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Subject: Two different player perspectives rss

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Scooter the Great
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I know that this is far from the first 'review' of Agricola. And this very topic may have been discussed before, but something interesting happened, and I was wondering what your thoughts were.

First off, for me: I have played a few games of Caylus, and really enjoyed the worker placement mechanic. I like the removal of random chance, I like how you are passive aggressive-ly in competition with your opponents (this can be debated...), and I like how it can change the tension of the game very drastically. So I inevitably heard about Agricola -two years ago- and decided to finally give it a deeper look. Surprise, surprise it looked awesome.

Now, like many, I find my most common gaming buddy is my significant other. To be specific, for me this would be my girlfriend: Gwyn. It has been a long process, but we have been working her up from thinking that Bananagrams was an intense board game, to her now getting really excited when she sees the winning combo in Pandemic. Also... she dominates at Dominion.

So when I am thinking about adding a board game to our collection, Gwyn's reaction to the game is a very strong motivator. And more importantly, if she will enjoy it enough to play again. Gwyn had never played a worker placement game before, but I knew she loved farming (or at least she played Farmville a lot).

So went out to my local game shop and picked up (a rather hefty) copy of Agricola.

Now, here is what I want to talk about: Gwyn's experience of the game was very different than mine. I found it fascinating that the things that bothered her were not even things I though about (I know... story of any relationship... but lets keep on topic with the game).

So her perspective: In Gwyn's heart, she wants to be complete. She wants to do everything, and make sure no stone is un-turned. She likes the complete nature of Carcassonne, she will play tiles in the middle of the board, with no value, just to make it look right. The first game of Agricola was fine, but then it all went down from there. The multitude of choices before her just got in the way of having what she wanted (a full game board). Because she knew more about the mechanics, she saw more choices, and had a hard time paring down the choices that, I would argue, are designed to make you compromise. I am sure there are plenty of opinions, but it seems like Agricola is designed to make you choose between a large stone house, or pastures of animals, or fields full of grain, and very rarely a combination of the above.

This brings me to my opinion. This idea of a well balanced farm is the very reason I love the game. I really enjoy the fact that if your opponent hogs the wood, you can dominate the fields. The multitude of choices, and the realization that you will never get a 'perfect' score, makes the strategy, for me, very fluid. In one game you may see a route to lots and lots of animals, in the other you are going to have a huge house. I think that the trade offs and balance in victory conditions compliment the worker placement mechanic very well.

But again, back to Gwyn, this is the reason she is hesitant about the game, there are too many choices, and none of them lead (very easily at least) to an undefined 'complete farm'.

Gwyn also has a hard time planning ahead with the worker placement. When I look at the board, I am counting the exact actions I am going to need to take to get a certain goal. The game is deterministic, you can tell exactly what is going to happen, the only variables being your opponent's actions and the stage's action order (both can be predicted to a certain degree). This practice of looking forward is hard for Gwyn, for those CS people out there, I perform a dynamic depth first search, where Gwyn performs a two or three layer breadth first search.

Don't worry we started out with the 'family' game, and are just moving in to using the occupations and minor improvements. I feel this gives your strategy even more direction and focus, Gwyn just freaks out over the increase in choice.

Anyway, I was just wondering if anyone had a similar experience and/or for people who are looking in to getting the game.
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Paul Evans
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Sounds fair. Different folk react differently to the choices in'Gric. Your approach seems sound - ease her into it slowly. For the first few games the number of choices, and the mutually exclusive nature of those choices can definitely seem intimidating. Fortunately the more games played the more familiar it all becomes, and soon enough you are ploughing in a groove.
 
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Pascal L
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Very interresting review.

What I may add: After a few games, you are going to play with cards, and they add complexity in understanding which one is the most useful, but they also add some helpful "powers" to help build your farm.

Second idea is to try the solo game, playing both of you together. In solo game you first play a game with a number of points goal. Then for the second game you can keep one card and try again. Then the 3rd game you keep one more card and so on. You will see that after a few games solo, you will have a very good strategy (and a good combo of cards) and you can really build your farm "completely", which may be more satisfying for your girlfriend.
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Mister P
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My wife and I had the exact same feeling after our first game. We wanted to do more and the game doesn't let you do it all. That is what makes you play it again and again and again. The cards definitely throw more options at your feet and you have to figure out what counts. Once again don't even bother trying to use all your cards. Some players may be good at putting a big dent in their hand of cards but we certainly aren't there yet. I hope you can keep playing and enjoying the game. We have also bought Caylus and havn't learnt to play that yet so it will be interesting to see what we think of that after Agricola.
 
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Ade Lewis
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Look at the eyes of the other player(s).
If they are glazed, the speech is slurred and they move in a drunken like state you have pushed them too far...
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David Larkin
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I like Agricola because I like the tension caused by trying to do several things at once while not getting blocked by your opponents

My wife dislikes Agricola because she dislikes the tension caused by trying to do several things at once while not getting blocked by your opponents
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Ryan M
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I've read a number of negative reviews of Agricola where people didn't like that - as they describe it - there is not enough time to do everything you want. I just assume this is the same issue your GF has.

Everyone has their own tastes and opinions, of course, but I've never understood this complaint of the game. The whole game from begining to end is designed around trying to do the best you can with the actions you have. All while trying to keep your family from starving. Even the point system is designed around the idea that it is very unlikely anyone would ever "max out" the farm. If everyone was able to complete their farm, there wouldn't be a winner as the scores would be tied. It wouldn't even be a game, in my opinion, unless the rules and scoring and entire idea was completely changed

But as I've said, everyone has their own tastes and opinions. Clearly Agricola just isn't for some people. Maybe she would like Le Havre or Ora et Labora better as they are very similar in style to Agricola (since they are from the same designer) but there isn't that tease that there is puzzle you can complete.
 
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Scooter the Great
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Kisco wrote:
...try the solo game, playing both of you together.


I came to the same conclusion. I think this is going to have to happen sooner than later.

ldsdbomber wrote:
My recommendation is to play an enhanced family game by choosing 1 (or 2, or 3,whatever) occupation that is in play from the get go and gives you a good advantage.


That is so wonderful. I really like that idea. This past evening I was playing with someone who was also new to the game. I suggested we try it out. We only took one occupation (one without the 'add food to XXX rounds'). It gave your strategy just enough direction to hint at the right move. I think we both really enjoyed the modification. Thanks for the tip!
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Istvan Barat
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Very interesting to read that many people have the same feeling when playing agricola: not enough time to finish with everything. My wife complained about this, too and even I had a bit of an uncomplete feeling.

Then I did the following:
- Before the last game with my friend, I made a plan. I wanted to produce food by baking bread very efficiently. I had 1-2 days and I used a bit time while driving my car to my job and played virtually the first 6-7 rounds.
- During these rounds I followed very strictly the plan. I think, this is very difficult, because you get very easy irritated by the availability of high amount of some resources (("Hey, suddenly I see a lot of wood available. Why shouldn't I take it? It will be useful once for sure!")). Once you leave your strategy, even only for 1-2 actions, you will not be able to complete your initial plan/strategy/goal and you will have that uncomplete feeling.
- As a result, I established a very efficient food factory, while my opponent had often struggled from food problems (and had to make inefficient actions to create more food). And then (approximently at the middle of the game), I had enough time and actions just to work on points. e.g. in 2x actions I builded fances (took lot of wood + fences). I was not forced to collect animals and build some kind of fireplace (for additional 2x actions) immedietly, because I didn't had to slauther for food. I could do that later in more efficient way (e.g. taking more clay at once and combining fireplace with renovation).
- At the end, I was very satisfied. I completed my goal at the middle of the game and from that point I extended my farm just for fun and I also won (by ~10 points) Of cource, I didn't reached the maximum in every category and there was a lot of potencial to do thing much better.

I think, it's almost imposible to max out everything. So if one starts a game with such a goal, he/she will be very disappointed at the end. Instead, define smaller -more realistic- goals and enjoy fulfilling it.
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David Larkin
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I agree having personal goals can make the game more interesting, recently I have experimented with taking begging cards. It is possible to win having begged but you need to know what you are doing. I would still recommend that inexperienced players avoid begging at all costs.

It would be a boring game if you could complete everything.
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