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Subject: Split food engine method strategy? rss

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Paul New
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Do any of you have success in split animals / grain + veg food engine strategies? Would you call it part of your normal game or do you see them as polar strategies?

Some of my best scores have involved taking the opportunity for a cheap fireplace due to sheep piling up and then continuing with an originally planned grain game backed up by decent grain cards. It does not happen all the time by any stretch as it's hard to pull off, but I would certainly describe the strategy as a true split method rather than just a main grain engine coupled with ticking boxes with animals. I can even at times make my opponent think that I won't grab the fireplace at times by outing grain cards in the first round.

The reason I ask is that when you think about it it makes sense in some ways. Food scarcity early on lends itself more to quick fireplace grabs and sheep grabs. The late game is where decent baking returns can come into their own. Plus if the sheep grab is for 3 + sheep then you have probably ticked there and then one of the animal boxes for scoring at the end of the game as you will not need to slaughter all three sheep.

Not only this, I find that the other benefits of this include more points from Majors, as well as harm to your opponent (given that he / she will NOT have free reign over the 'other' engine type).

Having the split method also is in harmony with the diversification incentive pointwise in the game

Any thoughts?

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Paul Evans
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All food is good - no matter where it comes from.

Diverse food is also a good hedge in more competitive games.

I love Basketmakers Workshop because it gives three food per reed, and gives me an incentive to drain reed out of the game. All those pond minors that give you food per round can really stack up. The well and all its supportive cards, are, well, a huge food engine. All those entertainment occupations give another source.

Increasingly I like to tap into one one food source, and then move on to another. It leaves options open, and it forces you to progress on multiple point fronts.

I have won without cooking an animal or vegetable, or baking a grain...
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david landes
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The first two (which you discuss combining) are the two most commonly 'considered' food engines.. but #3 and beyond can also join the mix

1) Cooking animals. Not including cards, there are four fireplace/hearths. In my experience, more than one person can live off cooked animals, particularly as we throw in breeding which raises the total animals available to be cooked. Additionally, there are a large variety of cards which throw extra animals into the potential feedlot. On average, I would say 2 or 3 people can squeeze through on animals. 2.5 people

2) Baking Grain - This strategy cries out for card support in getting grain more quickly, obtaining ovens, plowing fields and finding free bakes. Among the many cards supporting this I would say 1-2 people can pursue this strategy. 1.5 people

3) Selling resources off the major improvements - whether wood, reed, or clay, this strategy does not typically form a complete engine, but it can form much of one, particularly once multiple cards are thrown in.. 1 person

4) Board Spots - Travelling Players, Fishing, Day Laborer. All of these are insufficient to forma full engine, but they are supplemental to all of the engines, and with a card or two, of which there are many, can almost create an engine for .5 person

5) Vegetables - This one always requires card support to get moving, but among 4-5 players, there is often one player who can make this work.. .5 person

6) Card delivery - there are numerous cards that provide reasonable quantities of food.. Well for five food, the Animal Pen 2 food per remaining round space, etc, etc.. some of these are generally less useful, some more. .5 person.

If I add all those up.. it comes to 6.5, which I guess is not particularly meaningful. The broader point is that there are a fair number of ways to generate 'food engines'. Strategically, an important early decision is to figure out which one or more are possible for you and make sure you are not impeded in pursuing them. Additionally, they each have different tim frames in which they will deliver their food (early/med/late)

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Mike T
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Yes, start with one path, move on to the next.

In general, if you are concentrating on feeding only one way, you probably don't have a truly stable food base. Any one food source is susceptible to blocking. Diverse food sources give you more options. Options are a very good thing.

Also, Majors are worth points! There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying an Oven for a single bake.
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Paul New
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Thanks for replies. I was only really thinking along the main two engines (grain v animals) to be honest as those require more investment than the other less conventional types (they need majors PLUS sown fields and / or pastures). In 2 player especially, I have found that choosing to ignore animals entirely just because I have a mega strong grain draft is sub-optimal. Similar to what Mike has written above, I find that I have had some great wins lately by pre-planning a long term grain game, but still battling for a fireplace and sheep early on. The reverse is not quite so productive / common, that is, the carnivore who manages to grab an oven in the late game. What I tend to see is a carnivore who eats animals all game and then ticks boxes with some plough and sow actions in the late game. This works but is not as optimal as the long term grain baker who started out as a sheep slaughterer.

 
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Derakon Derakon
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Baking really doesn't work all that well unless you have good card support. For example, just taking a grain and then baking it is two actions and gets you only 5 food with the Clay Oven; barely better than just taking Day Laborer twice. Taking a grain, sowing it, and then baking the proceeds gets you 15 grain over 3 harvests for 6 actions (1 take grain, 1 plow field, 1 sow, 3 bake), which is again hardly amazing. Compare to having a fireplace or cooking hearth, which frequently give you 4-food actions and not uncommonly even more.

So bottom line is, you should generally ignore baking unless your cards favor it -- by giving you free grain, free baking actions, more food when you bake, etc.

Ceding the animals to your opponent(s), especially in 2P games, is giving them a lot of free food. With the reduced feeding pressure, they'll be able to dedicate more actions to taking resources, growing their families, and getting around to that whole "farming" thing the game's supposed to be about. You don't want to let them do that, so you're pretty much obligated to have some way to make use of animals in 2P -- the most obvious and simplest of which is to eat them.
 
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Mike T
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Right, except short-term baking can be great. Once you have a grain surplus, buying an oven and baking some of that surplus off can be a great move, even when you have no intention of baking again.

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Derakon Derakon
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A fair point. Many's the time when my "food engine" has been ad-hoc acquisitions as the need arises, in which case baking a spare grain that you happen to have works out just fine. Especially since you get good points for the ovens. It's only when you plan to rely on baking for the bulk of your food that you want to have good card support.
 
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Paul New
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Agree 100%. I know during the draft whether I want to be baker that game or not. Without the cards, I simply then opt for one or two of three other methods

1) Animals

2) Make it up as I go along (can be fun)

3) The rare and beautiful sustainable vegetarian game (again massively dependent on cards for that early veg and more)

The one-off bake makes sense of course due to the conversion rates on the ovens for food.



 
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