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Subject: New Players Looking For Some Help. rss

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Grant S
Canada
Winnipeg
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Hi there,

I have been frequenting this site over the past 6 months to assist in my new purchases. Stone Age, The Adventurers, Pandemic + XP and Agricola (base, Moor XP and G-Deck).

My wife and I have taken quite a liking to the above games but recently Agricola for Christmas has consumed our past 3 evenings with multiple games each night.

My questions are as follows:

1. Focusing on one thing in the base game is quite difficult to do. I always seem to end up with enough food, but small house and 2 or 3 family members can't quite carry out all the necessary tasks for a victory. Is there a standard priority's checklist to attempt to follow with this game? If my people are fed, the housing sucks, I get a lot of people, can't feed them easily etc.

2. For just two people, what's the way to handle the decks? Last night was a late start so we didn't get a chance to learn/play The Moor, so we just drew cards from the new G-Deck and played the original game. It seemed a little better and more prosperous of a game, but still a bit of a struggle with the random 7-card selection. My wife got the "Chamberlain" card and quite easily won the game with her 5 people earlier then normal.

3. We usually set the cards we've just used in a game into a separate pile so we don't get them again for more variety. Is this a good idea?

4. Most importantly, can mixing some of the 2-4+ cards into the mix help spice up the game and make it less cut-throat?

5. I've perused the tips on this site, yet still fall victim to my wife's better planning skills. Help!

Thanks for reading.
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Derakon Derakon
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The cards that are 3+ or 4+ are usually marked like that because they don't work in smaller games. Either they rely on the actions of others (e.g. you get X whenever someone else does Y), which makes them much more valuable in games with more players, or else they rely on spaces that simply don't exist in the 2-player game.

So I'd say just sort out the 1+ and 2+ cards and stick to using those. There should still be plenty of variety for awhile yet. As for shuffling them back in, that's up to you, but personally I think that only seeing each card once means that you won't be able to come to grips with a given card very quickly. A certain amount of repetition is valuable, in other words. You just don't want to see the same card over and over again.

The cards aren't perfectly balanced against each other, and Chamberlain is a good card, though it's by no means game-breaking. However, I suspect that with inexperienced players, the power of easy-to-use good cards is magnified. In an experienced group (or pair) of players, one player having Chamberlain isn't usually going to make or break the game.

Getting on to strategy, what you want to be doing is planning out your game as far ahead as you can manage. Not in the "I'm going to take the 3W, then if she takes the Fishing spot I'll take the Reed, otherwise I'll go Fishing, but if she does..." sense. More that you want to answer these questions reasonably early:

1) How am I going to feed my family?
2) How am I going to grow my family?
3) How am I going to fill out my farm?

Those are roughly in order of importance. For example, you might decide that you're going to buy a fireplace and cook animals to feed your family, with supplements from fishing. That means prioritizing clay so you can afford the fireplace, then making certain that you don't let the sheep pile up too much (so your opponent doesn't grab them before you do even if she can't cook them). Then you look to growing your family: that requires a new room, so you need 5W and 2R. So now you're fighting over resources.

Finally, if you want to make the game less cutthroat, you can include the "take 1 building resource" card from the 3-player game. This is an official (if optional) rules patch for players who don't like the heavy resource denial that can happen in 2-player games.
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Ben Bateson
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frypiggy wrote:

1. Focusing on one thing in the base game is quite difficult to do. I always seem to end up with enough food, but small house and 2 or 3 family members can't quite carry out all the necessary tasks for a victory. Is there a standard priority's checklist to attempt to follow with this game? If my people are fed, the housing sucks, I get a lot of people, can't feed them easily etc.


Join the club! When you've worked out how to do everything you'll be a good Agricola player!

Make sure you set up to combo efficiently. Don't renovate unless you can build an improvement, don't grow your family until you can line up a good minor improvement, don't buy an oven unless you've got grain to bake. Nearly all cards that offer a move-combo are well worth considering. Taking the Start Player is the possible exception to this rule.

Quote:
2. For just two people, what's the way to handle the decks? Last night was a late start so we didn't get a chance to learn/play The Moor, so we just drew cards from the new G-Deck and played the original game. It seemed a little better and more prosperous of a game, but still a bit of a struggle with the random 7-card selection. My wife got the "Chamberlain" card and quite easily won the game with her 5 people earlier then normal.


You might want to try a draft to prevent one person getting dealt a ridiculously strong hand. A very popular house rule.

My personal take is just to shuffle up all the decks together, discarding Ocks and re-drawing as appropriate in 2P.

Quote:
3. We usually set the cards we've just used in a game into a separate pile so we don't get them again for more variety. Is this a good idea?


While you're still exploring the game, sure. It's better to know what cards to expect than have them take you by surprise.

Quote:
4. Most importantly, can mixing some of the 2-4+ cards into the mix help spice up the game and make it less cut-throat?


I wouldn't recommend it. Those cards are marked 3+ and 4+ for a reason. You might find yourself in some impossible situations and even more lop-sided games.

Quote:
5. I've perused the tips on this site, yet still fall victim to my wife's better planning skills. Help!


Block! If you know she wants a resource, take it first. Reed is very precious in 2P, to the extent where taking a single reed on the space is sometimes a good idea. Look out for opportunities to take the Start Player to get 6 Wood instead of 3. Look for ways to combo cards, especially those you didn't think were so strong (Clay Supports + Ladder + Bricklayer = Win!). Very importantly, prioritise growing your family above anything else except food up to about Round 9. If you've not got three family members and are well on the way to a fourth by then, then you need to focus on knocking up some rooms and knocking up your wife!

I wouldn't even bother getting FotM out of the box until you've played at least 20 games of Agricola. It's not an expansion so much as a completely different way to play the game.
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Todd
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Check the session reports of Geoff Burkman, specifically the 2 player ones. Print one off, the the named cards out and play through it. I have learned a lot from reading his reports and I'm sure you'll see plenty of things to do differently in the next game.

I agree with shuffling in the cards you've used. With the repetition of some cards, you may be able to see how some cards work well with each other, etc.

Maus
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Ben Holle
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Others have already said this but it is worth empahsizing: get a food engine.

Your engine will be either cooking animals or baking bread. Possibly a bit of both. Taking a food space is not an engine; you might still pick some up from Starting Player but this should be because you want to grab/retain Starting Player; not because you need food.

Once you have an efficient way to feed your family start concentrating on babies and building up your house.
 
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Derakon Derakon
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ousgg wrote:
Make sure you set up to combo efficiently. Don't renovate unless you can build an improvement, don't grow your family until you can line up a good minor improvement, don't buy an oven unless you've got grain to bake. Nearly all cards that offer a move-combo are well worth considering. Taking the Start Player is the possible exception to this rule.
This is tricky, though. You need to recognize which cards are worth playing -- which isn't always easy. Drafting is tricky for the same reason -- it's hard to do an effective draft if you don't know which cards are good. Bottom line is, you need to play more.

You certainly shouldn't delay growing your family just to play an expensive and underpowered card. And then of course you may find that even if you have a card that's worth playing, you can't get it out without seriously delaying yourself (for example, you're short two wood, you're on your last action this round, and your opponent's going to take next round's wood).

Ideally you plan out when you're going to play each card, and have the resources ready at that time. Of course your opponent(s) will be looking to screw those plans up. A lot of Agricola is being flexible with your plans.

Generally speaking, though:

* Take Start Player when you have a minor improvement that's worth getting out regardless of other plans, or when you know there's a big play available next turn that your opponent will take if you don't.
* Take Family Growth as soon as you can afford it food-wise. If you have a good card to play alongside, then great, otherwise don't worry about it. Certainly don't play a non-free card you don't plan on using just because you have the opportunity.
* Take Renovation as much for the improvement you get to play (or the fences, in round 14) as for the points from renovating.
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Vince Lupo
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ALEXANDRIA
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I play a lot of the family version. We use the free and printable "age of seasons" expansion which adds a couple actions and tweaks to the resources.

But my strategy, with or without that, and even when I do play with the cards, is to try to a) get more family members, b) a food engine going and lastly, to c) fill in the details.


a) the value of the extra actions available from more family members highly worth the cost in food. I'll even take one begging card if it means getting to use that family member for 5 to 10 more rounds.

b) a food engine is converting your resources into food. So I usually focus on animals OR fields but not both (yet). With the red cards (and other cards if you play with them) you can get your food more efficiently than simply going fishing.

c) Filling in the details is just getting a little bit of everything you missed along the way. Having just 1 sheep is basically worth 2 points because otherwise you'd lose one point. Also, in general, I will eat sheep down to 1 or 2 before I'd eat other animals. And in b) I mentioned animals or fields. Towards the end of the game I'll try to get at least a little of the side I didn't get in the beginning. So if I started with fields, I'd get animals later just to make sure I had a little of each.

d) I usually don't take start player unless I can get a reward from it or unless I really want access to a late game action first. I also usually don't take regular food from the board unless I'm desperate for a few or unless the action has about 4 or more.

e) I will often grow my family based on faith that having the extra family member will help me enough to compensate for the extra food cost. Sometimes I will just assume or hope that I'll be able to find a way to feed them. And I usually do just fine. :)
 
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Geoff Burkman
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Maus wrote:
Check the session reports of Geoff Burkman, specifically the 2 player ones. Print one off, the the named cards out and play through it. I have learned a lot from reading his reports and I'm sure you'll see plenty of things to do differently in the next game.

I agree with shuffling in the cards you've used. With the repetition of some cards, you may be able to see how some cards work well with each other, etc.

Maus


Just be warned that I have discovered that I am apparently a fairly terrible 2-player player. However, that leaves plenty of room to learn from my mistakes.

Thanks, btw, Maus, for the unsolicited testimonial.
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David Larkin
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frypiggy wrote:
1. Focusing on one thing in the base game is quite difficult to do.


I think this is a game where you want to defocus! A bit like those stero pictures where you have to defoucs to see the image. Yes you should look to get a food engine and increase your house and family size, but you need to be flexible enough to take oppertunities when they arise. For example if two reed have built up take them now rather than have to take two actions to get them later, even if it does mean putting off sowing you field to build your food engine
 
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Mike T
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Almost all of the advice on this thread is very good. I have little to add, but I will put in my 2 cents regardless.

1. Grow your family faster. There is a line past which aggressive growth will get you in trouble, but you won't find it by playing safe. Begging cards give you immediate negative feedback, but failing to grow quickly enough will wreck your game just as thoroughly.

2. Don't add Farmers of the Moor until you have a handle on basic Agricola. It is a great expansion, but it is a whole new ballgame in terms of complexity. Other than that, I'd just shuffle and deal from all the cards each game. You can't learn the cards without playing with them many times. Don't mix in the 3+ or 4+ cards until you find some more people to play with.

3. Find some more people to play with. I think the game is great with 2, but it really shines with 4.

4. Accept that your wife might just be a better farmer than you. Alternate with some other game in which you can get revenge.
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Todd
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smcmike wrote:

4. Accept that your wife might just be a better farmer than you. Alternate with some other game in which you can get revenge.


HA! This is why my boys like to play Blood Bowl: Team Manager. I have yet to win a game of that since we got it for Christmas and they like their revenge for all the farming beatdowns I've given them.

Maus
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