Strategic Primer: Toward a Superior Model of Agriculture

When I began the current campaign of Strategic Primer, I didn’t think about how to model agriculture until I needed something to report in the players’ first turn results, and it shows. (The previous campaign never really kept track of any resources, for what it’s worth.) And while I’m not going to change the rules on this mid-campaign, I don’t want any future campaign to be stuck with either the current, somewhat flawed, model or a new one I invent on the spot for that campaign like I did for this one.

First, as background, and for reference, I’d like to explain how agriculture works in the current campaign. For most purposes a turn is equivalent to a day: that’s how I determine how much work a worker can do, how much food is consumed, how far an explorer can travel, etc. But a year in the game-world is only a fortnight. Each crop has a cycle, a set number of turns in each stage of production (planting, waiting, harvest, and more waiting is the usual order), that once begun in a particular place runs like clockwork. So far, in practice, this has led to most players having all their crops being planted or harvested at once. In creating the model, I completely forgot to include any notion of “seasons”—which makes adding weather difficult, too.

I’ve scoured the Web for data on crop yields, which are for the most part not too difficult to find, and farmer productivity (how much area a farmer can plow, plant, or harvest in a day with such-and-such tools), which is apparently a more obsure subject (so I’ve had to make the data for that up …). And while I had originally thought that the yields per worker the current agriculture model produced were unreasonably large and possibly unbalanced the game, my recent experience using the new encounter model for gathering (which has the same modeling-in-advance-of-real-data problem as farmer productivity) and especially hunting leads me to the conclusion that the yields from farming are if anything too low for game balance.

Like I said above, I’d like to avoid these problems in future campaigns. To start with, I’ll change the year from a fortnight to something closer to a real-world year, but make a turn be a week so the game doesn’t get too slow. (Because this would make the perceived size of the world even smaller than it is now—currently, if the world were completely jungle, which is the slowest terrain, an explorer on foot could circumnavigate it in seven turns—I’ll increase the size of the map somewhat and reduce all speeds by some large constant factor.) With the standard year as a framework, I’ll arrange crops’ growing seasons so that some overlap and some can be even grown in the same fields, though this will vary somewhat with climate.

Each crop will have baseline yield (somewhat lower than the real-world data I find, even adjusted to compensate for the past few centuries’ agronomical advances) and efficiency figures, which will be modified according to extra actions (pruning, weeding, watering, fertilizing, etc.), the skill level of the farmers that planted (for crops where that’s relevant) and harvested, and the weather and climate (a late planting should mean a smaller harvest, not just a late harvest) to determine the actual yield of the field and the actual efficiency of the workers.

Are there any other factors or nuances that the agricultural model should touch on?

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