SoloPlayGames
United States
Ohio
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
This thread describes/discusses the design and development of the “Village Expansions” for Agricola and updated Solo, Multi-player, Partnership and Co-Op play methods for Agricola.

Due to the size of the file it is being uploaded in parts: (3 files)
The download is available using the following links:
Agricola Village Expansion 1-3 containing 2 “E’ and 1 “I” village mini-expansions
Agricola Village Expansion 4-6 containing 1 “I’ and 2 “K” village mini-expansions
Agricola Village Expansion 7-8 containing SoloPlay, Co-Op, partnership variants, resource cards, rocky ground expansion and a selection of parts that can be used for all of the expansions.

These files would constitute #14 in the SoloPlay series and #3 with regards to “enhancements” (Tichu and Blue Moon City being the 1st 2)

More game files available here on the Geek can be accessed from the following Geeklist:
SoloPlay Variants Posted on the Geek

SoloPlay- BGG user GameRulesforOne
(Design Goals: Improve the SoloPlay game to a level that mimics the play and design of the multi-player game. Add a new dimension to play expanding the already broad variety of tactics given through the cards and the game. Add a way for the players to play in a cooperative environment to beat the game. The goal was to stay as true to the Uwe Rosenberg’s original design and keep the same game feel in the play.

Preface:
Agricola has been and is currently the most versatile game design that I have played. When I play it in any format the game feels the same being played but leaves you wondering why the things you did the last time did not work out this time. The cards are a big part of how this feeling is created. Had this game not had the additional mechanic (cards) then it would have been stale after a certain amount of time much as the family version gets.

I don’t want anyone to think that because I have designed these expansions that the game is broken in any way, quite the contrary. The game is solid. I took it as a challenge to try and break down the design of the game to add more decision points that flow through the game more frequently to challenge the experienced players. Due to the play testing that went into these designs and all other plays over the past year or so, I would place myself in the experienced category. I do not find Agricola a stressful game like I did in the 1st few months after the original purchase.

The skills that I have learned in playing this game have helped in playing/understanding other games and really helped me to simplify the mechanics. During all of the play-testing that I was doing with these variants I received Le Havre and have played numerous games of it and have had little difficulty in understanding how it is played and further to win on a regular basis. The economy of actions is an excellent mechanic that games like Goa, one of my favorite games, has to offer.

This process started down a much different road … Agricola the card game? Yeah, that was a unique idea … maybe someday I will go back to that one.

Agricola Village Expansions Design Comments:

The only “flaw” that I saw in the game design was in the solo game initially and I wanted to fix that. I feel that the official variant does not make you a better player because it brings in mechanics that are not used in normal play like the carrying over of occupations, letting materials pile to enormous proportions, etc. If I play a solo game I want it to challenge me as if I was playing someone else.

My initial work trying to break down the solo game and make it interesting to play was met with stale play and too much sameness from game to game even with the cards. It was at this point that I started working on my variable action ideas. Between my son and me we started laying out new options that would be available to each player and be different in each game. 1st there were 2 mini-boards (each with 4 actions) and then 3, 4 and finally 6. These came together fairly quickly and I worked out a base design that I wanted the boards to have. I wanted there to be graphics and I started my son working on art for the game and while he did an excellent job putting together a couple of images, I felt that adding these would open up concerns that could approach copyright problems even though it was original artwork. My son is a great mimic of art style. At this point I concentrated on what was important, making the actions work and retain the balance of the game.

Play-testing began with a flurry of excitement and he and I began using the new boards. We were playing many games a day sometimes with 1 board each and other times with 2. He really started coming up with novel ways to use the new actions and suggestions. I wanted the options to tempt the player(s) to use them during the game because, “I just can’t past that up”. If an action was not being used game after game it was either revised or trashed as insignificant. I think 3 additional actions were eliminated during this process.

So the early part of the design was spent adding items for the multi-player game. I noted that when the families start to grow that in the 4 and especially the 5 player game many of those last choices have little meaning for the last placements. The additional actions were meant to remedy this and keep the game open and flowing without “changing” the game. All was going well but I still did not have a way to improve the solo game.

For the solo game I knew that I was going to have to restrict the resources and it was here that the resource cards were born. The cards helped to fluctuate the introduction of goods and give the solo player, as well as in multi-player play, a different kind of choice. What I noticed was that the card play became much more important since the goods weren’t flowing so freely. I had hit upon the right combination to give the game its “ultimate” variability. Not only was it what I deemed a “proper” solo game but also allowed for the creation of co-op play which I always thought would be cool to have. For those that find the moving of bits around a challenge, the cards do add a little to that but that dissipates after a short period of adjustment.

The solo-game became a very tight challenge and one that I had to figure out how to play. This happens every time I work on a solo design. I don’t get it at first. Then slowly I push through that to realize how to improve my game to succeed. So far there has only been one set of cards/improvements that I have played that have not been able to achieve a major game victory. Some of the oddest sets still produce a victory if you can let go of some of your old ways of thinking.

As I play-tested the solo and co-op variants to death, I noted that the player boards always ended up looking the same and it was just a matter of what came first as to how it looked at any time during the game. This was fine but I knew that I needed to do something else to finish this project.

The final idea came with the additional of rocky ground tiles. These force the player to consider the layout and “construction” of their farm. Suddenly the farms did not look the same at all from game to game. This was such a simple idea but it made a huge difference to my enjoyment.

I read an article by Uwe on the Geek where he talked about how he goes about designing a game and how he will take note of different game designs and use those ideas to build something new. “If you want to be a game designer start by tearing apart a game you know and put it back together again.” I am paraphrasing a bit there but that was the gist of it. As I broke apart his design I am amazed at how much is in there that most players will miss if they don’t play more than a couple of times.

I found this to be a very enjoyable and overly challenging experience but one that was ultimately satisfying to complete. It took over 3 months of play-testing to arrive at this result. My wife was sick of seeing this game every day after a couple of months … “How can you play the same game for that long?” she would ask. I would always comment that you should play it with me sometime. She has yet to do so … too busy looking she says. Am I sick of it after 3 months of almost constant playing? Not a chance. I really like the SoloPlay and co-op variants. It is different every time and provides a very stiff challenge that I only play at the top challenge level. I have included easier levels as well.

Goal of the rule design:
1. Maintain the feel and pace of the original game.
2. Give the player additional tactics to employ and explore.
3. Add game variety in all aspects of play.
4. Improve the solo game.

Comments are always welcome.

Strategies:
1. Some won’t listen to me but I will mimic Uwe and others on the Geek, “keep the decks separated” so that the game is balanced and fair for all. There is a scoring adjustment for those with a “perceived” bad draw. I do not suggest drafting with the variants due to the new mechanics employed. If you choose to keep the decks mixed then a random element is thrown in that could make the game easier or impossible to win due to the functional overlap of cards between the sets.
2. All Agricola strategies still apply. My goal was not to break the game mechanics but to enhance play. If you struggle with the regular game rules, your outlook will not improve with these additions.
3. Keep an open mind. Some of the additional action spaces are very situational. Some spaces may not be used for most of the game and then suddenly a game plan can incorporate the action and you may be able to turn the tide, even in the last couple of rounds.

Final Thoughts

First, I need to thank my son for his patience and ideas and BGG user, MisterG for his session reports which helped to tool certain aspects of the variants. As I contributed to his review thread, he was like an unknown play-tester for me. Some of the comments like, “this was the best action I had at the moment”, 1 food per action (FAP, FEAT etc), frequency in taking wood etc. all helped in shaping and creating the new actions. I would recommend those with a familiarity of the rules/game to follow his reports.

As a result of this summer project, I now have a game that I rate a 10. This occurred because IMO Agricola now has a solo game variant that will improve your play and should make you more competitive in your game groups. The additional actions and add-ons (rocky ground) make the game experience a more varied one and this I find to be very important. No longer do I always build my house here, pastures there etc. If I want to do this, I will have to spend precious actions to accomplish it.

I would rate Agricola a 7 to learn how to play competently and probably an 8+ to be decent at it. I would put this variant at about the same 8+ challenge level.

I hope you have fun with these variants and find that they have a great deal of re-playability.

If you have questions about the rules, you can be post them here or to this user’s mailbox to be answered individually, if needed. I will add a FAQ to this post as I see the need.

Other games that will be/are available from SoloPlay/GameRulesforOne are posted within a Geeklist that I created: SoloPlay Variants Posted on the Geek

All new variants and information about upcoming projects will be listed there.

A game that sits in a closet is a waste. Get it out and play it any way you can. These are just my ideas.
27 
 Thumb up
6.05
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Geoff Burkman
United States
Kettering
Ohio
flag msg tools
badge
Peekaboo!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Again, thanks for the kind words. I've downloaded your first two expansions, and once the third is available, will download that one as well. Then put them to the test, and hopefully in multi-player games with my usual gang of...er, crew. Will let you know the results when we've gotten somewhere with what you've come up with.

Cheers, and I hope this goes over well!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Walter Greer
United States
Mint Hill
North Carolina
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Great job with the rules!!! You should be a designer or senior playtester for one of these gaming companies. You have created rules for some very good games and that takes a lot of work. Have you thought about solo rules for games like Doom or Descent? It seems that the many vs. one games have a great possibility to be converted to solo/coop games. The challenge is creating a reasonable game AI, which is not easy.

Keep it up and good luck!!!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
SoloPlayGames
United States
Ohio
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Thank you for your kind words. I would love to have the opportunity to expand my hobby into the professional world. Ahh ... to give up the day job.

To your question, the 2 titles that you mentioned I don't own. And while this hasn't stopped me before, see Taluva and TtR Europe, I don't believe my gaming buddies have those titles either. I have been making an ongoing list of titles that gamers have requested and will add your suggestions. Given the opportunity I will look into it.

I hope that you are enjoying the variants.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rolf
United Kingdom
Unspecified
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
SoloPlay,
I've now played 2 complete SoloPlay games as well as started a few more but didn't have the time to finish them. It's great!

I've got some questions about some cards:
* I interpreted your rules as allowing to SoloPlay with all cards except what you noted (so in particular, most 4+ cards remain available). What about cards like Head of the Family etc? Since there are no other players these cards are useless, so I removed them as well.
* Sheperd (Occ): if at least 4 sheep, gain 2 (instead of 1) during the harvest; with the resource cards in play, should this be interpreted as 'gain an extra one'?
* Estate Manager (Occ): which plus score is taken (as it is only given for 3,4,5 players and varies)?

There are two things I noted which are quite different about the play compared to multiplayer:
Minor Improvements are less likely to get played: in the multiplayer game every now and then one will take the SP+Minor Improvement space, but in the SoloPlay version the starting player advantage vanishes and usually minors are not good enough on their own to 'waste' an action.
There is no 'rush' to certain actions. For example, one can leave plowing until very late in the game because even if you only start in round 12, it is possible to get 5 fields as no other player can interfere. Similarly, one can leave point scoring occs until the last round or pick up the wood before FG or build another room before FG. Have you tried any mechanism to build this rush into the SoloPlay rules, but it didn't work in playtesting? I could imagine a deck of 'denial cards' which simulate certain spaces as 'taken'. Then taking the SP+minor space could mean that one less of these denial cards will be played in the next round.

Thanks for the rules and I'll add some of the expansions next time around!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
SoloPlayGames
United States
Ohio
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
nessi wrote:
I've got some questions about some cards:
* I interpreted your rules as allowing to SoloPlay with all cards except what you noted (so in particular, most 4+ cards remain available). What about cards like Head of the Family etc? Since there are no other players these cards are useless, so I removed them as well.
Answer: The use of some of the cards like Head of the Family could be used but in remote instances which is why I did not remove them. I would leave any cards of a limited nature's removal up to the players.
nessi wrote:
* Sheperd (Occ): if at least 4 sheep, gain 2 (instead of 1) during the harvest; with the resource cards in play, should this be interpreted as 'gain an extra one'?
Answer: Yes. Gain 1 extra sheep.
nessi wrote:
* Estate Manager (Occ): which plus score is taken (as it is only given for 3,4,5 players and varies)?
Answer: 3 points, this was an oversight. Thanks for catching that.
nessi wrote:
There are two things I noted which are quite different about the play compared to multiplayer:
Minor Improvements are less likely to get played: in the multiplayer game every now and then one will take the SP+Minor Improvement space, but in the SoloPlay version the starting player advantage vanishes and usually minors are not good enough on their own to 'waste' an action.
There is no 'rush' to certain actions. For example, one can leave plowing until very late in the game because even if you only start in round 12, it is possible to get 5 fields as no other player can interfere. Similarly, one can leave point scoring occs until the last round or pick up the wood before FG or build another room before FG. Have you tried any mechanism to build this rush into the SoloPlay rules, but it didn't work in playtesting? I could imagine a deck of 'denial cards' which simulate certain spaces as 'taken'. Then taking the SP+minor space could mean that one less of these denial cards will be played in the next round.
Comments:Kind of a group answer here. The only function that was a concern was plowing but since the resources are restricted to the degree that it is and the goal is as high as it is, it seemed that the options were balanced during playtesting.

I agree that minors are a played a bit different but I found that the timing and importance of playing a minor with family growth or renovation was increased. It was kind of an offset or maybe a concession.

I did consider having a "block" action and in the computer version of the solo variant I am implementing something like it based on the position of the board. A computer can handle this much more easily. The turn of a card seemed kind of random and I felt that with the resource cards I was already kind of pushing the envelop.

All in all, I felt that the intensity is there just in different amounts. On the most challenging level I do not get the highest level victory on the 1st try normally. Whether it is my play style that is holding me back, I can't tell. Replaying the game with the scoring penalty really makes me think about how I can sequence the actions better. Sometimes I plow early and other times late. This is dependent on the available majors and how the resources are coming out.

Let me know how you make out and if the challenge is there for you.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rolf
United Kingdom
Unspecified
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
Thanks for the quick reply.

GameRulesforOne wrote:
nessi wrote:
I've got some questions about some cards:
* I interpreted your rules as allowing to SoloPlay with all cards except what you noted (so in particular, most 4+ cards remain available). What about cards like Head of the Family etc? Since there are no other players these cards are useless, so I removed them as well.
Answer: The use of some of the cards like Head of the Family could be used but in remote instances which is why I did not remove them. I would leave any cards of a limited nature's removal up to the players.
I don't see how this could be used. It is explicitly 'take this action even if some other player has already taken it' and does not allow you to take the action twice. So please enlighten me.

GameRulesforOne wrote:

Comments:Kind of a group answer here. The only function that was a concern was plowing but since the resources are restricted to the degree that it is and the goal is as high as it is, it seemed that the options were balanced during playtesting.

I agree that minors are a played a bit different but I found that the timing and importance of playing a minor with family growth or renovation was increased. It was kind of an offset or maybe a concession.
I just noted that it changes the value of some of the cards significantly. E.g. the axe becomes very hard to use properly. On the one hand it requires stone and secondly one can not really play it efficiently until the first family growth so that it will only be used for one or two rooms (instead of all three). To capture the spirit of multiplayer, maybe one should change the Day Laborer to 1f+1 arbitrary resource?

GameRulesforOne wrote:

I did consider having a "block" action and in the computer version of the solo variant I am implementing something like it based on the position of the board. A computer can handle this much more easily. The turn of a card seemed kind of random and I felt that with the resource cards I was already kind of pushing the envelop.
I am be looking forward for the computer version, should you decide to release it.
I thought cards along the lines:

Order of preferences:
1. Wood (if at least than 6 available)
2. FG (if player has at least 3 family members)
3. Fishing (if player needs more than 2 food and fishing space has at least 3 food)
...

with the order and number varying. The cards would be specific to the rounds, i.e. rounds 1-4, round 5-8, ... would have different card options (and different number of cards drawn per round).
Yes, it would increase the fiddlyness and would probably be quite hard to 'get right'. I was just wondering whether you had already tried anything along those lines.

GameRulesforOne wrote:

All in all, I felt that the intensity is there just in different amounts. On the most challenging level I do not get the highest level victory on the 1st try normally. Whether it is my play style that is holding me back, I can't tell. Replaying the game with the scoring penalty really makes me think about how I can sequence the actions better. Sometimes I plow early and other times late. This is dependent on the available majors and how the resources are coming out.

Let me know how you make out and if the challenge is there for you.
I have so far only tried the easiest option (yesterday evening for the 3rd time) and always got a major victory with some points to spare. I'll up the difficulty the next times I'll play.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
SoloPlayGames
United States
Ohio
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
nessi wrote:
I've got some questions about some cards:
* I interpreted your rules as allowing to SoloPlay with all cards except what you noted (so in particular, most 4+ cards remain available). What about cards like Head of the Family etc? Since there are no other players these cards are useless, so I removed them as well.

gamerulesforone wrote:
Answer: The use of some of the cards like Head of the Family could be used but in remote instances which is why I did not remove them. I would leave any cards of a limited nature's removal up to the players.

nessi wrote:
I don't see how this could be used. It is explicitly 'take this action even if some other player has already taken it' and does not allow you to take the action twice. So please enlighten me.
Answer: I understand the "other" player reference and remember reveiwing the card. I thought that there may be a time when the player might want to take family growth twice in the same round. Albeit rare and against the direction of the card but since I was going to use some other cards that refer to other player's results (most animals, improvements, etc). So the "other" player is yourself. I have never chosen to use the card but left it because it was not totally worthless but almost. My apologies for not explicitly(even hinting at) relating my intentions for that card.

nessi wrote:
I just noted that it changes the value of some of the cards significantly. E.g. the axe becomes very hard to use properly. On the one hand it requires stone and secondly one can not really play it efficiently until the first family growth so that it will only be used for one or two rooms (instead of all three). To capture the spirit of multiplayer, maybe one should change the Day Laborer to 1f+1 arbitrary resource?
Comment: Or one could argue that the start player for the solo variant should be play a minor and get something (food, resource). What I found with the play testing is that I learned to value the minors better. I would still use the axe but only if it was the best option. When I play multi-player I will probably use it every time like many other "cherry" minors. I understand where you are coming from but I did not see a need to alter the start player. I would still use it but only if I had to guarantee a result by a certain round. Building 3 rooms at once ... how many times does that happen in a multi-player game?

nessi wrote:
I thought cards along the lines:
Order of preferences:1. Wood (if at least than 6 available)2. FG (if player has at least 3 family members)3. Fishing (if player needs more than 2 food and fishing space has at least 3 food)...
with the order and number varying. The cards would be specific to the rounds, i.e. rounds 1-4, round 5-8, ... would have different card options (and different number of cards drawn per round).
Yes, it would increase the fiddlyness and would probably be quite hard to 'get right'. I was just wondering whether you had already tried anything along those lines.
Comment: I did but it was removed later in the development as being too random. I hit a point in the development where I needed to simplify and this is when it was cut. I instead focused on balancing the game options instead of trying to create a game AI.

nessi wrote:
I have so far only tried the easiest option (yesterday evening for the 3rd time) and always got a major victory with some points to spare. I'll up the difficulty the next times I'll play.
Comment: I only play on the most difficult level and with the rocky ground tiles now. The lower levels of play were meant more for introduction to the style of play. Some have commented on past designs that I was making the variants to challenging for an average player. This was especially true for the lighter games.

I appreciate your comments and questions.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ava Jarvis
United States
Bainbridge Island
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I wrote up a session using what I consider the best of the expansions, #7, here: The Not-That-Vegan Farm: A Foray into SoloPlay's Expansion #7
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Peter Hansen
Denmark
København
Denmark
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Question for Expansion 7
When playing round say 1, will I be able to see the resource card for round two. The rules seems to suggest this: blind shuffle, place FACE UP, move first resource card under first action card.

Just want to be clear on this, as it has a huge impact on game play, if you are able to manipulate resources for the next round.

Thanks.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
SoloPlayGames
United States
Ohio
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Catote wrote:
Question for Expansion 7
When playing round say 1, will I be able to see the resource card for round two. The rules seems to suggest this: blind shuffle, place FACE UP, move first resource card under first action card.

Just want to be clear on this, as it has a huge impact on game play, if you are able to manipulate resources for the next round.

Thanks.
Yes, you can always see the next round's resource effect. Since the resource amount changes it would not be right to leave it to random chance.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sarah

Kaysville
Utah
msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Can the SoloPlay resource cards can be used with Farmers of the Moor expansion when playing solo? Has anyone tried it? How should I adapt the rules?

The biggest dilemma is that the Special Action cards are different depending on how many people are in the game. Since most/all of the "solo rules" are ignored when using resource cards, do we ignore this one too? But if we do, then how do we resolve the dilemma of what Special Action cards/rules to use?

Again, thank you for these resource cards for Agricola. They are awesome.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
SoloPlayGames
United States
Ohio
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
rainbowflight wrote:
Can the SoloPlay resource cards can be used with Farmers of the Moor expansion when playing solo? Has anyone tried it? How should I adapt the rules?

The biggest dilemma is that the Special Action cards are different depending on how many people are in the game. Since most/all of the "solo rules" are ignored when using resource cards, do we ignore this one too? But if we do, then how do we resolve the dilemma of what Special Action cards/rules to use?

Again, thank you for these resource cards for Agricola. They are awesome.
I use the Farmers of the Moor expansion with the resource cards. I throw in the rocky ground tiles as well (glutton for punishment and all). Any reference to the traveling players space means "fishing". I don't remember if I made any other adaptations.

It is definitely more challenging ... and enjoyable.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls