I recently won a heads-up match against the best heads-up player on play-agricola.com (measured by winning % over sample size of at least 40 games). It was a very proud moment for me, so I decided to share how I did it here. Of course, to win against the best, you have to get lucky with the cards you were dealt, the order in which the Round cards appear, and with the initial toss. I got lucky on all fronts.
Game recap: dshin vs armyguy
Occupation draft (8 cards)
dshin's draft pile: Manservant - Understudy - Family Counselor - Singer - Seasonal Worker - Lord of the Manor - Mendicant - Food Critic
armyguy's draft pile: Clay Hut Builder - Meat Seller - Layabout - Grocer - Plowman - Adoptive Parents - Field Watchman - Smallholder
dshin's draft order: Family Counselor - Plowman - Seasonal Worker - Clay Hut Builder - Mendicant - Layabout - Manservant
armyguy's draft order: Field Watchman - Lord of the Manor - Grocer - Singer - Adoptive Parents - Understudy - Meat Seller
As much as I hated passing the Seasonal Worker, taking Family Counselor was a no-brainer. In my opinion, it is the best heads-up Occupation. For my second card, Plowman and Grocer are both strong, but the edge went to Plowman because I already had Family Counselor as my source of grains and veggies.
When the Seasonal Worker came back to me, I had a hunch that armyguy had Field Watchman, as there aren’t many other cards he could have drafted that would cause him to choose Lord of the Manor over Seasonal Worker. Even though I was unlikely to play Seasonal Worker, I still drafted him for precautionary measures. Armyguy's second choice of Lord of the Manor is interesting. I think that because of the abundance of quality early/mid-game occupations, he wanted to snatch the lone valuable late-game occupation. Plus, with Field Watchman, it is easy to get max grains+fields, so Lord of the Manor should be at least 2 points for him.
The remaining decisions were not that interesting, but Clay Hut Builder, Mendicant, and Layabout would come up huge for me this game.
Minor Improvement draft (8 cards)
dshin's draft pile: Mini Pasture - Grain Cart - Weekly Market - Extra Effort - Feed Pellets - Animal Pen - Sawmill - Village Well
armyguy's draft pile: Copse - Stone Exchange - Clay Supports - Pelt Roof - Stone Crane - Sheep Market - Harrow - Spinney
dshin's draft order: Extra Effort - Clay Supports - Animal Pen - Stone Exchange - Village Well - Sheep Market
armyguy's draft order: Spinney - Grain Cart - Pelt Roof - Mini Pasture - Copse - Weekly Market - Harrow
I drafted Extra Effort first because its element of surprise can be quite powerful. When Clay Supports came my way, I was ecstatic, as it works very well with Clay Hut Builder. The rest of the draft decisions kind of played themselves out. On armyguy's end, he took 3 cards that would complement his Field Watchman: Grain Cart, Copse, and Weekly Market. Spinney is strong, but I wonder if he should have drafted Clay Supports defensively since he knew I had the Clay Hut Builder.
Abbreviations: (w)ood - (c)lay - (r)eed - (s)tone - (g)rain - (v)egetable - (sh)eep - (bo)ar - (ca)ttle - (f)ood - (S)tarting (P)layer - (D)ay (L)aborer
Round 1: Sow/Bake
dshin: Occ (Family Counselor)
dshin: DL (+f Fam. Couns.)
armyguy: SP + Minor (pass Mini Pasture)
dshin: 5 wood rooms, 2 peeps, 5f
armyguy: 2 wood rooms, 2 peeps, 1f, 3w, one 1x1 pasture
I won the toss! With the Family Counselor in play, I was feeling very good about my chances.
Round 2: Fences
dshin: 2f fishing (+f Fam. Couns.)
dshin: 2 wood rooms, 2 peeps, 8f, 2c
armyguy: 2 wood rooms, 2 peeps, 1f, 6w/2r, one 1x1 pasture
It’s between 2c and 2r for armyguy. Arguments for 2c: I have the Clay Supports - Clay Hut Builder combo, so he should try to prevent me from getting it. Arguments against 2c: first Fireplace is not that valuable since (1) sheep hasn’t appeared yet, and (2) we will soon both have pastures (thanks to Mini Pasture) to store sheep before getting a Fireplace. Armyguy chooses 2r. I might have leaned towards 2c, but I have the benefit of hindsight.
Armyguy takes 3w with his second action, a decision no doubt motivated by a desire to inhibit my Family Counselor. However, I was still able to activate the Family Counselor by taking fishing. Since he spent 2f on the Mini Pasture, this put him in a situation where he would need to spend two actions on food to avoid a Round 1 Beggar.
Round 3: Sheep
dshin: Occ (Plowman)
dshin: SP + Minor (Mini Pasture) (+f Fam. Couns.)
dshin: 2 wood rooms, 2 peeps, 6f, 2c, one 1x1 pasture
armyguy: 2 wood rooms, 2 peeps, 3f, 9w/2r, one 1x1 pasture
Armyguy decides to aggressively pursue wood. I don’t mind, as wood will not be all that important to me this game. I play an ideally timed Round 3 Plowman, placing fields on Rounds 7, 10, and 13.
Round 4: Major/Minor Improvement
dshin: 3w (+f Fam. Couns.)
armyguy: SP + Minor (Harrow)
dshin: 2 wood rooms, 2 peeps, 7f, 3w/2c/2r, one 1x1 pasture
armyguy: 2 wood rooms, 2 peeps, 5f, 7w/2r, one 1x1 pasture
dshin: feed 4f
armyguy: feed 4f
I activate Family Counselor for the 4th consecutive round, while Armyguy takes SP. What does he want to take?
Round 5: Renovation
armyguy: build 1WR + 1stable
dshin: Renovate to clay + Clay Supports (+f Fam. Couns.)
dshin: 2 clay rooms, 2 peeps, 4f, 1w/3c/1r, one 1x1 pasture
armyguy: 3 wood rooms, 2 peeps, 1f, 3sh, one 1x1 pasture (with stable)
Armyguy wanted the sheep, it turns out. In other news, I was lucky that renovate appeared first in Stage 2. I take clay both to deny him the Fireplace and to fuel my future clay rooms, discounted cheaply by my Clay Supports.
Round 6: Family Growth
armyguy: 4f fishing
dshin: build 1CR
armyguy: FG (no minor)
dshin: Occ (Clay Hut Builder) (+f Fam. Couns.)
dshin: 3 clay rooms, 2 peeps, 4f, 1c, one 1x1 pasture
armyguy: 3 wood rooms, 3 peeps, 5f, 3sh, one 1x1 pasture (with stable)
Armyguy decides he needs the fish more than the 6w. Indeed, if he passes up on the fish and FG's, I could take the fish and then deny him the Fireplace in Round 7, and he'd have serious difficulty feeding. I play the Clay Hut Builder to fuel my future rooms. My position is looking strong.
Round 7: Stone (dshin: +2c, -1f for +1 field)
dshin: FG + Minor (pass Extra Effort to play Fireplace) (+f Fam. Couns.)
dshin: 3 clay rooms, 3 peeps, 3f, 9w/1c, one 1x1 pasture, 1 field
armyguy: 3 wood rooms, 3 peeps, 7f, 2c, 5sh, one 1x1 pasture (with stable)
dshin: feed 3f, 2 Beggars
armyguy: feed 6f, sheep have no space to breed
Armyguy takes a gambit by passing on the 9w. I think he reasoned that I couldn't really grab 9w and 3r, given my FG/feeding needs. Since he had SP, he could take whichever resource I did not take in Round 8. Neither pile is particularly better, given that I only need 1w1r per room, and that we already have a head-start on fencing via Mini Pasture.
After my 9w grab, he takes 2c in preparation to play the Fireplace. My next action was really the move of the game. Sitting at just 3f, I used my final action to FG, and paid 1f to play Extra Effort (which I drafted first for the element of surprise!), playing the Fireplace. This put a serious dent in armyguy's plans, as he only had 2c and so could not longer afford a Fireplace. He was forced to take DL for the 3rd time in the game. I got +f from Family Counselor and took 2 Beggars, to be mitigated by a future Mendicant.
(Actually, as cool as the above paragraph sounds, I mistakenly announced my Extra Effort earlier in the game, so he knew I held it. I would say that his 2sh grab was an avoidable error.)
Round 8: Boar (dshin: +2c)
armyguy: Occ (Singer, +2c)
dshin: Major (Pottery)
armyguy: SP + Minor (pass Extra Effort to play Cooking Hearth)
dshin: 2f fishing (+g Fam. Couns.)
dshin: 3 clay rooms, 3 peeps, 2f, 9w/1c, 1g, one 1x1 pasture, 1 field, 2 Beggars
armyguy: 3 wood rooms, 3 peeps, 4r, 5sh, one 1x1 pasture (with stable)
Armyguy finally finds an opportunity to play an occupation. It is the Singer, and he uses it so that he can play the Cooking Hearth. I see my upcoming clay surplus and so play the Pottery. I also plan to pay an Occupation next turn and want to trigger my Family Counselor so I take a dinky 2f fishing action. Really, though, there weren't a lot of better choices.
Round 9: Vegetable (dshin: +2c)
armyguy: 2bo (burn 4sh)
dshin: Occ (Layabout)
dshin: SP + Minor (Animal Pen)
armyguy: Build WR
dshin: 1g (+g Fam. Couns.)
dshin: 3 clay rooms, 3 peeps, 1f, 7w/3c, 3g, one 1x1 pasture, 1 field
armyguy: 4 wood rooms, 3 peeps, 8f, 1w/2r, 1sh/2bo, one 1x1 pasture (with stable)
dshin: skip (Layabout)
armyguy: feed 6f, boar breed
I play the Layabout, which functions as a +5f action, and also serves as my fourth occupation, allowing me to play the Animal Pen (2f on each remaining round space, or 10 future food). Armyguy builds his 4th room.
Round 10: Stone (dshin: +2c, +2f, -1f for +1 field)
armyguy: Occ (Grocer)
dshin: build 2CR + stable
armyguy: FG + Minor (Grain Cart)
armyguy: SP + Minor (Pelt Roof), burns boar+sheep for 1 pelt on Pelt Roof and to buy rgsvw from Grocer
dshin: 5 clay rooms, 3 peeps, 2f, 3w/1c, 3g, 3sh, one 1x1 pasture (with stable), 2 fields
armyguy: 4 wood rooms, 4 peeps, 1f, 3r/1s, 1g/1v, 2bo, one 1x1 pasture (with stable)
My Family Counselor's reign of terror finally comes to an end. Or rather, a pause. It has netted me 7f+2g so far this game. It was well worth the pause, however, as I build 2 more rooms and secure 3 sheep. Armyguy gets his 4th family member and takes SP.
Round 11: Cattle (dshin: +2c,+2f)
armyguy: Occ (Field Watchman)
dshin: Major (Clay Oven, bake 1g for 5f)
dshin: FG + Minor (Sheep Market) (+g Fam. Couns.)
armyguy: g (+2g, +1 field)
dshin: 5 clay rooms, 4 peeps, 9f, 2w/2s, 3g, 3sh, one 1x1 pasture (with stable), 2 fields
armyguy: 4 wood rooms, 4 peeps, 6w/4c/3r/1s, 4g/1v, 2bo, one 1x1 pasture (with stable), 1 field
dshin: trade 1sh for 1v, feed 7f, sheep breed
armyguy: feed 2bo+2g
I was right about the Field Watchman! Armyguy now has a super grain space: it gets him +2g (Grain Cart) and +1field (Field Watchman). My Family Counselor returns for 1 final hurrah, and I get out the Sheep Market to parlay my sheep into veggies.
Round 12: Plow and/or Sow (dshin: +2f)
armyguy: Plow and Sow (use Harrow, plow 2g and 1v)
dshin: 3bo, burn 2 for 4f
armyguy: g (+2g, +1 field)
dshin: FG + Minor (pass Extra Effort to play Well)
armyguy: SP + Minor (Weekly Market, trade 3g for 2v)
dshin: Occ (Mendicant)
dshin: 5 clay rooms, 5 peeps, 6f, 1w/2s, 3g/1v, 3sh/1bo, one 1x1 pasture (with stable), 2 fields
armyguy: 4 wood rooms, 4 peeps, 6w/4c/3r/1s, 2v, 2ca, one 1x1 pasture (with stable), 4 fields (6g/2v sowed)
I must point out that armyguy was gracious enough to let me take back a move during this round. I initially played the Well using the Major/Minor Improvement space, and then immediately requested a take-back so that I could instead play it via Extra Effort along with my FG. I don't think it would have made a difference in the outcome. Besides, I let him take back something (very inconsequential) in a prior round. I am relieved to get my Mendicant out, as it would have been a little tricky if he had tried to deny me the Occupation spot in the last 2 Rounds.
Round 13: FG Without Room (dshin: +3f, -1f for +1 field)
armyguy: Plow and Sow (sow 2v)
armyguy: 3sh, burn 2 for 4f
dshin: Fences (6, forming two more 1x1 pastures)
armyguy: g (+2g, +1 field)
dshin: Sow + Bake (sow 2g+1v, bake 1g for 5f)
armyguy: FG without room
dshin: SP + Village Well (returning Well)
dshin: 5 clay rooms, 5 peeps, 13f, 1w/4s, 3sh/1bo, three 1x1 pastures (one with stable), 3 fields (6g/2v sowed)
armyguy: 4 wood rooms, 5 peeps, 6w/4c/3r/1s, 3g, 1sh/2ca, one 1x1 pasture (with stable), 6 fields (6g/6v sowed)
dshin: trade 1sh for 1v, harvest 2g+1v, feed 10f, sheep breed
armyguy: harvest 2g+3v, feed 3f+2v, cattle breed
The game is nearing completion, and it is becoming clear that I will be the winner. I get a couple more pastures, and play the Village Well, with the requisite resources to rebuild the Well in hand. Armyguy is preparing for a renovate+fences, but it will not be enough.
Round 14: Renovate + Fences (dshin: +4f)
dshin: Major/Minor (Well)
armyguy: Renovate + fences (6, forming two more 1x1 pastures)
dshin: Plow + Sow (pay armyguy 2f to activate Harrow, sow g+v)
armyguy: 6f fishing
dshin: plow 1 field
armyguy: Occ (Lord of the Manor)
dshin: Sow (1g)
armyguy: g (+2g, +1 field)
Game State + Harvest
Nothing too interesting to note here. I was a little sloppy towards the end, but there’s no point in fretting over 1 or 2 points when you're up by a large margin.
Final score: dshin 51, armyguy 43
armyguy score card
fenced stables: 1
clay rooms: 4
cards: 1 (Cooking Hearth)
bonus: 4 (Lord of the Manor)
dshin score card
fenced stables: 1
clay rooms: 5
cards: 15 (Fireplace, Pottery, Animal Pen, Clay Oven, Village Well, Well)
It was a very nice game. I liked the way you set up the session report. Your observations are all very insightful. I'm sure you'll be a great Agricola player! Soon, I'll seek my revenge.
Had to come back and review this one again. I'm stunned you let the 9Wood slide, and amused that you never played your first-draft Minor. There, thanks to the grace of whatever, I have gone many times.
Passing on the 9w was indeed stunning. On the other hand, if armyguy had taken the 9w, and I in turn took 3r, then he would still need to wait 2 rounds before building his 4th room. After grabbing 2r in Round 9, he would have 3w more but 2r less than where he actually ended up. I, on the other hand, could grab 3w in Round 8 and have enough wood and reed for all my building needs. So it's not clear that it was such a big mistake.
In fact, if he remembered that I had Extra Effort and Mendicant in my hand, I think the proper move was actually to take 2c first.
I actually made a more obvious mistake in Round 11, when I passed on 4c. It was on the correct piece of cardboard, represented Pottery food for me, would have prevented renovation for armyguy, plus I had Extra Effort in hand to play my Oven along with my FG.
I really liked seeing the discussion of what cards you kept in the draft and why. This helped me understand the flow of the game better, including identifying when blocking moves (based on knowledge about your opponent's hand) would be most useful.
In retrospect, another way for me to play Round 7 might have been to take both the wood and the reed. In Round 8, I could then play Layabout first, and FG + Animal Pen second. In Round 9, I could build 2 rooms, FG again, and have a free action to develop in other ways.