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I've played Agricola a couple of times and really like the game. But I have a problem: getting a good enough food engine going so I don't have to concern myself with taking too many important actions getting food, and not other really beneficial things. Any advice?

(Sorry if that was too weirdly worded)

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

There are a number of options, but if you've only played a couple of times then a Fireplace + sheep is the way to go.

Sheep are worth two food each, so a pile of sheep is a valuable commodity. If you can keep them in pastures long enough to breed (i.e. without eating them first), then they're a valuable investment, providing you with two action-free food every harvest. Two key points to remember about eating animals:

  1. You need a Fireplace or Cooking Hearth (you can't eat raw animals!)
  2. You may take all animals on a space and cook them immediately, even if you don't have space to keep them on your farm.

The second point is crucial. If your opponent is able to pick up a Fireplace, then you must always be alert to the possibility that he could take all of a given animal, and just convert the lot into food. Of course, you can do the same.

Once you've played a few more games, you'll realise that setting up your food engine correctly every time is much more subtle than this. There are several key food sources, and how you put them together depends to some extent on your Occupations/Minor Improvements, and on what your opponent(s) go for. You can

  • Eat animals
  • Bake bread
  • Eat vegetables
  • Pick up food from Fishing or other food accumulator spaces
  • Buy one or more specialist Major Improvements (Basketmaker's Workshop/Joinery/Pottery), and eat resources
  • Use food-based Occupations or Minor Improvements (if you have them)

Your overall strategy for the game, coupled with how your opponents play, will drive your choice of food engine. There are far too many permutations to discuss them in detail here, but for example if you have Occupations/Minors that aid with plowing, sowing or baking, then bread could be a solid food source. If you can get wood quickly, or if sheep come out early, then animals might be preferred. If you can get to a Cooking Hearth, or if you have a Schnapps Distiller, or a way of getting vegetables very early, then vegetables can be a great food solution. On the other hand, if your opponents take the Ovens before you, then baking may become too inefficient, and you'll have to switch to something else. It all depends.

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thank you for your answer – Ender Wiggin Jan 1 '14 at 19:11

There are two main food engines: bread and animals.

For bread you need clay and stone to get an oven, and plow a couple of fields with grain.

For animals you need to build some wood to build fences and/or stables and clay for a fireplace or cooking heart and a couple of sheep/wild boar.

Which is easier depends on the context. Usually corn requires less actions to set up, but you need to get at least a bake action between each harvest. With animals you can have a food engine that gives you 9 food every harvest without taking any action (1 sheep + 1 wild boar + 1 cattle), but it is more expensive.

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Also notice that this is without taking Occupations and Minor Improvements into account, which may create a wide range of options. – seppo0010 Jan 1 '14 at 6:15

There are three main ways to get food in Agricola.

1. Bake Bread/Sow Fields - This is the strategy I've found the most effective.

In stage one you should plow, take grain and sow for at least one field. If you can sow two that would be a big bonus (remember you can save a turn if you sow both grains in the same action).

Assuming you only plowed one field in stage one, in stage two you now want to plow another field, and sow it with the harvested grain. You'll now be producing at least two grain per stage.

Grab either the stone, or the clay oven. The stone oven is probably better, but it doesn't really matter, and it's more dependent on what resources you have/can get. Remember you can bake bread when you first buy the oven.

From now on, when ever you sow one of your empty fields, you can also bake bread which will probably be enough to feed for your family for that stage.

2. Eat animals

Grab the fireplace or the cooking hearth. Build pastures, and grab the animals before the other players do, (though of course, if you can let them build up before the other players grab them, do so).

Remember you can cook the animals even if you don't have space in your pastures, so long as you have a fireplace/cooking hearth.

This strategy I've notice tends to be favoured by new players, but I don't think it's particularly good. The animals don't grow as quickly as grain, and they are only produced build up on one action space per animal. In games with more players this might be a better action when you can take a boar/cow from supply.

3. Collect food from fishing/travelling player/store house. This strategy shouldn't be underestimated!

In the family friendly version the 'starting player' action has storehouse (+1 food/turn), and traveling player at more players (+1 food turn). If these are at 4+ food, that's just as good as baking bread, without having to have taken all the plowing/sowing/build improvement actions in between.

For example if you take the fishing at the end of stage one for four food, that tides you over with enough food for harvest two. During stage two while everyone else is running around buying cooking hearths/ovens etc, and you can grab the wood or whatever.

Bonus: Taking the joinery/pottery/basketmakers workshop can be a helpful bonus to your food, though not a strategy in itself. At two food per harvest, if you have a big stash of one of those resources lying around.

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