Thoughts on Agricola as a solo game

I was going to write a fairly condensed session-report-ish-type thing on a solo series of Agricola using the E and K decks (indeed, I have a draft of that post knocking around in the system here), but it got to the point where there was simply no challenge to the series. I could have gone on for probably twenty games in total before the target scores caught up with my farms. This sort of thing had started happening:

Agricola 14 food

Yes, that’s 14 Food left on the Fishing space at the end of the game – not once in the whole game did I deem it worthwhile to use an action to take that Food. That happened in two consecutive games.

I think once you realise there’s exactly 28 Wood available (2 Wood per round for 14 rounds), which is exactly enough to build 1 Wooden Hut room, 4 Stables and 15 Fences, that guides you down a certain path. Yes, there are Occupations and Improvements that might take you down a different route, but I just found myself in a routine of Plough*, Grain, Plough, Grain, Sow, Occupation (assuming I had spare Food from the previous game in the series), Fishing, whatever… and then the first Harvest. Of course, with an Occupation like Seasonal Worker (take a bonus Grain when using Day Labourer*, or a Vegetable from round 6), getting that Grain becomes a little easier.

So you’ve realised you’ve got enough Wood for one room. Then you Renovate to Clay at three rooms and build up to four rooms. Four rooms leaves enough space for five Fields and four Pastures (2 single-space, 2 double-space), each with a Stable, giving maximum points for Fields, Pastures and fenced Stables.

And then you realise that as long as you can get a Stone Oven by the third Harvest, you’re sorted for Food, so you can just go for a heavy baking strategy. And then you realise that means you don’t need any animals on your farm until the very last round, so you can always max out on points for each animal… oh, unless Cattle don’t come out until round 11, in which case you need to take 2 or 3 Cattle in round 12 or 13 so you can breed them once and then also take them in round 14 for a total of 6 Cattle and thus 4 points.

And then you find yourself with a whole different challenge: “How many of these Improvements and Occupations will get me points at the end of the game?” But by the time you get past the third or fourth game in the series, you’ve only got a small number of new Occupations to play each time and the Improvements are generally fairly weak for points and won’t change things much.

Yes, there are exceptions. With a combination like Master Builder and Mansion, it might make more sense to go for a much bigger Stone house and maybe sacrifice a Field or two… but those are just variations on the general theme. I’m pretty much always going to end up with a farm that looks like this:

83 points. EIGHTY-THREE.

83 points. EIGHTY-THREE.

A lot of these thoughts come via the iOS Agricola app, which enables you to rattle through a solo game and series much quicker than the print version (although as I’ve said previously, I much, much prefer the print version). I’ve played quite a few solo series with quite a few different combinations of Occupations and Minor Improvements, and they’ve all ended up pretty samey.

So what? Well, I suppose the Agricola solo series has lost its charm a bit. Maybe some different decks might spice things up a bit (I only have the base E, I and K decks), or maybe I should add in my underplayed copy of Farmers of the Moor, but as it stands it’s just trundle–trundle–trundle–do–some–maths–HUGE–SCORE.

Any spicing ideas gratefully received.

Maybe I should just play it with other people a bit more, eh?

* I know, I know. It should be Plow, Day Laborer, etc. if I’m to quote the names correctly. I’m British and it just doesn’t come naturally.

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