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Subject: First play, and some questions on converting resources to food.... rss

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Fernando Robert Yu
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I just finished my first play, and it was a solo game using family rules. I want to familiarize myself with the rules before teaching the game to my family.

I THINK I got most of the rules right, and my score was 39. My ending farm looked like this...


I initially had a fireplace, which I then replaced with the cooking hearth. My question is if you can simply replace at ANY NUMBER of resources at ANY TIME using improvements like these (except of course grain for bread, which needs a Bake Bread action). For example, can you exchange an animal (or animals) and vegetables into food ALL from 1 hearth in 1 go?

I noticed that both ovens had the limitation on the number of grain it can convert to food through the BAKE BREAD action, which was not the case when converting the other resources. Doesn't this make baking bread less efficient since you need an action to do this, while with the other stuff you can simply swap for food right away?

It was an interesting experience anyway. The solo game still felt tight and tense especially since you start with 0 food, and you need more food to maintain each family member (3 instead of 2), so this pressures you produce food from the get go. I can only imagine the tenseness in true multiplayer games!!!

I will try some more games solo, including using the occupations and minor improvements.

Thanks in advance for all your advice!
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david landes
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Yes, a fireplace or hearth will produce as much food as you feed it animals and vegetables. Requiring the bake action is mildly less efficient, but for the ovens, the compensation is that you get slightly more food.

As a matter of strategy, generally if you want to survive on bread, you will want to have started the game with some minor improvement or occupation card support that makes it easier for you to: get grain, plow fields, bake/convert, or similar. In a multiplayer game, what turns out best for feeding often depends on what everyone else is doing and competing for.

Cheers
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Fernando Robert Yu
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dklx3 wrote:
Yes, a fireplace or hearth will produce as much food as you feed it animals and vegetables. Requiring the bake action is mildly less efficient, but for the ovens, the compensation is that you get slightly more food.

As a matter of strategy, generally if you want to survive on bread, you will want to have started the game with some minor improvement or occupation card support that makes it easier for you to: get grain, plow fields, bake/convert, or similar. In a multiplayer game, what turns out best for feeding often depends on what everyone else is doing and competing for.

Cheers


Many thanks for the quick and definite answer!
 
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Trevor Schadt
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freddieyu wrote:
I initially had a fireplace, which I then replaced with the cooking hearth. My question is if you can simply replace at ANY NUMBER of resources at ANY TIME using improvements like these (except of course grain for bread, which needs a Bake Bread action). For example, can you exchange an animal (or animals) and vegetables into food ALL from 1 hearth in 1 go?
Yes, you can convert any number of animals and vegetables into food (using the listed conversion rates) at any time using a fireplace or cooking hearth, without taking an action. This includes during the feeding phase of the harvest; players at our table who follow a ranching strategy will often simply hand the animals over when it's time to feed: "I feed 8, so here's a sheep, a pig and a cow, and I get 1 food in change. I'll just keep the animal tokens here, because I'll just get them back during breeding."

freddieyu wrote:
I noticed that both ovens had the limitation on the number of grain it can convert to food through the BAKE BREAD action, which was not the case when converting the other resources. Doesn't this make baking bread less efficient since you need an action to do this, while with the other stuff you can simply swap for food right away?
Once you get to the point of baking grain into bread, yes, ranching is more efficient because it does not require an action. However, because grain multiplies on itself more efficiently than animals do (you can theoretically sow each grain and get a 3x return, but no matter how many sheep you have you'll only get 1), and the fact that setting up a grain engine is faster than setting up pastures and animals, I believe they balance out in the end.

freddieyu wrote:
It was an interesting experience anyway. The solo game still felt tight and tense especially since you start with 0 food, and you need more food to maintain each family member (3 instead of 2), so this pressures you produce food from the get go. I can only imagine the tenseness in true multiplayer games!!!
The tension in multi-player games comes from the facts that (a) you can't count on the action you want being available, and (b) you can't sit and let the accumulation spaces build up before taking a boatload of resources for 1 action, so you'll usually end up getting less of a return on your action investment on those spaces. It's a completely different feel.
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Matt Shields
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freddieyu wrote:

I noticed that both ovens had the limitation on the number of grain it can convert to food through the BAKE BREAD action, which was not the case when converting the other resources. Doesn't this make baking bread less efficient since you need an action to do this, while with the other stuff you can simply swap for food right away?


In my opinion, bread baking is not a great strategy in the family game. You may end up doing it if it's convenient to do so, but in general taking the time to plow, then take grain, then sow it is just a lot more action intensive than simply taking a stack of animals. You see this most clearly in a 2-player game, where if one person is eating animals and one person is baking bread, the one eating meat will usually just run away with things. Their feeding actions are much more efficient.

If you have some decent card support, baking can be better in the regular version of the game. There are a lot of cards than can help by making grain easier to get, or making plowing faster or whatever, but again, it's still a fundamentally slow strategy. However, if you have multiple players fighting over animals, so that they aren't getting 6+ food at a time, sometimes being the one guy who's baking can work out ok.
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Derakon Derakon
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I agree with Matt. Look at the investments to get food from a fireplace vs. food from the clay oven, for example.

Fireplace:
* Take 2-3 clay (probably 1 action)
* Major/Minor Improvement
** Take 2-3 sheep (probably 1 action; yields 4-6 food).

Clay Oven:
* Take 3 clay (probably 1 action)
* Take at least 1 stone (1 action; may also contribute to other future purchases if you got other resources too)
** Take 1 grain
** Major/Minor Improvement (bake grain; yields 5 food) OR LATER Sow/Bake Bread (yields 5 food)

Here we're comparing 3 actions with the fireplace to 4 actions with the oven, to get roughly the same amount of food. Additionally, to repeat the process (via the ** actions) with the Fireplace you need 1 action, while the Oven requires 2. This is clearly terrible -- a food engine that yields 2.5 food/action is barely better than just going to Day Laborer over and over again.

Now of course you can sow that grain to get more of it, and then bake the proceeds instead of baking your seed grain. Then we're looking at these additional setup costs:

* Plow Field
* Sow/Bake (sow grain)
...Wait for next harvest...
* Sow/Bake (bake bread)

So in other words, in exchange for a lot of initial setup, you've gained the ability to get 5F in 1 action, once per harvest for the next three harvests. While the fireplace can just about do that from the get-go.

Now of course, as harvests come more quickly in the late game, ovens become more efficient while fireplaces become less (because of the reduced supply of animals per harvest...but the introduction of new animal types mitigates this). There's still absolutely no reason to get an oven in the early game unless you have card support for it. And even in the late game, you shouldn't go exclusively baking unless you're certain that there's lots of competition for the animals -- otherwise, you're just taking yourself out of the running for eating animals, giving lots of free food to everyone else.

One thing the Ovens are excellent for is an emergency shot of food, though. If you find yourself coming up short with a harvest on the horizon, odds are decent you can scramble up the resources you need and buy an Oven, thereby preventing your family from starving. This works precisely because baking is normally a bad strategy -- thus the actions that support it will tend to be low priorities for other players.
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Dan F
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Derakon wrote:
So in other words, in exchange for a lot of initial setup, you've gained the ability to get 5F in 1 action, once per harvest for the next three harvests. While the fireplace can just about do that from the get-go.

Now of course, as harvests come more quickly in the late game, ovens become more efficient while fireplaces become less (because of the reduced supply of animals per harvest...but the introduction of new animal types mitigates this). There's still absolutely no reason to get an oven in the early game unless you have card support for it. And even in the late game, you shouldn't go exclusively baking unless you're certain that there's lots of competition for the animals -- otherwise, you're just taking yourself out of the running for eating animals, giving lots of free food to everyone else.

One thing the Ovens are excellent for is an emergency shot of food, though. If you find yourself coming up short with a harvest on the horizon, odds are decent you can scramble up the resources you need and buy an Oven, thereby preventing your family from starving. This works precisely because baking is normally a bad strategy -- thus the actions that support it will tend to be low priorities for other players.


So what you're saying is use both forms of food production?

baking is normally a bad strategy just as cooking animals would be a bad strategy to depend soley on. Cooking animals is great especially at the beginning of the game and if you're the sole owner of a fireplace grab 3-6 sheep (if your lucky) and cook them up for 6-12 food, but that will be the last time you get that many as others get cookeries and you'll also need to start keeping them for pastures. By the last few harvests your food engine starts running pretty dry and you surely need a secondary source of food at that point.

I would say you cant depend on only one food source the whole game because the well will dry up soon and it wont be enough. Especially as you add family members and others start competingfor the same goods (nobody can take your grain once its planted) In a solo game you can do this of course. But you should always have more than 1 way to gain food. When you have multiple ways of producing food you're not as stressed and are also able to collect the resources that are going to give you points in the end. Isn't that the point of the game? To have the most of everything, not ignore too many categories.
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Fernando Robert Yu
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Great comments above thanks a lot.

Just finished my 2nd soloplay a while ago, but this time I used the easy deck occupations and minor improvements. I now see what you guys mean as those cards can really help out in things! My end farm looked like this...



However, despite that the game still felt very tight. I got a lower score of 27 vs the 39 in my first play. So many choices and not enough time to do them all! Again, the key point was to purchase the cooking hearth. In reality, I think in any game you do not have time and luxury to first use the fireplace, then upgrade to a hearth, then to a stove. It should be interesting once I get to play a multiplayer game...


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Derakon Derakon
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Dan: I agree that just cooking animals won't usually be enough to feed your family, but it makes a much better basis for a food engine than just baking bread does. And perhaps by the time that the harvests are coming too fast for cooking-from-the-board to work, you can set up some animal breeding. Two sheep + two boars = 5 food per harvest, the same payout as an oven, but with no required actions to gain that food.

In short, when my cards don't suggest a better option, my default food engine is a fireplace and perhaps some crafting majors (eating wood/clay/reed) -- they provide some extra breathing room and each is worth at least two points.

Fernando: the fireplace is just as good as a cooking hearth early on, when sheep are basically the only thing you can cook anyway. In a solo game it may well be worth jumping straight to the cooking hearth, since, as I recall, there's a lot of clay available anyway. In multiplayer games, you're unlikely to get 4 clay with a single clay grab, which means that it takes you three actions to get a cooking hearth either way -- either grab 2C, then get a fireplace, then upgrade it, or grab 4C in 2 actions, then buy the Hearth. But in the first case, you can perform your upgrade as a "free" action alongside your first renovation, which is often conveniently-timed for when the boar and veggies show up.
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Kevin M.
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Another drawback to a baking strategy is the fact that, in order to come out ahead in the long run, you really need to spend a lot of actions focused on plowing/sowing. You really want to be able to use both halves of the sow/bake bread space—if you aren't, you're probably just treading water. It's a lot easier to throw up a couple of stables during room building to allow you to hold the magical number of three animals (slaughter one for food, it gets replaced during breeding). You get better return on your investment by sowing grain, but that better return requires you to spend more actions setting it all up, which comes at too great of a cost in the early- to midgame unless you have some occs/improvements that'll let you shave off an action here and there (Field Watchman and Baker being two of my favorites).
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david landes
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A few things. First, here is a quick description of some of the "food engines:
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 time frames in which they will deliver their food (early/med/late). Also, it is often the case that one will migrate from one engine to others as the gae progresses.

Additionally, the above discussions on animal versus grain may be lacking a few considerations. In addition to 'just' feeding, the different engines generate different victory points for the majors a player may acquire and different ancillary victory consequences.. grain tends to force one to put in fields, animals tend to force one to put in pastures... so how efficient the actions truly are is not as simple as some of the above portrayals. In addition, what other players in the game do, and what cards one has, may dramatically alter what is good/efficient and what is not.

Cheers
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Derakon Derakon
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Well said, David.

The first thing I do after I have my hand of occupations and minor improvements is decide how I'm going to feed my family. If I have cards that look like they'd support a baking strategy, typically even then I delay constructing that strategy until late stage 2 / early stage 3, after I've gotten my third family member. Until then, I survive by opportunism -- scrounging food from fishing and TP, snapping up cheap clay for a fireplace, or hitting up the Day Laborer in extremes. This works because there's not much food pressure early on -- you have 7 rounds to acquire 8-10 food, and you start with 2-3. Thus you have lots of options for making up your deficit.
 
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kotya kotya
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dklx3 wrote:
Yes, a fireplace or hearth will produce as much food as you feed it animals and vegetables.


what about grain? if you go to BAKE action, can you bake as much bread as you are able to? i've noticed that there is no limitation of baking on a fireplace card (it simply says "1 grain -> 2 food"), but the oven cards have it (e.g. "1 grain --1x--> 4 food"). does it mean that i'm able to cook any number of grains in the fireplace but only one item of grain in the oven?
 
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Fernando Robert Yu
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kotya wrote:
dklx3 wrote:
Yes, a fireplace or hearth will produce as much food as you feed it animals and vegetables.


what about grain? if you go to BAKE action, can you bake as much bread as you are able to? i've noticed that there is no limitation of baking on a fireplace card (it simply says "1 grain -> 2 food"), but the oven cards have it (e.g. "1 grain --1x--> 4 food"). does it mean that i'm able to cook any number of grains in the fireplace but only one item of grain in the oven?


That is how I understand it. 1 oven can do a 2x4 baking action, while the other can do a 1x5 baking action, if I remember correctly...
 
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Trevor Schadt
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kotya wrote:
what about grain? if you go to BAKE action, can you bake as much bread as you are able to? i've noticed that there is no limitation of baking on a fireplace card (it simply says "1 grain -> 2 food"), but the oven cards have it (e.g. "1 grain --1x--> 4 food"). does it mean that i'm able to cook any number of grains in the fireplace but only one item of grain in the oven?
Yes. That is exactly what the lack of a multiplier indicates on the fireplaces and cooking hearths: when you take the "Bake Bread" action, you may convert as many Grain as you like into 2 Food each (using a Fireplace) or 3 Food each (using a Cooking Hearth). Not as efficient as one of the Ovens, but certainly useful as a supplement to complete your Food requirements for a Harvest.
 
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