Sunday, September 9, 2012

Our Agricola Strategy

We've written before (and here) about our favorite board game-cum-addiction Agricola.

We play this game on Skype with Sara's parents and our friends the Parkinsons with some regularity. Yes, we're THAT addicted.

Recently we've had several readers asking how the game works, so we thought we'd give a quick primer here. The idea is that you, together with your (in-game) spouse, are farmers (blue discs). You want to accomplish lots of things in the game, including expanding your house, planting and harvesting grain and vegetables, and raising sheep, pigs, and cows. You can see here what a filled-in game board looks like.

The game is one of scarcity, so each turn counts. One of the best ways to improve your game is to grow your family. This action can usually only be taken once you've built an extension to your house, but then your child can take additional actions, improving your output for the rest of the game. Late in the game, a new option appears that's arguably one of the most valuable options in the game: Family growth without room.

Like the name suggests, this lets you circumvent the need for a huge house to have a new family member, while still increasing your total number of actions.

Sara and I are undertaking our own version of family growth without room:

 (And I'm not continuing the Agricola tutorial--it was just a ruse.)

Yes, in mid-March we are expecting a little baby German to join our house which will definitely be too small for us. As of this writing (September 9), Sara is about 13 weeks along with a due date of March 18. This ultrasound was taken on Monday, September 3 (Labor Day, ha ha) when the baby was approximately 6 cm (just over 2 in) long and weighed about the same as a deck of cards. We've been extremely lucky that Sara hasn't felt ill at all; in fact, other than being generally tired and having sudden pangs of hunger, she's feeling great.

We were extremely happy to learn about the baby before we went home to see our families since we were able to tell them in person. They were, understandably, ecstatic. (We're both the oldest in our families and there are no other grandchildren. Bring on the doting!) We have spent the past week telling many of our friends and family members over Skype, so now we're ready for a big, general announcement.

A brief FAQ for the interested.

1. Will the baby be born in Germany or the US?
We're staying in Germany for the birth, which means (as far as we can tell) that the child will have dual US-German citizenship until the age of 23 or 25, at which point it chooses its citizenship. (That means several prime years of traveling the EU worry-free.)

2. Do you know the gender/have a gender preference?
We won't know the gender for a month or two, but we do want to find out. (We believe we'll get cuter baby things if we know the gender.) We don't have any strong gender preference, though Sara says she wants a girl. Given the Meldrum family's record of male offspring production, she's feeling nervous she'll never have a girl, so she'd like to get one as early as possible.

3. How is pregnancy/labor/delivery/etc... in Germany?
So far, really great. We have doctor's appointments, all in German, every 4 weeks, each with an ultrasound. Our insurance, thank you European sensibilities about health care, covers everything. The German makes it a little difficult, but we go slow and so far we understand everything the doctor says. (They gave us piles and piles of reading literature, so we're learning lots of birth/baby related words that way.)

4. Do you guys have any ideas about names?
We're waiting until we know the gender to have the name discussions. We have talked about baby names in the past and haven't found many that we both like. We're hoping to make things easier by narrowing the field by half before we start discussing names.

5. When can we meet the baby?
Anytime after the birth! Of course, that means you need to come out to Germany. The US tour will begin hopefully next summer--I'm currently applying for positions at several schools and, if I get a good offer, we'll come back as soon as we can. If there isn't a good offer, we'll try to secure more funding and stay here for about another year. We'll let you know as soon as we can.

6. What sorts of reactions have people had?
The reactions have been fantastic. My mother started alternately laughing and gasping while asking, "Are you serious?", Sara's mother initially looked so shocked that we couldn't tell if she was happy (but then began weeping profusely and we knew that she was), and others' reactions ranged from sobs of joy to enthusiastic cheers. We're feeling no shortage of love from those we have left behind in North America, nor from those we've befriended here in Germany. Our friend Maile, a fellow Agricola player, suggested that this is just like family growth without room, except the children can't start productively contributing to advancing the household after just one season of life like they can in the game. (Thanks for the idea, Maile!)

7. Is Sara showing?
A little bit. It's pretty clear to both of us that she looks different, but most other people may just think she's put on a little weight. There have been a few friends who, after we told them the news, smiled and said, "I thought so." I suppose we couldn't keep the secret much longer, even if we wanted to.

8. Do you have an in utero name?
So far we've been taking cues from the size of the baby. There are many comparisons between the size of the baby at a given week of development and size of foods, and we usually just take the food of the week for the name (this week was lime, next week is shrimp). However, following today's Pearls Before Swine comic, I'm thinking Dinky-McGoogle is a good idea.

9. Are you scared?
Yes and no. We're new at this, but we've done hard things before and I'm sure we'll be just fine. A few logistical problems revolve around our living on the fourth floor with no elevator and no washing machine, but we'll be fine. I'm more scared by something the doctor said at our last appointment. She was looking for the baby's heartbeat with the ultrasound, but the baby was moving around so much that she couldn't easily find it. After trying for a minute to pin down the heartbeat, she said, "Well, this looks like it's going to be one exhausting child!"

As I'm sure you can imagine, we're terribly excited. We'll certainly keep everyone up to date on new developments. This may be a good time to remind people that we have a US phone number that you can call, or find us on Skype, or email, or whatever. Click on the "Contact the Haus" link on the right and you'll find our coordinates. And for the love and support we've enjoyed already on this new project, thank you all.


  1. Hooray!!! This is amazing news! So fun to hear, and to hear about how everyone has reacted. Also fun to hear about another new board game (I always get Ken's christmas presents based on your blog recommendations... :)) Cannot wait to hear more about this baby, you guys will do great! Small place, fourth floor, and all. You've got this. :) Congrats!

  2. Squeeeeeeee! Congratulations! I can't wait to see how a Meldrum/Marostica offspring turns out.

  3. Congratulations!!! Really great news!!! I am really happy for you guys :) I wish Sara an easy pregnancy and of course health and all the best for all 3 of you!!! yuhuuuu!!!!

  4. Love. Love. Love! You guys are awesome! Congratulations!

  5. I love this one. Family growth without room. Brilliant.

    And what is that little baby token?

    1. Yes, thank you Maile for the awesome idea about Family Growth without room.

      The picture was one I just downloaded. I took some pictures myself, but out cards are in German. I thought it might lose some effect that way.

  6. That is the best and most thorough baby announcement I've seen! I love the FAQ section! Love you guys!


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