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Subject: Agri-Solo: My first 8-game series rss

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Stven Carlberg
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A few days ago Jim Cobb posted about completing his first 8-game solo series, and I was surprised to find myself reading about an Occupation card called "Seasonal Worker," which I had never laid eyes upon while working through my own first 8-game series.

Jim explained that in those two big packages of cards marked "K Deck" and "I Deck" that come with the game, there are actually a number of cards which belong in the "E Deck." So I played my 8-game series with only the 1+ Occupation cards in the first package, and without any of the cards from the "K Deck" or "I Deck" packages.

I cracked those open just now. But before I mix them all together, I want to record (and comment on) the Occupation cards to which I was limited in my first 8-game series:

1. Stablemaster. Once I scored 50 points in a game where I started with no Occupation cards (it took me two tries), the Stablemaster was the card I held as my starting Occupation for the next game. It allows me to keep up to 3 animals of the same type in one (and only one) of my unfenced stables. I put this to excellent use in the early games in the 8-game series, when I would hoard enough wood to finally build a room but was going to have to delay building fences. In fact, saving enough wood to build rooms AND fences was a challenge throughout the series, and the Stablemaster's power was used in, as I recall, all but one of my games.

2. Woodcutter. The next Occupation card I held was the one that gave me an extra Wood every time I collected Wood. This was some help, but not as much help really as I'd anticipated, since my tendency was still to wait until there was a largeish pile of Wood on the board, and I didn't really pick it up that often. Nevertheless, this was a valuable card, and I would often begin a game by picking up Wood so that I could put some Minor Improvement into play immediately.

3. Plow Maker. The next permanent addition to my workforce was this Occupation that let me plow one additional field, at the price of one Food, each time I sent a family member out to Plow. Typically I would exercise this option twice in each game and also Plow once without the extra field in order to wind up at 5 fields for the maximum 4 points. I then quickly realized the importance of exceeding the victory point goal of the previous game so that I'd begin the new game with some Food and could plow immediately if I wanted.

4. Lord of the Manor. By this stage I was relying on the Lord of the Manor to award me 1 extra VP at the end of the game for each category I'd scored the maximum 4 points in. Even though he was no help at the beginning of a game, I knew he was a card I'd sorely miss if he didn't come up in the random draw, so I decided to lock him down.

5. Clay Mixer. In one game I'd played the Clay Deliveryman, giving me one Clay each in Rounds 6 to 14. This was nice, but I decided what really helped more was the ability with the Clay Mixer to pick up 2 additional Clay whenever I sent a family member out for Clay. With this I could collect enough Clay in Round 2 to build a Cooking Hearth -- and by this time a Cooking Hearth was essential to my success because I depended heavily on Sheep for food.

6. Master Brewer. The ability to turn one Grain into 3 Food during the course of the Harvest, without baking bread, was a terrific convenience, and if I'd drawn the Master Brewer earlier in my 8-game series I'd have been happy to make him a permanent addition sooner. Still I found it a challenge, even with the Plow Maker, to finish a game with the max 8 Grain and 4 Vegetables, so I'm not quite sure how often I'd have been able to spare a Grain at Harvest and still get all the planting done that I wanted.

7. Grocer. In the early going, I'd considered the Grocer a little bit useless because I didn't really have Food to spare to trade for goods, but in the last couple of games out of the 8-game series, my food engine was well tuned and I found it extremely useful to get the Grocer into play if for no other reason than its enabling me to pick up a Stone sooner than it otherwise becomes available. Particularly when I was holding the Minor Improvement of the Axe (costing 1 Wood and 1 Stone), which would let me build Wood rooms for just 2 Wood and 2 Reed, it was frustrating having to wait to get the Stone before I could be ready to build rooms. The Grain and the two Vegetables in the Grocer's stack certainly saved me a turn or two, too.

8. Conservator. This card let me renovate straight from Wood to Stone, and I did use it a couple of times in the 8-game series. I felt that its use came at a cost, though, since I was usually eager to use Renovate in combination with the option to build a Major Improvement, and if I only renovated once, I only got to do that once. And since I was blessed with the Clay Mixer and/or Clay Deliveryman, it wasn't a great problem to get the Clay for the intermediate renovation.

9. Clay Deliveryman. As previously mentioned, this puts a lot of free Clay into the game if you play it early enough. I used it a couple of times, but decided I liked the Clay Mixer better since that goes into effect right from Round 1, and I liked being able to collect 4 Clay and build a Cooking Hearth early. By Round 6 when Clay Deliveryman kicks in, I want to have already built my Hearth.

10. Master Builder. This Occupation let me add a sixth room without paying the materials. I think I used it once in the 8-game series. Once my progression was well organized, I really needed that space on the board more for Fields or Pastures.

11. Plow Driver. I never used this Occupation. I was not willing to wait until after I had a Stone house to start plowing my extra fields.

12. Dock Worker. I never used this Occupation. I never had enough extra Wood to convert 3 of the them to a Stone, which was its most tempting possibility. Every exchange offered by the Dock Worker came at a cost in resources, and I was diligently not wasting a thing.

13. Maid. I never used this Occupation. It gives one Food per round after the renovation to Clay, and I was never in a situation where I had the Clay hut early enough (as well as the card in my hand) to make this seem worthwhile.

14. Mendicant. I never used this Occupation. I mean, all it is worth is one Food, since you pay one Food to deploy it and then it cancels 2 Begging cards at the end of the game, at the cost of the turn it took to deploy it! Pathetic. I have still never taken a Begging card in any Agricola game, solo or otherwise, and I hope I never have to.

So, that's all 14 Occupation cards that were in play in my first 8-game solo series!

Here's how the scores went:

Starting with no Occupations: 44, 51
Starting with 1: 64
Starting with 2 (and 3 food): 60
Starting with 3: 64, 61, 73
Starting with 4 (and 4 food): 80
Starting with 5 (and 5 food): 75
Starting with 6 (and no food): 59, 67
decided to go back and try again
Starting with 5 (and 5 food): 80
Starting with 6 (and 2 food): 79, 85

And there I ended it, thinking that 85 was the goal for the 7-Occupation game, and having already achieved that with 6 Occupations!

In that 85-point game I also played the Minor Improvements

Animal Pen - 2 Food per round, *extremely* beneficial
Axe - the above mentioned 2-Wood-2-Reed cost for Wood rooms
Field - plowed my fifth field at the cost of a Food
Market Stall - got a Vegetable
Animal Yard - to help make room for my maxed-out Sheep, Boar, and Cattle

And also played the Major Improvements

Cooking Hearth, Well, Basketmaker Workshop (with max bonus), Pottery (with max bonus), and Stone Oven on the last play of the game.

Of course, then I looked at the rules again and realized that the series goals were not supposed to go

50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85

as I'd assumed from the first two goals, but

50, 55, 59, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67.

So I can see where the 8-game series will be a considerably less exacting exercise in the future, and I'll be able to hit the goals without *having* to draw a whole bunch of really good VP-generating Minor Improvements.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed the series and look forward to trying it again with all the new cards I've just unwrapped!

Stven Carlberg
September 2009

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Geoff Burkman
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Enjoy those high-scoring games while you can, and just wait until you play with active opponents who will mess with all your plans. devil
 
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Stven Carlberg
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Geoff, I've been playing Agricola with other players ever since it appeared in English, so I'm well acquainted with the frustrations of trying to get the spots you want before somebody else grabs them!

The reason I have the opportunity now to play the game solo is that a few weeks ago I bought a copy of Agricola for myself.

Last night I started a new 8-game series with the E-Deck cards from all three packages. The Seasonal Worker that Jim Cobb talked about appeared in my hand and was irresistible; that's the Occupation I'll hold over for the rest of the series. The way I look at it, the SW enables me to pick up 2 Food whenever I pick up Grain or Vegetable, and also makes Vegetables available earlier in the game. Very helpful.

I also played a card which as I recall was called the Merchant which permitted me to play two Minor or Major Improvements when I sent a Family Member to the space to play one; not unexpectedly, I finished the game having played all 7 of my Minor Improvements! I don't think I'd ever done that before.

I scored 54 and so will start the second game in the series with the Seasonal Worker and 2 Food.
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Geoff Burkman
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Yeah, I like the Merchant, too. In combo with the Traveling Salesman and/or the Businessman, he can be horrendously powerful.
 
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Jim Cobb
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visit rollordont.com for a free computer game with a challenging AI player!
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ssmooth wrote:

Last night I started a new 8-game series with the E-Deck cards from all three packages. The Seasonal Worker that Jim Cobb talked about appeared in my hand and was irresistible; that's the Occupation I'll hold over for the rest of the series. The way I look at it, the SW enables me to pick up 2 Food whenever I pick up Grain or Vegetable, and also makes Vegetables available earlier in the game. Very helpful.


Yep, I found it irresistible also; it drove my entire strategy. The early parts of my games afterward were all about plowing and sowing, and getting a couple of food with each grain from the Day Laborer. Once I combined that with the Master Brewer and the Baker, my family members never got to taste meat until nearly the end of the game.

Jim
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