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Recently I have been trying more and more types of cards and play styles to simply see what works and work doesn't, and it has me wondering...

Has it been found that a more balanced play style works better than an all-in-themed play style, or vise versa?

For instance, if one is able to snag the flagon and a couple other cards that revolve around the well/village well, should the person use the 2 or 3 occupation moves and a couple of improvement turns to make the well a super power move? Or perhaps is it good to only do maybe 3 turns to enhance and get the well, not going overboard, leaving room to play a couple cards for animals,grain, etc...?

Or, does it really come down to the "chaos management" part of the game--meaning it flat out depends on what other people do?

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    Just as a quick point, doing anything in a score category is effectively worth 2 points, since you jump from -1 to 1. This is often a lot more than getting 1 extra point, so it's often worth at least touching on an all-round strategy. – Samthere Aug 2 '16 at 11:11
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The short answer is: it depends. Agricola is quite a complex game and there are all sorts of variables at play that determine your strategy. You have already said that you are trying out various different strategies. Keep doing that, and see what works!

The longer answer:

What I've found from my own experience is that going for an all-out strategy too early (i.e. in stage 1) is counter-productive. Time spent playing those minor improvements early means that you miss out on gathering resources for a room, and so you are the last to grow your family, or that you fail to get a food engine set up, and later have to spend too many turns taking "fishing" or "day labourer". In addition to this, by neglecting the more conventional moves like taking wood, you leave nice juicy piles that your opponents can take (particularly in games with fewer players).

Stages 2-3 are often the time to get your nice combi-strategy going, once you have got established a bit. It's early enough that you will still reap the benefits, but (if you've done your preparation well) not so soon that you'll starve. It's also nice and efficient since you can play your major and minor improvements in combination with family growth or renovation. Here you can be fairly single minded, as long as you don't neglect growing your family. Family growth is massively powerful since it gets you extra actions and extra points.

Late in the game, it's time to diversify. The scoring system of Agricola is heavily biased towards having a balanced farm at the end of the game. As @Samthere mentions, the best marginal gains are to be found by making sure that you don't have any -1 points - if you are lacking, it's fairly easy to pick up a single sheep for an instant 2 point gain. Because of this, and the caps at 4 points for most categories, the winning farm is nearly always one that is a good all-rounder. However, there's nothing to stop you from employing a single-minded strategy earlier in the game, as long as you balance things up at the end.

A final note: depending on your mindset, the victory points may only be half the story. To me, coming up with a great synergy of cards is fun, even if it's not necessarily the absolute best strategy at the time.

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To sum up what has been said and what I think :

  • At the beginning of the game, it is not efficient to go through multiple elements, in order to set up your "economy" (food production for example) as soon as possible. The goal of that is to avoid spending too much on food on first harvests.

  • At the end of the game, it is very important to score points in all categories because of the -1/+1 score gap.

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