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Subject: Agricola: Famine rss

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Jonathon Duerig
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Salt Lake City
Utah
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I've been toying with the idea for a variant that is more centered on food production than points. Getting a food engine working is a lot of fun for me, but I find that the last couple turns are usually just a grind of calculation (I take the sheep for two points, or plant a field for one point).

In Agricola: Famine, you have the bad luck to be developing a new farm at the beginning of the little ice age. Disasters and increasing food needs will beset you throughout the game. The winner is the owner of the last farm left.

(1) Every player starts with just one food (except the starting player who starts with none).

(2) The game continues until there all players but one have lost all their family members. The winner is the the remaining player. If multiple players run out of family members on the same round, they share victory.

(3) After round 15, no new round cards are turned over. Play continues with a harvest after every round.

(4) In the first harvest, each family member and refugee (see later) requires two food. The food per person increases as the game progresses. Refugees must be fed before family members. A player may opt to pay double for a refugee to remove it from play (and thus not have to feed it in subsequent harvests). If a player cannot feed a family member, that family member is removed from play. When all of a players family members are gone, they have lost and are removed from the game. A player may choose whether to pay any or all food for a family member, but there is no benefit to partially feeding the family member.

(5) Every building with a gold coin symbol can be sold back for twice the gold coin amount in food at any time. Major improvements go back to the stock and may be rebuilt later on. Minor improvements are removed from the game.

(6) Rooms in a house can help offset famine cards. Each room can reduce the amount of food per person by one. Wooden rooms can offset wood famine cards, clay rooms can offset either wood or clay famine cards, stone rooms can offset wood, clay, or stone famine cards.

Ex: 4 famine cards are in play (1 wood, 1 clay, 2 stone). A player has a 3-room stone house. They must therefore pay 3 food per person (2 base, +4 for famine cards, -3 because of room offsets).

(7) The cost for playing an occupation card is modified by the famine cards and rooms.

Ex: A player has 3 clay rooms, there are 1 wood famine, 1 clay famine, 1 stone famine cards in play. They already have an occupation and they play on the '1 food first, 2 food subsequent' occupation slot. They need to pay 3 total food (2 for the space, 1 for the stone famine card) to get the occupation.

(8) Remove all cards from the game that merely give score at the end.

(9) After the breeding phase in every harvest, a disaster card is flipped over. It will take effect at the subsequent harvest (and possibly for the rest of the game).

Disaster Cards:

(count) Title: Description

(4) Famine (wood): At every subsequent harvest, players require one additional food per family member or refugee. These can be offset by wood, clay, or stone rooms in a house.
(5) Famine (clay): Same as above, but can only be offset by clay or stone rooms in a house.
(6) Famine (stone): Same as above, but can only be offset by stone rooms in a house.
(3) Famine: Same as above, but cannot be offset by rooms in a house.
(5) Refugee: Every player takes a refugee at the beginning of the following harvest (begging cards can serve as refugees). They must pay food for the refugee for the rest of the game before their family members. They can pay double the food to discard the refugee.
(2) Locusts: Every player must discard the topmost grain token on all their fields at the beginning of the next harvest to the supply (before taking one themselves).
(2) Late Spring: The breeding phase should be skipped in the next harvest.
(2) Rats: Before the next harvest, every player must discard two food, one vegetable, one grain, one sheep, one boar, and one cow if they have them.
(1) Plague: Before the next harvest, every player who has two or more family members must discard one. Every player who has one or more refugee should also discard one.

---

I will hopefully give this a try soon. Any ideas/suggestions for this? It would probably work best with three or perhaps four. With the 'last farm standing' mechanic, it would be frustrating to get knocked out early and have to watch the remainder of the game.
 
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Derakon Derakon
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Yeah, the elimination mechanic is my biggest concern. Well, that and the indefinite runtime of the game. I think you might be better off having a scoring track and a fixed game length; at harvest time you convert food into points (or into not losing points!). If you went this route you'd probably have to change the rules for losing family members (probably into "if you can't feed the family member, you either sacrifice them or lose X points").

It's quite important to keep everyone in the game, not just so everyone's playing, but also so that the game doesn't suddenly get easier when players get eliminated and stop competing for action spaces.

Anyway, the other ideas sound interesting. Evaluating everything solely on its basis to feed your family changes the dynamics of play significantly. Not to mention family growth is much more of a two-edged sword when the feeding requirements increase so rapidly.
 
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Jonathon Duerig
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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An alternative might be to try to turn it into a more cooperative game and rely on the disaster/famine mechanism to provide the tension (like in Pandemic). So, for instance, you might allow people to give food to others in the feeding phase, and the players 'win' if they can all survive N rounds and fail if somebody starves before then.

In the cooperative context, perhaps the famine cards require two food per person per card rather than one.
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Paul Evans
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Brutal !

I think I could enjoy an attrition game like this. However I don't think many of my fellow gamers would be willing to sit down to it.
 
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Benjamin Kerenza
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One of the more interesting variants. Looks like it might work okay.

My only suggestion is to award food for the point cost of cards as the points are important balances on the minor cards and some have a function beyond the point value but require the points to balance them with other cards.

So clay roof would immediately reward 1 food and the clay roof ability. End of game bonus points are harder to evaluate. maybe it would work to evaluate them immediately and make them one shot bonus food generation?

Please let us know how this game goes.
 
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Derakon Derakon
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He did allow improvements to be traded in for twice their point value in food. So if you play a pointed improvement and then don't need its effect any more you can trade it in.

Though, does that mean that you can buy the Well over and over again for 8F + 5F downstream at a cost of 3S+1W? Or do you not get the downstream food if the improvement is removed?
 
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Jonathon Duerig
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Salt Lake City
Utah
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My thought on 'sell back' is that you don't get any benefit that hasn't already happened. Any benefit that would have happened on future turns is forfeit (remove the tokens from the round squares). So you could buy/sell the well for 8F, but if you don't wait the 5 turns before selling it you don't get the 5F.

I'll be trying this out in a 2-player game this weekend and will post here about how it plays.
 
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Jonathon Duerig
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Salt Lake City
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We played the game last weekend. Overall, the biggest problem was that the ramp up of brutality was too slow. We both played conservatively, not trying for extra family members until the end. Because of this, and because the first couple of famine cards were cancelled out by our initial house, we ended up with roaring food engines before long.

First harvest was tricky because of lack of starting food.
The rest of the normal harvests were pretty easy.
Round 15 and beyond began a slow attrition. My wife had a ton of fields with a grain/veggie food engine. I had mostly animals combined with the butter churn (which eventually became absurdly overpowered yielding 12 food per harvest), and the three commodity-to-food buildings. By the end we had both diversified some with me getting fields and her getting animals breeding as well.

Because we were able to get our farms running before being hit hard by disasters, it turned into a very long game, with maybe 30 rounds. To finally make the game go faster we started flipping multiple disasters each harvest.

Next time I play, I think I'll do the following tweaks to the rules:

Starting on round 14, flip over two disaster cards per harvest.

Remove the plague card. When it came along, it was a relief.

Make 2 each of the wood/clay/stone famine cards and change the remainder to be pure famine (no way to cancel them out).

Give everybody a third family member when growth with room comes out, and everybody a fourth family member when growth without room comes out. Whether or not to get a fifth family member is up to players.

Increase the cost of discarding a refugee. Perhaps to 3x Food

First person who cannot pay for all family members loses.

Discard major improvements that are sold back rather than allowing them to be rebuilt.

-D
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Chris F.
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Thanks for actually testing your variant and posting the results. The vast majority of variants I've seen are never followed up upon.
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