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In Agricola, Occupations cards are each marked with 1+, 3+ or 4+, indicating the number of players for which they are valid. For example, you cannot be dealt a 3+ or 4+ card in a two-player game. With a few exceptions (such as those that refer to the "Travelling players" space) the 3+/4+ cards would be playable, and potentially useful, in any game, but presumably they are restricted for purposes of balance.

Why do the Minor Improvements not follow the same system? There are a number of cards where their behaviour changes directly in response to number of players, especially in the I deck (e.g. Slaughter-house, Milking shed, Punner). Others don't directly refer to other players but still change in their utility, for example because of different availability of certain actions (e.g. Bake bread; see also here).

Intuitively, in designing the game I feel it would have made sense to have the same system for both Minor Improvements and Occupations: either decide that both should be available in all games, and accept that some will be more useful than others for a given number of players, or categorise them both in order to fine-tune the balance.

Is there any reason that they follow two different systems?

  • Yikes, that is a good question. I've been looking at the cards for a while and trying to think about them abstractly, but not coming up with anything at the moment. My first thought was that most of the Minor Improvements deal with directly gaining resources while the Occupations kind of change play style, but that doesn't seem to hold true in all cases. – Jeff.Clark Apr 20 '16 at 7:01
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The purpose of the marking is to help the players to remove the cards from the deck before playing which do not fit the player count.

Specifically, many of the occupations refer to spaces on the board that are not present in lower player counts, such as "Travelling Players", which is only present with 4 or more players, and thus all of its associated occupations are only relevant with 4 or more players. The Occupation cards are marked based on number of players so that you can remove the ones that are not valid for your player count.

However, Minor Improvements are valid at all player counts, so you do not need to go through and remove any of them.

Uwe Rosenberg could have designed the Minor Improvements such that you removed some of them at lower player counts (in which case those would be marked), but he did not choose to do so.

  • This seems kind of circular. They're not marked, so they have to be valid in terms of rules (or the game would be broken), and from that you conclude they don't need to marked. And sure, they're valid, they make sense within the rules. But they don't seem to be balanced exactly the same for all numbers of players, so it'd be sane to limit them. Conversely, many of the occupations restricted to higher numbers of players would work as written, so they're clearly restricted for balance/gameplay reasons. – Cascabel Jun 9 '16 at 23:37
  • Or if you meant to be saying that the minor improvements make perfect sense for gameplay at all numbers of players, while the occupations don't... well, the question is why. – Cascabel Jun 9 '16 at 23:40
  • I tried to clarify my answer. The main reason why some occupations do not make sense for all player counts is that they activate based on spaces on the board that do not exist in those player counts. This does not happen with Minor Improvements. – Hal Jun 10 '16 at 0:05
  • Hm, that's true of some occupations, but there are a ton of more-players-only ones that do not depend on spaces on the board. You can read through a list here - just from a quick glance, the first three all are marked for player number, and don't use anything that isn't always there. As the OP pointed out, it seems to be more about things that work better or differently with more players, and that is true of many minor improvements as well. Maybe it's more common in occupations, though? – Cascabel Jun 10 '16 at 0:45
  • Its true for more occupations. But maybe the answer is just "Because thats the was Uwe Rosenberg designed it" – Hal Jun 10 '16 at 1:13

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