Agricola, Master of Britain is a solitaire wargame that focuses on the struggle of the Roman Legions led by Gnaeus Julius Agricola the Roman Proconsul of Britain from 77 to 85 AD. Agricola spent his time in country as Proconsul attempting to pacify the Britains, consolidate Roman occupation, and subdue the various tribes. The game is designed to allow the player an opportunity to attempt to take on the role of Proconsul and apply military, diplomatic, and economic power to achieve these goals. The player must use their available Legions to attack tribes in outright revolt and then use more subtle tactics and bribery against others to conquer all resistance to allow for the Empire in Rome to prosper. The game uses a 3 Chit-Pull Cup system that represents different levels of allegiance of the different tribes on the island. Each action taken by the player will cause a chain reaction in these cups, either positively or negatively for the Romans. The player must build the right Units, investing in infrastructure in the form of Garrisons and Settlements, and build a victory point engine to accrue the required VP’s to meet the expectations of the Flavians and your allies in Britain.
In Action Point 1 we took a tour of the mapsheet becoming familiar with the various Legionary Camps, which serve as staging areas, and Tribal boundaries and discuss the Roman Legions and how they compare to the game’s 16 different Tribes. In Action Point 2, we investigated how the 3 Chit-Pull Cup system works and how the player can manipulate the cups to their advantage. In Action Point 3, we took a quick look at the Sequence of Play and reviewed the Roman Legion Actions that can be taken to accomplish the subjugation of Roman Britain and the special bonuses granted if the Agricola counter is located with the Legion performing the Actions. In Action Point 4, we took a deeper look at an example of a Battle to give you a feel for the tactical decisions necessary to be victorious and the dangers present for the Legions. In this Action Point, we will take a look at a few functions that make up the Housekeeping Phase including Raids on Settlements and Forts, Tribal De-escalation, Romanization, Levy new Auxiliaries, Build Public Works and finally score Victory Points.
At the end of the round comes the Housekeeping Phase where there are several important processes that are carried out after all of the Legion Actions have been taken for the turn and the disposition of the Tribes has changed. This is also the Phase where the player will have to make some major decisions about investment in their armies, whether to build new settlements and the all important scoring of Victory Points.
One thing I will say about this phase. You need to understand how this phase works and what things will happen before you play the game. This way, you can make sure to take the Actions necessary during the turn to avoid the really negative consequences and in order to get yourself in a position to score the most Victory Points that you can each round.
Raids on Settlements and Forts
Once the Tribes are whipped into a frenzy and you allow them to build up their forces en masse in the different Tribal Boxes because you couldn’t get to them, didn’t have the manpower to attack or were using your Actions to do other more important things, during the Raids on Settlements and Forts segment of the Housekeeping Phase you might have a bit of a problem on your hands. During this segment, the player will take a look at each Tribal Box that contains three or more Tribal Units, or two Tribal Units and a Tribal Leader. If any of these Tribal Boxes happen to be adjacent to a Box containing a Settlement Marker, or a Legionary Camp, and these boxes are left unprotected with no Legions or Garrisons in the adjacent Settlement or Legionary Camp, then the Tribe will Raid these Boxes.
This is like the old saying “when the cat’s away the mice will play”! When there are no Legions there, the Tribes feel they can do whatever they want and they see an opportunity for a bit of payback. When these Raids are carried out, the player will have to reduce their current Treasury by 2 for each Raid. Remember, that if your Treasury is ever reduced to 0 you will lose the game immediately. Without funds, Agricola would have had no means to feed his Legions and couldn’t have held out for the 2 months it would have taken to communicate with Rome and get assistance.
This becomes ever more important as the game wears on as you will need your Treasury to buy new Auxiliaries and also to occasionally buy Victory Points as you sometimes just come up short and will lose if you cannot meet the Turn’s Victory Point threshold. It is also funny how a lone Settlement that you built early in the game in the Orange Region, and have since moved all of your Legions north to quell the Red Tribes lead by Calgacus, now has a few Tribal Units appear in adjacent Boxes as a Hostile Reaction to various Legion Actions. The way you are positioned makes it very tough to get to in time with your limited Actions so you have to constantly think about this possibility or it could end in your failing your mission and losing the game.
Notice that this step comes after the previously discussed Raids on Settlements and Forts and is too late to help you with any of these pop-up brush fire situations of increasing resistance behind you. The good thing about the Tribal De-escalation segment is that it rewards you for your investment in Settlements and also does some of your work for you without you having to direct the work. With the exception of the Tribal Leader Calgacus, who once placed will remain on the map until the Battle of Mons Graupius, the player will remove any normal Tribal Leaders found on the map and put them into the Unfriendly Cup. This is a good thing as it allows you to now take on the Tribes in the absence of their Leader and their bonuses but it also is a bad thing as you were not able to capture the Leader and gain the Victory Point reward for them.
This Leader VP can be earned each turn that a Leader is found in the Dead Pool and the Leader is never removed once placed in the Dead Pool. I have found that I am glad when a Leader is placed out on the map early in the game as it gives me an opportunity to take them out and gain 7-8 Victory Points over the course of the game (gaining 1VP each turn for them being in the Dead Pool). If you can somehow kill two of these Leaders, you are nearly assured of meeting the required Victory Point threshold for a victory, although not guaranteed.
Next, for each Region that contains a +3 Settlement the player will get to Eliminate the top-most Tribal Unit from each Box in that Region. And in each other Region that doesn’t contain a +3 Settlement, the player can only Eliminate the top-most Tribal Unit in any Tribal Box containing at least 3 Tribal Units. You must remember that you only have 4 Settlements that can be built but this is enough to try to place one in each of the three Regions not controlled by the Red Tribe, including Blue, Orange and Green. These +3 Settlements help greatly in the Romans being able to control the map as the Legions inevitably will combine and push north to take on the Red Tribes to close out the game. Without the Settlements, players will find that things will snowball and quickly get out of control and will ultimately end in losing Victory Points sufficient enough that you cannot pretend to meet the required VP threshold for each turn. A very important step in helping Agricola quell the rebellion.
Romanization is the process of the dissemination of Roman culture, language and customs upon the local populace of conquered territories. The goal of the Roman Empire was to make the world Rome and this had a great effect on shaping our western civilization today. In the game, the player has to deal with the consequences of their use of force in Romanization at the end of each turn by dealing with the inhabitants of the Dead Pool. Units have been placed here as a result of Legion Actions being taken in the preceding turn, including in Battle but also through Suppress, and now those Units will be put into the appropriate Cups.
The player will first sort all of the Tribal Units by Region. All Tribal Leaders will be left in the Dead Pool. Then, each Region will be resolved in any order the player likes by following these priorities:
If there are no Tribal Units in the Region with a +3 Settlement, the player will place all the Eliminated Units for that Region into the Friendly Cup. Here is where the Settlements return investment as their presence keeps the local populace in check even though you have just suppressed or even killed their people.
If there are Tribal Units but no Roman Presence in a Region, place all the Eliminated Units for that Region into the Hostile Cup. Roman Presence is simply defined as that Region containing a Legion, Garrison, or Settlement of any type. If the Region lacks any kind of Roman Presence, and there are Tribal Units present in the Region, place all the
Eliminated Units for that Region into the Hostile Cup.
If neither of the two cases above apply, place all the Eliminated Units for that Region into the Unfriendly Cup. The only exception to this is with Blue Tribal Units that meet this criteria will be placed into the Friendly Cup instead.
This now ties into the next segment as you can now start to recruit those newly added Auxiliaries to your Legions, but only if they are in the Friendly Cup. The player really needs to think about this and how to keep a steady stream of new recruits coming.
Levy New Auxiliaries
As you progress through the game, you will notice that you are losing your army bit by bit to the tough Tribal Battle Units. You need to continually refresh your armies, not only by adding new Legions and promoting them as you win battles, but through the continuous recruitment of new fodder, er,…I mean forces. With all seriousness, the Auxiliary Units are not great but can be used to great effect to strike first against your enemy when you have Initiative. They can also be of great use as you strategically place them in harms way to save your more valuable Legions. You may add new Auxiliaries in this step during the Housekeeping Phase.
Each new Auxiliary you recruit requires the expenditure of 1 Coin from your Treasury. You may only buy Auxiliaries up to your current Income Level. If you don’t have the coin in your Treasury, you cannot borrow or spend against future earnings. The make this process a bit more fun and random, after purchase each Auxiliary is drawn blindly from the Friendly Cup, and then assigned as an Auxiliary Battle Unit to any Legion of your choice. You cannot dig through the Cup to find the good Units, but must take your chances. When I say good Units, I mean a 3-4 Auxiliary, and there are only a few of these in the cup with the majority being 2-4.
Here is a look at the breakdown of the Units from the different Regions (the player cannot recruit Red Tribal Units):
Remember, that you you may not have more than two Auxiliaries per Legion Battle Unit in a Holding Box. Also, if when you are drawing you draw a Red Tribal Unit, or the Leader Calgacus, place them into the Hostile Cup and draw again. If any other Tribal Leader is drawn, place them into the Unfriendly Cup and draw again. If the Friendly Cup is empty when you reach into it, the coin is not expended.
I like to have at least 2-3 Auxiliaries for each Legion as this will help to eat up some of the larger enemy Tribal Battle Units and also absorb some of the more massive attacks. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want the Auxiliaries to be wasted in Battle or to simply throw them away but sometimes that is what they are good for. Also, any attack against the enemy Tribal Battle Units is a chance to eliminate them. Any dice roll can result in success no matter how bad the odds.
Build Public Works
Public Works is an important investment in the future of your Empire in Britain. The more you invest into Public Works, the more money you will receive during the Income segment and also the more tools you will have at your disposal to deal with uprisings.
In this Step, the player may pay 2 coins in order to replace a Garrison with a +2 Settlement Marker. You can also flip a +2 Settlement to its +3 side. Once this is complete, the player will get to increase their Income 2 as this little Settlement begins to provide resources that can be used by your Legions and other interests in Britain but also can be shipped back to Rome for sale. You must remember though that this Settlement progression is a process and takes several rounds to complete.
The player cannot in a single Housekeeping Phase pay 4 coins to turn a Garrison into a +3 Settlement. It will always be a two-turn process. That being said, the player may replace as many Garrisons, and flip as many +2 Settlements in a turn as they have resources for. There are a limited number of these Garrisons and Settlements so build them wisely. I personally like to get to an early start and build at least 2 Garrisons during the first turn and then improve them over the next two rounds.
Now that we have taken a look at how we build armies, improve the Roman infrastructure in Britain and also how to prepare the local Tribal Units for service in your Legions, it is time to take a look at how you score Victory Points and ultimately win the game.
Everything the player does in Agricola is with an eye toward creating Victory Points. In essence, the game is a modified engine building game where the player is trying to accomplish several important steps early enough in the game to create a Victory Point engine that will provide VP at the end of each turn. That is not to say that the game is a wargame and has many Battles and is about dominating entire Regions, clearing out resistance and establishing order through the Romanization of Britain. It is, but hidden in there is the key to victory in that of building a growing engine to provide the player with Victory Points needed each Turn to stay in the fight and not be replaced by a more effective leader.
During this Step, the player will score Victory Points and will also keep a running total tracking these VP with the VP Markers provided. The following are a list of the ways to score these VP:
• 1 VP per +3 Settlement Marker on the map
• 1 VP per Region that contains no Tribal Units
• 1 VP for each 3-aquila Legion Battle Unit held in the Legion Displays
• 1 VP for each Tribal Leader in the Dead Pool (remember, that once defeated these Leaders will never leave the Dead Pool and will score each turn after they are defeated)
After all of those scoring opportunities, the player may score 1 VP by spending 3 coins
from their Treasury. This buying of VP can happen as many times as the player likes, as long as they spend 3 coins they gain 1 VP. The only other thing that must be kept in mind, and also you must take into account at the end of Turn 8, is that the player will have to subtract 1 VP for each Tribal Unit still remaining on the map.
Remember that you will be given a VP threshold that must be met at the end of each turn or the game will immediately end. This VP threshold is written on the Game Turn Record Track for easy reference. Players should stop and take account of their standing after each Legion Action is taken or they might find themselves 1 Action short of accomplishing something they need in order to score that last needed VP to reach that VP threshold.
In my opinion, the player will need to make sure and clear out at least 1 Region during Turn 1. Remember that the Blue Region and Red Region starts with no Tribal Units present so the player should make it a priority to clear the Orange Region next. This can be accomplished but must be done by wisely using the limited Legion Actions provided during Turn 1 (remember you only get 3 Legion Actions at first while every other turn you will have 5 Actions). If you can clear the 3 Regions that will equate to 3 VP and the threshold is met but if not you still will need 1 more during Turn 1. You will not be able to build a +3 Settlement during Turn 1 so your only other option is to either defeat a Tribal Leader, which will give you 1 VP at the end of each turn after you defeat it, or make sure that your one 3-aquila Legion found in Legio XX Valeria Victrix stays alive as it will score you 1 VP. After Turn 1, the VP threshold ramps up and increases to 8VP at the end of Turn 2, 13VP at the end of Turn 3, 20VP at the end of Turn 4 and so on until you need to have a total of 75VP at game’s end to win the game.
After scoring your VP for the Turn, you may spend VP to recruit additional 1-aquila Legion Battle Units for the following costs:
• Minus 3 VP for one Unit
• Minus 5 VP for two Units (the value buy as I like to call it)
• Minus 8 VP for three Units (going all in as this is very expensive and you should really think thrice before doing this)
After being purchased, the Units are assigned to the Holding Box of any Legion that occupies a Legionary Camp. It doesn’t matter which Legion occupies which camp. Note that you cannot assign any Legion additional Units that would bring its total of Legion Battle Units to three times as much as any other Legion. You also have to pay attention to not spending your VP under the threshold as they VP requirement is not enforced until after the purchase of Legion Battle Units step.
I love the way this game scores Victory Points and forces you to plan for improvements that are invested in and built early and also rewards aggressive play in trying to go out and clear Regions of resistance and in essence hunt down and defeat Tribal Leaders. I also really like that you can spend your coin to gain VP when needed, although this shouldn’t be done often as you need that coin for other improvements such as Settlements, and I feel that this is very thematic as sending coin back to Rome would have been seen as success and Agricola would have been rewarded for that effort. A great engine building aspect that makes the game very interesting with lots of decisions about how to spend your coin, what objectives to chase, trying to push your luck to clear out Regions and even going after Leaders. Such an interesting experience in management of an small corner of the Empire.
In Action Point 6, which is the conclusion to this series, I will highlight several points of strategy and help you to get an idea for how you should go about taming wild Britain.