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Agricola solo series is all about your occupations. Often I have a great card that will help my current game, but I am always thinking about what is the long term significance of keeping it forever. I've found the biggest problem with solo series games is the lack of wood. Without a fence builder or extra wood card, you will never be able to build 15 fences and 4 stables (which you need to keep the max number of animals).

Ideally, these are the best categories of cards I've found so far:

  • Tutor (played first) - worth up to 6 bonus points
  • Lord of the Manor - worth up to 8 bonus points
  • Church Warden - worth 3 bonus points and gives 4 free wood to start the game
  • Merchant (critical to give opportunity to play as many improvements as possible)
  • Either Hedgekeeper, fence deliveryman, forester, or some other sort of extra wood, extra free fences, or free stables card
  • At least 1 card giving additional actions (like Adoptive Parents, which gives an extra 3 actions throughout the course of the game for the low cost of 3 food)
  • 1 card that provides either extra goods (like pieceworker) or extra plowed fields (like field watchman) or extra goods on your fields (like fieldsman). These cards save actions which I consider to be the most valuable currency in the game
  • Extra stone is very very helpful through stone carrier or similar
  • Extra clay is very helpful or a card that makes all clay improvements and rooms cheaper (like clay mixer, clay deliveryman, or bricklayer)

As you can see I'm listing 9 categories, and we only get 7 so you can't obviously do EVERYTHING and you may get improvements that take the place of these occupations from time to time.

Any thoughts?

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It sounds like you've thought this through pretty carefully already (in fact half of your question is really an answer). Is there something specific you want to know? As it stands this is hard to respond to. – ire_and_curses Feb 26 '14 at 19:36
    
To me this appears to be looking to begin a discussion instead of looking for an answer to a specific question, and so I do not believe it is appropriate for this site. – bengoesboom Feb 26 '14 at 21:04
    
@bengoesboom I think the title is a pretty clear question. It's a really tough question, and I'd be impressed if someone can answer it. The body of the question is more conversational, but does show that the OP has put a fair bit of effort into trying to answer it. – tttppp Feb 26 '14 at 22:53
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The question could probably be improved by replacing "Any thoughts?" at the end of the body, with "What set of occupations (and minor improvements) allows the highest score in a solo game?" – tttppp Feb 26 '14 at 22:56
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The perfect set is probably unknowable, given the difficulty of calculating the possible permutations. However, you could check out this thread for some ideas. boardgamegeek.com/thread/499457/… – Stephen Feb 27 '14 at 1:28

The way I like to play Agricola campaign mode is to pick 7 occupations and then play through sequentially. Each game I leave one more in play as permanent and leave the others in my hand in future games.

Probably my favorite seven to start with are:

  • Field Watchmen
  • Wet Nurse
  • Church Warden
  • Lord of the Manor
  • Manservant
  • Grocer
  • Pieceworker

I generally like them in this order (and leave them in descending order, too, so the first permanent one is Field Watchmen). First game get the Stone Oven for food production, doing double baking bread, by sowing 3 grain fields before the first harvest.

My first turns normally are something like:

  • Occupation (Field Watchman) / Take 1 Grain
  • Take 1 Grain / Day Laborer
  • Take 1 Grain / Sow
  • Clay (4) / Fishing (for 4 food)

At this point you've got 3 sown fields of grain, clay, and your next turns can look like:

  • Fireplace / Wet Nurse (with grain-->food)
  • Wood (12) / Reed (6)
  • Sheep to food (7x = 14 food) / build rooms (+2 people)

At this point you have some leftover food from the sheep still (only needed 8 that round) and are pretty setup. The rest is pretty straightforward.

Also, I normally setup the board slightly, forcing:

  • Sheep = round 1
  • Stone = round 5

The rest don't matter as much.

This combined with the above normally lets you get 65-70 points your first game, which then gives you 10+ food for your next starting game. Wet Nurse is critical in the campaign because once you get food supplies you can always add two rooms to your house on Turn 5.

Once you start getting significant quantities of food at beginning - which you will after your first game because it's pretty easy to have 15+ points over the game point values initially and you get 1 food for every 2 points over - the Pieceworker/Grocer become very useful and powerful, because you can buy extra resources earlier in the game (such as vegetables and stone).

After a few games of occupations, Manservant becomes very useful - it's easy to get a Stone House with 5+ turns remaining in the game after a few solo rounds so you get basically 15 food for this.

Generally, I like to also leave all the animals on the board until the last round (except I normally take sheep for food around turn 6/7, early enough when the food is helpful but also can let them replenish to 7 by the game end). Your first game this is often harder because you normally need to raid one of the animals for food and often can't swing the 4x Stable/3x pasture combination to give you space for all of them.

There are a lot of minor improvements that can make this strategy go on steroids too (like Axe, which means you can reliably add family members prior to the first harvest if you start with Church Warden and get the 4 immediate wood). Or Straw Thatched Roof which gives you three extra rooms with people pretty early with Church Warden, Wet Nurse, and Pieceworker.

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Just an anecdotal experience here too, first game of 69 followed by 87 (with only the 1 permanent occupation)... so since the score target was 55, I get (87-55)/2 = SIXTEEN food at the start of my third game. – enderland Jan 25 at 20:18
    
Also, there are strategies that can be ridiculously higher - but I don't find them as fun to play. YMMV but my goal is to have fun, but I rather play the game "as intended" instead of weird edge cases to rack up tons of points by having a 15 room stone house :) – enderland Feb 25 at 17:05

I think that stacking the deck in your favor to have the best possible outcome is in some sense, and I'm using this word ever-so-gently here, cheating. I think the fun part of the struggle is knowing that each season brings a mystery depending on the cards I have in my hand at any given time. Putting your cards in your hand so that you have an advantage against the flow of the game isn't fair to the game.

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Actually the rulebook discusses the option to choose your own cards. Solo player Agricola can be seen more as a puzzle to solve than a "game". From the rulebook: "Many Solo players enjoy choosing their own cards – even determining the order of the Round cards. You can also try the following three “contests”: restrict your Occupation and Improvement cards to only one of Deck E, I or K." – GendoIkari Jun 9 '15 at 20:28
    
Wow! How have I missed this? Very cool. I may have to experiment then. – Andy Wong Jun 9 '15 at 20:32

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