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Agricola: Pi-Deck» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Life of Pi: First Impressions of the New Agricola Deck rss

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Mark Taylor
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This review is originally from paintedwoodencubes.com. Feel free to visit for more reviews and commentary on board and card games, including a good deal more on Agricola.

The Agricola π deck, a mini-expansion composed of 12 occupation and 12 minor improvement cards, was released at Essen this year. When the deck appeared in the Board Game Geek store earlier this month, I decided to take a chance on it. I'm no completist, and do not have any other Agricola expansion decks, but a promo can offer a neat way to dabble with something new.

I was not entirely sure what to expect. The artwork on the cards of the π deck suggests it constitutes a toy primarily for the Play Agricola community who designed its cards: the illustrations, even those for minor improvements, feature portraits of the designers, as well as their friends and relatives. In particular, Angry Duck and Retirement appear to constitute in-jokes from which the player not involved with Play Agricola cannot help but feel excluded. Likewise, the family portraits on the Alchemist and the Fertility Shrine are alienating.

Anyway, on Friday my order turned up in the post, and on Saturday I had my first chance to play with the new cards, using them in two three-player games. In the first of those we used six of the seven occupations in the π deck suitable for play with three or less (the remaining one, the Altruist, looked as if it would demand very unorthodox play from its possessor, and therefore we opted not to include it in this instance). We dealt two of these occupations to each player, along with two new minor improvements each. The remainder of cards were a mix of the standard E, I and K decks. In the second game, we played with occupations from the base game, together with the remaining six new minor improvements, again giving two to each player.

The first game offered me the Alchemist and the Chisel Maker, along with the Meeting Post and the Fertility Shrine. None of these seemed to constitute a card around which I could build a strategy, nor did any of these cards particularly contribute to creating a killer combination in this instance. In a sense, I was pleased that this was the case. Expansion elements which make themselves heard by overpowering elements of the base game may speak loudly, but seldom sweetly.

In the end, the only occupation I played was the Schnaps Distiller from the K deck. I did, however, play the Meeting Post early in the game. Though I partly played it for a cheap victory point (one wood for one point), the public pool of occupations which the card opens up contributed a fair amount to my enjoyment of this particular game. One opponent kept voicing a desire to recruit the Seed Seller which the other had contributed to the pool. Was it bluff, or was it sincere? It didn't seem to suit his strategy this game. Would there be any compelling reason to nab the card myself? I decided against doing so, and so did my opponent. However, even though the occupation pool had had little direct impact upon the outcome of this particular game, it stimulated a more dynamic, nuanced form of interaction than Agricola normally musters.

As it transpired, only one new occupation was played by any of us: the Footman. Its power to reserve spaces in order to activate them later was, however, never used too speculatively - largely to grab sowing spaces before having a crop to sow. However, the possessor of the Footman - the eventual winner of the game - suggests even using the card in this way made him tense.

In the second game, I received the Pitchfork and the Shelter in the Field. The Pitchfork seemed tempting, if only for the amount of actions it might provoke my opponents to spend in blocking the reed space. The Shelter in the Field, by contrast, felt more like part of a potential Plan B than a card I would begin the game intending to use. Neither, however, turned out to be part of my game this time. I certainly didn't need a back-up plan: the gambit of collecting an early fireplace paid off with a handsome meal of sheep, this providing me with a base from which to build a lead over my opponents which was never bridged.

However, Spars and the Gardener's Bothy did see successful play by my respective opponents, one of whom also enjoyed building a diamond of fields to satisfy the Landscape Design improvement, even if the point yield of doing so was low. It, like many other cards in this deck, offered a side quest to pursue which added to the regular Agricola experience, rather than diluting it. A couple of cards are too situational to imagine they'll see a great deal of play, but nonetheless the π deck is made up of cards I'm happy to mix in with the others I own, and which I look forward to investigating further.
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I've played about 6 games with the deck so far, all 2p, and pretty much all of them went like this:

1) One of us gets a new card or combo of cards that seems like it could be strong, and then goes through the effort to REALLY use that combo hard, thus doing less of the normal game stuff
2) The other person consistently gets the normally contested spots and gets TONS of points through all the normal ways to get points.
3) Person trying crazy combo loses HARD.

That's not to say I don't like the deck, just that a lot of the crazy combo stuff just felt like too much work for too little reward. Like trying to renovate 8 times in a game (even with getting Renovator out + a way to buy Major Improvements easier, and buying almost all of them).
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Geoff Burkman
United States
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Mark, your link for the Footman goes to the Seed Seller.

And I know it's irrational, but I really like the Pi Deck.
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Mark Taylor
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MisterG wrote:
Mark, your link for the Footman goes to the Seed Seller.


Thanks for catching that and pointing it out. I've now corrected the link.
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Tucker Taylor
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MisterG wrote:
And I know it's irrational, but I really like the Pi Deck.

Nothing irrational about it. This Agricola expansion is transcendental.
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Mike Young
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MisterG wrote:
And I know it's irrational, but I really like the Pi Deck.


Geoff, we all know your love for the game is real; I don't think you're even expressed a fraction of your admiration for Agricola. I am certain you only have positive feelings for the game. And I knew we could count on you to express the sum of your feelings so well. You are an integral member of the Agricola community and are number 1 in my book.

I hope my post wasn't too derivative of yours.
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Mike T
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Some background on the deck: it is essentially the remainder from the G2 or WM deck, cards that were selected by the play-Agricola community for inclusion in that deck but cut in the final round, when the format of the deck was set as a tournament-ready deck. Many of the cards in the Pi deck were considered the wildest of the G2 cards, so the deck may have a more "complex" feel to it.

For example, I'm not surprised to hear that the Footman made your friend tense. My hope in creating that one was that players would come up with new and interesting ways to use the card, and that it would add a bit of brain burn for the whole table. As a side note, the name originally was meant to connote a liveried servant, not a soldier, but I'm not complaining about seeing myself in cartoon armor.

Finally, if anyone happens to have an extra copy of the WM deck, I have an extra Pi, and would love to make a trade. Can't seem to find the WM anymore.
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Arno van der Kwast
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smcmike wrote:
Finally, if anyone happens to have an extra copy of the WM deck, I have an extra Pi, and would love to make a trade. Can't seem to find the WM anymore.

I have a spare German version, but don't suppose that's what you are looking for...
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