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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
up vote 21 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
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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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I think the biggest mistake when card balance is discussed is people forget that playing an occupation costs 1 action + 1-2 food. With that in mind, a lot of the "broken" cards become reasonable.

Ratcatcher: You're giving up a stage 1 action + food so that everyone else loses 2 actions much later down the road. Earlier actions are more important so.......

Wet Nurse: You're using 2 actions 1 food to play the nurse and build a room as opposed to building a room and using the family growth space (which costs no food and lets you build a minor improvement). You have to build at least 2 rooms to come out ahead on this one. If you save up resources to build them in one go, the people who settle for building 1 room are getting that 3rd family member before you. If you build 1 room at a time that's an another action spent on rooms. Don't think this one is broken at all.

Chamberlain: The most overblown of the broken cards in my opinion. You get access to the later spots 2 rounds before everyone else. The only ones that really matter are Family Growth w/o room & Plow+Sow. Considering you're giving up a food/action for these and leaving them uncontested once they come up for everyone else, the card isn't so busted.

Mail Coach Driver: More annoying than overpowered. I'd put this in the same category as the Ratcatcher. Not broken, just a bummer for everyone to deal with.

The only card I'd truly call broken is the taster. The benefit is obscene for its negligible cost. I'll echo the other guy's opinion on why The Chief is given such a huge cost when much more powerful cards are cheaper.

Another that is situationally broken is the Braggart. Depending on the improvements you draw he's either worthless or an instant game winner. If a player gets the Braggart then drafts a bunch of free or cheap improvements, you might as well just call the game before the first turn.

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You are missing a HUGE benefit of Wet Nurse. Not only do you get a child without using an action on family growth; you can get a child earlier in the game, before family growth is even an option. So you will have 3 family members while everyone else has 2. – GendoIkari Dec 29 '15 at 13:56
    
How much earlier though? How many rounds are realistically between building your first room and family growth? If you rush to play the nurse and build that first room several rounds before family growth, you're going to be hurting for food and missing out on an early fireplace or hearth. Wet Nurse does provide a benefit, as it should. I just don't think it's broken. You have to look at the cost of playing an occupation plus what you're giving up to realistically fulfill it's conditions. Given that, I don't think the Wet Nurse is anywhere near the Taster or Braggart in terms of brokeness. – AgriMan Dec 30 '15 at 9:02

I can't believe nobody mentioned the axe. In 2 player it's balanced, 3 player gets pretty great, 4/5 player where you can get the needed stone + additional things on the first move it gets nuts! I think our group will ban it in 4/5 player games from now on. We just had a mini tournament and Axe ruled in every game it came up

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