Agricola can seem quite intimidating because farming should never be difficult, but the Middle Ages never made anything easy. The rules are already complicated to navigate due to the way all of its different components work together, most new players will spend time trying to figure out how to navigate its phases so that their families don’t starve to death. All in all, I would say it takes around 3 games for people to be able to even have a rudimentary understanding of how the game works before they can start thinking about the strategy of the game.
For this reason, I recommend that you have a few games of Agricola under your belt before you can use this guide to level up. Veterans should already know what to do and may want to check out my future post on occupations and minor upgrades that are best to play. But for newbies who understand the basic concept of bringing crops to the field and fencing animals, this is a good place to check out if you want to figure out how to increase your score. So here is your chance. Read on!
Agricola to do
1. Focus on growing your family to the exclusion of everything else:
All you do in the first two rounds should be getting that new family member ready. This means you grab some wood, grab some reed, and then make sure you can move on to the extension of the first piece before anyone can. Of course, everyone will be doing the same (unless you’re playing with new players), so you’ll have to use the first player’s space wisely if you want to be successful.
The reason why this should be your first priority at Agricola is that additional family members make your life easier by giving you the opportunity to enjoy more shares. This translates into the ability to grab more resources, more animals, and ultimately more ways to fill your board so you don’t end up with too many negatives because of unused space.
Now, expanding your family can be a trying experience because you will wonder if you have enough food to feed them. You shouldn’t have to worry because in the worst case scenario you either squat down to a day laborer to get free food or you have a kitchen utensil that helps you turn animals or vegetables into food. Ideally, you will also have occupations or minor upgrades to help you in the feeding phase as well.
2. Plan and build a primary food engine from the start:
I would say by round 2 or 3 you should already have a feel for what your food engine will be like with maybe a contingency plan or two in case someone else gets the better of you. The first place to make this decision is to examine any Occupation Cards and Minor Upgrade Cards you have. Will any of them offer a food bonus like a landing net or fishing rod? What if you had easy access to stone and reed or clay? Maybe go to the pottery or basketry workshop. If neither of your cards is helpful in this regard, it may be safe to take two clays so that you can be the first to get a chimney. It makes sheep a good way to feed your family.
3. Find a way to leverage your occupations and minor upgrades so that they synergize:
For new players, reading all of these occupations and minor upgrades can be a bummer. You might not understand what they do on a fundamental level and even though you can analyze the text you might not understand the implications of what the cards do as it relates to a very specific mechanic. But these cards will shape your strategy because they allow you to perform certain actions more effectively, giving you a pretty good competitive advantage. Take the opportunity to fight your way to victory!
4. Look to see what your opponents need and deny them the place if it doesn’t hurt you:
One of the key elements of Agricola’s worker placement mechanic means that you have the ability to prevent opponents from reaching their goals if you grab the right deed they desperately need. This requires you to pay attention to your opponent’s board to see what their abilities are and what action they might take next. Do they have 5 antlers and 2 reeds? It’s a clear sign that they’ll be adding a new room to their home soon enough. Did they acquire 3 stones and did they have 1 sticky wood with 4 clays and 1 reed? Perhaps a renovation with a well as part of the major improvement. If you can telegraph this ahead of time, you can take the first player at the right time to deny him the place or buy a well just to upset him and force him to take a less favorable action.
1. Let yourself be seduced by your occupations or minor improvements:
The opposite of the to-do’s of # 3, there are a few new players who look at their hand of minor occupations and upgrades and then have that overwhelming urge to play EVERY CARD they have! Not all professions and minor upgrades are created equal, so prioritize the important ones and pursue those. Being too greedy with trades and minor upgrades can sometimes make you forget the fundamentals of the game: build the most kickass farm possible!
2. Forget to take the first player, especially towards the end of the game:
Look at the last 3 round squares of the game: Family growth without coins, Plow and sow, Renovate + Fences. The reason these actions are available at the end of the game is that these actions are super powerful and can earn you a lot of points. Plow and Sow can usually get you at least 3 or more points, more if you have a ton of veggies and grains that you haven’t planted yet. And if you have a plow that allows you to take advantage of this place, that’s even more points. Renovate + Fences can help you fill all the free spaces on the board with a mega-fence and earn you lots of points from renovations. Finally, Family Growth Without Room gives you more actions towards the end of the game, which can be useful for getting 2 point actions.
But to get them, you’ll want to take the first player because those spaces aren’t going to stick around for too long. If you neglect them, you could end up on the wrong side of the scoresheet.
3. Leave your fields and pastures until the very end of the game:
While it’s tempting to go find family members, chase after major / minor upgrades, and play those wonderful occupation cards, don’t delay plowing the fields or putting up fences. If everyone does this towards the end of the game, then those spaces are going to get pretty scarce, pretty quickly. When playing, give yourself plenty of time to accumulate fences and fields, then collect the necessary grains, vegetables and animals to do well, as missing too many categories can add up to endgame score.
4. Focus only on growing your family:
The growing family is fun. It’s wonderful to see these little tykes running around and then growing up where they can help you on the farm. But each additional family member offers diminishing returns, which can be a bit counterintuitive for new players who have developed a taste for family growth strategies. The reason is that the more family members players have, the more crowded the board will become. The spaces available for your 4th family member when everyone has 4 family members just won’t be as good and you may not be able to get as many miles out of that family member as you hoped for .
Hope these tips will help you build your strategic base in Agricola and help you play better. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to leave your own tips in the comments section below so other players can learn and improve!