November 06, 2008

Participants: Jon, Avraham, Gili, David K

New shipment of games arrived, so we played the most anticipated one.

Agricola

David 42, Jon 41, Avraham 34, Gili 23

This is my second play and the first play for everyone else. I spent some time reviewing the rules. A few minor rules I learned during my first play turned out to be incorrect. During the game, we also found a rule change here or there, and occasionally I would describe a rule only to be misunderstood. Most of these occasions were not too significant. At least, the mistakes we all made were more significant.

Everyone loved the game, which I suspected. David especially.

Everyone, including me, thought I was doing ok, but in the end I still lost to David by one point. Sucks. Here is the scoring breakdown:

Item Jon Avraham David Gili Comments
Fields 2 4 2 1 Avraham was the field and pasture king. I built an early field, but did nothing with it until the end of the game.
Pastures 2 3 1 2 Avraham used all of his fence posts.
Grains 1 1 3 -1 David did a late plowing.
Vegetables 1 2 1 -1 I spent rounds 12 and 13 getting one of everything. See below for commentary on that.
Sheep 1 3 1 -1 Gili missed a lot of basics, as you can see.
Board 1 1 3 -1
Cattle 1 3 -1 2
Unused Space -1 -1 -1 -6 I got caught with a lot of this in my first game, and was lucky enough not to do so this game. Gili wasn’t, as you can see.
Hut 10 2 8 6 I had a full house of stone. Avraham never had more than two rooms, even though he got two extra people at the end of the game who didn’t need rooms.
Family 15 12 15 9 I considered getting people to be my prime mission. See below.
Bonus 8 4 10 13 I got three from a bonus card that rewarded you for having 5 people at the end; David also got the bonus. My five were from some improvements. Most of mine sucked. Avraham was the occupation king, which were nice and all, but obviously to the detriment of getting any actual farmwork done, other than plowing and fencing. David got more major improvements than I did. And Gili played a slew of minor improvements, all supporting each other, but nothing else came together for her.

My primary strategy was to ensure that I had 5 working family members, which did fairly well. David realized the same thing and was only slightly behind me in building a family. I think failing to do this will hurt you significantly.

My major complaint about the game last time was the end-game where you spend two to three rounds simply acquiring one of everything, since everything you don’t have one of is a two point differential. The idea of a balanced board is not bad, but the idea of balanced end-holdings doesn’t work quite the same. It’s not like you score whatever you have the least of. You simply need one of everything. That makes the last few rounds of the game somewhat dull and anti-thematic.

After my first game, I realized that I would have to play many more games to see how this really worked out. My inclination was to simply drop the -1, thus making acquiring one more of something the same as acquiring the first of something. But that seemed like a hatchet job for what needed a scalpel. Furthermore, it might actually make things even more boring.

After this game, although the last few rounds were still a little dull in this way, I was still bothered by it, but somewhat less so. I knew a bit more about what I was doing, and I already knew that I would be doing it. But it also still seemed like a problem. I’m thinking that a possible solution would be to give a bonus for specialization. E.g. most vegetables = 2 points, most sheep = 2 points, etc. That way, you still have to balance, but you’re not forced to pick up one of everything, since you can also get the 2 point swing bonus from something you have a lot of.

I’ll play the game a few more times the regular way before trying it, though.

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