Agricola Lite
June 1, 2012 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Flash Friday: Written for Ludlum Dare 23, Super Strict Farmer is a flash game that plays like a light version of the popular Eurogame Agricola. If you have trouble figuring out how to play, the rules are in the comment thread.

Found nowhere on the net, so I discovered them through hard experience and am putting them here. I originally posted these as a comment on the game's Ludlum Dare page.

If you’ve played the board game Agricola before you’ll quickly understand the general flow of play, but there are substantial differences so I’d suggest reading these rules anyway. Or, you might want to jump in and try to make sense of it on your own first, then come here to figure out what exactly is happening. (You are almost certain to lose your first game, though.) Also understand, there are some gameplay bugs that have yet to be fixed, but the game is still fun to play despite them.

The object of the game is to earn Victory Points (VPs) over the course of 12 rounds. You get them through:
Having resources in supply at the end of the game
Having built certain buildings
There are some actions you can take that score you points as a result of some trade

At the top of the screen is your and your opponents supply; Blue’s is on the left, Red’s on the right. It lists how much Wood, Stone, Grain, Food and VPs (trophy symbols) you have. At the start of the game, the first player (chosen randomly) begins with four Food, and the other player begins with six. You also begin with two House buildings, and at the start of the game each House contains one worker, a little guy wearing a shirt of your player color.

At the bottom of the screen are nine cards representing buildings. Five of them are the same every game, but the other four are randomly chosen from a set of possibilities at the start of the game. All are available, at lest initially, to either player. Once a building is built, it becomes unavailable to the other player; if you build a House, for instance, its card disappears and it’s thus denied to the other player, although he could build a different House if there’s still one left.

Super Strict Farmer is what’s known as a worker placement game. You and your opponent each have a number of workers. Each turn, you place one on one of a number of available spaces on the board, availability represented by blue dots. Once a worker is placed somewhere your worker occupies that spot and prevents the opponent from placing a worker there that round. Generally you place workers to gain resources, to spend resources for other advantages, to create fields, to invest resources in fields, and to earn victory points. Your opponent is doing the same thing on his turns. When a player runs out workers he is done for the round, and his opponent can place his remaining workers without interference; when both players are out, the round is over.

At the start of every round after the first (note: NOT only after Harvest phases as in Agricola!) every worker you have consumes one food from your supply. Here it comes, the WORDS OF DOOM: you must keep tabs on your worker’s food consumption. If you don’t have enough food to feed all your workers, they’ll eat grain instead. If you don’t have enough grain, they’ll eat Victory Points. If you don’t have enough VPs, unfed workers die. (Over succeeding rounds they’ll build back up, one per round, up to the number of Houses you have.) In Agricola, unfed workers is frequently a dire situation as each food you’re short is a huge three point deficit at the end of that game. Here it is occasionally possible to come back from it, but it’s still pretty dire. You start the game with either four or six food, so you don't have to worry about it for the first two or three rounds, but you should work towards building up a good food income during that time, like by plowing fields and planting grain.

When it’s your turn, a number of places representing actions you can send a worker to will have dots next to them. If you can get no possible benefit from a space at all the dot won’t appear, so spaces will become mysteriously unavailable from time to time. This is generally because you don’t have the necessary resources to use the space.

There are a number of “community” spaces, available to whichever player chooses it first on a round, which make up most of the board. Most worker placements will be made to these spaces throughout the game. But there are also spaces you can build as buildings. Most of these become available for EITHER player to choose once built — as a benefit for building these, you usually receive the building’s benefit immediately upon constructing it. At least one of them (the Fireplace) only makes an option available to the player who builds it.

The Fireplace states that, once built, it gives you an ability that you can take “at any time.” In terms of this game, this means you can click on the building and receive its benefit, and your worker will then return to his house to be placed again — but note that, unlike Agricola, your opponent will get to take an action before you get your next action.

Here are the possible buildings available at the start of the game. There might be additions to this list that you can use later; those are listed under Buildings, further below.

FOREST (shown as a bunch of trees)
Gives you a quantity of wood. The wood on the Forest “builds” over time; it starts out with 2 Wood on it. If neither player takes it in the first round, the next round it will have 4 Wood. It continues to build like this, from round to round, until a player takes the Wood resting there, at which time it starts over on the next round with 2 Wood again. (For a strategy for getting extra Wood from here, see FLAG, below.) Many other spaces that supply resources build over time as well.

QUARRY (a large mountain)
Like the Forest, this space builds resources over time, Stone in this case. However, it only gains 1 Stone each round.

PLOUGH (a plow)
If you have an empty field and at least one Grain, this plants Grain into the empty fields. If you have no empty fields or Grain, this constructs a field on your side of the river.
If you have more than one empty Field and more than one Grain, this action will plant them all. This is harder to do here than in Agricola, but can be potentially powerful, especially combined with the Bakery.
When you build a field, it’s for your use alone; the other player gets no benefit from it. A field can either be used to plant Grain (by choosing the Plough action again on a later round) or to hold Sheep or Cattle (obtained by choosing the Market). Each field can hold up to four of only one kind of animal.
If you’ve played Agricola, you should note that Fields here fulfill the role of both fields and pastures in that game.
Note: you can have more than four fields, but a graphics glitch will cause Field above that to appear in weird places, including possibly in your opponent’s area. This is illusory; the game still knows it’s your Field.

MARKET (a fenced area containing animals)
Like the Forest and Quarry, this building builds resources throughout the game, in this case animals. The Market gains one animal every round, randomly either a Sheep or Cow. Cows are generally more valuable than Sheep. The player who takes the Market gets all of the animals waiting there, which are immediately stored in any empty fields. (Unlike grain, animals are never stored in your supply. You must always have available field space to have animals. If you don’t have room for them, gained animals are lost.) Important: if there are both Sheep and Cows waiting but only one empty field, priority seems to be given to the first animal that arrived of the current batch. If there’s one empty field, and one Sheep and four Cows in the Market that arrived in that order, it seems that you get the Sheep and the Cows go away. Cows are worth twice as many VPs as Sheep, so it’s important to keep this in mind! (It’s things like that that got me to write up this rulesheet in the first place.)
If you don’t have an empty field you can still pick the Market, but its function changes. The space will instead give you two food. In this event, the animals remain on the space and will continue to build at the start of the next round. Note that this food award doesn’t build; it’s always two food.

GRANARY (a grain silo)
Another space that builds resources, this time 1 Grain every round. There is an interesting side-effect to this space: every time you take it, in addition to the grain, if you have at least two sheep or two cows, they will breed and you will get an additional animal of that type. It is possible to get both a sheep and cow at the same time this way, but you only receive the additional animal if you have room for it. (I don’t know, if both types breed but there’s only room for one new animal, what priority it’s given to.)

WORKSHOP (a wide, flat building beneath the mountain)
This building allows you to construct one of the buildings represented by the cards at the bottom of the screen. The building is only available if you have the resources to construct one of the available buildings. See BUILDINGS, below, for information on these. (Note: I have seen this building not be available even when there was no worker there, while I had the necessary resource to build something. This is probably a bug, maybe related to being given too many extra actions for building Houses.)

FLAG (a flag, colored Blue or Red)
At the start of the game, the color of the Flag matches that of the starting player. Every round, this player gets to place his worker first. The other player can change this, however, by placing one of his workers at the Flag. In that event, that player will become the new starting player, and at the start of subsequent rounds he’ll be the first to place a worker.
If you are not the starting player and you find yourself with actions after the other player is out of workers, and you plan to choose, for one of your actions, a space that builds resources, you might consider choosing the Flag instead. That way you’ll become starting player and get to choose the resource space unopposed at the start of the next round, after it’s built up more resources.
Even if you are already the starting player, you are still allowed to choose the Flag as your action; it provides no effect in this case except that it prevents the other player from choosing it. (This is usually a suboptimal move unless your plan for the next round relies on playing first.)

FISH POND (a pond with a pier)
The last space that builds resources. Every round the Fishing Pond gains 2 Food, which goes to the first player to collect it, returning the pond to 2 Food again at the start of the following round.

SCHOOL (a long building, by a ladder leading off the board)
This building gives you two food. Unlike the Fish Pond this award doesn’t build, it’s always two food. Note that the Fish Pond is nearly always a better choice, unless you plan on collecting additional food in the next round from the Pond’s resource building… which you can only relied upon if you’re starting player.
The help text for this indicates that this building isn’t finished. Presumably the School is intended to provide an analogue for Agricola’s Occupations. Hopefully work on the game will continue and this building will become more useful. Note that the computer seems to have an aversion to picking the School, although this might just be because he’ll give preference to the Fish Pond.

BRIDGE (a bridge crossing the river dividing the board)
It doesn’t seem like it at first, but the Bridge is, itself, a building. It’s rarely seen in action because using it costs a grain, a sheep and a cow. In exchange, you get 4 VPs. This is a huge bonus in this game. But if either Cows or Sheep never appear in the Market, then no one can ever use the Bridge.

WATERMILL (a building by the river with a waterwheel attached to it)
Picking this building will exchange 1 Grain for 1 VP. This isn’t a bad exchange, although the fact that it costs a worker placement to use it hurts a bit. It’s probably better to try to get some use out of the grain otherwise if you can, such as baking it for 5 Food or planting it in a field, but it can make a difference in a close game.

Here are all the Buildings you might be able to build by taking the Workshop space:
HOUSE, costing 3 Wood and 1 Grain (there are at least two of these, and possibly more)
Increases your capacity for workers. Unlike building rooms in Agricola, you get the new worker automatically at the start of the next round — that is to say, there is no “Raise Family Member” space. Also unlike Agricola, it’s possible to starve a worker to death if you can’t feed him, in which case you’ll regain one deceased worker at the start of each Round thereafter until all your houses are full.
FIREPLACE, costing 1 Stone (there is always at least one of these, and there might be a second)
Gives you, and only you, an “at any time” action that converts 1 animal into 2 Food. This action is available only to the player who builds the Fireplace, but putting a worker there doesn’t consume your worker’s action, although it does give your opponent a chance to act after your turn. Warning: contrary to the space’s text, this building will happily and capriciously convert the much-more-valuable Cows into food instead of Sheep. There is no bonus for this. It appears to go by the order of the fields as they were built throughout the game — if there are Cows in Field #2 and Sheep in Field #3, it’ll be a Cow that gets converted. Beware of this.
Unlike Agricola, if there are two Fireplaces in the game, there is nothing saying that you can’t build both of them. Since you get your worker back when you use a Fireplace, there is no reason to do this other than to deny it to your opponent.
BAKERY, costing 3 Wood and 1 Stone, scores 1 VP (there is always one of these)
Makes a new action available that allows converting 1 Grain into 5 Food. Either player can take this action, but you get one immediate use of it when you build it. (Note that, unlike similar Improvements in Agricola, this action is compulsory if you can use it.)
CHURCH, costing 3 Stone and 1 Wood, scores 2 VP (there is always one of these)
Makes a new action available that immediately earns 1 VP with no cost other than placing the worker. Either player can take this action, but the player who builds gets an immediate use. (So, the bonus for building it is effectively 3 VP.) Points are very valuable in this game, so think carefully before you decide to build this; if your opponent uses it three more times than you, it essentially offers no benefit. Conversely, take note if your opponent builds it; you might be able to take more advantage of it than he.
WEAVER, costing 2 Wood and 1 Grain, scoring 1 VP
When built, the player who built it immediately earns one point for every two sheep he has. It does nothing else.
BOAT, costing 1 Wood
This building gives the player who built it 1 extra Food every time he picks the Forest space.
CRANE, costing 3 Wood
This building provides an action only for the use of the player who built it. It lets you build a building without competing for the use of the Workshop. You should still use the Workshop if it’s available though, because it denies its use to your opponent.
HEN HOUSE, costing 1 Wood and 1 Grain, scores 1 VP
Awards one extra food every time the building player chooses the Granary.
GROVE, costing 2 Wood
Awards one extra Food every time the building player chooses the Forest.
RESTAURANT, costing 3 Wood and 1 Grain, scores 1 VP
Makes a new action available that converts 3 Food into 2 VP. This can be used by either player, but the builder gets an immediate use. Note that, since this benefit is compulsory if you can use it and costs Food, it is possible to be hurt by building this if you are unprepared.
SLAUGHTERHOUSE, costing 2 Stone, 1 Wood and 1 Grain
Makes a new action available that converts 1 Cow into 3 Food and 1 VP. It activates immediately when you build it like the other extra-action spaces.
STATUE, costing 4 Stone, scores 4 VPs
Other than the score award for building it, the Statue provides no function.

This is what happens at the end of each round, in this order:
First, Grain Fields are harvested; you receive one Grain for every Grain field you have, and those fields deplete by one-third. (Thus, over time each Grain planted becomes three.)
Then, if the number of workers you have is less than the number of Houses, you gain one Worker.
Finally, you pay one Food (or Grain, or Victory Point) for every worker you have at that time. Note that you can pay with Grain that came in off a Field that round. Also note, you don’t pay food after the end of Round 12 — you don’t have to worry about food after Round 11.

End of game:
After everyone has acted in Round 12, final scores are tallied. In addition to victory points earned throughout the game, players get extra victory points for having excess resources at the end of the game: 1 VP for every 4 Food, 3 Grain, 2 Sheep and every Cow. Scores tend to be in the range of 7 to 16 points. My highest score on Normal difficulty is 26 but that's very difficult to achieve and requires some luck in animal and building choice.

Notes: I have observed that sometimes either you or your opponent will get extra actions at the end of a turn. I haven’t figured out what causes this, but it happens much more often when you have extra workers from Houses (the first time it happens to you tends to be the turn you build your first House). When it happens to you, the game will wait for you to make a move even though you have no one waiting at a House on your side of the board, and one of your worker guys will move from a place where he’s stationed to a different building. When this happens for a computer player, he’ll just take extra actions.
Additionally I have observed that sometimes, when you build a lot of action buildings, the earlier ones seem like they are sometimes forgotten about, their action button not appearing like they’re supposed to.

Strategy: Like Agricola, it’s very important to have extra workers. Without extra workers, you have only 24 moves in a game. Every time you build a House (assuming no one starves), that’s one extra action for every remaining round of the game. But unlike Agricola there are many fewer actions available in later rounds, so getting lots of extra workers isn’t the overpowering strategy that it is in the board game. And workers aren’t worth any points in themselves here.

The computer has a highly optimized strategy for building Houses as soon as possible; he will tend to have his first House before you unless you go out of your way to challenge him on it. To build a House, he needs 3 Wood, 1 Grain and to take the Workshop action — you can potentially stymie him on any of those points. Another way to stop the computer player is to distract him — if you build a Church, he’ll very frequently waste actions earning single Victory Points there, when he could potentially be improving his state for greater VP rewards later. (He’ll often do this to himself, though since he gets 3 extra points for building the Church it’s a better strategy for him.)

That concludes the rules. If you like this game, then I suggest you immediately Google up the board game Agricola, because it's just like this except bigger, supports from one to five players, and has many more options.
posted by JHarris (27 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
The Ludlum Dare could totally have been the title of a Robert Ludlum novel.
posted by jedicus at 9:04 AM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Agricola is the best game, all other games can go to hell.

Thanks for this, I'm excited to give it a shot!
posted by dismas at 9:11 AM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

one of the buildings became inaccessible when the church was built. couldn't click on it because the church was in the way :( but i still won, 15-7. probably won't play this again
posted by yeoz at 9:31 AM on June 1, 2012

yeoz, the game has a number of bugs but that's not one that I'm aware of. It might be due to building a lot of action buildings though.
posted by JHarris at 9:42 AM on June 1, 2012

Its, uh, ludum, as in related to Ludic.

Autocorrect is a bitch.
posted by modernserf at 9:49 AM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ack, my mistake. And it wasn't an autocorrect problem, I actually got the word wrong.
posted by JHarris at 9:51 AM on June 1, 2012

I scoff at settlers that have wood for sheep; I keep a sheep in the house.
posted by Jpfed at 9:56 AM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

How come both I and my opponent scored 12 and yet they were the winner and I the loser?
posted by Jehan at 10:21 AM on June 1, 2012

I don't know -- I never had a tie in my games, so I wasn't able to deduce tiebreak behavior. Maybe it goes to the player with the most resources at the end, the player with the most buildings, the player who is or isn't starting player at the end, or the player who was or wasn't starting player at the start?
posted by JHarris at 10:24 AM on June 1, 2012

Can we just get a regular old version of Agricola online?

That game could be great asynchronously, so players would need to be online at the same time.
posted by Tevin at 10:25 AM on June 1, 2012

Tevin, there is one, and it's official to boot. The expansion called the Gamer's Deck utilized cards beta-tested on that site.

That site does no rule enforcement though. There used to be a better version that used Silverlight as an implementation language, but it got Cease-And-Desisted. There is word that an iOS version is in the works, but like a lot of board games it's been delayed. (They're harder to implement than you'd think.)
posted by JHarris at 10:34 AM on June 1, 2012

Boiteajeux has an online Agricola that does rule enforcement. The cards are in French, but with the aid of inference and the Internet, you can figure out what they say. Via.
posted by ignignokt at 11:41 AM on June 1, 2012

I also made the "Ludlum" mistake, and in fact, did not notice I had it wrong until days after I submitted an entry. I guess all the airport bookstore browsing got to me!
posted by ignignokt at 11:43 AM on June 1, 2012

I actually had it declare me the winner even though I had fewer points. No idea what that was about.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:55 AM on June 1, 2012

This is the kind of "fuck off" game like those grow games. Despite playing on easy and thinking I understand the rules I am constantly getting smoked by the AI. Done.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:26 PM on June 1, 2012

Meatbomb, it seems hard until you comprehend all the rules and devise an effective strategy, which is why I wrote 'em all up above. The most important thing is to keep your workers fed. You cannot be lackadaisical about that, you have to construct buildings or plant fields to feed your guys and then use them to generate food. Next most important after that is to get up to three workers, which gives you enough opportunity breathing room to plow extra fields and then plant extra grain or collect animals. Now I rarely lose on Normal--I haven't really started playing Difficult though.
posted by JHarris at 1:59 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

The amount of effort expended in understanding this game is not a thing that I think I can call "fun".
posted by beefetish at 2:03 PM on June 1, 2012

It's not actually that hard to learn, I may have made a mistake in writing out all the rules in the post. Some of that information is revealed in the game's interface, which has informative tooltips. But there are enough caveats and unexplained things that I felt I had to get them all out in text form. The game could still stand a fair amount more work done on it, but despite that, I had enough fun playing it that I figured some of you might enjoy it too.
posted by JHarris at 2:16 PM on June 1, 2012

Well, I liked it. Now that I've beat Easy twice in a row I feel like a super strict god of agriculture. Thanks, JHarris.
posted by hydrophonic at 2:44 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wish there was a mute button.
posted by schyler523 at 11:57 AM on June 2, 2012

Thank you JHarris. I've enjoyed this game so much over the last week that I now play only the difficult against the AI, and win nine out of ten games without building anything. Strict farmer indeed.
posted by vozworth at 6:14 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks much vozworth! One comment like that is worth a dozen favorites, and drowns out a hundred haters.
posted by JHarris at 10:34 AM on June 8, 2012

JHarris, I really wanted to like and glad others have mastered it. Me too dumb is all.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:37 AM on June 8, 2012

Just because it didn't strike your pleasure neurons doesn't make you a hater Meatbomb, it's all good.
posted by JHarris at 2:34 PM on June 8, 2012

I actually went to the ludlum dare 23 site to read the backstory on this game and felt compelled to give Benjamin a trophy. What a treat.

-This from a dood who joined metafilter for the flash friday fun. 3-slices and desktop tower defense still have the top 2 spots though.
posted by vozworth at 8:58 PM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I cant believe my wife and kids got me Agricola for fathers day, and we just spent 3 hours playing our first game.... I cannot thank you enough JHarris.
posted by vozworth at 8:20 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

vozworth, Agricola is wonderful, yes. You have many happy games ahead of you. If you like that, you might also want to look into Puerto Rico (it's shorter but deeper) or Caylus (the game that originated the place-workers mechanic).
posted by JHarris at 1:01 PM on June 23, 2012

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