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Subject: Our farms are on Struggle Street rss

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rubasurex
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Hello boardgame geekers. I'm a long time lurkier for many years here, but have never had the need to register and post a thread until today.

Recently I purchased Agricola along with the Farmers of the Moor expansion and last night we sat down to our first 3 player game. Since we are experienced gamers (I own many games), we decided to skip the family game and jump straight into the deep end. Our first game used everything from the base game and the expansion except for the extra decks. For this game we just used the Basic (E) deck. We also just used a random deal of the 14 cards you start with, since we had no idea what any of the cards meant.

The game lasted a few hours, as we learnt the rules on the fly and consulted this forum a few times for clarification. I'm 99.999% confident we played the rules correctly as they were designed. The general consensus at the end was that the game is easy, rules/mechanics wise (which is a good thing), but hard strategy/skill wise (which is also a good thing). We are very happy with the game and I'm happy with my purchase. I can see it fitting into our regular rotation.

The game ended with scores of 33, 29 and 21. I'm not sure how good or bad these scores are. I'm sure they are terrible compared to a skilful player.

Anyway, the point of my post is that the game really felt like we just bought blocks of land on Struggle Street and thought it would be a good idea to build farms. The whole game we all just seemed to struggle with feeding out families and heating our homes. The game felt so rushed that you didn't have time to think about anything else but trying to get more food or fuel. Because of this however, nobody took a begging card or had a family member fall ill, but we were always just scrapping by every harvest phase. As the game went on the problem got worse as the harvest phases got closer together. In the last round you actually have two harvest phases back to back. This was a stressful point for us in the game, with some breaking down in panic about possibly not being able to feed in the last harvest.

I'm pinning the problem on the fact that we are new and really didn't know what we should be doing, so things just progressed from bad to worse for us. It might get easier with more plays, which I'm looking forward to as I love a challenge.

These are the difficulties I seemed to note, which I'd love to get some feedback on from other more experienced players.

1. Since the harvest phases get closer together, I guess that unless you develop a strong food source early you're in trouble.

2. We seemed to focus a lot on the cards in our hands, trying to play them, which was probably a waste of time. One player almost played all their cards. I get the feeling though that this is not normal behaviour.

3. Since your board starts with all these forest and peat tiles, it feels almost impossible to clear your land by the end of the game, let alone trying to build anything on it.

4. Major improvements??? I don't think we even looked at these cards. We didn't have time. Nobody built one, let alone even coming close to having the resources needed to build one. Is this normal, or should they be a high priority to get?

5. Expanding your family felt like a waste of time as well. By the time any of us were in a position to expand our family, the game was almost over. The extra action you get just wasn't worth the extra food and heating needed when you’re facing the last back to back harvest phases. Does anyone ever actually get a family of 5 going!?!?!

6. By the end of the game we all had semi-decent farms going with a few fields and pastures each, but it was a major struggle to get that and we all just rushed it near the end to avoid negative points. Honestly, I felt like we needed 28 rounds to really enjoy the game, not 14. It feels like it takes 14 rounds just to get yourself stable let alone do anything interesting.

I would really like to get some feedback on this and find out if this is what others experience. Is the game supposed to feel like this or did we just have a bad game? How does anyone find the time in 14 rounds to achieve anything at all in this game?
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Jacob H. T.
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I think this is a great first post. I'd prefer to be a lurker myself.

I have always felt the key to the game was expanding families and major improvements. Often I only do a few occupations or minor improvements, but I always make sure I get one major improvement. To be able to cook animals or bake bread are great ways to get a lot of food very fast. Thus, with the extra actions with your extended family, you are allowed to focus on other goals.

Give it a try. I hope you enjoy the game as much as I have.
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Matt Davis
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Some friendly suggestions -

Suggestion 1: Don't start with the expansion. Play a few games without it to get a feel for the game first. It adds a fair bit of complexity that I would bet would be overwhelming at first.

Suggestion 2: Grow your family! This makes your life much easier. Look at it this way. An extra family member costs you 2 food/harvest, and gives you 2-3 actions per harvest. At MINIMUM, you can always grab 2 food with a single action, and later in the game (when you're baking bread, picking up lots of animals to cook, etc.) you can usually do much better. The cost is well worth the extra actions you get by having another family member.

Suggestion 3: Don't play all your cards. As you surmised, focusing too much on them doesn't give you enough time to actually feed yourself. Focus on 2 or 3 that work together and help you feed your family or build.

Suggestion 4: Make 100% sure you're playing right. I have a seasoned gamer friend who thought this game was impossible, because he didn't realize that resources accumulate over time. (If no one takes the 3 wood one round, then it gets 3 more the next round and someone can get 6 with one action.) When you say that no one had the resources to build any major improvement, that concerns me. A fireplace is only 2 clay, and if you have one, sheep become a solid source of food, especially if you can grab enough that they'll breed. The improvements and cards are meant to make your life easier - use them that way.

In general, 30 isn't a bad score for a first game. But this is very much a game about scarcity, so it can sometimes feel stressful. Think early about how you'll feed yourself (animals, bread, some sort of card combo that hands you free food...) and plan ahead for it.

Edit: Oh, and for what it's worth, I find the 3-player game the hardest. The extra actions that are available with varying numbers of players really affect the feel of the game, and the 3-player feels brutal.
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Mike T
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Matt gives good advice. Don't start with the Farmers expansion. It is great, but add it later. Do grow your family. The game is a terrible struggle if you don't grow. Family members pay for themselves. Growing as quickly and as much as possible is the dominant strategy in the game.

The BIGGEST thing that jumped out at me in your post, though: you say you didn't build any Major Improvements. The Major Improvements are the primary way to feed your family! Of course feeding would be a struggle if you don't build them! I actually have no idea how you managed to score as well as you did without growing your family or building majors.
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Tadeu Zubaran
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rubasurex wrote:
4. Major improvements??? I don't think we even looked at these cards. We didn't have time. Nobody built one, let alone even coming close to having the resources needed to build one. Is this normal, or should they be a high priority to get?

They are very important. Your focus should be a food engine and family growth, the food engines are usually bake bread or cook the animals. You usually use a major improvement to do it
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Paul Evans
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Bravo for jumping straight in the deep end. Fantastic.

Regarding the scores - I think they are dead impressive given the priorities you describe. FotM scores tend to be a bit higher, but even so... Generally don't get too hung up on scores - in Agricola the quality of the opposition strongly impacts the score (as do other factors such as how soon FG comes up, or if the cards played inject resources into the game). I'm guessing you guys weren;t blocking each other much which probably accounts for the decent showign here.

Regarding 'feel'. I think 'Gric is well-balanced in this respect. If you miscue stuff it punishes you; and the game titghens the screws on you. Play a few games, get a feel for the mechanics, learn how to plan for coming actions, learn a bit about the basic efficiencies available (SP AND a minor - plan that minor, sow AND bake, etc), and suddently you will find yourself in control and riding the game. Then play some more experienced players; and wham - you will struggle again. This is fantastic. The only downside is that if you become way better than your player group it is not so much fun for them.

Regarding the deep end. I think it is brilliant that you played FotM for your first game. My wife, who is more than competent with the base game, refuses to play FotM because there are so many variables to keep track of. Base 'Gric is tremendously replayable. I suggest stick to it until it is standard for your group to finish with no more than 4 or 5 minus points. Then come back to FotM.

Generally agree with what the others have said; except - I prefer a distributed approach to food as there is less scope to be blocked into begging.
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ɹǝsɐɹɟ
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Just to echo what has been said above, start with just the base game and play the Family version first, just the major improvements.

A few games of that and you will have learned how to manage and grow your cards and will probably be ready to throw in occupations and minor improvements, but it is best to learn the basic before.

Personally I'd wait until you have the full game down pat before adding Farmers of the Moor.
 
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rubasurex
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Hey, thanks everyone for the quick and very informative replies. You have all summarised many of my suspicions. I’ll just a add a few comments however to some of your replies.

coolpapa wrote:
Suggestion 1: Don't start with the expansion.

As noted by a few of you… I imagine you are correct here. I just assumed the expansion would "enhance" the game, not make it "farm for your life!" A lot of the people I play with however (including myself) enjoy a challenge… the more brutal the better. I personally find it really refreshing to play a game that is hard to do well at let alone even win.

coolpapa wrote:
Suggestion 2: Grow your family!

I actually set out to try and grow my family right from the start, but I just couldn't get my junk together and by the time I actually got a 3rd family member there was only about 3 rounds left. I honestly don't know what happened... inexperience.

coolpapa wrote:
Suggestion 3: Don't play all your cards.

Yes, I think we learnt this lesson. The player that played almost all their cards ended up hardly benefiting from half of them anyway. I think the problem is that everyone is holding these cards in front of them, so it is a natural reaction to want to do something with them.

coolpapa wrote:
Suggestion 4: Make 100% sure you're playing right.

I'm positive we are playing right. I spent some time before the game reading the rules and cross checking a number of the rules with these forums. We were accumulating resources on the board and one time someone picked up like 12 wood in one go. We did have resources, but we just seem to always have too much of the wrong stuff and not enough of the stuff we needed. In addition, we often just didn't have the actions to spare to get or do the things we needed. Vicious cycle.

coolpapa wrote:
Oh, and for what it's worth, I find the 3-player game the hardest.

Interesting. I have a 4 player game arranged for Saturday with a new group of friends who haven't seen this game yet. I look forward to the chaos and panic.

smcmike wrote:
The Major Improvements are the primary way to feed your family! Of course feeding would be a struggle if you don't build them! I actually have no idea how you managed to score as well as you did without growing your family or building majors.

I think I've realised this now that I've had a good read over the major improvement cards. We were all so focused on keeping our family out of poverty that we never had a chance to even glance at them. I think we scored the way we did because we played a lot of minor improvements some of which gave bonus points. In addition, in the last few rounds everyone did a mad "grab what you can" rush to avoid negative points. So we all ended up with pretty diverse farms in the end. Hey, I even stuffed a freakin' horse in my lounge room!

tkzubaran wrote:
Your focus should be a food engine and family growth, the food engines are usually bake bread or cook the animals.

I will be attempting this next time and fore warning everyone on Saturday before the next game.
 
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Geoff Burkman
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Playing w/ "FotM" without using Major Imps is like kind of like...well, like playing Monopoly without houses and hotels. And you make no mention of using any of the "FotM" Minors. Ouch.

Not meaning to toot my own horn, but take a look at a few of my session reports to get an idea of how things generally go.

Then, we'll be expecting some reports from down under.
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rubasurex
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We had the Major Improvements in the game, we kind of just forgot about them and didn't really have the time to pursue them I guess.

One mistake I made was, I added the Basic (E) deck FotM Minor Improvement cards to the Basic (E) deck Minor Improvement from the base game. So the problem was, when we dealt the cards at random, I don't think anyone actually got a card from the FotM expansion. Perhaps I didn't shuffle them properly and they all were at the bottom.

I did read in the rule book that you should give each player 3 cards from the base game and 4 cards from the FotM expansion, but I didn't bother following this as I didn't think it made any difference. I guess now in hind sight it might have made a bigger difference since the FotM Minor Improvement cards are probably designed to better help you deal with the additional problems of forests, peat and heating.
 
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RJJ Zwiers
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It's rather typical in a game of any number of players to have someone use the Family Growth action in the same turn as it first shows up, whether it is turn 5, 6 or 7. Very likely, more than one player will be competing to be the first to be able to use the FG action.

To be able to use the Family Growth action in turn 5 (should it turn up then) you need to have the following:
- of course 4 food to feed your family in the first harvest. Since you start with 2 or 3 food, depending on whether you're the starting player, taking a single Day Laborer action (1AP) should be sufficient. This would only work if you dont play other cards that cost food, but lets disregard that.
- 5 wood and 2 reed ro build a wooden room. This would probably not take more than 3 actions (3AP) if you take 2 Reed in one action and 5 wood over two actions. It could even cost less if you're able to grab 6 wood in one action.

This means that if you spend 4 out of your first 8 actions (before the first harvest) gathering this stuff, you could take the Build Room action and the Family Growth action with your 2 peeps in round 5. You would then have 6 more actions before the next action (3 in round 6 and 3 in round 7) to gather at least 6 food to feed your family.

(edit: I forgot you were playing FotM, which means you would need 2 fuel as well before first harvest. This however would not cost you one of your 8 actions if you use one of the extra actions to cut peat for 3 fuel. Even if you would use one of your 8 action to gain more wood to burn of as fuel, you would still be set up for family growth with the use of 5 out of you 8 available actions before the first harvest)
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RJJ Zwiers
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Quote:
We had the Major Improvements in the game, we kind of just forgot about them and didn't really have the time to pursue them I guess.


The major improvements (from the base game) allow the converting of stuff on the board to a number of food units. If you're not using these that would imply that you only use (in a 3p FotM game) food from Fishing and the Day Laborer and the 2-food card, and probably that you'll be eating raw vegetables or grains. It is indeed impressive that you reached the scores you did without having efficient food available!

Quote:
One mistake I made was, I added the Basic (E) deck FotM Minor Improvement cards to the Basic (E) deck Minor Improvement from the base game. So the problem was, when we dealt the cards at random, I don't think anyone actually got a card from the FotM expansion. Perhaps I didn't shuffle them properly and they all were at the bottom.

I did read in the rule book that you should give each player 3 cards from the base game and 4 cards from the FotM expansion, but I didn't bother following this as I didn't think it made any difference. I guess now in hind sight it might have made a bigger difference since the FotM Minor Improvement cards are probably designed to better help you deal with the additional problems of forests, peat and heating.


Although this might make things a little more difficult, it shouldn't be really problematic, as this only enhances the removal or use of forests and peat. It should not be a problem to play the game without these cards. Improvements to help you heat your house would be beneficial though, two of which are below the Clay and Stone oven on the major improvement board. (but we've already covered that )

Anyway, I think you posting your worries here should speed up your learning curve! I do chime in with what others have said before me, that it is probably wise to start without the expansion. Our group is of like mind to jump into the most complex and advanced version of any game available, but we've played over 200 games of Agricola before the expansion came out and we never had the feeling something was missing... It's just a different experience!

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Derakon Derakon
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You didn't mention if you were playing with Occupation cards (the other half of the cards the game comes with) or not. FotM can be played with "occs", but it was balanced under the assumption that you were playing without them. Particularly, this means that you play with the main board side that has Starting Player accumulate food instead of letting you play a minor improvement, Day Laborer as a "1 food + 1 building resource" action instead of a "Take 2 food" action, the 1 Occupation action replaced with a "Bake Bread and/or Build 1 Stable" action.
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rubasurex
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Interesting point. We were playing the level 3 complexity using Occupation cards. However it doesn't state which side of the board to use for the level 3 complexity. Perhaps we should try it using the other board side (family game side).
 
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Derakon Derakon
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That would make it rather difficult to get occupations out, especially since in 3P I think there isn't an additional occupation card.

Anyway, as I said occupations weren't really included in the design of FotM. You can play with them, but they aren't necessarily balanced and there's edge cases that they don't account for.
 
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RJJ Zwiers
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Quote:
That would make it rather difficult to get occupations out, especially since in 3P I think there isn't an additional occupation card.


In 3p games there is an extra action space where you can play an occupation for 2 food.. If played on the wrong side, this would have been the only option to play occupations which would have made it a little harder to get them out!
 
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Mike T
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Roja wrote:
Quote:
That would make it rather difficult to get occupations out, especially since in 3P I think there isn't an additional occupation card.


In 3p games there is an extra action space where you can play an occupation for 2 food.. If played on the wrong side, this would have been the only option to play occupations which would have made it a little harder to get them out!


That card has a family side as well.
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rubasurex
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Yes, I see that if using the family side of the board, then you would only have one option to get Occupation cards out. However, if FotM is designed to play without the Occupation cards (which is how you are supposed to play on the level 2 complexity), then the 2 food Occupation action is useless?!?!

It doesn't make any sense why they would release an expansion that is designed to remove a whole component of the game and even leave you with a useless action. Seems backwards to me.

In addition, the FotM expansion even includes new Occupation cards??? Why include them if you aren't supposed to use them.
 
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RJJ Zwiers
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The FotM expansion does not include new occupations, and like Mike said the action card for the Occupation for 2f also has a family side version!

I have no idea what's on the other side of the boards and the cards as we've never played a game of Gric (with or without FotM) without Occupations...
 
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Derakon Derakon
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rubasurex wrote:
It doesn't make any sense why they would release an expansion that is designed to remove a whole component of the game and even leave you with a useless action. Seems backwards to me.
As noted by others (thanks for the correction!) there's no useless action space -- you turn the occupation card over to reveal a different action. If I had to guess I'd say it's the "take 2 different building resources" action, but the Agricola compendium doesn't list the Family Game cards, and I don't have my set with me, so I can't actually check. Bottom line, though, is that there's no action spaces in the Family Game (which you're "supposed" to use with FotM) that let you play occupations.

As for removing a component of the game, if you've played FotM, it's plenty complicated without adding occs to the mix; they simply aren't necessary to give an excellent gaming experience, and balancing the expansion to work properly with occs (and especially to work with the already-published EIK occs) would have likely been a development nightmare.
 
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David Boeren
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I just picked up the game and after working through a learning solo game just played my first "real" game with my wife.

We stuck to the Family rules, but I'm anxious to move up as it seems really basic so far, certainly not an experience worth the game's rating. So, the magic must be in adding the occupations and minors? Next game we'll be using the E deck and see where that takes us.

Also, is it normal for both players to feel they can get most of what they need nearly everywhere except nobody can get enough wood? The game seems to hunger for it, you need large quantities of wood for rooms, fences (6 to start with a decent sized pasture), and for stables as well.

Neither of us had trouble getting enough reed, stone, or clay but wood was always in high demand. We *must* be missing something here but I'm not sure what it is.
 
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Mike T
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David,

Yes, wood is almost always tight. There is not enough of it in the game for everyone to build everything they'd like to build. In 2-player games, there is enough reed and clay for both players to build a couple of (wooden) rooms, renovate, and build some major improvements, so at first glance it seems like those resources aren't as important.

I encourage you to look again, though, particularly once you've flipped the board over. Remember: it doesn't matter how much reed or clay there is in the game overall. It matters how much your opponent lets you get.
 
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David Boeren
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Will do. We're planning to play again tonight, and add in the cards this time. That should make things a lot more interesting, and since many of them seem to be designed to make different actions more attractive to their owner I wonder if that will result in less contention (or less demand) for certain resources as people will be getting extras of certain things or are able to build certain things cheaper than normal.
 
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Geoff Burkman
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Don't forget the session report. whistle
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David Boeren
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MisterG wrote:
Don't forget the session report. whistle


I'll see what I can do. But, it will have to be in words because I don't know this cryptic Agri-speak everyone seems to use to describe their games.

Is there a key or something that will explain what all the abbreviations stand for? I've figured out some of them, but there seem to be a heck of a lot you need to know just to read a simple report.
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