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Normally, in Agricola, it would be crazy not to spend food on feeding your family - at a cost of 3 VPs per, it is difficult to imagine any situation where a food token could be worth more in the future than sparing you a Begging card now.

However, here's the corner case I'm currently in. I have in my hand the Mendicant Occupation. It seems quite likely that I'll go into the first Harvest with only 3 food tokens. Is it acceptable for me to feed my Family with only 2 of the Food, taking 2 Begging cards (both of which I plan to ditch to the Mendicant later on), and saving 1 Food for the purposes of paying for a second Occupation in Round 5?

I'm pretty sure you can't be forced to convert resources into food to feed your family if you don't want to, but it seems to me that the rules are slightly less clear on whether food must be eaten if you have it. (I'm playing this game online, so it will be interesting to see if the option to not eat food is even given by the program...)

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

I'm certain you always have the option to beg if you want to. The rules (p.4) say:

A player who cannot or does not wish to produce the required Food must take a Begging card for each missing Food - players may not give up members of their family to avoid the need to feed them. At the end of the game, players lose 3 points for each begging card.

So your question is really asking what the meaning of "produce" is here. I don't see any evidence that it should mean produce in the sense of "conversion" rather than "hand in the food". Giving the player the choice ("does not wish") would be pretty narrow if you have to hand in food just because it happens to be stored as food tokens (as opposed to, say, raw grain). If you were really trying to utilise the Mendicant under such a rule, you could imagine all sorts of silly shenanigans to try and avoid fish, but keeping grain etc. which are against the flavour of the card.

As you point out, choosing to beg is almost always a terrible idea, but the Mendicant is definitely one place where this is a valid strategy. Even with the discard of two begging cards, the Mendicant is still pretty marginal - although it gives you flexibility, it's only a two food swing (or one food if it's not your first occupation!), after all. The other would be if you felt grabbing starting player or something was so crucial to your strategy that it would compensate for the loss (for example, in turn 13, if it was essential that you renovate a large house before the end of the game).

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Good point - I hadn't considered the possibility of "produce" meaning simply "hand over", but that's certainly a reasonable enough interpretation. As ever with Agricola, I wonder what the original German text is... Looking forward to seeing what happens come the harvest in my online game! –  thesunneversets Feb 2 '12 at 16:13
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