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Subject: Bake Bread...why so hard to come by? rss

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Driver 8
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I played this game last night (2 player) using the family rules; no cards and the family side of the game board. One of the actions was Build a Stable and/or Bake Bread. Another was the Sow and/or Bake Bread action on the Stage 1 card.

Afterwards, I looked over how playing the 'normal' version rules might change/enhance the game. But I couldn't find any other occurrance of the Bake Bread action. Am I missing it? Does one action (the Stage 1 card) give enough bread baking (and enough food) in the early game, before more vegetable and animals come into play? Seems like a big jump from having 2 such actions in the family game.
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Eric Boivin
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The bread baking strategy is very good if you're not fighting for it. It takes some dedication from the start, but it is easy to know when it's time to do it, since players won't take it unless they have empty fields and spare grain/vegetables, or they are just nasty against you. Also, don't forget to always use the free bread baking that you get when you buy an oven!
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mark sellmeyer
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there is a sow or bake bread action card that comes up around half way through the game. There is also at least one occupation card that lets you always bake bread. that is about the only time I go the bread route, cooking animals is much more reliable.
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Geoff Burkman
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Driver 8 wrote:
...I couldn't find any other occurrance of the Bake Bread action. Am I missing it? Does one action (the Stage 1 card) give enough bread baking (and enough food) in the early game, before more vegetable and animals come into play? Seems like a big jump from having 2 such actions in the family game.


I believe the family version doubles the availability of the baking action because there are no cards that would otherwise increase said availability. And, as mentioned, don't overlook the baking actions associated with obtaining an oven.
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Bryann Turner
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There are many cards that enhance the Baking Bread strategy, but many people prefer the Fireplace/Hearth route to cook animals. As said, DO NOT buy an oven w/o baking a grain when you purchase if you can.

I do like to bake, especially if I have cards that support it. Cooking animals is typically a zero sum way to sustain yourself. Baking, on the other hand, improves your farm (plowing/sowing/harvesting) while also feeding you.

Either way, you should definitely introduce the cards and play more!
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B C Z
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Note also that the availability of stone earlier in larger games changes the bread baking strategies as well.
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Richard Young
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We've also found that bread alone is a tough way to feed a growing family. Even with a fireplace/oven, you can't bake bread during the harvest phase (while you can roast animals anytime) unless you have an occupation that lets you. Plowing, sowing and harvesting is a slow way to produce the grain you need in the first place, and the number of cards that can make grain into a decent food engine are few.

The game strongly encourages diversity so you will still be wanting to do these things (plowing and sowing etc) but also fencing in pastures and getting the animal stream going. By all means bake bread if you have the opportunity and extra grain stored up but I wouldn't ever rely on it for my food supply except in exceptional circumstances.

I have no idea why the bake bread action is so limited compared to just about every other action in the game, but it may be partly to support the forced diversity thing I referred to earlier. The rationale that an extra bake bread action is not needed because of the cards isn't very convincing as there are also cards that accelerate every other action in the game. It is a definite constraint that you just have to recognize and work within...
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Sebastian
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I think the bake bread action is only once in the full game, because there are some cards wich allow baking and much more cards wich give food in many different ways (other than baking). So players are not so focused on baking bread anymore.
 
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Hanno Girke
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You're all correct.
And here's the full truth: We decided to add a second Bake Bread opportunity for the family game to make it wider available and to help players to learn to play it.
Going for animals is relatively easy: get a fireplace, get animals, eat them.
Baking bread requires a multi-stage plan, and as the family game is the "learning game", we felt strongly that we want to help players get behind what is needed to play the vegetarian strategy.
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Robert Schwartz
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Hanno wrote:
You're all correct.
And here's the full truth: We decided to add a second Bake Bread opportunity for the family game to make it wider available and to help players to learn to play it.
Going for animals is relatively easy: get a fireplace, get animals, eat them.
Baking bread requires a multi-stage plan, and as the family game is the "learning game", we felt strongly that we want to help players get behind what is needed to play the vegetarian strategy.

Frankly, I don't follow this thought process at all.

You say that you wanted to help players learn how to play with bread baking. And you assert that baking bread requires a multi-stage plan. How, therefore, does introducing a second way to perform the very last action in the sequence -- the act of baking bread itself -- facilitate teaching players to follow through on this multi-stage plan?

In all the games I've played, both Family and Full, I can probably count on one hand the number of times that someone has taken the "Bake Bread" action space on the exact round that someone else wanted to take it. Even then, usually either one player or the other -- or both! -- merely wanted to Sow and had no interest in baking bread at all, blocking or being blocked merely by happenstance rather than any sort of competition of bread-baking pace. Indeed, the vast majority of bread-baking that I see occur in games happens upon the purchase of an oven, rather than by deliberate action. Thus, I simply cannot envision how having a second Bake Bread action space available enhances a bread baking schema in any significant or meaningful way.

Indeed: if it was your genuine intention to help nudge players along their path to bread-baking glory, then it seems inherently intuitive that your goal would be to create new opportunities to build the bread-baking engine to which you alluded. There's countless ways to do that. First let's start by breaking down the steps themselves. I think it's generally safe to assume that a minimum of two fields growing grain is required:

Plow
Plow
Take Grain
Take Grain
Sow
Take Clay
Build Fireplace or Hearth
Bake Bread

That's a bare-bones bread-baking engine. It requires seven actions to build the engine, and one to use it. We can enhance the efficiency by also grabbing stone and building an oven instead. The stone costs an action; but the oven comes with a free bread-baking action, so we break even:

Plow
Plow
Take Grain
Take Grain
Sow
Take Clay
Take Stone
Build Oven and Bake Bread

Ironically, the more efficient engine -- the oven-based engine; the engine we'd really like to encourage players to use to bake bread -- doesn't even need to use the Bake Bread space to start out. Thus this action would be the very LAST place I would go to try to start helping players to build and use a bread-baking engine!

Instead, I would look for ways to allow players to perform the multiple steps required to build the engine in a more efficient manner. Combine Plow and Take 1 Grain, perhaps. Or let Plow and Sow come earlier than Stage 5. Or introduce a Clay accumulating space that also allows you to also take one other building resource; a potential Clay Oven-builder could choose 1 Stone. And so forth. Anything that isn't horrendously broken, so long as it makes setting up and running a bread-baking engine faster.

Because let's face it, Hanno: a bread engine just isn't efficient. In fact, it stinks. It takes eons to set up. And players don't have eons. Actions are precious, time is a commodity. Taking EIGHT actions just to set up a food supply, independent or not, is just way too many when compared to the myriad other ways that the game allows players to feed themselves.
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Sterling Babcock
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Xaxyx wrote:
Plow
Plow
Take Grain
Take Grain
Sow
Take Clay
Take Stone
Build Oven and Bake Bread

Nevermind. I had a comment here, but I had it wrong. I forgot two people. So:

It seems like it would be more like:
Plow
Take Grain
Plow
Take Grain
Take Clay
Take Stone
Build Oven and Bake Bread

That plan is 7 of your 8 actions, assuming you can get them in the order listed or close to it. And if you miss it by the end of the first year you are begging.
If it works perfectly, you have 5 food to last you 2 rounds.

It just seems very risky.
 
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Robert Schwartz
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Solamar wrote:

That plan is 7 of your 8 actions, assuming you can get them in the order listed or close to it. And if you miss it by the end of the first year you are begging.
If it works perfectly, you have 5 food to last you 2 rounds.

It just seems very risky.

It is risky indeed to try to force out a bread engine early in the game. Not only are you giving up huge chunks of potential growth, but someone might flummox you, in theory, by taking an action right when you need it the most.

But if your goal is just to survive the first round via baking bread, then you don't need to plow at all. You can just do:

Take Grain
Take Clay
Take Stone
Build Oven and Bake Bread

and get your five food. This, however, is not a bread-baking engine. This is just finding an efficient way to get both points and food, along with holding the potential for using the oven later on if you should decide to force out the rest of an actual bread engine.

Thus it is demonstrated that the most efficient way to incorporate bread-baking into your overall game is to do everything ass-backwards. Pump out an oven and bake some bread. Then, later, when time permits, plow some fields (each Plow is a net +2 pts) under the auspices that you might sow some grain and veggies -- either by taking the Sow action directly, or by leveraging the impressively efficient Plow and Sow action late in the game.

And nowhere in this process do we ever actually use the Bake Bread action.
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Bryann Turner
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Yes, baking bread with NO card support has the highest action cost, initially. 7 or 8 actions before you can eat. That's a lot. In fact, that's your entire first Stage, most likely. BUT, the strategy rewards food in abundance long term. If you have two sown fields at the end of Stage 1, that's a lot of food over the course of the game. 1g for a Clay Oven is 5f for 1 action from then on. That's pretty good.

And, like I said earlier, this is building your farm and increasing your overall point total. In a 4-5 player game, if you're baking bread while everyone else is fighting for animals, you're never going to worry about food.


NOW, if you factor in cards, the break baking strategy increases dramatically. Let's say you have Field Watchman. Now taking a grain saves you an action (plow) each time. So for 3 actions, you actually get 6! Pretty damn good Also, if you have the Millstone, that's 2 extra food every time you bake. It turns 1g into 7f with a Clay Oven and turns a Hearth into the equivalent of a Stone Oven.

There are also many minors, like plows, Corn Scoop, the Flail, Threshing Board, the Bread Paddle, that make bread baking easier and/or available.

There are also occupations, like Seed Seller, Baker, Bread Seller, and others that make baking bread and acquiring grain very easy.

Obviously, bread baking is a more complex setup than buying a fireplace or hearth and eating all the animals, but just because it costs more actions doesn't mean it should be dismissed out of hand. It's a very viable, and reliable, strategy, but yes, I agree that it needs some card support to be done.
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Sterling Babcock
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btizo wrote:
NOW, if you factor in cards, the break baking strategy increases dramatically. ...
There are also many minors, ...
There are also occupations, ...
My problem though is looking at my cards and deciding when to take the leap. Requiring cards means taking start player for a minor, or taking an occupation or two, which needs you to pay food usually, each of which delays the actually setting up the bread strategy.

I was playing a game the other day which my cards screamed for the bread strategy. I failed miserably. Mostly because I did not know how to put it together in some manageable manner.
 
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Bryann Turner
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Solamar wrote:
I was playing a game the other day which my cards screamed for the bread strategy. I failed miserably. Mostly because I did not know how to put it together in some manageable manner.


Which is why Hanno said it's a multi-step strategy that takes planning and a good use of your actions. It's not for the feint of heart,
 
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Robert Schwartz
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btizo wrote:
Yes, baking bread with NO card support has the highest action cost, initially. 7 or 8 actions before you can eat. That's a lot. In fact, that's your entire first Stage, most likely. BUT, the strategy rewards food in abundance long term. If you have two sown fields at the end of Stage 1, that's a lot of food over the course of the game. 1g for a Clay Oven is 5f for 1 action from then on. That's pretty good.

Yes, it's a perfectly viable food engine, once completed. But the cost involved far exceeds the value of the reward. Especially when compared to other food engines -- engines that require far less steps and materials to put into place, and provide equivalent or better yields. Besides, having a powerful food engine is not all that helpful when you don't really have anybody to feed anyway.

Also: Stage 1 is not enough time to launch this engine. In between gathering grain and sowing them in your plowed fields, and buying your oven to exercise your free Bake Bread action, you will have to have harvested at least once. Otherwise, you won't have enough grain to sow both fields.

Quote:
Obviously, bread baking is a more complex setup than buying a fireplace or hearth and eating all the animals, but just because it costs more actions doesn't mean it should be dismissed out of hand. It's a very viable, and reliable, strategy, but yes, I agree that it needs some card support to be done.

My main complaint is that it requires card support to be done. Yet Hanno seems interested in defending bread baking even in the Family game, where no such card support can exist. I find that stance unreasonable.
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Geoff Burkman
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I tend to side with Mr. Schwartz on this one. I've rarely, if ever, seen a baking strategy (if one can call it that) win a game of Agricola, and most definitely not without worthwhile assistance from appropriate cards.

All you have to do is go back through the various session reports I've posted over the past year, and take a look at how Skyp fares. He loves to try the baking route, and his plans usually collapse somewhere around the mid-game because he's so focused on trying to make the bread engine work that he forgets the more critical goals of expanding your hut and growing your family.
 
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Kevin Brown
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The baking strategy can work with minimal card support, unless you have people trying to block you. I would be hesitant to try it with more than three players.

I tend to think that the five player game could use another baking space. It's pretty much impossible to do with that many players without card help.
 
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Manos Konstantaras
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pilight wrote:
The baking strategy can work with minimal card support, unless you have people trying to block you. I would be hesitant to try it with more than three players.

I tend to think that the five player game could use another baking space. It's pretty much impossible to do with that many players without card help.
the Sheep+1 food action, combined with the fact that there are 70 cards in the players' hands make sure food is not a problem in the 5people game, unless you get too risky. I have found the 3man game to be more tense as far as food goes, unless there is plenty of food from cards.

As far as the comparison to the family game goes, the addition of cards more than makes up for the missing bake action in every game type.
 
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Hanno Girke
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In a family game, especially with new players, nobody will go for the pure bread strategy. But in midgame, most players will have at least a grain or two, and the later harvests will see harder fights for food spots.

We don't want new players to starve too much. You know, repeat customer and all that blah. They should have fun. So adding another Baking action helps new players suvive mid- and endgame and therefore having more fun.
 
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Robert Schwartz
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WhiteKong wrote:
Xaxyx wrote:
Because let's face it, Hanno: a bread engine just isn't efficient. In fact, it stinks. It takes eons to set up. And players don't have eons. Actions are precious, time is a commodity. Taking EIGHT actions just to set up a food supply, independent or not, is just way too many when compared to the myriad other ways that the game allows players to feed themselves.


Wrong and wrong. It only takes eons to set up if you aren't doing it right. I wrote a fairly long strategy guide (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/346380) in which I discuss how I normally go about baking bread. For the record, I almost always try to bake bread, because most people avoid it like the plague, and it is easier to go unopposed.

Somehow magically it takes less than eight actions to get an eight-action food engine going? That's news to me. At the risk of thread-crossing -- already accomplished, I suppose, since you linked to yours -- I'll quote you:

Quote:
The basic setup is to get three grains, one oven, and one plowed field.

Let's spell that one out for the kids at home:

Take Grain
Take Clay
Take Stone
Build Oven & Bake Bread
Take Grain
Take Grain
Plow Field
Sow & Bake Bread

Hey, whattaya know -- eight actions! This strategy is just as slow as the one that I outlined. It is more food-efficient, though, leaving you with ten food in its wake. Of course, for all its dedicated grain-gathering, this method leaves you with less net grain at its culmination. Somehow I remain unimpressed.

Quote:
I think the general consensus is the same as yours, which is to get two grain into the ground as soon as possible, then pick up an oven and start baking bread.

I think the general consensus is not something that I feel comfortable asserting. I leave the general consensus up to the general public to form their own general opinions. I'll speak only about my own.

And my opinion in this matter, as it happens, is the same as yours. My opinion is NOT to spend the ridiculous amount of time it takes to plow, and gather grain, and sow the grain, and harvest the grain, in order to bake bread. Seemingly intuitive though it may be, it is horribly inefficient, I agree. The efficient system -- which I may have mentioned recently -- is indeed to do it all ass-backwards. Gather the materials, take 1 lousy grain, build the oven and bake the grain.

Now, if at that point, you feel it behooves you to go ahead and plow once or twice, gather some more grain, and pull off some sort of oh-so-efficient Sow'n'Bake combo action, all in the name of building some minimal bread-baking engine, knock yourself out. Plows are worth good points; you gotta plow sometime. But this process takes time -- time that also must be carefully portioned toward various other important activities.

No, I usually feel that there are such ludicrously easier ways to gather food out there that I wouldn't feel inspired to waste still more precious time dabbling in further grain-gathering. Indeed: the very oven under discussion is one that I rarely even build with the Major Improvement action. Ordinarily, I'll marry it into a Renovate action -- making the ass-backwards baking shortcut strategy even more efficient.

Quote:
It has been my experience that this is far less productive, and is the central reason why people fail with baking and are driven away from the bread baking strategy. What you really need to do to make bread baking effective is get the clay oven as quickly as possible after you've taken your first grain.

Hey! Whattaya know, that's exactly what I suggested, in this post, as well as my additional reply in this thread. But this doesn't build an engine. This just bastardizes the inherent efficiency of building an early oven. Building the engine comes later -- much later.

Quote:
I have had dozens of people tell me how stupid baking the first grain is, and what a waste it is to sow and only get one grain in the ground. I have heard all about how it doesn't work, and I've heard all about how it would only work against players that stink. Not true, and not true. This way of baking bread is awesome. Just put it into action and watch it work wonders. The freedom to grow your family very quickly, and camp on the resources to grow your farm is unreal.

It is not stupid to bake your first grain. It is not a waste to sow and get only one grain in the ground. It works fine. It will even work against good players. It stays crispy, even in milk. But it's still an inefficient way to build a food engine. It takes way too long to finish off. The first half merits focus in the early game. The second half does not.

Let me clarify that further, just so there's no confusion. It's a great engine. It's a powerful engine. It's bread. Bread is tasty. Future 2-action combos of Plow and Sow'n'Bake result in 2+ victory points and five food. Snazzy. I'm all for it. Go bread.

It's the time investment that I question. It's a long-term food engine. Early in the game, time is the most precious commodity -- even more precious than food. There's enough time, arguably, to build an early clay oven, if the stars align and you can snag three clay at once and the Major Improvement space isn't taken by the Sheep-eater. Any time spent beyond that on this food engine is wasteful. Wasteful, since there are much, much easier ways to supplement your food supply in the meanwhile. Wasteful, that is, until the mid-game, when it becomes merited, because you have the actions available to polish it off without sacrificing other avenues of growth.

THAT is my contention with the bread engine. It takes time to develop completely, even when built ass-backwards. That's why I call the engine inefficient. Once completed, it's terrific. But the time it takes to get there discredits it in my eyes as a viable early game tactic.
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James Palmer
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Wait - you can bake bread immediately when you buy an oven? We've been playing it wrong the whole time!
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Tim Gilberg
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Xaxyx wrote:

THAT is my contention with the bread engine. It takes time to develop completely, even when built ass-backwards. That's why I call the engine inefficient. Once completed, it's terrific. But the time it takes to get there discredits it in my eyes as a viable early game tactic.


Yup. No doubt. Much better to just take sheep. No actions needed at all.
 
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I don't think Baking makes sense in the family edition. You need the cards that help you facilitate getting grain then you can become a grain machine and bake like crazy.
 
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When my wife and I were first learning the game, we were mistakenly replenishing the grain and vegetable actions every turn (just like other resources with the red arrow). The points were certainly higher than what we now score, but we were using the bake bread action much more then too.
 
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