Emivaldo Sousa
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Great job. Most of the stuff you suggest I've already incorporated in my game, but I was able to catch a very useful thing or two.

I came to the conclusion that, if you play conservative you will win more than loose, but sometimes, I like to do something really risky. It fails more often than not, but when it pays up, it pays up huge.

Yesterday, in a 5-player game, I grew my family up to four people using both Family Growth spaces as soon as the second one became available.

Everyone else had two people. I had to beg and came at third place, but just because I've miscalculated the availability of wood and played a less useful ocupation from my hand.

The guest card also quickly appeared and crippled my advantage a little bit. I also got the worse minor improvement hand I've been ever dealt, so taking first place became suboptimal. But it was a nice change of pace and completely changed the dynamics of the table.

If I wasn't so tired and distracted I think I could have a real chance.
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Jesse Dean
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Bah, you beat me to it!


Good job.
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Jan B.
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Very nice strategy guide! I played approx. 20 times but I learned a couple of things. I like the approach to break down the different scoring categories to point out that at least 8 actions are needed to cancel out penalty points.

And the breakdown of the spindle among others was useful as well for me :)
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Jesse Dean
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My Comments
Now that I have had a chance to read the guide beginning to end, here are my comments:
While I agree in general about trying to take spaces when there are multiple rounds of resources on them, I think that wood is good enough in Stage 1 (particularly since there are less "good" action space available) that taking 4 or 3 wood with a single, early action is reasonable. This may be colored by the fact that I typically play in 4 or 5 player games however, where the wood spaces are better and there is more competition for them.

I also think you are undervaluing the Reed Deliveryman. Playing him very rarely changes my hunger for Reed. What it does do is make it so I am in a much, much better position to try to go for the incredibly powerful double room play, potentially giving me access to family growth twice in Stage 2.

I also think you are undervaluing the Clay Roof for a similar reason. It reduces the competition for Reeds a little bit, maybe, but what it really does is give you access to alternative uses for reeds and sets you up for double build actions more often and makes it so the Basketweaver's Workshop and the Basketweaver a LOT more powerful.


You statement about "Can you imagine 2 wood, 2 stone, and 2 reed for a single action?" is not accurate. You would be getting 2 wood, 1 stone, and 2 reed.

Animal Pen is reasonable if you have 4 occupations, but is most of the time borderline unusable. The times it has been worth it to get it out, it has worked very well for me, but I admit that most of the time when I get it I don't get it out.

I like the Wood Oven for three reasons: 1) Extra Points. 2) Minor Improvement 3) If you are a baker, and if you are a baker you have bought the Clay or Stone Oven, it lets you take a bake action with those Ovens in case you get locked out of a the sow/bake later in the game. 2 victory points and a free bake action plus whatever else you are getting out of it (since its a Minor Improvement and can be combined with another action) is pretty reasonable. It is pretty reasonable with any baking acceleration improvements. Deserves 2 stars.

Simple Fireplace is also good because it can be upgraded to the Cooking Hearth without having to take Major Improvement Space twice. I don't think it is worth more than 2 Stars, but that is something to keep in mind.

I agree completely on the Windmill. It is awful.

I really need to try out the Grocer. It is one that people commonly talk about positively and I have yet to see it in play.
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sonny sonny
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generally a very good guide. many good thoughts and a good system. i will comment on the points where i disagree:

animals vs baking:
i agree that both is possible but baking needs some good supportive cards. without cards animals are better for food. the following thoughts are without considering cards of course.

animals:
getting 2 stables together with a room is not exactly easy but its often possible if you don't play improvements that need wood (the OP says it himself below: "Getting plenty of wood to build two rooms early isn’t nearly as tough as getting four reeds."). chances to get 2 boars or 3 sheep aren't that bad and just having a cooking place will enable to you get 4-6 food with one action often. i never build early fences unless i have a card that gives an advantage to it.

baking:
i would NEVER bake my first grain. doing as suggested means you have to take 3 grain before your first seed (1 to bake when buying oven, one to bake when sowing, one to sow). that is a huge loss of actions and it's not better than playing the animal strategy and taking 2-3 sheep (it's actually worse because your bake actions are very limited). i would also never sow 1 grain. so for a baking strategy first you need to get 2 grain and 2 fields, then sow. after first harvest buy an oven to get food. that means until then (usually not before stage III) you have to find other ways for feeding. the biggest problem for baking strategies is to have enough grain for baking without having to waste an action just to take 1 grain. this is why i wouldn't sow 1 grain with my first sow (a basic setup for growing 2 grain can be found here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/340538).

other food strategies: in the OP i am missing some basics about other means to get food. eating resources (through improvements or occupations) is often very efficient. if you have cheap small improvements that give you food you should always play them. if you have the right cards (like mushroom collector) it is possible to play games without eating animals and grain.

VPs: if you just browsed through the OP reread the "vegetables eater" section. the food/VP compare is critical to improve your score and most people don't consider that. i actually think a larger section on VP efficiency would make sense. i might consider adding a few thoughts later.

taking actions: i disagree with the importance of grain/plow in first turn, but his is discussed in greater detail in many other threads (examples: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/337773, http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/340541, http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/331357)

start player: "I would also encourage you to hold on to your minor improvements until your opponents have all played one or two." very bad suggestion. in 4 player game that means your first start player will be like round 6. if you have an improvement that helps you early on you should take start player very early, especially if you can expect to get a good action as first player in the next round. this will easily save you an action, and denies other players to be start player and take the good action. the other mistake in the suggestion is that beginning from round 6 start player is usually highly contested (at least in our games) because it is almost a prerequesite to get the family growth action. the OP says so himself at the description of actions.

actions:
"3 wood: This spot will accumulate to 6 wood during a game often." in our games it rarely does, and if it does it is taken as first action. i find it interesting that the OP declares for the 2-wood field in 3 players: "The question is, should you take it with four wood on it?" but for 5 players: "4 Wood (Cumulative) – pretty good at 4"

outsmarting your opponent: another paragraph that you should reread if you have only browsed through the OP is the 2nd one about playing your own game. this is so true for most games but so many people don't realize it :-/

improvements:
Joinery and Pottery: these can be very good. often in the late game clay accumulates because no one really needs it anymore (this is rarely the case with wood but you may have some extra). they can also help with feeding. nice improvements to go with your late renovation.
Well: often bought in stage III or IV (or very early with well builder, but that is probably not an E-deck card) in our games to score some VPs and extra food. costs and food are compareable to an oven, but doesn't need a grain and gives more VP (of course it doesn't give you the option for more food later but you might not be a baker or have a cooking hearth anyways)

cards:
in general, i would not rate a card on how hard it is to get it out, but it's net gain. evaluation the effect is what i need to decide if i should play it, or work to be able to play it. also the OP seems to totally neglect the VPs from those improvements. 2 VPS is very nice, even 1 VP for no resources is very nice. for my taste there is too much "you make it easier for others to get reed". this is contradiction the "play for yourself" argument from above, and you will still take reed if you get it easily. especially if you can get the basketmaker's.

deliveryman (both reed and clay) are among the best occupations in the game! reed is very important and hard to get, and for the clay you build the pottery (best with first renovation) and have guaranteed 2 food each harvest and some VPs at the end!

cattle whisperer: disagree: in 5 player games its easy to get cattle (due to the 5 player card). it returns a much better actions to food ratio for the mid and end game then early sowing.

all the improvements that give food should have 3 (***) asterisks. yes, some are not easy to play, but they are worth it. i have seen an early animal pen (easy with patron) and it killed the game.

ratcatcher: should be *** too. its very easy to play an occupation in the mid game. it denies everyone else one action (compared to you), you disrupt their plans, and you have another occupation out, which can help with improvements. this is a must play card if you have it. no, the effect is not very big, but it is always there and you do not have to do anything else in order to use it.

Mini Pasture: very good card. contrary to what the OP says it saves you 2 actions: one to take wood, and one to build fences. surely better than the stables card (especially because it doubles the value of a single stable built together with your room), so i don't understand why it's rated below.

axe: i would rate it *** in 4 or 5 player games, * for 2 or 3 players (no stones in stage I).

dancer: can be very strong if no one else has cards to improve that action.

master brewer: the OPs argument is screwed here. he compared a sowed grain (trippling the amount) to an unsowed one. definitely not ***

braggart: i think its very good, discussed in greater detail here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/342863

reeve: *** for that one. its power is not the VPs at the end, its 4 cheap wood at the beginning of the game. if you still have it in your hand at the end of the game, it can be 3 easy VPs.

Mendicant: *** for that one. you can save 2 food in the early game and then play the at the end. basically that's getting a loan of one action. actions give great returns in agricola.

outhouse: never seen that being played, usually other improvements give VPs as well and other benefits.

summary: following the OPs guide will get you from 20 points to 40. i agree with that, but there's more possible =)
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bestia immonda
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Good work!
One question: am I playing the cattle whisperer wrong?
I simply place a Cow token in round 5 and 9 and then take the token when that turn starts! How can that benefit others as stated?
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bestia immonda
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WhiteKong wrote:
nicktaruffi wrote:
Good work!
One question: am I playing the cattle whisperer wrong?
I simply place a Cow token in round 5 and 9 and then take the token when that turn starts! How can that benefit others as stated?


You are playing it slightly wrong. You want to ADD 5 and 9 to the current round. That means if you play it in round three, you put the cattle on round 8 and round 12. If you play it in round 5, you put a cattle on round 10 and round 14.

As for how it benefits others, here you go: When you play this card, your motivation to take the "1 Cattle" spot goes way down. If you're not taking that spot, then it is more likely to be open for other players. This isn't only true of the Cattle Whisperer card. It's true of a lot of them. Anything that encourages you not to take a particlar space makes that space easier for everyone else to get.


Ok, now I get it. The "add 5 and 9" was very misleading.
Now it's clear, thanks.
And I understand now your sentence, taking your "free" cow makes easier for other players grabbing the "take 1 cow" action.

So if you play the Cattle Whisperer card too late, you only get 1 cow, right?
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Paul Lister
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Comprehensive and thought provoking article. My first reaction is that this game has so many subtleties that i am always learning new things!

A couple of quick thoughts.

1) In the games i have played and observed taking grain, plowing one field and sowing in stage one usually results in losing. It's just too slow unless supported by ninja cards. This might be my group think and next time out i'm going to see if i can make it work.
2) Having a third action, even if last to go, is worth it, so long as i can feed that extra person efficently. Again i have rarely seen someone lose who gets more actions than their competitors early in the game. Quite often the last action can be suprisingly good.
3) Private Forest. 2 Food for 7 wood is, in my opinion, a winner. Often it can save you a wood action later in the game and fuel the playing of minor improvements.
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Patrick Sullivan
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WOW. Not only the best Agricola strategy article out there so far but one of the best I've ever seen on BGG. It reminds me of some of Alexfrog's insanely awesome PR articles back in the day.

I would really like to hear your analysis of the I, K and Z deck cards as well. You seem to have a really good grasp of which cards always help and which ones are a RISK but CAN really help (Ratcatcher, Axe, Deliverymen, Reeve, Mendicant).

I'm not sure I fully understand if you would ALWAYS take the 4 wood on the Take 4 Wood (Cumulative) spot or not. You say it's good but I get the feeling you would let it pass. I do understand that you would often pass on the 4 accumulated wood on the Take 2 Wood spot cuz it's only going to 6 (in which case, you'd 100% take that baring a non-need for anymore wood). But yeah, I'm not sure I understand where you stand on the Take 4 Wood spot when it has 4 wood.

Anyway, it's an amazing article. My only compliant is that you encourage table talk in your example when someone grew their family when there is 4/5 food on the Fishing/Travelling players spots and you said you'd say something to gang up on that person. It's a big pet peeve of mine this table talk business, so I'd have a problem with that. But that's just a personal matter so it has nothing to do with your otherwise excellent strategy article.

My favourite part of this article is that I thought I was alone in thinking that the Take 3 Wood spot isn't necessarily the best opening move. I FAR prefer the occupation and even the take 1 grain. I think plow a field and 3 wood are tied as my third choice.

This is the most tempted I've ever been to donate geekgold and tip. Great job. I hope you do an article on the other decks as well.
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bestia immonda
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Having just a couple of Agricola plays under my belt, I can confirm that a first turn Private Forest play is a pain in the arse! yuk
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bestia immonda
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In the last game we played we were utterly crushed by a devastating combo:
1st turn: Tutor
then: berry picker-mushroom collector-reeve-chief daughter ( instant play after my Chief play ) and finally braggart!!! cry
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Everett Scheer
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"Spindle (051) (***) – Here’s another one that has those fractions again. I can't be expected to be able to drink beer and figure out three fifths of something as it relates to half of something else. This card really encourages you not to kill your sheep. You normally get two food for killing a sheep, and this card gives you about half that to not kill them. Here’s another chart for you.
2 sheep = 1 food
3 sheep = 2 food
4 sheep = 3 food
5 sheep = 4 food
6 sheep = 5 food
7 sheep = 5 food
8 sheep = 6 food"

This is *not* how it works. It gives you 1 food if you have 3 sheep, or 2 food if you have 5 sheep, period. I assume you made the same mistake in other cards that use the same notation.
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Chris Linneman
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This is awesome!

I'm part way through reading it right now I just wanted to point one thing out for editing:

You have the 5p actions for the family game listed instead of those for the full game (take 2 building resources should be either 1 occupation or family growth from round 5).

Also, note the Rancher (340) is in the Interactive deck.
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Paul Newsham
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Brad, this is a brilliant article. Well done, and thanks for enlightening me.


Edit: just seen someone else made the same spot as me. So now you can just allow yourself another beer next time you're playing...

I must point out though that the crazy maths you've been doing on the spindle and clay firer cards is wrong. (unless I'm the mad one!)

e.g. Clay Firer reads:
"You can use the Clay Firer at any time to convert 2/3 Clay to 1/2 Stone"
Interpret this as:

"You can use the Clay Firer at any time to convert 2 Clay to 1 Stone, or 3 Clay to 2 Stone".

The Spindle has the same logic to it.

Bring on the other packs!
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jbrier
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Obviously, a very impressive article. Fantastic! I didn't read the commentary on the Improvements and Occupations (although I'll get around to it I'm sure).

I think the biggest difference in our thinking is summed up by this quote:

Quote:
So, on the first turn, I see a lot of rookies immediately go for the resources. The best three spots on the board in the first turn are (in no particular order) “1 Occupation”, “Plow 1 Field”, and “Take 1 Grain”. These should be gone with the first three actions in any game played. I know it’s popular to take three wood, but if you do that, you’re getting that spot at its minimum level of effectiveness. You may end up taking the “3 Wood” spot in the first round, but I certainly wouldn’t do it with any of the first three picks.


In the different competitive groups I play with I never see the 3Wood space go unclaimed after everyone's first worker placement, much less after a full round. In fact, I'd say that as first player on round 1 your strongest choices are either 3Wood or Occupation, and the latter only if you really have good Occupations you want to get out. Given this "groupthink", your whole argument about "effectiveness" goes out the window, since there is never 6 wood on an action space before at least Stage 2.

The real question is whether 1 grain or 1 field is better than 3Wood early in the game, to which I think the unequivocal answer is: NO WAY!

Wood is essential for building rooms, which itself is essential for growing your family, which as you admit is essential to do early. On the other hand, plowing and sowing are only useful if done before harvests, which are very infrequent in the early game- there is only 1 harvest before round 7. The other use for grain is baking but unless you are getting an oven taking 1 grain is at best like taking 3 food. And since there is only one person who gets the Clay Oven (Stone Oven is unusual early), there really shouldn't be that much competition for the Grain space.

Generally, during Stage 1 I'll only take Grain as my second draft pick if there isn't anything better, and even then I'll sometimes opt to take the Day Laborer instead (gets me much needed 2 food now rather than 1 food now that may in the future turn into something more).

*****************************************

Other points of contention...

I think you're overly dogmatic about the importance of Renovating. I've won plenty of games with only 3 rooms, and have won plenty of games with only a wooden house. Renovation is what it is: 1 Reed and N Clay/Stone for N victory points. If you have more rooms it becomes better, but this sort of begs the question of whether it is really so good to build many rooms (which is also part of your philosophy, which I don't necessarily agree with).

Rooms are the LEAST efficient way to fill farm spaces, so that is not a good reason to build rooms. The obvious reason is to grow your family. But I find that after the 3rd family member (which admittedly is essential) the return on investment lowers substantially, depending on how hard it is to get that 4th and 5th member. When it's worth it is of course a gray area but I'll say that in my personal experience if I don't build the 4th room at the same time as the 3rd there's a fair chance I'll never build it. It depends on whether there are other more important projects underway, but as a rule of thumb I'd say that investing in building your 4th room after Stage 3 is probably inefficient.

Don't get me wrong: Renovation IS good, especially cause it lets you build a major improvement too, but I think without the major improvement bonus it would be substantially weaker and you'd see it happen much less with experienced players.

************************

A small correction- you say the Cooking Hearth is worth more points than the Fireplace, which isn't true.

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Bill Gallagher
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Quote:
If you’re new to the game, here are some guidelines to follow. By the end of stage 3, you should have extended your home by at least one room.

I usually strive to have a third room before the end of Stage 2. This allows me to get the third family member out earlier. This can be tough in games where I'm acting last (or close to it) the first few rounds, as people are generally grabbing wood early on. My first action in Round 1 is generally better spent on something other than Start Player. By the time my second action comes around, Start Player has usually been taken (precluding taking it myself for the guaranteed 2 Reeds).
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Scott Mikula
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Thanks for this great, comprehensive analysis! There's a ton of stuff I agree with, but in the interest of provoking discussion I'll just address a few things I really disagree with...

WhiteKong wrote:
As a general rule, you should try to fix one negative area per stage. That means by the end of stage 1, you should have 2 plowed fields, or a grain, or a pasture. This isn’t always possible, but not having negative points at the end of the game is a process. You can do it evenly throughout the stages, or you can rush to get to them at the end.

[...]

If you’ve evenly taken care of all of your negatives throughout the game, you’ll notice something wonderful in the last turn or two – you won’t get the “I’m screwed” feeling. What you’ll see are lots of opportunities to score big points.

This is more a matter of philosophy than actual gameplay, but I think that concentrating on removing negatives over the course of the game is exactly the wrong way to think about it. One should worry about the other priorities you mentioned: growing and feeding your family. For one thing, just by coming up with a food engine you'll probably score in 2-3 of the categories. And if you've done those things well, then it should be easy in the last few rounds to fill out your farm and cover the rest of the categories. I would amend the second statement I quoted above to read as follows: "If you’ve grown your family and established a good source of food, you’ll notice something wonderful..." Focusing too much on points in the early/mid-game is liable to distract you from more important things.

WhiteKong wrote:
So, on the first turn, I see a lot of rookies immediately go for the resources. The best three spots on the board in the first turn are (in no particular order) “1 Occupation”, “Plow 1 Field”, and “Take 1 Grain”. These should be gone with the first three actions in any game played. I know it’s popular to take three wood, but if you do that, you’re getting that spot at its minimum level of effectiveness. You may end up taking the “3 Wood” spot in the first round, but I certainly wouldn’t do it with any of the first three picks. A player who takes the “3 Wood” space in the first round then takes the “3 Wood” space again in the second round has used two actions to take 6 wood. If you can take 6 with a single action, that’s much better.

I don't think I'm a rookie--I have twenty or so games under my belt, and more hours of thought and analysis than bear mentioning--but I always take 3-4 wood if it is available on the first round. I've never seen the wood accumulate into the second round, so the argument that you should wait and hope for that is simply not valid. Wood is just too important in the early game--primarily to build rooms, but also because most minor improvements take wood, and by having some in hand you open up the possibility of taking start player as a good play.

I don't see why you would care about taking grain or plowing, unless you are intent on sowing before the first harvest; otherwise, I figure I'll just take them with a second action as I have the opportunity. Occupation, of course, is a good play, if you have a strong early-game occupation.
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Patrick Sullivan
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I'll admit that I'm mixed up on if I should be going for 3 wood early or not.

Right now this has been my order of priorities for turn one:
1) Occupation
2) 1 Grain
3) Plow 1 Field
4) 3 Wood

Depending on the number of players, the following actions get thrown in there as well (although I haven't decided the order)
- 1 Reed, 1 Stone, 1 Food (omg, this spot is so good)
- 1 Sheep & 1 Food (i love this spot too)
- 4 wood (I usually can't resist this one unless I'm last to play and it's still available, in which case, starting player)
- 3 clay (i find this spot always difficult to resist)

What a tricky game...
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Tim Seitz
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letsdance wrote:
generally a very good guide. many good thoughts and a good system. i will comment on the points where i disagree:


I agree. There is a lot of flawed analysis regarding some of the cards, but that is primarily due to experience bias; this remains an excellent starting point for strategy discussion.

My comments...

I agree animals can be superior as a food source, the problem is that in a large game, competition for them can be extreme. Success in worker placement games often involves taking the road less traveled. If all of the other players go down the animal route, bread-baking sans support cards will win the game for you.

Baking the first grain is an expensive proposition but can be worth it if you need food. The alternative is likely to take day laborer for 2 food twice, or to take grain and bake - both require 2 actions. It's obviously better to sow first, but that's not always possible.

Timing of improvements can be very important to maximize their effectiveness. The strategy of avoiding start player CAN be effective, but not at the cost of missing out on an important and effective improvement.

Sometimes, the value of a card is magnified when played in combination with other cards - ignoring the potential combos a card may have leads to undervaluation.

For example: The Clay Deliveryman is much better than advertised. 9 clay is nothing to sneeze at. At the very least it makes Pottery a no-brainer. With Pottery in hand, Clay Deliveryman is a guaranteed 3 points - this is exceptional for an early play. Also, the notion that it somehow devalues clay is poor analysis. As a player, I still need clay for all the other things, such as improvements, renovations, and the like. With Pottery, I can also use it for food and points!


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sonny sonny
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some general things before i'm going to reply on the OPs comments to my post:

Quote:
Quote:
i never build early fences unless i have a card that gives an advantage to it.

Never say never.

i say never because fences are not needed to feed with animals. i just build 2 stables. same cost, same effect, one action saved.

Quote:
You would NEVER bake your first grain? It takes one action to get a grain. Purchasing an oven takes one action, but gives you a free bake bread action. If you bake your first grain, you'll have traded one action for 5 food. You probably wouldn't hesitate to take the fishing spot if there were five food on it, but you wouldn't bake your first grain?

you said it yourself, just did the maths wrong: you got 2 actions listed in order to get these 5 food (take grain, buy oven). and that's not even counting getting the resources for oven. taking fisherman is just one action that i don't even have to plan in advance. getting an oven is something i have to dedicate much time on. all i get for this is an oven to use in future rounds (when i have taken another 2-3 grain and plowed fields) is too slow. of course it can work, but usually it doesn't.

i agree that you can bake without sowing grain if you have some support cards, but then you either have to take sow/bake actions without sowing, which is inefficient, or you have to find some additional food. one baking action will usually not provide enough food until you get vegetables. much easier to get a cooking hearth and animals.

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If you wait until later in the game to take grain, you still get one grain. If you wait until later to plow, you still get one plowed field.

yes and those are good arguments. but taking grain and plowing doesn't return anything, especially if you bake your grain unsowed like you suggest. taking wood and reed and getting family growth (to name the easiest example - occupations and improvements do the same) gives you more actions. this return makes up for having to pick a grain later where someone else gets 4 wood (6 wood is a rare case in our games and from the general mood here in most other people's games too).

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If you play your Minor Improvement right out of the box, chances are good that you will only be the start player for a single round. If you play it later, you have a shot at perhaps holding the start player marker for two rounds.

yes but how much later is that? it would have to be after the competition for family growth is over, in round 8 or something. in 3 player games it might work, in larger games you don't get to that point fast enough. start player is also more important in larger games because you may sit in a later spot (4th, 5th) than in smaller games. it's again a matter of how fast you get a return from your actions. i usually take it 3-4 times per game. once very early to get an improvement out, once for first family growth, once in the later game (preferably before round 12 like you pointed out) and maybe one more if there is a good situation.

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Some people really like Joinery and Pottery, but I find that they force me to take clay or wood when I'm out

only if you have to rely on them. i often play them when i find nothing better to go with my renovation. i don't have the urge to use them every harvest just because i have them. the VPs are enough reason to build them IMO, the food is just a bonus. but i agree that the basketmakers is usually better.

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I've seen a sub-20 score far more often than a 40+ score with the Braggart, and I bet you have, too.
actually i have only seen newbies below 20 at all. our losers usually score around 30. braggart is a problem if someone goes havoc and plays a minor improvement every other turn. but if you keep a cool head it can be great (it's another case where the resources to food improvements are great)

Quote:
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reeve: if you still have it in your hand at the end of the game, it can be 3 easy VPs.

Except that it isn't going to be an easy 3 VPs. If I see you play the reeve, then why would I let you have the most victory points all to yourself?

if i have it in my hand at the end you don't see it. if i play it early i don't care about who will get the extra VPs really. it's the same chance for everyone and getting a big boost (in our games 4 wood is alot) at start is more valuable than 3 VPs to someone.

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If you can make the loan work for you, it's great. If you can't then it's a total waste.

you have to play it smart. if you would waste an action for one food early, you just take the card and play medicant later. if you don't, well then you don't play the medicant.

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Is there something personal between you and the outhouse card?

yes, 2 things actually: it doesn't give many VPs (contrary to some other stuff you mentioned), but the real problem: i have to play it early and spend resources for it when i am busy building up a farm. i start to care about VPs in stage III or IV when i can't play the outhouse anymore.

gonna do the general stuff in an extra reply.
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I browsed through this guide for a while, noting that for the most part, my own experiences, perceptions and opinions more or less align. One glaring exception for me, however, is the overall guiding principle:

WhiteKong wrote:
Agricola is not a game where there are multiple ways to win the game. There is really only one strategy, and that is to diversify your farm.


I disagree. At the risk of sounding crass: the one, winning strategy is not to diversify your farm. The one, winning strategy is to have the most points at the end of the game.

Now, it is certainly and obviously true that the more points you have, the better off you are. And farmyard diversification is a very efficient way, from the perspective of both actions and resources, to swiftly pump up your score. And I'm certainly not trying to stomp my foot and insist that since it's *possible* for me to turn my farmyard into a cesspool and still squeeze out enough points for victory, that therefore somehow the entire premise of your article is flawed.

No, I'm instead going to attempt to dance somewhere in between. Firstly, I'm going to still maintain -- insist, even -- that one's overall focus should not simply be guided by farm diversification. There are many ways to earn points. And there are many ways to cost your opponents points at little or no sacrifice to your own development. Indeed: I have, in fact, had quite a few ugly, mutant farms that one might take a double-take at, but still managed to wrestle victory from my foes by a point or three. And therein lies the crux of my argument: your goal is not to score high. Your goal is to WIN. And winning by even merely one point is equivalent to winning by five or ten.

So, yes, many of the principles you outline are extremely helpful and beneficial in building a powerful point-generation engine. But they are also helpful and beneficial to everyone else at the table. Thus, actions you can take that *rob everyone* of the ability to use such a tool has, in turn, *precisely the same effect* as using that tool yourself. Obviously, this is more challenging to achieve in games with more players. But monopolizing a resource, *and making good use of that resource*, has two benefits: the use you put it to, and the inability of your opponents to have it themselves.

Clay is often an excellent example of this double-edged principle. Gathering lots of clay, with the intention of buying a fireplace/hearth, perhaps buying the Clay Oven, renovating early, buying the Pottery, building clay rooms, dropping minor improvements, etc, in turn prevents opponents from doing any of those actions themselves for a while. Yes, they can be doing other things, and will. But eventually, clay starvation can force players into desperate acts. "What's better than taking lots of clay?" I once quipped, as I reached across the table. "Taking MORE clay!" The groans were audible. "He can't *possibly* want to take *more* clay!" is a conclusion that should be setting off alarm bells in your head. Yes. He can. And he will.

And clay accumulates oh-so-slowly. Mid-game, when the clay-monger starts wandering around the board casually filling in the gaps in his board, others are tearing out their hair about how to deal with this whole clay situation. Got a size four house? Now you need four clay to renovate it. STILL don't have a fireplace? You need clay. Want to renovate and build a fireplace simultaneously to try to make up for lost time? That's even more clay still. Worse, *every* player at the table is going to be fighting over that clay. Every player, that is, except Clay Boy™.

This is the sort of meta-strategy that I feel is just as important as ones that earn you efficient victory points. Another aspect of the scoring system that's just as important is the fact that you don't have to beat everyone to win. You only have to beat the guy who's in second place. Again, it's not my intention to seem crass or blunt. It's simply a matter of perspective.

If it's clear to you when glancing around the table on Round 13 or 14 that there's one chap in contention with you for score, then anything you can do to cost him points is precisely the same as a net gain for you. If you can cost him more points than you would have gained by taking another action, then attacking him is the way to go -- especially when you can put that action to minor use yourself. "WHY would you take cattle?!" it's been shrieked, as I again reach across the table going 'moo moo moo!'. Of course I'll take cattle. Cattle is probably worth two points to the person whose score is closest to mine. And I can throw them into my cattle ranch for perhaps another victory point for me. That's a net gain of three on the person closest in contention to me, minus whatever he is forced to do instead. I can always make them into hamburgers, too, if push comes to shove. Whatever it takes.

Two points for an action is an underlying principle of mine that I hold in the foreground whenever I scan the board. If an action will get me two or more points, it's good; otherwise, it's inefficient. That's from a pure victory point perspective, of course; expanding one's engine is important in a completely separate dimension. Conversely, costing two victory points to the person next in score is equally delicious. And if I can do both, then there's no doubt about where I'm going next.

Ironically, "two points for an action" includes, by default, the entire concept of farmyard diversification. Diversification is the principle wherein players score +1, rather than -1, for each "thing" that they have lying around. So yes, I'm all about farmyard diversification, from a scoring efficiency perspective. But it is NOT the end-all, be-all of the Agricola strategy. It is merely a component.

Indeed: to swing the pendulum to the other end, I'm bold enough to assert that "two points for an action" occurs so frequently in the game, that I'm tempted to suspect that it was a fundamental game concept during development. To illustrate the power of diversification in a more naked fashion, consider how many actions result in a net gain of two points:

- plow (+1/+3/+2/+2/+2; average +2 pts)
- build one pasture
- take your 1st grain
- take your 1st vegetable
- take your first sheep
- take your first pig
- take your first cow

Consequently, when evaluating more complex projects, I divide the points gained by the number of actions needed. If it's 2+, then it's cash money. The Well, for example, grants 4 points. That's one action to get three stone, and one to build it. I tend to assume you'll have one wood lying around, and the food, while a nice bonus, is not necessarily key, assuming you even get any. So 4 points for two actions is 2 per action.

Renovation is another concept that can be considered in this fashion:

- 2 reed
- X clay
- X stone
- renovate to clay
- renovate to stone

These five actions yield X * 2 victory points, X being the size of your wooden home. Assuming a size-3 home, that's 6 points for five actions -- not too hot. Assuming a size-4 home, that's 8 points for five actions -- a bit better. If you were lucky on reed, or if you can use one or two of those renovations to perform another action (major improvement or fences), you save one action, which means 8 points for four actions -- bingo! Plus, you may gather more than X of the materials, which means you can use them in other projects. Moreover, you're gathering and using them yourself, which means that they aren't available to others.

Getting 3 points for an action is even better still. Chief's Daughter, for example, is an *excellent* card, in my opinion. 3 points for an action? For one lousy food? As my fifth action on Round 14? You betcha. How often can you earn 3 points with your fifth action on Round 14? In some games, I'm lucky if I can get even 1 point for my last action.

So if you spent all game generally performing actions that, on average, net gain you two points, you're doing fine -- just as fine as if you were picking some or all of the actions from the list above. Thus, we once again illustrate that while it's helpful, efficient and beneficial to diversify, it isn't strictly necessary.

So, yes, it's true that early-game grain is worth the same from a diversification as a late-game grain. But that leads me instead to the conclusion that I should do it last, not first. There's important work to be done in the early game. The grain will always be there later on when I have nothing better to do.

- Xaxyx
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Geoff Burkman
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Awesome article! Thanks for all the hard work! You can bet I'll be printing this one out and sharing it with my gaming crew. Hopefully, they'll pay attention to it and our games will get that much more competitive!
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as promised some additional thoughts:

one important thing when valuing cards is what you have to do in order to make use of them. usually when you play a card you have some sort of plan for it, but you don't actually know what exactly you will gain from it. that is IMO what makes agricola such a great game. you have to adjust your actions to make use of your played cards. when i play a baker i have my game set to a baking strategy and i have to get grain and an oven to use the special ability gained from the baker. this reduces my versatility.

some cards do not suffer from that effect, and this is what makes those cards so great. when i play a reed deliveryman i will get my reed, no matter what happens and i can still play any other strategy that i like. this is also the reason why the medicant is so good. at the start of the game i know i have it in my hand. during the course of the game i see if i can put it to good use, by taking begging cards. and afterwards i play it. if there is no options to make use of begging cards then i don't play it. few cards in the game offer that certainty. the same is true for the VP cards btw, if you play them late.

during the last rounds you have 2 big goals: you need to keep your family fed and you need to score VPs. basically i find that the feeding is more or less a sacrificing VPs for food. so lets first look at how to get VPs efficiently (values rounded where applicable). since (as pointed out in the OP) the first VP counts double it's always important to have that. assuming that you already have 1 point in each (one small pasture, 4 rooms) category (but not for improvements) - obviously if you have -1 points then that action will give you 2 VPs.

VPs/action:
fields: 2
sow: usually 1-3 VPs / action + food if you bake
family growth without space: 3 VPs (but needs food)
vegetables: 1
grain: 0,4
per sheep: 0,4
per boar: 0,5
per cattle: 0,6
fences/pastures: 2,25 (3 actions to gather 11 wood, one action for fences to get 9 VPs) + possibility to gather animals
renovate: 1,3 (2 actions to gather resources, one for renovation to get 4 VPs)
major improvement: 1 (1-2 actions for resources, one for improvement for 2-3VPs average)
renovate+improvement: 1,5 (3-4 actions for resources, one for action to get 6-7 VPs)
rooms: 1 (assuming 2 actions to get resources for a stone room that yields 3 VPs, one action for building)
stables: 0,5 to 1 (assuming you build just stables and get the wood for 1 or 2 with one action)
stone room + 3 stables: 1,2 (assuming 4 actions for resources, one for building)
fisherman with 4 food: 1 VP (see below at food/VP section)

you will usually get more than 1 sheep with one action, sometimes more than 1 boar raising that to 0,8 to 1 VP / action. the conclusion to this is that animals are for feeding mostly, not for VPs. even if the action enables you to breed them in next harvest they are still less VPs than other options.

pastures are obviously a good way to score VPs. i assumed a 2x3 fence that covers 6 spaces with 4 pastures.
best is plow + sow totaling 3-5 VPs.
family growth without space is very good.
renovate is good if you can do an improvement with it. this also shows that you should not miss the improvement (or fences) action that comes free with renovating. actually the VP/action ratio is worse than getting your first item of a category. but after having score 1 everywhere and your pastures its a good VP ratio for actions that are usually not so heavily contested (small quantities of resources assumed in the calculated actions)
improvement by itself isn't great but can compete with taking animals. don't forget that improvements also give you feeding benefits.
another room isn't bad VPs if you can also build stables. but it's worse than building fences and usually you won't have the resources for both.

you see that pastures or renovation including an improvement give a better VP ratio than animals/grain/vegetables, even if you need another action for collecting small quantities of resources.

i did not add the start player to that list because it's hard to calculate. but it is important to note that playing a small improvement that yields 1-2 VPs for one action (assuming half an action to play the small improvement and half an action to take resources) yields a VP/action ratio that can compare to the ones shown above. and this comes in addition to the other benefits of the improvement.

food/VP ratio:
a quick look at how to get your food during the last harvest. calculationg with a cooking hearth (yes that gives a bad ratio for grain but the shown result is even more extrem with ovens), and also assuming that if you keep 2 animals you will get a breed. here's the table for food/VP for additional 1/2/3 VPs in those categories (calculation for last number is given):
sheep: 4 / 4 / 4 (6*2/3)
boars: 3 / 4,5 / 5 (5*3/3)
cattle: 4 / 4 / 5,3 (4*4/3)
vegetables: 3 / 3 / 3
grain: 9 / 7,5 / 7
basketmakers: 6 / 6 / 5
joinery/pottery: 6 / 5 / 4,6

this is the food that you get for each VP you sacrifice (values for grain would be even higher with oven). from this it is obvious that
- you should never cook your vegetables (as the OP said) if you have any other option for feeding
- you should always bake all your grain, prior to use any other food.
- it doesn't matter alot what animals you cook
- in the late game 4 food equals about 1 VP (that means you now can calculate the value of minor improvements that add food in VPs)

final words:
if you aim for a score in the 40s a good approach would be:
4 stone rooms, 5 family members, 4 vegetables, 1 grain, 4 points from animals, 4 pastures, 4-5 fields, all spaces covered, 1-2 (fenced) stables. this is already over 40 points not counting improvements / occupations.
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jon dee
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[q="out4blood
Sometimes, the value of a card is magnified when played in combination with other cards - ignoring the potential combos a card may have leads to undervaluation.

For example: The Clay Deliveryman is much better than advertised. 9 clay is nothing to sneeze at. At the very least it makes Pottery a no-brainer. With Pottery in hand, Clay Deliveryman is a guaranteed 3 points - this is exceptional for an early play. Also, the notion that it somehow devalues clay is poor analysis. As a player, I still need clay for all the other things, such as improvements, renovations, and the like. With Pottery, I can also use it for food and points!


[/q]

good point! all resource gathering cards you play only devalue that resource if you let it, by abonding the competition!
But not to do that is an advanced player trick, what OP says is true for new players. If you use a resource gathering card to avoid the need to take a certain resource you just make it alot more easy to get for everyone else!

but thats not the strong way to use them. The point is that if you can combine the cards with something that let you use ekstra resources of that kind, there should be no reason why you shouldn't keep the preasure up, and keep on picking the spot aswell as everyone else!
Beside that your opponents might sleep and think that you won't grab that growing stack because you "don't really need it anymore"!
Prove them wrong, and often the rest of the game there would be fierce competion for that resource and no stack of that kind is ever getting big there again. Mission acomplished, as everone in the end is spending more actions to get (less) ressources of that kind than you!

so don't use the resource gathering cards to solve your problems, but to create problems!

btw have to say to OP great article. And i think you got alot of the advices right to new players. Only problem i see is how to advice around group thinking! If baking bread is weak or strong is mostly part of how the group thinking is! The important advice to a new player is to bee aware that baking bread in oven can be difficult to rely on as many can want to use the sow/bake bread aktion, and that situation requires some eksperience to navigate in.
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Tim Seitz
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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
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Black Barney wrote:
I'll admit that I'm mixed up on if I should be going for 3 wood early or not.

Right now this has been my order of priorities for turn one:
1) Occupation
2) 1 Grain
3) Plow 1 Field
4) 3 Wood


Well...

If I were playing against you and you used that priority, I might hit start player and then take 6 wood next turn. Then hit the 3 wood spot until you went to start player - once you do that, I pick up reeds and build out, maybe even with some stables. Of course, it's all dependent on occupations, but taking wood (and maybe clay) every turn to prevent you from getting any can win the game, unless you counter by taking reeds. In our two-player games, the dominant interaction occurs on the wood and reed squares. Not to say it always wins, but letting a player get two actions worth of a critical resource is worse than letting them grow faster - and usually you end up with both!
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