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Subject: animals, and the lack thereof rss

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Carl Olson
United States
Connecticut
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I'd be interested to know why there is no action space that provides animals in the 4-p game for Stage 1. Yes, there is a sheep card, but half the time it doesn't appear until round 3 or 4. And there are a number of occs and imps that need/aid animals, but are therefore often useless in the first Stage or two.

I have to say I have never played 4-p. The club fills almost every game with 5. But even so, it doesn't look like 4-p is that interesting to me. One person can bake, but we take away a major source of food, so no one else can plan to start an alternate food engine until later. It's just curious. It seems like playing the Ireland board in Age of Steam. It's so harsh, you have to have a poor or unlucky player or two just to make the game work at all.

Am I just spoiled by the 5-p game?
 
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Try playing the 2p game - only one occupation space, only one clay space, and no stone until Stage 2, sometimes as late as Round 7 wow It's a different animal (pardon the pun) to play with more people and be able to do something that requires stone in the first half of the game.
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Geoff Burkman
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carlj wrote:
...Am I just spoiled by the 5-p game?


Yes.

I can assure you, the 4-player game plays quite well.
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Craig Liken
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MisterG wrote:
carlj wrote:
...Am I just spoiled by the 5-p game?


Yes.

I can assure you, the 4-player game plays quite well.


Are you sure you've played enough games to support that comment?

I've mainly played 3-player, which is a pain because there are heaps of occupation cards you just don't get to see, but the game also works well with three.

The limited number of four-player games I have had have been fine as I recall. There was one game where one of the players burst into tears, but as I recall that was due to things external to the game (at least I think it was) and not lack of animals in Stage 1.
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Alex Chen
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If you decide that it's really that big of a problem, it probably wouldn't break the game too much to add the animal action in.

In 3-p, one of the groups I play with regularly swaps in the RSF spot in place of the "take 1 resource" spot to increase the food, stone and reed in the game (all of which tend to be uncomfortably tight in 3-p).

 
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Carl Olson
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MisterG wrote:

I can assure you, the 4-player game plays quite well.


I am pretty sure that is true. :-)

But my question was: why remove the animals completely from the early game at least half the time? Isn't variety good? Maybe the animals were tossed in when the game was upped from 4-p to 5-p, and not retrofitted into 4-p? Just curious.

The bigger issue for me is that the fewer the paths from which the players have to choose, the more the cards, or the presence of a weak player, matters. It's musical chairs. Someone always seems to end up watching the others have fun. It appears the game is structured so that someone *has* to do badly, whether it stems from a lack of either ability, cards, or a food engine; or just from unfortunate turn order or a bad decision at a critical time.

I don't record games when I play with others, so I only have anecdotal evidence, but it's pretty strong. In most game results I've seen, at least one or two players have been way behind the others. Many, of course, were newbies. Others weren't. I'm starting to wonder whether the game can work for *all* of the players, or only the top 2 or 3 players. I've played in one tournament, with 30 players. Even in the 5-p finals, one player was clearly weaker than the others, and ended up way behind, and the leader was not only the most experienced, but also had the best cards played, so that game isn't a help. (Taster came in third).

There are only about 24-27 points apiece on the board if everyone gets a reasonably fair share of the 5-p resources. I haven't done the 4-p game, but it's clearly not much better. All other points in a 30-50-point score have to come either from cards, or from the fair share of other players.

So what I'm asking, I guess, is how many *viable* food strategies are there in 4-p, with four very good players who won't give much away to the others? Is it inevitable that someone is squeezed out, barring "the right cards"? One person can bake with a Clay Oven. One can cook the limited number of animals well. One can Fish and Travel. And the fourth? Try to get extra Stone and compete later for Sow with the person who already has a baking engine going, or try to share animals or fishing with one of the others, taking them down also? I know Geoff said he takes Clay Oven to prevent others from trying to Bake. Is there a strategy for a 4th competitive player without much help from the cards? I guess I'm not good enough to find it.

I really want to find out that Agricola doesn't require someone to be left out. Help would be greatly appreciated.





 
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Bryann Turner
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Without the extra animal space in the 5p game it would be incredibly hard to feed families. Sometimes that extra animal is all you need. Getting access to early cows is also really strong if you can get the engine going.

In my opinion, the 4P and 5P game are neck and neck in terms of experience for me. I like the 5p game, but my experience is only around 15 games. The large bulk (about 100) of my plays have been 4p. I love the 4P game. To each his own I suppose.

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Eugene van der Pijll
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carlj wrote:
One person can bake, but we take away a major source of food, so no one else can plan to start an alternate food engine until later.

This is plainly wrong. You don't start planning your breeding program when the first sheep arrives; you begin with taking woos for fences or stables in the first few rounds. Most people won't have their food engine ready until the second harvest, so there is plenty of time to get a few sheep for at least two people.

The 4-player game is not really harsher than the 5-player game; in fact, you have the same number of action spaces for (at the start) 2 fewer family members. At the end of the game, the farms in most 4-player games are nicer than those in a 5-player game, and the scores are higher.
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Mike T
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I think the 4 player game is more balanced, and easier, than the 5 player game. The fact that you can't get early cows hurts a few cards, but doesn't really change much in most games: in 5 player games I usually see the extra animal space taken for food and to put a sheep in the house in the first stage, not exactly a big change in terms of the viability of breeding.

In fact, it's generally easier to feed in 4 player than 5. The addition of another player isn't completely offset by adding animals, particularly considering that the RSF becomes RSW.

Don't get me wrong, I like 5 player. I mostly play 4 player though, because it seems like the chances of someone getting completely squeezed out and shut down are actually lower there.

 
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Gareth Reynolds
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liken@xtra.co.nz wrote:
The limited number of four-player games I have had have been fine as I recall. There was one game where one of the players burst into tears, but as I recall that was due to things external to the game (at least I think it was) and not lack of animals in Stage 1.

Unless you're thinking of another game where someone ended up crying, that was actually a five-player game, the individual was receiving text messages immediately prior to the tears (so I doubt it was the game causing tears), and she still managed to do better than me (in her first game blush ).
 
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Marcel Van Assen
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I simply love the 4p game. However, some cards (occupations and minor improvements) require boar or cattle, animals that appear only late in the 4p game. This does not mean the 4p game is bad - it just means that these occupations and minor improvements are less benificial in the 4p game than in the 5p game.

Anyway, I like the fact that each game 1p,2p,3p,4p,5p, is quite different :-)

 
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Carl Olson
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assen wrote:

Anyway, I like the fact that each game 1p,2p,3p,4p,5p, is quite different :-)



It makes it hard on the computer programmer, though. :-)
 
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Geoff Burkman
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Yes, but we have great faith in you, sir.
 
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Carl Olson
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MisterG wrote:
Yes, but we have great faith in you, sir.


Excellent! I have some swampland in Florida...
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Carl Olson
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My calculations seem to indicate that the 4-p game (without cards) has roughly one more point per player (about 26) than the 5-p game (25) allows. Close enough for government work. I'll see what I can do.

If someone wants to write the actual player-interface code, it would speed the process immensely. GUI's are not my specialty.
 
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badalchemist
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This doesn't really strike me as a weakness, seeing as how there's more than enough food available to survive the first harvest. If you want to set yourself up to be the animals-for-food guy, snatch the button in round 1, grab the 2 clay in round 2, and be the first person able to afford the cheap fireplace in order to cook those suckers.

Just keep in mind that you're spending 4 out of your first 8 actions trying to accomplish this while the other guys are plowing fields, playing occupations, and snatching up that stacked wood and reed for early expansion and growth.
 
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Matt Shields
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This is only half on topic, but I played a 4 player game last week where - I kid you not - no player ever ate an animal. And I don't think there was any particularly bad play going on, it was just this odd combination of occupations and improvements where everyone had better ways of feeding than eating their animals.

One guy built the well on about turn 6 with the water carrier and flagon plus had the landing net.
One player had the berry picker and played Ranch on round 8 or 9. (He won)
One player had the baker and the grain cart or something like that.

I forget what the fourth player did, but I think everyone ended up with scores in the 40s. It also didn't hurt matters that I played the Herald and jammed all of the animals and family growth spaces as far away as possible.

I remember there was this one round where fishing had, I think, 6 food on it, and nobody took it. Nobody needed the food. It was just bizarre.

Anyway, it kind of highlighted for me the cool thing about Agricola that every game really is very different than every other game.
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