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One of my friends and I often play Agricola, and he's considerably better than me at it - I'm getting better, but he seems to be advancing at a faster rate, and it's getting to the point that although I like playing the game I'm finding it less fun to be constantly losing.

Are there any good ways of creating some custom/'house' rules to disadvantage him slightly, so that we're a little more even? I don't want to make it impossible for him to win, or to make it too easy for me.

(I know the purists out there will think this abhorrent, but hey, the goal is to have fun right?)

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7 Answers 7

The key to the game is using your card and actions as efficiently as possible. Find what strengths you have in terms of feeding your family and build off that. I find that I always win due to the fact that at the end of the game I have 5 stone huts and 5 children scoring 25 points in itself. Just use your cards at the right time and make sure your getting expansions early in the game. Remember that the more actions you have the more chance of filling your board up and getting a higher score! Anyways good luck to you..

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Welcome to B&CG! –  Pat Ludwig Oct 16 '12 at 15:55
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If I remember correctly, Agricola scores with victory points. You could simply give yourself a handicap. It may not make you feel much better but it would certainly give you a reachable goal.

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How about practicing and getting some revenge?

Steps for Revenge

  1. Visit play-agricola.com.
  2. Play a couple games solo to get the hang of the interface
  3. Advertise in the public chat channel that you are a beginner looking for a game
  4. Play five games or so

I'll bet you can now beat your friend.

It worked for me, and I wasn't even purposely trying to get better. By exposing yourself to different folks with different strategies, you will escalate your game play rapidly.

You can also learn by watching some games, those folks are really good over there!

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Thanks Pat, I'll be trying that too - to be honest I'm not a big fan of the play-agricola.com site's interface, but I'll try to get over it so I can start winning some games... –  John Jan 5 '11 at 4:34
    
@John - I agree that it isn't the best, but for a one man job in his spare time, he does ok. –  Pat Ludwig Jan 5 '11 at 6:09
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Forbid the strong player from taking the First Player action.

It's not terribly awkward to implement, and if you always get to choose the first action of the round you'll have a really significant advantage. In a multi-player game he could always play last regardless of the start player marker, but that's likely too much of a disadvantage.

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Thanks Matthew, I did wonder about this but also wondered how much it would screw up the game mechanics. Might just give it a try and see how it goes. Thanks! –  John Jan 5 '11 at 4:35
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Draft Occupations/Minor Improvements

The Family version of Agricola is a game of very low randomness. If one player is consistently beating another, then the second player will just have to step up their game, there isn't really any satisfactory way around that! Maybe I am a purist.

However! The full game, with the occupation and minor improvement cards, allows for games where one player is significantly advantaged over another: some cards, occupations especially, are just better than other cards.

So here's what I'd recommend, to give you a headstart on your opponent: deal two piles of 7 occupations, and then you pick the best one from BOTH piles. Your opponent picks one from each pile, then back to you, until you have seven each. Do the same for minor improvements. (If your opponent really is thrashing you, maybe even pick two at a time instead!)

When you have great cards and your opponent has mediocre ones, it will be much more of an uphill struggle for him to beat you. And now you are playing a game of Agricola that could have been created by the luck of the draw - you don't have to make a new game that's Agricola in name only, and the purists remain mostly unirked :D

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@John - if you do end up following this suggestion, make sure you are able to tell the most powerful Occupations from the chaff. This old question of mine: boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/1414/… may prove to be of some help! –  thesunneversets Jan 7 '11 at 1:36
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Play an open game

If your friend is willing, why not play a completely open game? All players show all of their cards and explain why they're taking each action. If your friend really is significantly better, you could learn a lot by discovering why he makes certain moves. Perhaps there's some critical flaw in your strategy that's preventing you from scoring enough points to be competitive.

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Thanks, we've tried this and although it's helpful, I think the problem is coming in with me trying to form a strategy based on my occupation and minor improvement cards, as well as on his actions. I'm definitely aiming to get better - it's just that I'd like to have fun in the meantime :) –  John Jan 5 '11 at 4:32
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Suggestion

I'd start you with one to three "traveling worker" tokens. Once per turn, when it's your turn to place a family member, you can place a traveling worker token instead of a member of your family (ie: You get to occupy and take an extra action.). The traveling worker goes away at the end of the turn you used it. You never have to feed your traveling worker tokens. Functionally, traveling workers are members of your family that you can use one time, and you never have to feed.

Why?

Each traveling worker gives you two distinct advantages: It gives you an extra action, and it (may) block an action that your friend could have taken.

Agricola is all about efficient use of actions (and selecting the right things to purchase (and getting good combos)). Traveling workers give you a little leeway.

Tweaking

Adjust the number of traveling workers you start the game with until the games feel "right". Given your description, I suspect that two traveling workers will do the trick.

If giving you traveling workers is so powerful that you win all the time, even with just one traveling worker, add a cost in food to using the traveling worker (like one resource unit).

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Thanks for the suggestion - will give it a try! –  John Jan 5 '11 at 4:31
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Interesting! Is this something you've tried before? –  warbaker Jan 10 '11 at 17:57
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@warbaker: Nope. It just came to me shortly after reading the original question. –  invisiblejon Jan 12 '11 at 0:07
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