A simple Agricola variant to make your 4-player games less constricted.
We’re big fans of Agricola here at GameKnight, but if there’s one thing we find frustrating about the game, it’s getting shut out of building rooms and growing our families. This can be a problem in particular when playing with four players. If you’ve played a few 4-player games or read our Agricola Strategy Guide, then you know about the “Family Growth queue”, where players basically have to get in line to get new family members. Barring special occupations like Head of the Family, if Family Growth doesn’t show up until Round 7, one player isn’t going to get their first new family member until round 10. And that seriously dampens the fun.
Fortunately, we’ve come up with a very simple variant:
When playing with 4 players, swap out the following two 4-player action cards for the 5-player versions: Replace “Traveling Players” with the “Traveling Players or Build Room” card, and replace the “First two Occupations for 1 food, further occupations for 2 food” card with the 5-player version which also allows Family Growth starting from Round 5. And that’s it, that’s the only change. Do NOT use the 5-player resource cards. The amount of resources in the game stays the same. (Use the four-player 2-Clay, 2-Wood, 1-Wood and Reed, Stone, Food cards as normal.)
This has two very positive effects on the game. First, it makes Family Growth and Room Building much less contentious, putting them on par with the same ratio as a 2-player game. You still have to do a little jockeying for position if you want to be the first to grow (especially if you want to get the benefit of being able to play a minor improvement or build stables in the same action as your room), but the chances of someone getting shut out for several turns are greatly diminished. The second positive is that you go into the game knowing for certain that some kind of Family Growth will be available on Round 5 (even if it’s only the inferior no-minor-improvement version). With that change you can plan accordingly in Stage 1 and then not get screwed having to wait for the Stage 2 Family Growth card to show up.
What are the down sides to this variant? They’re few and far between. Players will require a little bit more food than normal so be aware of that when setting up a food engine, and there might be a little more competition for resources, as more players will have more actions early on. But overall everyone will be able to do a little bit more. And most importantly, players won’t get shut out or frustrated because their opponents consistently block their ability to grow.
Big thanks to Jeff Hannes, our resident Agricola guru, for providing this great new variant.