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Subject: Going the path of least resistance, occupation light rss

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Kevin Ruhland
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I haven't played alot, about 10 games against experienced players in 3 to 5 player games, but I found the games I've won (and scored 50-52 points), what worked was taking the path of least resistance and not do any or 1-2 occupations. The other games I don't think I played different but it just didn't go as well so has others played this way too? And obviously you can't have more then one person a game do this or there isn't enough benefit I believe

I think what has worked is when the others go occupation heavy and there's lots of early resource opportunities. The starting player and next get the occupations, and have to pay food for them and then race to get food to feed on the first harvest vs I could pick up the best other spots and get opportunities for built up resources especially on the round before the first harvest when everyone is taking food spots (last game I picked up 6 wood, 8 clay, 3 stone, 3 reed, 2 pigs for example). You look at an occupation, how many are worth that much (plus the average of 1-2 food to play an occupation) and a lot of the occupations you get resources over multiple rounds, which isn't as good as getting it all at once to spend and plan. There are some, but how many occupations are better then 6 wood or 8 clay or 3 stone plus the 1-2 food to play it, and sometimes an occupation is played and you force yourself to use it to get the benefit, or don't end up using it or the spots get taken first or don't get taken where you benefit.

I also didn't need food or a food engine the first harvest because I had my initial food and just needed one more (taking the stone/reed/food spot once took care of that). What happens is I go more improvements, trying to do them free with actions like starting player and renovate, especially getting those with victory points on them. These end up being my food engine which either work and I don't need to take food spots or don't and I don't score as well. If alot of the minor improvements need occupations this doesn't work well and should be avoided.

I don't feel I understand the occupations well enough to know what ones are better because I don't play them. I think it stemmed from trying to plan what I'll play, getting distracted by the resources, and never playing occupations because its later in the game and I get caught up in filling my board. Another thought for some is this may not be the best route because if you don't like not having control is it really depends on what others do and have and you have no control or preknowledge, except your own cards.
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Bryann Turner
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That's why Agricola is so great. Players can do what you like to do, go the path of least resistance, and still get trounced. Likewise, they can dominate a game where people focus on too much of one thing or another.

But I disagree that occupations are not important. They can be game changing. I don't know what deck(s) you're using, but the I, K, Z, and O decks have some pretty powerful cards.

The Field Watchmen (I Deck): Every time you take a grain, you can plow a field for free.

The Wet Nurse (K Deck): Whenever you Build room(s), you can grow your family by up to the number of rooms your build, paying 1f for each newborn.

Those two occupations are just two of the awesome occupations in the game. There are many more occupations, and many are situational and very useful. Don't give up on occupations all together.

Oh, and another thing: many of the best Minor Improvements have high occupation costs (3/4 played occupations). MI's like the Quarry, Woodcart, and Clay Deposit all require 3 or more occupations. These minors can dramatically change the game in your favor.

Keep playing and exploring the game, and I think you'll find that occupations are more useful than you realize, but their benefits are more subtle than resource grabs and such.

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Geoff Burkman
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Bryan is absolutely correct; certain Occupations are more than worth playing to get a leg up on the opposition. Others, not so much. The key is to carefully evaluate their potential, and play accordingly. This is often a function of how many players are in the game. The Wet Nurse, for instance, is much more valuable when there are more than two players, since competition for the Family Growth space is more intense. The Field Watchman is powerful regardless of the number of players, with the caveat that the more players there are, the less likely you're going to be able to use it whenever you want.

Nonetheless, I tend to agree that over-playing Ocks is usually a mistake, one that's very common to new players. They tend to distract one from basic, proper play of the game.

And, of course, as Bryan points out, you have to weigh all this against the occupational requirements of your Minors. You're not always going to have a hand with easy Minors to play.

Anyway, welcome to the world of cardboard subsistence farming!
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Richard Young
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Agree - the tendency to see occupations as letting you do a lot of neat stuff can be counterproductive. On closer examination, most of them are very situational and you have to ask yourself, realistically, how often are you going to actually do what the occupation lures you into wanting to do? If it turns out that the benefit versus the number of times you'll be taking advantage of it is actually quite low then skip it - more often you're far better off doing something more productive. As well, some occupations, while attractive in isolation, can pull you in opposing directions strategically. Obviously there are some powerful combo's available but I'd argue far fewer than people think. And, I think people tend to overestimate how many of a specific action they will be taking through the course of the game, so sizing up your hand at the beginning of the game requires discipline and experience to aid in a proper assessment.

As for the multi-occupational minors, I see them by and large as sucker bait. Again, many of them are situational and the wasted actions playing the required occupations just to get it down will far outweigh its eventual usefulness. Think it through and then get out that barge pole!

Sure, there will be lots of anecdotal evidence of the four+ occupations and various minors that paved someone's way to victory; but in our experience so far, the players who consistently do the best have a couple of each at most in play by the end. In general, it seems to us that it is more important to get your share of the majors than any of the others...
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Peter White
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Belmont
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I am much more of a newbie than the OP, but my modest experience says it is really easy to play too many Ocks. You are giving up a precious Action and a bite of food. If you use the Ock only once or twice, you might not even break even, in some cases. Three or more Ocks seem likely to be counterproductive, unless you are savvy enough to see a very powerful combination. I know I am not there yet.
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Kevin Ruhland
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Thanks for the feedback! We use all the decks, taking a couple from each one equally for each player.
I think it boils down to are you good enough to stay on course if you have a plan with your occupation(s) and know it will or probably will pay off, or do they cost you more (be it actions, resources, direction, or limiting flexibility) and is this the type of play you like. I like doing laid out plans, but others can interfer with them so for me personally having the flexibility is the choice for me. But I definitely agree that some occupations are so worth it as was pointed out by the examples, maybe I need to get more of them in my hand
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Kevin Brown
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It's easy to get so caught up playing cards that you forget to play Agricola. I prefer to play only a couple of occupations in most cases.
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Mike T
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It is very easy to get caught up in playing occupations and improvements, instead of developing your board. Usually I try to pick 1-3 of my best to play, and ignore the rest.

As a counter-example, however, in the last game I played I won with 7 occupations on the board. My first move was to lay a Perpetual Student, and I used occupations as my food engine through the early game, and their abilities got me a fair number of points in the late game.
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Mircea Pauca
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A reasonable antidote to newbies falling in love with occupations for their own sake is - to start playing with 1 or more Family games. Seeing how hard is to do without them, what resources are worth etc. puts a realistic estimate on further hopes.
 
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