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Subject: Why is mixing the decks bad? rss

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Nick Knutsen
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I've heard people say that it's better not to mix the decks, and I've read posts from people here saying the same thing. Especially the I deck supposedly works best alone, since a lot of the cards refer to other cards in the I deck.

I've played Agricola 10-15 times, mostly with each hand consisting of x amount of cards from E deck, y amount of cards from I deck, and maybe z amount of cards from K deck, and it never seemed unbalanced to me. I've also played with just E or just I deck sometimes.

So I looked through the I deck to find these cards that only work with other I deck cards.

The only ones that qualify are the three "street" cards (Wooden Path, Clay Path, Paved Road). Playing with a mix certainly increases the value of these cards, because you have a better chance of not being beaten by another player with a better street. (That applies to the Wooden Path and Clay Path. The Paved Road is somewhat less valuable, because you have a lesser chance of ruining another player's street.) But does this make these cards unbalanced?

The Ladder and the Flagon are also "biased" toward the I deck.

Ladder: This gives bonuses for renovating and building rooms, and for 6 different minor improvements, 5 from the I deck, 1 from the E deck. So the card does have a better chance of being more valuable with a pure I deck. But you still might end up with the Ladder and none of the improvements it applies to. I'd assume the Ladder is still useful in that situation.

Flagon: Bonus for Well and Village Well. You don't know if or when the Village Well (an I card) will be built (if you don't have it yourself), so the card is a somewhat bigger risk with a mixed deck. But I really don't think this changes the card that much.

A few other cards refer to I cards, but they also refer to cards from other decks:

Punner: Bonus for Harrow or a Plow. There are six plows in the four decks. With the Harrow the distribution is as follows: 2E, 2I, 2K, 1Z.

Rake: Regulated by Harrow, Punner, Yoke or a Plow. Same distribution as for Punner, except 4I insted of 2I.

Juggler is the only occupation that refers to other cards, but the cards are mostly in other decks (3E, 2I, 3K). As with the Punner (and to a lesser degree the Rake) this means that it plays better with a mixed deck - at least according to the logic refered to in my first paragraph.

Even if we should accept that the three street cards, the Ladder and the Flagon are more balanced in a pure I deck, they are only 5 cards out of 44 minor improvements (and all the occupations).

Or are there more subtle ways in which the I cards "play nice together" that I'm not seeing?
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We mix the E, I, and K decks, and have a wonderful time.
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Garry Rice
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I think its personal preference. I really don't care what cards we play with...it's finding the optimal way to use them (or if to use them at all) that I find fun and interesting.
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I'm skeptical that the cards as a whole are "finely tuned", given a few cards are overly strong and more than a few are virtually never worth playing.

After dozens of plays I got to the point where I would set aside more than half of the cards in my hand as not worth playing. Not being a fan of pre-game card drafts, I decided to create a "balanced" card pool, combining all decks and culling the cards that were either too strong or too weak. Of course opinions will differ on which cards should be removed, but I gave careful thought to each decision and in the end I feel pretty happy with the result.



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Steffan O'Sullivan
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I just shuffled them all together after the first few games of carefully segregated decks - it works just as well that way, honest.
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Eric Jome
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When teaching new people, I usually use just the E deck. When playing seriously with people who know the game, I usually leave out E and play I and K. Most frequently we play E and I together, leaving out K and Z.

I never seem to pick out some cards from one letter deck and combine with some cards from another letter deck... I guess it never really occured to me. Probably the variant I am most interested in is drafting them, but we haven't done that yet as we are often pressed for time to play.
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Brad
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It's not bad at all; I always play with mixed decks. You nailed the cards that are affected by a larger card pool, and you could certainly take them out. I've considered it but never bothered to remove them.
 
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Tim Seitz
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Playing with mixed decks is not "bad." You may stop to consider that people who claim that is how you are supposed to play, or that that method is somehow superior, may just be making things up to validate their personal preferences.
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Jan B.
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This is the usual and most common learning curve for Agricola:

1. Start without cards to learn how Agricola works.
2. Play a few games with the E deck, because those card functionalities are pretty basic and easy to grasp.
3. Try other decks.
4. Play however you like.

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Nick Knutsen
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I would agree with all you guys. What I was hoping was that some of the people who claim that you shouldn't mix, would make their case here. :)
 
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Sharon Khan
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We used to play with mixed decks, but switched back to separate decks after a number of plays. Each deck has it's own "feel", and when you mix them you tend to find that you lose that aspect - I like the interactive nature of the I deck for example, and with only a few splashes of I cards, you don't get have as many interactions as playing purely with the I deck. Plus it seemed that the K cards were on average more powerful than the other two decks, which could occasionally unbalance things. Playing the K deck on its own we've had less issues with some of the stronger K cards. Having said that, I've still played occasional games with mixed decks - usually E and I mixed, as that's how one group I play with likes to play it - and it works fine, it's just not my preferred way to play.

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Mik Svellov
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I dislike mixing decks at random.
Mostly because you may end up with cards that may be too strong or too weak if certain cards from the same set are not included.
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Bob Flaherty
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verandi wrote:
After dozens of plays I got to the point where I would set aside more than half of the cards in my hand as not worth playing. Not being a fan of pre-game card drafts, I decided to create a "balanced" card pool, combining all decks and culling the cards that were either too strong or too weak. Of course opinions will differ on which cards should be removed, but I gave careful thought to each decision and in the end I feel pretty happy with the result.

I would be interested to see your "balanced" card pool list along with your reasoning for including it.

Bob
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Myke Madsen
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PunchBall wrote:
Or are there more subtle ways in which the I cards "play nice together" that I'm not seeing?


Chief and Chief's Daughter is the first combo that comes to mind. It's fairly likely using just the E deck that both will be in play. Less likely when you add other decks.
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Nick Knutsen
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Great Dane wrote:
I dislike mixing decks at random.
Mostly because you may end up with cards that may be too strong or too weak if certain cards from the same set are not included.

Which cards?

Another thing I realized is that there are (at least) two ways of mixing decks: Shuffling them all together before dealing, or shuffling the decks separately and dealing an agreed-upon number of cards from each deck. I've never done the former and I would think that it would be more unbalanced than the latter.

I didn't go throught the E deck, since the I deck was the one that supposedly would suffer the most from being mixed with other cards. But it seems the Chief's daughter is the card that would suffer most from not being in a pure deck. Still it's only one card (although I still haven't looked throught the E deck).
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Inno Van
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The limitations of the Major Improvement Deck aren't an issue with two players.

The issue is when there aren't enough Major Improvements to go around. Then players tend to be channeled into a few different food production niches both by the Major Improvement Deck limits and the limited number of Worker Placement Space choices on the board. In a five player game there tends to be 2 Carnivores using the Cooking Hearths, 2 Bakers using the Ovens, and 1 Travelling Player.

Within the E, I and K decks with 5 player games the balance of cards channels the players towards these different food production niches. Enough cards supporting a Baker food production strategy for two players will come out, then enough cards supporting two Carnivores, and enough for one Travelling Player.

Players can try to twist the game past these niches, but generally what will happen is the limits of the Worker Placement Spaces will then result in "Overfishing" problems --when three players try to support themselves with the limited number of animals that come into the game, they all three will be short of food, while a player baking bread will sail through to an easy win with little competition in their food strategy.

The problem with mixing the E, I and K decks together with 5 player games is the food production niche balance of each single deck is no longer maintained, and winning the game is basically whoever gets cards supporting the food production niche spaces that aren't being overfished.

4 players get Carnivore niche cards, only one player gets cards for a Baking food strategy? You already know who's going to win. And the two Carnivores that don't get the Cooking Hearths are really, really going to loose. 4 players are bakers, 1 player gets his food from Travelling Player? Again, too much competition setting up fields and grain between all the Bakers, while the Travelling Player has an easy time of it all.
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Tim Seitz
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Innovan wrote:
The limitations of the Major Improvement Deck aren't an issue with two players.

The issue is when there aren't enough Major Improvements to go around. Then players tend to be channeled into a few different food production niches both by the Major Improvement Deck limits and the limited number of Worker Placement Space choices on the board. In a five player game there tends to be 2 Carnivores using the Cooking Hearths, 2 Bakers using the Ovens, and 1 Travelling Player.

Within the E, I and K decks with 5 player games the balance of cards channels the players towards these different food production niches. Enough cards supporting a Baker food production strategy for two players will come out, then enough cards supporting two Carnivores, and enough for one Travelling Player.

Players can try to twist the game past these niches, but generally what will happen is the limits of the Worker Placement Spaces will then result in "Overfishing" problems --when three players try to support themselves with the limited number of animals that come into the game, they all three will be short of food, while a player baking bread will sail through to an easy win with little competition in their food strategy.

The problem with mixing the E, I and K decks together with 5 player games is the food production niche balance of each single deck is no longer maintained, and winning the game is basically whoever gets cards supporting the food production niche spaces that aren't being overfished.

4 players get Carnivore niche cards, only one player gets cards for a Baking food strategy? You already know who's going to win. And the two Carnivores that don't get the Cooking Hearths are really, really going to loose. 4 players are bakers, 1 player gets his food from Travelling Player? Again, too much competition setting up fields and grain between all the Bakers, while the Travelling Player has an easy time of it all.

That sounds like a well-reasoned argument. Except that would only hold true with the most absurd assumptions about card distribution. In reality, as often as you'd get a nice smooth distribution of food engine cards, you'll also get an uneven balance favoring a single player or a pair of players. The probability distribution of a set of cards has the same shape even when it is a subset of larger set of cards.

You *might* have an interesting argument if you could assert that there are more (or less) of a type of food engine card in a specific deck and that adding that deck would significantly alter the likely strategic choices players would make because it significantly altered the distribution of a specific food engine niche.
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Geoff Burkman
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The Ladder is nothing more than a Minor Improvement version of the Thatcher. Quite useful regardless of how many I-deck cards are in play.

The Flagon essentially allows the player to "exchange" one clay for four food if the Well is in play. Nice, but hardly earthshaking.

 
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Geoff Burkman
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Quote:
The problem with mixing the E, I and K decks together with 5 player games is the food production niche balance of each single deck is no longer maintained, and winning the game is basically whoever gets cards supporting the food production niche spaces that aren't being overfished.

4 players get Carnivore niche cards, only one player gets cards for a Baking food strategy? You already know who's going to win. And the two Carnivores that don't get the Cooking Hearths are really, really going to loose. 4 players are bakers, 1 player gets his food from Travelling Player? Again, too much competition setting up fields and grain between all the Bakers, while the Travelling Player has an easy time of it all."


Interesting supposition, though I can't say that I agree with it, and admittedly I haven't played enough 5-player games to comment on that particular situation. As for 4-player, I have to disagree, at least with the comment about being at a disadvantage without a hearth. I just won a game last night without a hearth or a fireplace, no oven until Round 8 (the Clay Oven, with which I baked exactly once), and no bonuses for either Traveling Player or Fishing. I'll have the session report up on that one in a week or so.
 
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Inno Van
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To really establish the argument, I'd have to show:

1) How many cards are in the E, I and K decks.
2) Which cards in each of these decks supports the Grain, Animal and Traveling Player food strategies.
3) The strength of these cards.
4) Their ease of implementation. (Much as I love the idea of Cattle Whisperer, it's pretty darn hard to actually use very often)
5) Known "slam dunk" cards (like Baker) that really encourage a player into a certain food production niche.
6) The distribution of the different card strategies into each player's hand by percentage, broken down by number of players.
7) What an average player's hand looks like with a single deck vs all three mixed together.
 
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Nick Knutsen
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Ok, here are all the E deck cards that refer to other cards:

Chief's Daughter: Easier to play if there's a Chief (E)

I'll just list the distribution of cards these cards refer to:

Gypsy's Crock: 2 Major, 1I
Spices: 2 Major, 1I
Baking Tray: 2 Major, 1E
Thatcher: 1E, 4I, 1K
Guildmaster: 3 Major, 2E, 1I
Fisherman: 3E, 1I, 1K

Seems to me that this game is really designed for mixing cards. Some cards are potentially weaker when mixed, some are potentially stronger. Check out Thatcher for instance. The card is potentially much stronger if you play with both E and I cards, but that's by design. If it weren't supposed to be stronger, they could have just refrained from listing 4 I deck improvements (and a K deck improvement),
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Brian Forsythe
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YellowLab wrote:
verandi wrote:
After dozens of plays I got to the point where I would set aside more than half of the cards in my hand as not worth playing. Not being a fan of pre-game card drafts, I decided to create a "balanced" card pool, combining all decks and culling the cards that were either too strong or too weak. Of course opinions will differ on which cards should be removed, but I gave careful thought to each decision and in the end I feel pretty happy with the result.

I would be interested to see your "balanced" card pool list along with your reasoning for including it.

As would I. I've been contemplating doing something similar.

Or to see anyone else's compiled card lists. I also have the O (with the funny bit over it ) and the Z deck, so lists including those would be of interest.
 
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megasycophant wrote:
YellowLab wrote:
verandi wrote:
After dozens of plays I got to the point where I would set aside more than half of the cards in my hand as not worth playing. Not being a fan of pre-game card drafts, I decided to create a "balanced" card pool, combining all decks and culling the cards that were either too strong or too weak. Of course opinions will differ on which cards should be removed, but I gave careful thought to each decision and in the end I feel pretty happy with the result.

I would be interested to see your "balanced" card pool list along with your reasoning for including it.

As would I. I've been contemplating doing something similar.

Or to see anyone else's compiled card lists. I also have the O (with the funny bit over it ) and the Z deck, so lists including those would be of interest.


I too am interested in seeing the agricola decklists people play with. I recently did something similar to cull down the cards from WizWar (all expansions and homebrew) into a small set of cards, with the same number curve, and to me it's much more fun because every card is useful. Though, my preference is not to try and balance it, per se, but rather to try and include all the best cards, ala a MTG "cube" draft. I may create another post to solicit input for an optimal, minimal Agricola deck.
 
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