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There's quite a few Occupations in Agricola that elicit a traumatized shudder from hardened Agricola players. I'm thinking of cards like the Taster, which basically allows one player to be in a position BETTER than being starting player during any round of the game, for the low low cost of 1 food per round. I've heard that a lot of groups have physically removed the Taster from their set, rather than have to deal with the imbalance it creates.

Having said that, I've had very tight games both playing and playing against the Taster, and I completely crushed an inexperienced player who laid an early Taster in a 5-player game a few days ago, so I'm not TOO worried about "busted" cards. Even so...

Have any cards been played in one of your Agricola games that seemed to tip the balance too far in favour of one player, too quickly? In our group, we groan when we see the Field Watchman (such a no-brainer) and the Wet Nurse; cards whose value is just a little bit too transparent. What about your group?

Also, Minor Improvements tend to be a little bit better balanced on the whole (coming with costs and limitations as they do), but I'm sure some of them are a LOT better than others. Any suggestions? I'm never disappointed to have a plough of some kind among my opening seven...

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It is worth noting that the Ratcatcher wasn't banned from Play Agricola because of the brokenness rather they felt it was too aggressive and direct conflict card (not that it can be very powerful). Taster (I apologize it's not the original comment about the fix) was officially rebalanced at two food per use. I don't know how this affects its standings but it must have some effect. – bjwells Oct 24 '12 at 15:05
I'm playing an online game right now on an iPad and I just played the Ratcatcher. I don't really see how it isn't broken - it costs one action to effectively take 2 actions away from every other player. That's an astonishing swing in your favour for an unbelievably small amount of effort, IMO - there isn't even any competition for Occupation spaces by the time you want to play the Ratcatcher... – thesunneversets Feb 11 '14 at 18:35

4 Answers 4

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Field Watchman, Head of the Family, and Braggart.

In statistics gathered from about 2000 games that used drafting, these occupations were picked on average earliest by the player who won the game. See this forum post for the full details, and a list of the first chosen minor improvements too.

Edit: It turns out that several occupations are not included in these results as they were voted too overpowered by the game participants. These are:

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Ooh yeah, the Braggart. Pretty much balanced in the basic game, completely ludicrous in Farmers of the Moor, after the number of available Major Improvements rises from 10 to 24! – thesunneversets Nov 18 '10 at 17:34
I've looked over those statistics and notice that most of the Occupations I think of as most busted (e.g. the Taster, which does everything Head of the Family does and more, albeit at a nominal cost) are not even on the list! What's the story here? Are some of the Occupations not used in these drafts? – thesunneversets Nov 18 '10 at 22:28
We include both Taster and Wet Nurse, but with a modified cost of 2f for the Taster, and 2f per newborn for the Wet Nurse. That way, both are still good to have, but nowhere near OP. In turn, it's very easy to rely on the Braggart to win, even in the basic game. In FotM, you've got to ban not only the Braggart, but also the Stonecutter‌​. – laszlok Jul 30 '14 at 11:21
  1. Ratcatcher ... just too powerful.
  2. Taster ... changes the basic mechanic of the game, puts the people in 4 or 5 turn order in a really bad spot.
  3. Mail Coach Driver ... messes with people as much as the Taster! Everyone will have to modify their strategy accordingly.

I guess the cards "I" think are broken are the ones that change the game FOR EVERYONE, not holder of the card. The Lover and Wet Nurse are good, but I can get a good card of my own and still compete.

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I think that's an interesting metric for deciding if a card is "inappropriate" - Agricola is superficially a game of "just doing your own thing", so the very rare cards that directly impede other players from doing their thing seem excessively brutal and out-of-place. On the other hand, there's an argument that attacking all the other players paints a big target on your head in a way that a "normal" powerful Occupation doesn't... I can understand less competitive playgroups really despising the cards you've listed though, +1. – thesunneversets Jan 31 '12 at 10:21

Without any exposure to game forums or outside advice, our play group outright banned Taster, Chamberlain, and Maypole after playing dozens of games with various combinations of the EIKZ decks. Taster and Chamberlain were clearly overpowered - the latter being an almost guaranteed win. Maypole led to poor sportsmanship, where opponents would intentionally bump the table to knock over the upright wooden fence piece "pole." Ratcatcher and Lover are frowned upon, but we allow them.

We probably should ban Braggart in Moors, as it often results in blowouts.

Best regards

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All sensible moves. I've beaten the Chamberlain and the Taster quite a few times. I don't think I could beat a player at or near my skill level with the Chamberlain or Taster, though. – thesunneversets Jun 23 '12 at 11:48
Our group is quite diverse in skill, as well. The deathknell for Chamberlain rang out when our least experienced player used it in a game and won handily. She was as surprised as the rest of us, as her board up until the last few turns had not been great. Thank you for your response. – Jonathan Jul 7 '12 at 2:06
Well, basically, the Chamberlain removes any constraints on your ability to develop your position in the late game, doesn't he? I'm always a bit offended by Occupations that are amazing even if you don't play them early - having to fight for the Occupation square is part of what keeps the stronger one balanced. It seems absurd that the Chief comes with an extra cost to balance out his potential for a final-turn points swing (both extra food and the possibility that somebody else will have the Chief's Daughter!) but no one thought to curb the Chamberlain's power... – thesunneversets Jul 7 '12 at 17:51
With maypole, if someone else knocks it over, don't you automatically get the points (as 'the player' did not knock it over) – Chris Dodd Oct 25 '12 at 0:19

This is the list of card I've came across as being banned:

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