How’s that for a flash title?
My kids ask me how I seemingly always win. Let’s be clear. I don’t always win. Munchkin is anybody’s game. But if you involve a sheep or a Mario or a Settler of Catan, I do pretty well. Or at least my kids think I do. Some of this is due to luck. Some of it is due to experience (30 years with Mario), but most of it is a recognition of strategy. I know where I’m trying to go before I begin. I figure out what I need to do. I’m prepared for bad dice rolls. The kids don’t stand a chance…yet.
Also included in the title is the notion that I feel that I’m ahead on points in life itself. That is not a joke. I have already won. I married Julie. Nanny-nanny boo-boo. Besides, I’m always harping about vision. Knowing where I am going…figuring out I need to do to get there. I am prepared in case of curve balls. You can see why these kinds of games appeal to me.
We are enjoying playing Agricola. When you first set up the game you will likely be intimidated by the apparent complexity of the board but it’s really not so bad. Here is a finished game played in family version. It takes up a lot of room.
Each round you send your people to work for you. They can gather clay, rock, lumber or reed. They can bake bread, fetch livestock, expand your family, sow crops…you get the idea. Any action you take this round prevents someone else from taking that same action this round. Additional resources pile up weather you take them or not so you might try to hold off taking that big pile of wood this turn because it will be even bigger next turn…if nobody else takes it. Whatever else happens, you have to have enough food available to feed your people at harvest time.
Then there are key strategies to employ to help you maximize your points. Keep in mind there are only 14 rounds and 6 harvests…and harvests come faster and faster as the game goes on. Stone houses are worth more than clay huts or wood houses. Grain is easy to sow and harvest but grain is only useful up to a certain point. There is zero return in points on your investment in plowing more than 5 fields. Fencing is cheap and will wait till later. More people helps you get more resources and more points…as long as you can feed them.
So…what comes first? Well. If you don’t plow fields, build stone houses or fence barns in you won’t get many points. But if you don’t eat, you’ll have to beg for food. And nobody wants that. It takes away 3 points at the end of the game.
I feel the early part of the game comes down to one key strategy: Create a flexible food generation machine. A fireplace allows you to make food from anything. If that is not available, build an oven and bake bread. Once you can feed your family, everything else falls into place.
OK, Chris. You like Agricola. That’s nice. How about we bring this back to the real world?
Agricola does not allow me to assign a specific one of my meeples to a specialized task but real life allows that additional complexity. Julie, the kids and I are not interchangeable. Any of us could get stone, clay or reed. No doubt. But we can do so much more! And each of us are different…different motivations…different desires…different strengths. How can I leverage these differences to give our family an advantage in the game for generations of players still to come?
The current strategy (still early in the game) is to build a revenue-generating engine. If we miss payments at the bank we lose points. We can’t afford to lose points. We don’t particularly want to make payments. So we have to work hard, right now to secure our financial future. All of us chip away at the same set of chores day after day…feed, water, gather eggs, haul firewood, cook, clean, fold. There is no assigned cook. There is no assigned dishwasher. There is no assigned egg gatherer.
But the time will come when our farm grows to the point where Julie and I will have to step back a bit. We will have to specialize. We may move from field work to administration, accounting or sales. The current strategy is focused on accumulation (knowledge, skill, resources). The later strategy will be utilization. Efficiency. The kids may take over portions of the farm to run as their own business units. One may keep pigs, one may be an auto mechanic, one may raise cut flowers. The current unification and generalization makes sense. The later diversification and specialization may make sense. But the strategy will evolve as the game continues.
The difference is that the kids, Julie and I play Agricola against each other. In real life, we are a team. A winning team.