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?)

  • IMO you're not going to learn the game at all if you have a handicap. Remove the handicap and you're back to having no clue.
    – djechlin
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 7:52

10 Answers 10


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.



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.


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.


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).

  • That's just skipping the only involved part of the game though.
    – djechlin
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 7:52

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


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.


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!


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.


I suggest the stronger player secretly applies a handicapping rule to themselves.

The problem with some of the other handicaps (especially the simple victory points handicap) is that it's not a particularly satisfying victory for the weaker player, and can feel patronising.

I suggest rules like:

  • Never take sheep.
  • Never take 'Starting player' action.
  • Don't ploy, sow, or take grain until stage 2.
  • Never take food. (If taking it for the starting player in the family friendly version, or for day labour, never use that food).
  • Don't take 'Family growth' until three rounds after it comes out.

The player who is handicapping themself shouldn't announce what their personal handicap is. This prevents the weaker player from banking on the whatever the strategy is. (For example, if they know that the stronger player isn't going to take sheep, they could let the sheep build up, knowing that it's not going to be taken).

The advantage of this handicapping mechanism is it remains a fun challenge for the stronger player. It also can provide insight into alternative strategies. For example when I played a game where I opted not to take sheep, I ended up not taking any animals at all, and I found that it wasn't as bad as I thought (I tied for first place).


I just came across this thread. I’m shocked that no one suggested the most straightforward handicap, which I’ve used in many of my games: just start the weaker player(s) with more stuff!

For an experienced player vs. a new player, I recommend:

  • One pasture (single fenced in square)
  • One field
  • One of each non-wood resource (including grain and veggie)
  • 4 wood
  • 4 extra food

Give enough so that the weaker player wins. Let them win a game for once! :) Then, start ratcheting down the bonuses at the beginning of the game until it’s balanced.

I strongly disagree with the note above that someone posted re: not learning if you handicap. Starting with extra resources helps players learn what they need to setup their engine. That’s why I recommend both a pasture (for an animal strategy), field + grain/veggie to setup a sowing strategy, and wood+reed for family growth. The player still needs to figure out which strategy to use.

Also, I strongly support balancing the game to make it fun for everyone. There’s no shame in acknowledging a difference in skill. What matters is that everyone has fun, and that the game is balanced for those players.

When my dad first taught me ping pong, he played left handed on his knees. Eventually he switched to his right hand, and eventually stood up. But I doubt I would have enjoyed learning or playing the game with him if he tried his best without a handicap from the beginning. That’s just stupid and unfun. So handicap away! :)


Change starting food, giving more food to the inexperienced player and/or less to the experienced player.

Even a difference of a few food can make a big difference in the early game as it's very hard to get a mature production engine going in to the first harvest (buying the clay oven is one of the strongest you can do and it still takes a lot of work to set up). Giving a new player 4 food means they don't have to worry about food during the first harvest, which may give them a full extra action before then. Meanwhile, having an experienced player start with 0 or 1 food means that they need to find a lot of food, which could cost them a whole extra action. Early game actions can have big downstream consequences.


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..


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .