Tonight I had many friends round, which was a great opportunity to play 5 player Agricola! It's rare we get to play it with so many people , and I really like it with 5 players as the extra action spaces open up many opportunities, especially the bonus animal square, and the 4+ occupation cards.
I was quite happy with my opening deal of cards; I had a few 4+ occupations (which I rarely seem to get). We played a deal of 5 E cards, one I card and one K card, as many people were inexperienced. There was myself and my wife (10-ish games each), Green who has played twice before, Blue who had played once before and Purple had played two or three times.
The review is split into a paragraph of what I got up to, then a paragraph of what everyone else got up to. Obviously I can remember more of what I did than others, especially in a 5 player game.
Opening stages (Stages 1 & 2)
I was dealt one of my favourite occupations - Seasonal Labourer (get 1 wheat from day labourer, or 1 veggie from round 5 onwards). I paid a food to get it out, and by the end of stage 1 had gathered lots of resources and played the harrow (once you can plow 2 fields instead of 1; other people can use this by paying you two foods). In round 5 I played an occupation; I can't remember the name but the effect was pay 3 resources instead of 5 (plus 2 reed) to build new rooms. I followed this up by building 2 rooms and 2 stables... also I managed to get a cooking hearth and use day labourer either 2 or 3 times. Due to food constraint issues I didn't manage to grow my family but the end of stage 2, but was sitting pretty with 2 stables, 4 wooden rooms, 2 plowed fields and assorted resources (mostly clay). I also had some wheat & maybe a veggie lurking too thanks to seasonal labourer (did I say how much I like that card?).
My wife went for a balanced strategy, Blue went for an early family growth (in round 5) and used Master Brewer to help feed their family (another of my favourite occs). This combination meant that Blue frequently regaled us with tales of the child fed on alcohol and the adventures the child got up to as a result Purple gathered a few sheep and fences whilst Green also went fence crazy, having played an occ/MI combo which let him get 3 fences whenever he built at least one, and get his 3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th and 15th fences free. By the end of the game he had spent 2 wood to build 12 fences (2 pastures, 6 spaces)!!!
Mid game (Stages 3 & 4)
I went for a vegetable-based feeding strategy - my hearth meant each one was worth 3 food and meant the day labourer square was effectively worth 5 food to me. I started to grow my family. I looked at my minors and saw a lot required quite a few occupations, so thought I should get another one out. So just before the third harvest, I played cook (another 4+) - which says only 2 people in your family need 2 food - the rest need only 1 food. Definitely worth the 1 food to play it as I would instantly save a food at the harvest, with another 3 harvests to go. I grew again in the 4th stage and started playing a ludicrous amount of minors almost incidentally. I think all I gained from them was 2 reed, 2 food and a few points. I also renovated to clay, and the only major occ available was the clay oven, which was fine as it gave me two points and 5 food. Not bad for some resources I had left lying around (I never used the oven again). As stage 4 ended, I fenced my 2 stables and started my animal collection with 3 sheep. Being the only person with 4 people, as well as some crops and a useful collection of cards in front of me, I felt things were going well.
As for everyone else, Blue did not extend his family but managed to get a minor out which let him plow once for 3 cards, putting him up to 5 fields. My wife used my harrow and paid 2 food for the privilege, which helped me out Green was succumbing to AP and needed encouragement. She started getting cattle too and played a couple of minor occs which gave her food if she had sheep or cattle (one was the Loom; I can't remember the other). As a result her animals provided the vast majority of her food despite the fact she never killed any of them! Green was floundering a bit, but did get a free room in round 11 as a result of an earlier occupation. For one harvest he forgot the the animals breed after you need to put the food in, which hurt him a lot as he had to hand in quite a few raw wheat/veggies. He did get a cooking heath eventually though, which helped.
End game (Stages 5 & 6)
Coming into this with 4 people and no-one else without 3, and a reduced food demand (thank you cook!) made me feel fairly confident. For round 12 I was 2nd player and "growth without room" came out. 1st player didn't want it so I nabbed it for myself to get my 5th family member. I also nabbed starting player myself for round 13 and 14, so I utilised plow & sow twice for many points. I also renovated to stone (and bought a fireplace despite having a hearth as I had 3 clay left I had no other possible use for ). I hoovered up more points too, as I got 2 cattle before the 5th harvest (= 3 points at the end), built more fences, plowed 5 fields and filled up my whole farmyard. I took a boar too which meant no negatives on my score sheet
For everyone else too it was a scrabbling around for points. My wife improved her fields and only had 2 empty spaces. Purple finally got a 3rd family member and in one memorable harvest, fed the whole family for 1 wheat, her minor occs with sheep/cattle providing the rest of the food! Also, purple plowed & sowed twice at the end - although I occupied the square, an occ had come out which meant purple could go on it too... this helped the score no end. Also out came a card which gave her 1 point for every wooden room (4 in total) - these things together transformed a somewhat sorry-looking farm into a pretty decent score. Green still only had 1 food and didn't make the most of the big pastures, however Green did play half-timbered house (one bonus point per stone room) for 4pts - the first time we've seen it played. He received a worthy round of applause for this Blue sowed, having 5 fields, and munched through 4 wheat at the final harves, and picked up odd animals.
My final board
(Another occ - room costs 3 of resource & 2 reed)
5 minor occs (inc. 3 bonus points)
My farm was... 5 fields, 3 pastures, 6 grain, 2 veggies, 4 sheep, 1 boar, 4 cattle, ZERO unused spaces, 2 fenced stables, 4-room stone house, 5 family members
Final scores, main food engine & analysis of deficiencies
Me, 51 pts, veggies/day labourer/hearth/cook. No real deficiencies
Wife 35 pts. animals/fireplace. Crops not too impressive - she always naturally errs to animal strategies, says they're too cute
Purple 34 pts. Loom/other minor giving food for possessing animals. Took too long to expand family but decent score thanks to being able to plow & sow twice at end despite me being there
Blue 32 pts. Master Brewer (18 food), stone oven (8 food). Failed to capitalise on early family growth and never got past 3 ppl. Still - a good score for a 2nd play (first with cards)
Green 28 pts. Animals/hearth. Failed to build a good food engine - also only had one field and 4 empty spaces. Nevertheless an improvement on his last game, so he was happy.
I felt a bit bad after winning by such a margin so offered to do the rest of the washing up as penance. I think everyone enjoyed anyway though - 30pts plus is a decent farm in my book - it may not be the biggest or best in the neighbourhood, but you're not ashamed to show people around it
Most games I play, I do fairly well, but look back and think "ack, I could've done that before that, or got that card out, and scored a few more points" - I didn't feel like that after this game, I can't really think of much I could've done to improve my score, which is a very satisfying feeling indeed. I was surprised to end with such a big score, when initially I had no firm plans for a specific food engine (it was a case of noticing I had loads of clay and the hearth was free)... so for an engine I was virtually forced into it worked quite well. I was disappointed to only have 2 people at the end of stage 2, despite a 4-room house, but I think having 5 people (no-one else got to 5) by stage 12 more than made up for that, and my cook occupation saved on a massive 10 food which meant I didn't have to worry much about feeding them.
Most high-scoring games do seem to follow the pattern this one did...
- Opening rounds "erm what am I trying to do exactly? Argh I need food for harvest! I wanted to get more done... man this isn't going so good"
- Middle rounds "erm err... OK, this isn't so bad, my farm's getting somewhere now"
- Final rounds "hey this turned out alright in the end! Woo!"
Agricola is great at delivering this experience - from despair to hope, to victory And best of all, it does it without screwing other people over, as my gaming friends much prefer "friendly" games like this
To be fair I think I was dealt quite a good hand - especially when my wife showed me hers afterwards We normally play a draft, but with 5 players and one of them playing with cards for the first time, I thought it would take too long. We got the whole game done in about 2 hours 20 minutes (of which about 45 mins were down to purple) so was quite pleased with our speed
I do love Agricola, especially when it goes as well as this
I believe the mystery Ock you're referring to must be the Carpenter.
Sometimes, we just call her Karen.
Yup, the Carpenter is the one. I've only just begun to describe the game above
There was one other silly thing in this game... I picked up 8 clay - from the 1 clay space. No really, this actually happened. I was thinking about how this came to pass, and I considered how much clay everyone would get if you distributed the total clay that would come onto the board evenly between the players (the extra action spaces mean more clay comes into the game if you have more people playing).
2 players -> 7 clay per person
3 players -> 9.33 clay
4 players -> 10.5 clay
5 players -> 11.2 clay
So already you see, in 5 player games there is more clay. Coupled with this however, is the fact my wife got a free clay with every wood or clay pickup, and the fact that purple didn't pick up a clay the ENTIRE GAME (no major improvements, & played an occ to give a point for every wooden room so no need to renovate). So already you've got 5 players-worth of clay, spread between 4 people....
5 players -> 4 picking up clay -> 14 clay per person
Which is a ludicrous amount of clay to get through - twice what I'm used to from 2-player games. I was going to use it to buy the pottery, but my wife bought it just after I picked up the 8 clay. I still managed to use it all though.