This Labor Day marked the usual 3-day weekend that surprisingly opened up opportunities to play board games. Surprisingly, because even though I’d get a chance to meet and hang out with family members, more often than not, it’d be doing family stuff rather than seeing boardgaming be a focus of a get-together. But as it were, the opportunities came and I took them. Sunday night featured an exciting burger brawl in Food Chain Magnate and Monday night saw Agricola hit the table. Very rare to get a chance at a heavy game in one weekend, much less two!
Food Chain Magnate is easy if no one else lowers prices but you!
Sunday night’s game of Food Chain Magnate was an exciting mix of new and proven strategies, but unfortunately for innovation, it was the proven strategies that ruled the day. The game saw me, my fiancee, and my brother battling it out on a much smaller map than I’m used to playing. Furthermore, the smaller player count also meant fewer billboards and a cap on the unique characters like the CFO and the Executive VP. My brother pursued the Trainer opener while my fiancee and I went for the 3-hire opener. On my end, I coupled that with an early Pricing Manager and early Errand Boy to set up my production and made sure I got the First Drink Marketed milestone to augment my income.
This strategy is something that I’ve run with for awhile not because of just how much flexibility it provides. I was generally able to respond to most attempts to out-market me by producing whatever needed to be produced while also being able to make Local Managers and Business Development Managers work for me. Needless to say, by the mid-game, I was running away with the game and no one could really stop me.
Here are my 3 takeaways from the game:
- Of all the opening moves we’ve tried, I think the first-turn Recruiting Girl leading into the 2 Management Trainee bonus by turn 3 is still the way to go. That opener gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of how to arrange your org chart, regardless of whether you’re playing a long game or short game. While I won’t go into longer detail, the flexibility in hiring and the flexibility in stocking enough trainers to upgrade your crew is not something to be taken lightly.
- Pricing Manager, especially in conjunction with the milestone that permanently lowers prices for you wreaks havoc on everyone else. All houses are, in effect, two tiles closer to your restaurant while you only have to use one space in your precious org chart to keep people honest. The reason why it was especially potent this game was because no one else was lowering prices as aggressively as I was, or the game would have been much different.
- First Errand Boy is deceptively useful. More so if you can pick up the freezer as an ancillary benefit. The freezer is pretty useful in letting you rig your production so as to save turns and make your producers maximally useful, but the First Errand Boy milestone effectively prevents people from bullying you into being unable to supply the drinks being demanded. When someone tries to pull that against you, just spam Errand Boys and laugh.
Basically, I managed to win because I was out-competing everyone else and no one was heavily punishing my lack of burgers and no one was even making much of an effort to lower prices. There’s a proactiveness required to steal business from other players and if you don’t do that, someone can easily run away with the game, which is what precisely happened that time.
Agricola’s fundamentals rule the day!
On Monday, a friend came over for a 3-player game of Agricola. Agricola, for me at least, is a game best played with 4 people because it provides a good balance of solid spaces in which to place your family members without making it obscenely crowded. In the 5-player game, there are too few good spaces in which to play your workers and the last player can get easily screwed. In the 3-player game, there’s a dearth of amazing spaces in which to settle.
So while the basics hold true for 3-player Agricola as it does for 4-player, you’ll still need to make a few adjustments. One of these days, I’ll get into writing the top 5 dos and don’ts for Agricola, but for now, here are my takeaways from the 3-player version I played with my friend and fiancee:
- The lack of the Reed, Stone, Food tile makes it a lot harder to kickstart your food engine into high gear. That tile is amazingly flexible because of how it gives you pretty much everything you need. After all, food is always useful, Reed is great to build those rooms that will grow your family and stone is great for getting the Well or upgrading to a Stone House. As a result, you can never really go wrong choosing that tile if you’re not sure of what to do. But because that square isn’t there, you have less margin for error, and fewer multifunctional tiles to make your moves super optimal.
- Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. The lack of the Reed, Stone, Food tile in the 3-player version means Reed becomes a much higher priority if you want to race to first family growth. Remember that the game is all about having a kickass farm and more family members helps you get there. Always be ready to snipe starting player to get the 2-Reed that’s accumulated if you think someone else might be gunning for it. Because if they do and succeed in shutting you out, you may just find yourself left in the dust.
Beyond that, my game plan was to stick to the fundamentals and I think that went over pretty well. Getting some sheep rustled from me led to an inefficient feeding round by way of Day Laborer, but by the end, I was sitting with 5 family members and getting a huge boost from a full slate of triple animals and a Cooking Hearth to nab me 9 food. Having a 2x 3-field plow also led to really efficient actions which, combined with market woman, also made it easy to get a full 4 points each from grain and vegetables and win me the game.
The amount of gaming during the Labor Day weekend proved to be more than I had expected, especially because it consisted of the heavier games that I love so much. I’m still learning new tricks in Food Chain Magnate and with time, I hope to have my opening figured out since there are a lot of ways I can improve, just by doing some postmortem analysis.