Daily Archives: March 7, 2014

The (Board) Gamer’s Guide to Supply Management Part X: All Creatures Big and Small

You want to prove that you’re the best at managing an industrial farm at the back-end of agricultural supply chains, but you can’t get enough of your team-mates together for a raising game of Agricola. Don’t worry! Thanks to Z-Man Games, you can have a one-on-one game of Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small and out-farm your cube-mate to your heart’s content!

Based on the original Agricola, All Creatures Big and Small was designed as a simpler alternative for only 2 people. (Even though the original could be played by 2 people, it was designed specifically for 3-5 players, and 62 of the occupation cards in the full game — which we’ll get to once you’ve had time to figure out the basic game which is more involved and complex than you think it is,just like the back-end of a real agricultural supply chain — can only be used if there are 4 players.)

The 2-player game is simpler to learn than the full game (but just as hard to master, especially if you get the expansions). The number of actions you can take in each round are fixed, whereas the number of actions in the full game depend on the number of family members you have; the focus is on raising animals, building fences and stables to hold them, and other special buildings and you don’t have to balance this with growing crops and producing food like in the full game; and there are no cards to deal with, only special buildings. It’s quick to learn, but still hard to master because, as with the full game, only one player can take an available action and if you don’t build your pens or stables in time, you can’t breed more animals — and while special buildings and farm expansions can give points, many of the points depend on the size of your flock. Plus, if you believe the game is getting too easy for you, there are two expansions: More Buildings Big and Small and Even More Buildings Big and Small that add a total of 54 more special buildings to make your game even more unpredictable, just like farming in the real world (as each building has an ability, just like each supply chain professional you could hire brings a different skill, and you can’t build them all, just like you can’t hire afford to hire too many people, so you have to find the right mix of buildings that give your farm that right mix of capabilities just like you have to hire the right mix of professionals in the real world with skills that complement each other and make the team as a whole greater than the sum of its parts).

In this 2-player version, you start the game with a farm board and a cottage that can hold one animal and 9 borders, which you can place when you select the fencing action, provided that you have enough wood to place those borders.

The game is played over 8 rounds and each round consists of 4-phases.

  1. Refill: Refill the indicated spaces on the game board with the goods printed on them. Every round, more wood and stone becomes available to be retrieved from the mill or quarry.
  2. Work: Take turns placing each of your three workers on available actions.
  3. Return Home: Your workers return home for the next round.
  4. Breed: At the end of the round, if you have at least two animals of the same type, and room for one more animal of the type, you breed one new animal of the type.

The available actions are:

  1. 1 wood: Acquire all wood in the 1-wood resource space and become the start player next round.
  2. 3 wood: Acquire all wood in the 3-wood space. (Just like in the real world, the first person to market often gets the most goods at the best price when demand exceeds supply.)
  3. 1 stone: Acquire 1 stone.
  4. 2 stone: Acquire 2 stone.
  5. Fence: Build as many borders as you can at the cost of 1 wood each. Each enclosed pasture can hold 2n animals of the same type, where n is the number of spaces that are enclosed.
  6. Wall: Build two free borders and pay 2 stone for each additional border you wish to build.
  7. Building Materials: Acquire 1 wood, 1 stone, and 1 reed.
  8. Expand: Take a farm expansion that allows you to expand your farm (which starts with 6 fields 3 more fields).
  9. Stall: Build exactly one stall for 3 stone and 1 reed. A stall can hold 3 animals of the same type.
  10. Stable: Upgrade one stall to a stable for 5 wood or 5 stone. A stable can hold 5 animals of the same type.
  11. Feeding Trough: Build one trough for free, and additional troughs for 3 wood each. A trough doubles the number of animals that can be kept in the pasture or building it is located in.
  12. Special Building 1: Pay the building costs and put up a special building. Each special building does something different. For example, the open stables gives you one free animal and bonus points at game end; the half-timbered house replaces the cottage, gives you bonus points, and holds two animals instead of one; the shelter, which can hold one animal, gives you one free animal; and the storage building stores resources and allows you to gain points from them (as they are kept in pristine condition and can be resold at the end of the game if not used).
  13. Special Building 2: Pay the building costs and put up a special building.
  14. Millpond: Harvest a reed and capture any sheep near the pond.
  15. Pigs and Sheep: Capture the pig and any sheep on the space.
  16. Cow and Pigs: Capture the cow and any pigs on the space.
  17. Horse and Sheep: Capture the horse and any sheep on the space.

Sounds simple enough, but, just like in Agricola, you’re managing an industrial farm at the back-end of an agricultural supply chain, but unlike Agricola, you’re only managing the stables. The amount of animals you can raise depends upon the number of separate pastures, stalls, and stables you have, how many troughs you have available, how many workers you have to build, how many resources you have available to put up fences and buildings, and how many special buildings you have that give your workers additional capabilities. And, as in the real world, winning isn’t just profit, it’s sustainability and depends on a number of complex factors that influence your performance over time.

Are you a better agricultural supply chain manager? Play All Creatures Big and Small and see if you can best your cube-mate, and when you think you’ve mastered it, switch back to the full game, break out the full version, and start preparing yourself for the ultimate supply management challenge (which this series is leading up to — given that the majority of the market is still, depending on the analyst firm you ask, less than halfway up the ladder, we have to first give your peers a chance to take their supply chain game up a couple of rungs).