win. Grateful, I clear the bargain clay; growth can still wait. Ron utilizes his Landing Net for the one and only time, Brian gets down a veggie field, and I upgrade the ol’ homestead, snagging a very productive Clay Oven, payoff number three for the Burner. Ron plows and Brian closes out the Round with a bolstered reed. The endgame looms.

Round Eleven/SpringSummer/Cattle
Brian – Boar(2)burn2(4f)
Geoff – FG + Field> (PF-1f)
Ron – 1C(4)
Brian – Fence (8+2)
Geoff – 1S(3)
Ron – SP + Field> (PF-1f)
Brian – Ren>C + Fruit Tree (3f>
Geoff – Fish (6f-1f>b.)
Ron – Spring Action (2Gf+1b/1s)
Brian – Cattle(1)

Brian fricassees the piglets, perhaps wishing he had a hearth, and now I grow a peep, paying the vig for the Minor field. Ron makes his first probable miscue of the game falling on cheap clay that he ends up never using. Bummer. Brian fences, ready to procure livestock, not to mention fill empty spaces. I collect the bargain stone that Ron should have taken mayhap. Ron purloins the button, passing along the cheap field. Brian spruces up his domicile, and for just a moment I wonder if the wandering field will make its way around the table in a single Round, but Brian gets out the Fruit Tree instead, preferring the extra food over the extra point. No fool, I fish, happy to pay Brian his cut. Ron beefs up his holdings with a timely seasonal action, and Brian, craving sustenance, lures home a forlorn calf. Will it survive? Will Brian be sorrier he had to pass up four seasonal victory points or that he never upgraded to a hearth? Time’s a tattletale.

Round Twelve/AutumnWinter/Plow & Sow
Ron – 3W(6)
Brian – 2W(4)
Geoff – 1S(3)
Ron – P&S (2Vf)
Brian – Fence(5)
Geoff – 1C(2)
Ron – SP + Lasso
Brian – Occ(1)/Gardner
Geoff – 1V
Brian – Autumn Action (3V)
Geoff – Ren>S +Stone Oven (1W/1f)

Ron’s focus on wood rarely wavers, and his opening play for the Round seems preordained. Brian crushes the other woodpile, while I settle for another load of cheap stone. Ron maxes-out his sowables score, Brian completes his pasture array, and I nab an innocuous clay, hoping that Ron isn’t considering bumping his miserable little hut to clay this Round. Fortunately for me, he isn’t prescient; instead, he nabs the button and throws out the Lasso, a Minor he might have been much better off playing six or seven Rounds earlier, had he been able to manage it. Brian jacks up his vegetable production, I grab one myself, and he puts his Gardner immediately to work with the Autumn action. I finish the Round with renovation to stone, claiming the Stone Oven, a final vindication for the Charcoal Burner. Too bad I didn’t have a grain to convert to food, but then again, Agricola is also not a game about getting everything you want, or even necessarily what you need.

Round Thirteen/SpringSummer/Family Growth w/o
Ron – Cattle(2) + Boar(2)burn2(6f)
Brian – 1C(2)
Geoff – Sheep(3)burn2(4f)
Ron – SP + Market Stall> (1G>1V)
Brian – 1R(3)
Geoff – PF
Brian – 1S(2+1)
Geoff – 1G
Brian – BR(1) +1s
Geoff – Summer Action (4VP)

Ron ropes in a double helping of beasties, frying the piggies for good measure. Brian nabs the clay he needs for another room, I render the sheep, save one, and Ron takes the button, getting out a fiddly Minor of limited value, hoping against hope that Brian and I will ignore the depleted wood space. We do. Brian takes the cheap reed, detours for some augmented stone, and then builds a fifth room. Meanwhile, I plow, acquire grain, and quite happily take another vacation, this time for four points. Nice.

Round Fourteen/All/Renovation + Fences
Ron – 3W(5)
Brian – 1S(2)
Geoff – P&S (1Gf+1Vf)
Ron – BR(2)+3s
Brian – Ren>S + Field (PF-1f)
Geoff – Fence (10+2)
Ron – Summer Action (3VP)
Brian – Cattle(1)
Geoff – PF
Brian – FG + Feed Pellets
Geoff – FG w/o

Ron nabs the wood he wanted, Brian the stone, while I pick up three more points with ye olde plowe `n’ sowe. Ron fills his board, adding three stables, one of which he actually pays for, a satisfactory five-point play. Brian scores seven via renovation and the field that found its way home. I fence for an effective ten points. Ron snags the holiday, a play that perhaps Brian should have made instead of renovating first. Regardless, he settles for a cattle, denying it to me. No problem; I plow. Brian picks up a fifth peep and a Minor good for a point, and I expand likewise, glad Brian wanted that point. As it turns out, the standings would have been unaffected. The holiday debacle was the clincher play for second and last. Game over, man, game over!

Final Scores (Occupations Played, Minor/Major Improvements Played)(Wood taken/bonus)(Rounds as Starting Player)(Actions Taken)
Geoff – 48 (2 Ocks, 2/4)(19/4)(6)(39)
Ron – 39 (2 Ocks, 5/1)(24/1)(6)(39)
Brian – 38 (4 Ocks, 6/1)(24/1)(2)(41)

Key to my win, I believe, was limited card play, a mere four from my hand compared to Ron’s seven and Brian’s ten, timely acquisition of the Well and other Majors, some careful defensive play in the early stages and effective use of seasonal actions in the later stages (not to mention the good fortune of having opponents as potentially prone to occasional human error as myself!)

All comments and questions, of course, duly noted and responded to. Happy gaming!
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GMOFreePortland.com
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Nicely written. My friends often complain about the cards they have drawn, saying they can't use them. As you have clearly demonstrated here, it is not just the cards themselves that will determine the direction of the game. I haven't done this with Agricola, but I have done similar "what-if" in other games by backing up to a critical moment just to see if the outcome can be changed.
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Joel Schuster
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I second that.

Next time someone in my group complains his cards were useless, I will propose a rematch where I play his hand and he gets mine

I havent so many games under my belly yet, but I am pretty positive the cards just have a minor impact on the game. Your general strategy should be somewhat adjusted to your hand of cards to make good use of them and I am convinced that in any given hand there are at least some cards that can be turned into some sort of benefit. But then there is alot to be decided throughout the course of a game that is totally apart from which cards you have and thats much more dictating which way the game goes.
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Robert Schwartz
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MisterG wrote:

Turn Three/Spring/MIMI
Ron – Occ/Lover (FG w/o –4f)
Brian – Fish(3f)
Geoff – 1C(2)
Ron – 1C(2)
Brian – PF
Geoff – MIMI/Fp2

Turn Four/Summer/Fences
Ron – Fish(2f)
Brian – 3W(5)
Geoff – Sheep(4)burn3(6f)
Ron – DL (2f+1G)
Brian – Occ(1)/Resource Seller
Geoff – SP + Cooking Hearth

Why is Ron listed as only performing two actions on Round 4? An accidental omission on your part, I hope, as his lover-born worker should be eligible to perform an additional action at this point.
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Geoff Burkman
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Xaxyx wrote:
...
Why is Ron listed as only performing two actions on Round 4? An accidental omission on your part, I hope, as his lover-born worker should be eligible to perform an additional action at this point.


Oops! Thank you for editorial assistance above and beyond, Robert. Error corrected. Now no one should be confused about how he got his hearth in Round Five!

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Geoff Burkman
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Thanks, Jamie, especially for noting what I have always been trying to illustrate with these session reports: the cards can be nice, or they can be nasty, but if you don't have command of the basics, you're not likely to do well in Agricola.
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Geoff Burkman
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Umbratus wrote:
I second that.

Next time someone in my group complains his cards were useless, I will propose a rematch where I play his hand and he gets mine


And thank you, Joel. I'm too lazy to go look for it right now, but one of my earlier session reports detailed a set of back-to-back games in which we used the identioal hands, with everyone passing them in toto to the left. The play of the second game, needless to say, was immensely different from the first, and not just because we knew what everyone had, or what the upcoming Round cards would be.

Agricola is wonderfully variable, and that's definitely part of its charm.
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