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Subject: 2-Player Agricola is a Nasty Game, or How to Win with 5 Beggars rss

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Mike T
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I've been trying out the interface over at Boite a jeux, and on the whole I like it just fine for 2 player games. Here's the first half of one that turned very ugly. I'll ask for your next move in my position, then follow up with the conclusion to the game sometime in the future.

R1: Major/Minor

Him: Clay Mixer
Me: 3w
H: 1c + 2
M: Ladder (-2w)

R2: Sow/Bake

M: 2r
H: 3w
M: Wood Collector (5 future wood)
H: Fireplace

R3: Fences

M: 3f
H: 3w
M: Bricklayer
H: 2c + 2

R4: Sheep

M: 2r
H: 3w
M: Chamberlain
H: Day Laborer

After Harvest 1:

Me: 3w, 4r, 0f
Him: 9w, 5c, 0f

R5: Family Growth

M: 3w
H: 2 fish
M: 1 room (-5w 1r)
H: Wet Nurse

R6: Renovation

M: 3c
H: 2r
M: Fg + Spinney
H: Starting Player + nothing


This is where it gets interesting. If you've managed to follow along, this is the situation at the start of Round 7:

M: 3c, 3r, 3w, 0 food, no food-providing cards played
H: 5c, 2r, 9w, 1 food, Fireplace.

Food sources on the board: 4 sheep, 2 fish, DL, grain.

Given this situation, you might be wondering what the heck I was thinking. Don't I know that I'm on the hook for 6 food in 3 measly actions? Here's what I'm thinking: Layabout.

Here's what My opponent is thinking:

H: Carpenter

What now?
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Jeff Hannes
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The best-laid plans...

My first thought is that it's highly presumptuous to leave 4 sheep on the board in 2-player, and your opponent should be punished for that. On further analysis it also seems like the best play.

Since he needs 3 food to avoid a begging card himself, sheep is his obvious second play. That would leave you freedom of the board, but it's not much of an option. You could clear the food and take one begging card, take stone, grain and Clay Oven and one begging card... Neither is very efficient.

So instead, you take the 4 sheep, let three run. He's forced to either fish or Day Laborer (and take a begging card). Then you grab a Fireplace and whichever 2-food payoff he left behind. Cook the sheep and you take 2 begging cards. The net result is the same... -3 points to your opponent. But in this case, he's got 5 less food and you've got your crucial fireplace in place to challenge him for animals for the rest of the game.

You've also put a serious hampering on his growth, as he's going to have to scrap for food in the next stage, including having to take a sub-par food grab as his first action if he wants to be able to activate the Wet Nurse in round 8. And if he does, he's in the same boat as you were, needing 6 food in round 9.

I'll be interested to see how it played out...

Edit: BTW, I don't know what he was thinking with the Carpenter play. Seems to me the much stronger play in his position is to take the 4 sheep and then build a room to fire off the Wet Nurse. For that matter, why Starting Player for nothing when you're not even going to take stacked goods in the following play. He could have just played the Carpenter in Round 6.
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Derakon Derakon
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Yeah, nix the sheep. No sense letting your opponent get 8 food especially when you can force him to join you in begging otherwise.

Carpenter (or some other occ) would have been a brilliant blocking play if he'd suspected you had Layabout...and if he hadn't left himself so wide open food-wise.
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Chris F.
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Am I wrong in thinking he used his 1f to play Carpenter? If he did, Mike's taking sheep would leave him with 2 beggars.

If this was a draft, then he probably knew Mike had Layabout. Still, 4sh would have been stronger for him, both for the reasons mentioned, and the fact that Mike has no food to play an occ. He could've taken the sheep and then blocked the occ space.

Either way, I agree that from this position, taking 4sh is the right move. It seems they'll each take two beggars.
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James Klemm
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That really does seem like a nasty game. If you had 5 beggars, your opponent must have initiated a real food battle in future rounds. I agree with the other pundits: sheep.
 
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Mike T
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Yup, you guys nailed it. It was a draft, so I assume he did know about the Layabout. The SP move in Round 6 doesn't make any sense unless he was out for blood or worried about his sheep, and he clearly wasn't worried about his sheep.

Obviously, the proper move for him would be to take the sheep, then play the Carpenter. That would leave me with a whole round of food grabs to take 1 beggar, and set him up for a really awesome Round 8.

Anyways, my plan was to do exactly as you say, taking sheep, then fireplace, then food. Unfortunately, this is where my lack of familiarity with BaJ and its unforgiving interface stepped in: I took the sheep and inadvertently released ALL of them. Yikes. Here's how it played out:

R7: Stone

H: Carpenter
M: 4 sheep (release ALL)
H: 2f
M: 2f
M: 6w (because what is one more beggar when you're already taking 3?)

Harvest 2 He feeds 2 and begs 2. I feed 2 and beg 4.

R8: Veg

H: 2r (going for the double wet nurse)
M: Build Room
H: 1 Sheep (???)
M: FG + Moldboard Plow
M: Cooking Hearth

R9: Boar

H: Schapps Distiller (this explains the sheep... and also blocks my Layabout again!)
M: 1 Boar (terrible move. Why wouldn't I take veg here?)
H: Veg
M: 3s
M: 1g
M: Stone Oven, bake for 4

Harvest 3 He drinks Schnapps. I only have 7 food, and must beg once more.

R10: Cattle

H: 8w (1 for Spinney)
M: 2 sheep (cook 1)
H: 2 rooms, 2 stables, 2 peeps
M: 4c
M: Plow 2
M: Veg

R11: Stone

H: 2 Cattle
M: 2 Boar (cook both)
H: 3r
M: 3w
H: Veg
M: Plow/Sow, sow 1 veg
H: 4 fish
M: FG without room

Harvest 4 He converts a veg, feeds easily, and breeds cows. I kill 2 sheep.

R12: Plow/Sow

H: SP + Swan Lake
M: 3w
H: Hedge Keeper
M: grain
H: 4 fences
M: 3 stone
H: Ren2clay, FP>CH
M: Plow 2
M: Well

R13: FG

H: 2 cattle (cook both)
M: 3 sheep (cook 2)
H: SP/Riding Plow
M: Plow/sow, sow grain and veg
H: Plow 3
M: 3w
H: FG
M: Ren2Clay + 11 fences
M: 2 boar

Harvest 5 He feeds easily and breeds cows again. I kill a sheep and a pig.

R14: Ren/Fence

H: 4 stone
M: Plow 1 field (attempting to trick him: I now have NO spaces left on my farm... so who would expect me to take Plow/Sow?)
H: 1 veg (apparently not him)
M: Sow 1g, 2v on Plow/Sow
H: 2w (1 for spinney)
M: 1 cow
H: 1 sheep
M: Layabout, finally
H: Ren2Stone, 7 fences
M: Fence 1

Final scores:

H: 2 fields +3 pastures -1 grain +1 veg +1 sheep -1 boar +1 cattle -3 unused +1 stable +8 stone house +15 peeps +1 CH +2 Swan Lake -6 Beggars = 24

M: 4 fields +4 pastures +2 grain +4 veg -1 sheep +1 boar +1 cattle +4 clay house +15 peeps +1 CH +3 Stone Oven +4 Well -15 Beggars = 28
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Chris F.
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Can I make a case for his "H: 1 veg (apparently not him)" gambit being his only chance for a tie (and so his best 2nd move)?

If he grabs P&S while he can, with nothing to sow:

H: 4 stone (same vp)
M: Plow 1 field (same vp)
H: Plow 3 fields on P&S (+3vp over previous move)
M: 1 sheep (same vp)
H: 1v (same vp)
M: 1 cow (same vp)
H: 2w (same vp)
M: Layabout (same vp)
H: Ren2Stone, 7 fences (same vp)
M: Fence 1 (same vp)

...he still loses by 1vp (27 to 28).

Yet if you hadn't blocked P&S:

H: 4 stone (same vp)
M: Plow 1 field (same vp)
H: 1 veg (same vp)
M: 1 cow (same vp)
H: P&S (sows 1v) (+4vp over previous move)
M: 1 sheep (same vp)
H: 2w (same vp)
M: Layabout (same vp)
H: Ren2Stone, 7 fences (same vp)
M: Fence 1 (same vp)

...he ties (28 to 28).

Barring cards we don't know about, he lost the game before R14. Taking a veggie and hoping to plow and sow it was his only chance for a tie. While you obviously weren't going to let that happen (and if you'd taken P&S first, there would've been no chance at all for a tie), 1 veg may have been his best 2nd move.
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Mike T
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Very nice Chris
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James Huang
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I didn't work out the the math, but was there actually a benefit of taking Plow instead of Plow & Sow? Chris mentioned that there was no chance of a tie if you just took it... did the current method of how things played out actually maximize the difference in points?

Or was it just that you didn't think you have a 5th point play if you took P&S in one action instead of two, that you might as well try to play some tricks.
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