Fischer-Agricola

Introduction

The first and so far only (?) Fischer-Agricola games were played January 28th, 2020, at ARES, Blindern. This format, originally proposed by BA Kildalen, is inspired by the innovation in chess named after the legendary champion Bobby Fischer.

The basic idea is to randomise the distribution of Resources, eventually also Goods, on Action spaces before Drafting starts. The randomised distribution persists as a fixed scheme for the entire game. The original modification of the setup and the experience gained is described on a separate page. In hindsight ,it is clear that the 2020 “Fischer setup” is only one among several possible ways to set up a “Fischer variant” of Agricola.

In this post, the full breadth of options for the Fischer-Agricola setup is explored and discussed.

Selection of randomised Action spaces and Resources/Goods

Perhaps the most important decision is the selection of Action spaces (and, thus, goods) that are randomised. Six different alternatives can be recognised, ordered from moderate to extreme modification of the original rules:

(1) Only the 8 fixed, accumulating Action spaces in the basic 4-player configuration (3Wd, 2Wd, 1Wd, 2Cl, 1Cl, Rd, TP and Fishing), on which a total of 12 Resources (10 Building resources and 2 Food) are added every round, are randomised.

(2) As (1), but also including (a) the accumulating Stone Action space appearing in Stages 2, or (b) also the variable, accumulating Stone Action spaces appearing in Stages 4. In case of (b) 10 Action spaces with a total of 14 Resources are subjected to randomisation.

(3) As (1), but also randomising resources on fixed, non-accumulating Action spaces: (a) the RSF Action space, (b) the DL Action space, or (c) both. The number of randomised Action spaces and Resources are: (a) 9 and 15; (b) 9 and 14; and (c) 10 and 17, respectively.

(4) A combination of (2) and (3), by which (a) all 19 Resources available on the 12 fixed or variable, accumulating or non-accumulating Action spaces are randomised; 6 Wd, 3 Cl, 2 Rd, 3 St and 5 Food. Reduced variants can also be considered, e.g. (b) the combination of (2a) and (3) by which the Stone Action space of Stage 4 is not randomised, subjecting 11 Action spaces with 18 Resources (6 Wd, 3 Cl, 2 Rd, 2 St and 5 Food) to randomisation, or (c) the combination of (2a) and (3b) by which the Stone Action space of Stage 4 and DL is not randomised; 10 Action spaces with 16 Resources (6 Wd, 3 Cl, 2 Rd, 2 St and 3 Food) are then randomised.

(5) The extreme variant by which also accumulating Animals (15 Action spaces with a total of 22 Goods) are randomised.

(6) The most extreme variant by which all 17 Action spaces that provide a total of 24 Goods (i.e., also Take one Grain and Take one Vegetable spaces), are randomised.

The 2020 Fischer-Agricola games were played invoking the (3a) option.

Options (4b) and (4c) were tested on 2022 12 28 by BA, Anne, Jorid and Rune. Al agreed that both options worked well, and that exemption of DL from randomisation was not needed; thus concluding that (4b) was the preferred option.

Required decisions

Regardless which randomisation scheme among the six that is selected, several decisions have to be made:

  • Which Action spaces shall accumulate and which shall not? Both in the 2020 setup and the 2022 test, all randomised Resources were treated as accumulating.
  • Shall there be restrictions on randomisation? In 2020, the 2 Rd were not allowed to be placed on the same Action space. Similar restrictions are likely to be necessary also for St in setup (4). The more extreme the randomisation scheme, the stronger will the need for restrictions on randomisation be. Thus, setup (5) may be enacted with restricted randomisation of Animals among the three Animal accumulation spaces. The 2022 testers concluded that the 2 Rd should not be allowed to be placed one the same Action soace, and that 1 Fd should be fixed on the DL Action space.
  • How to handle discrepancies between Action space names, the Resources placed on them and Card texts.

The following basic rules were enacted in 2020 and 2022 tests:

  • The names of modified Action spaces are retained even if the resources placed on them no longer corresponds to these names. This ensures that the many cards addressing specific Action spaces still make sense.
  • Cards that address specific Resources apply to Action spaces that provide these resources.
  • Before Drafting Occupations, and before Drafting Minor Improvements, all players are encouraged to carefully check the dealt hand. Cards that address a specific combination of Resource and Action space that does not occur, or are otherwise unplayable given the Fischer setup for the game, should be revealed, discarded and replaced by new cards.
  • Cards that provide benefits on a specific Action space, paid with Resources provided on that space (e.g. Spinney) are retained even the specified goods are not provided. As a general rule, the lowest rated Resource (Resources are rated from low to high: Food, Wd, Cl, Rd, St) provided on the space replaces the one that is not provided.
  • Cards that provide additional Food or Resources apply as specified. Thus, Dancer provides additional Food up to a maximum of 4, in addition to the other resources provided on the space (in 2020, 4 Fd were always received by Dancer while other resources were left on the space). Similarly, Fisherman and Juggler provide additional Food in amounts equal to the number of Resources on the Action space.

Required modifications of specific cards

The following amended wording may be used:

Animal Trainer. Whenever you take Food from a Resource Accumulation space, you may immediately use it to buy animals: Pay 2 Food for each Sheep or Wild Boar and 3 Food for each Cattle.

Basket. Whenever you use a person’s action to take Building Resources from an Action space, you can leave 2 of the Building Resources on the Action space (of your choice) and receive 3 Food in exchange.

Dancer. Whenever you use the “Travelling Players” Action space, you receive a total of 4 Resources. If there is 1 to 3 Resources on the space, take Food from the general supply until the total number of Resources received totals 4.

Fisherman. Whenever you use the “Fishing” Action space, you can choose to take additional Food equal to the number of Resources on the Action space. If you do this, you must give one Food to each of the Fishing Rod, Raft, Canoe, Fish Trap and Landing Net.

Fish Hook. Whenever you use an Action space orthogonally adjacent to the “Fishing” Action space, you may immediately take 1 Resource of your choice from the “Fishing” Action space.

Gem Hunter. Whenever you use a person to take Clay from a Building resource Accumulation space, you may also receive 1 Stone. In Round 9 or before, if there are 3 or more Building resources on the space, you must leave 1 Clay on the space to receive the Stone.

Juggler. Whenever you use the “Travelling Players” Action space, you can choose to take additional Food equal to the number of Resources on the Action space. If you do this, you must give the most valuable Resource(s) to each of the Magician, Conjurer, Street Musician, Puppeteer, Acrobat, Dancer, Animal Trainer and Storyteller.

Spinney. Whenever another player uses the “3  Wood” Action space, s/he must give you the least valuable Resource on the Action space.

Storehouse Keeper. Whenever you use the “RSF” Action space, you also receive of your choice 1 Clay or 1 Grain.

Storyteller. Whenever you use the “Travelling Players” action on an Action space, you may leave 1 Resource of your choice on the space and receive 1 Vegetable instead.

Wood Distributor. At the start of the Work phase, you may distribute all Resources on the “3 Wood” Action space as evenly as possible onto the “1 Clay”, “1 Reed” and “Fishing” Action spaces. If there are different kinds of Resources on the space, you decide which Resource is to be placed on which Action space. When you play this card, you receive 2 Wood.