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Subject: Scythe - are people really so blind to its faults? rss

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So, let me begin by saying I think this is a very good game. I actually rate it an 8. Let me also say that, of course, ratings and such are a case of personal taste and opinion, naturally. So if it makes you feel any better, you can add 'in my opinion' to all my sentences.

Having said that, from my plays of Scythe, I cannot help but note some (I thought, at least) significant and fairly obvious issues with the game, that are rarely mentioned, and I would like to comment on those. I see the game shooting up the ratings, and I'm not at all surprised, though it does make me scratch my head a bit also. Though I guess it's to be expected as well, considering the trends in board game rankings at the moment.

So anyway, I'm going to make a list of pros and cons, and make a comparison to Kemet and Terra Mystica - 2 games I rate a 10, and explain why I feel like Scythe doesn't make it to that standing for me.



First, let me list what I see as the greatest positives of the game:

1. Theme is fun and original.
2. Conflict, and the results of conflict tend not to be debilitating. A player won't feel 'knocked out' because someone was mean to them.
3. Relatively easy and intuitive to learn depending on the teacher.
4. Shortish playtime (we go about 2-2 1/2 hrs for a 5 player game), but still feels like you have played an 'epic' game.
5. Really nice art, and Mechs are sweet.
6. Thinky game where planning is very important, very strong focus on efficiency.
7. For me, at least, this game has the 'x-factor' of just being 'fun' (at least on the first few plays...)
8. You do have to watch the other players closely. Though you can't effect that THAT much, you do have to look out for them completing their conditions, and a even a small amount of effort on your part can send them back a couple of turns, which can be a big points swing in the last few rounds.
9. Turns move real quick. Low downtime.

So overall, great stuff. Like I said, and 8 for me.

So, here's where I begin to have problems with the game. I will talk about these in a bit more depth, since the positives have already been extensively covered.

I will start with some minor issues and move on to greater ones, since I figure let's not get everyone's back up from the outset.


1. The Encounter cards

...don't really work in evoking the theme. Okay, hear me out before yelling at me about the art I love the art, and the evocation of the theme is very strong through that art. But that's only for the player that picks it up, since they can't 'read' the picture to the other players. You can pass the card around to other players, but realistically, I don't think most players will do that since the player who gets the card usually has to sit and stare at the card for 2 minutes deciding what they what they want. What we've found is that it quickly degenerates into the player reads out the three options (which have no real theme to them as far as anyone else can tell). I LOVE the art, but for these kinds of cards, in other games (eg Lords of Waterdeep) the text works so much better, since the player can just read it out (note: I am not comparing Lords of Waterdeep with Scythe overall).

This is almost nit-picky, but still, it's a pity the theme is not well brought out by the cards ultimately. Instead, the bulk of the work for carrying the theme lies with:

2. The Mechs and The Map.



The mechs are great in all versions. But playing with the larger map and the smaller, the large map does a MASSIVE JOB in bringing out the theme. The smaller map is simply too small, the details are not present in the same way, and the theme is lost as a result. Personally, I would not buy the game unless I could get the big map, the difference in thematic resonance is so massive.

3. Nothing really innovative.

Actually, I don't really care about this one too much. I like lots of games that are essentially mashups of other games eg Voyages of Marco Polo. But still, I do like it when a game really innovates in an unexpected way.

In some way I kind of feel like the designer didn't really have an idea for a game but wanted to make one anyway, and ultimately was inspired to make the game because of the art (not sure to what degree that's true)

Let me be clear at this point though: it is a VERY well designed game, and VERY VERY well developed game. Everything feels very balanced, almost to a fault. Everything seems to be thought of. It's very smooth. The amount of work and love gone into this is obvious and clear. Still, it's hard to feel that mechanically it's more workmanlike than daring and innovative. Still, I could easily give a 10 to a game that has no massive innovations, so not really that big a deal.

4. Guided into a strategy by starting conditions.



This is related strongly to the next point, but I'll give it it's own heading. The point itself is very simple: your starting conditions in the game almost instantly give you a very clear blueprint of the strategy you need to follow if you want to win. It's not just a hint, or a bit of a boost in an area or two. You simply MUST follow the route given to you by the actions on your player board that are most efficient, and give you more money/points by doing them. That fact is the core of the game, and what makes the planning fun. But it does also create some significant issues, which I'll examine in later points.

Yes, there's some asymmetry in gameplay created by this from game to game, but I've never in a game felt so 'assigned' to following a particular path EXCEPT maybe Terra Mystica (more on that later). I've found this to be quite startling. It's not just the powers either - it's map location, what resources are available, what order you ought to probably but your mechs in and so on. It does not feel to me like there are branching possibilities to a faction: there's a root of 2 or so actions which you need to focus on, and do that as efficiently as possible.


5. Pure Efficiency Game / Static Game State

Okay, this is where the bulk of my criticism is at. Now, fist of all I really like efficency games. In fact, most board games are efficiency games to some extent or another.

But in this game you are assigned an opening position. By and large, EVERYTHING that is to come in the game is revealed to you at this point. Yes, you may get attacked by another player, or they may make it to the centre hex before you and try and hold it, etc. But generally, conflict in this game is not really change things up that much. It's more like it sends you back a turn or two and makes you a little less efficient as you make up for ground. So yes, there are some unexpected things that may come up, but basically the game is: look at your starting position, figure out what you want to do, then try to do it faster and more efficiently than other players.

Of course, from that starting set up you may realise you have made a bung choice, and be forced to change gears. The exact 'best' way to play, and to order your actions is not obvious. But you certainly are very strongly goaded into the 'right' way to play game to game. But the issue is that ultimately there is very little creativity or improvisation in the game, because the game state itself so incredibly static.

Again: you look at the board, figure out what you want to do, and then try to do that efficiently as possible in the way you arrange the order of your actions. Not much is going to bump you off that path.

Now, don't get me wrong: that is a fun thing to do.

But after a few games, I found the game to be increasingly 'samey'. Not much tended to surprise me. I rarely had to improvise out of a situation, or felt like I had to come up with a creative solution.

Never once, outside the game have I ever thought: 'hey, next time I'm going to try this or that strategy, maybe that would work'. Why should I? Anything I think of is out the window as soon as I get my faction card and leader. My entire strategy is defined for me by that card draw.

Now, again, to be clear, there's cleverness and creativity and improvisation involved in that first five minutes of planning. That is fun. And the rest of the game is trying to play that out that plan as efficiently as possible. And that's fun too.

But during the vast bulk of the game, I rarely feel like something happens to make me act cleverly or creatively, to improvise. MAYBE briefly if I get a useful central factor tech card. But not really.

This is caused by three factors: defined strategic parameters by faction, static game state, little game changing interaction - either through direct conflict or competition for resources, actions or abilities.

This leads to a situation where this game has very little in the way of 'emergent gameplay' - that is to say, gameplay that rises organically out of the mechanisms, and evolves as players find new ways to play. Instead in Scythe, each player is playing on rails and the game is essentially planned out in advance largely for you. In a way, it feels like the potential creativity of the players has been sacrificed for the desire for balance.

Some people may read this and think: yeah, what's the problem? I can understand that POV, and like I said, there is fun to be had here. But for me, this lack of creativity and improvisation through the game is a significant issue. And, I think regardless of whether you find it an issue or not in the first few plays, I cannot help but strongly suspect it will increasingly become a problem as further plays will prove increasingly samey, which brings me to:

6. Replayability.

Actually, this isn't my largest issue, since I suspect you can get at least 10 good games out of this without it getting repetitive. It's just last because it's really a symptom of the above points. I also haven't played this enough to 100% confirm this, though it's a pretty strong hunch at this point.

...I was about to explain this, but do I really need to...?

Yes, there's some replayability from the difference faction combinations and different starting positions, but let's face it: the differences between the factions are not large enough that they change how the game fundamentally plays. There's also some minor replayability changes with the secret goals and the bonus point cards, and the factory cards, but to me those feel really pretty minor variations on what you've already got. The fact that the map is static every game, and that there's actually not that much to do for the players to effect once another means almost ALL THE REPLAYABILITY is dependent on the starting conditions, and having a different faction, and really that can only last you so long. Arguably, the factions are really not terribly different - being variations around a theme rather than signficant differences in playstyle.

At any rate, quibbles about details aside, this is about as close as I get to an 'objective' criticism of the game. I do not see how this replayability factor cannot end up being the case with the bulk of players. I personally suspect, this is a problem identified in development, and some efforts have been made to alleviate the issue: objective cards, different factor cards, encounter cards, but really that feels like tinkering around the edges rather than dealing with the core issue.

So now let me briefly compare to two games that have often been cited as influences on Scythe, and explain why I think they are the better games, and worth a '10' for me. Largely this is to do with this issue of emergent gameplay and creativity needed by the players.

1. Terra Mystica



This game feels like the closest comparison for a few reasons: map looks static at the start of the game (though it's not), factions have a predefined strategy (not to mention the round to round goals, that give you a series of clear targets), an almost pure efficiency game.

But in Terra Mystica thing change up FAST. Routes get blocked, the landscape is Terraformed, plans change FAST as people put up new buildings, and branch out into new areas. Yes, you have a predefined strategy from your race, but you constantly are forced to improvise and be creative as your best laid plans are forced to change.

That creativity and necessary improvisation that the game forces the players to partake in, is what makes this game a classic for me. In Scythe, it is the opposite. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen a game that less expects creativity and improvisation from its players outside the first planning faze.

The emergent gameplay comes out of the interaction between the player factions and the ever changing map.

2. Kemet



There's some similarities with Kemet, though they're more like a few mechanics being borrowed here and there rather than the game really feeling very similar. Mostly the way combat and combat resolution is managed, and to an extent action selection.

I won't get into that here, but basically it's the combination of bluffing with power and cards in a battle. The result being less debilitating for the loser, than it is simply becoming a bit less efficient, by sending your dudes back to your base, and maybe losing some resources. For the winner, battles are generally more about scoring a point for a successful attack, than it is gaining map control, or destroying the enemy's forces. Also, I guess, the race for 'x' number of points is similar.

The difference is with Kemet, however, again, this issue of creativity. In Kemet, the combination of game-changing player powers than can be acquired tends to force you to rethink plans, make daring unexpected moves. In between games, you're often making plans for strategies for the next game: what if I got that tech, then that one, then went for that! Aha - they'll never see that coming! And then that plan needs rethinking and adjustment when people ruin your plans. Then you think on the fly: oh, maybe if I do this, and this, and THIS! Yes, you're trying to be efficient with your actions in a similar way to Scythe, but in Kemet instead of following a plan, you're constantly planning and replanning, creating, improvising. Again, I find very little of that in Scythe, and so to me one of the most core enjoyments I get from board games is missing.

In Kemet, the emergent gameplay comes largely from the connections and interaction of the array of power tiles within a player's tableau and between different players.

***


Still, an 8 is pretty good. It's certainly worth a purchase, though imho the large map is essential. I actually think with the small map, the game loses a LOT of the theme. Personally, I hope they release the large maps for people to purchase separately.

***

Right so I hope that wasn't too much of a TLDR situation. Naturally, people want different things from their games, and I must admit - to some extent I've written a somewhat provocative heading. i'm sure to large extent, people are not really 'blind' to the faults of Scythe, they just want different things. I can see people thinking that improvisation in a game could create stress, and there's a certain pleasure from simply making a plan and following through without it getting upended.

That's not the case for me though. To be clear: I'm not a big fan of conflict, which makes Sythe a big drawcard for me, because I simply don't like being mean. BUT, Scythe has not just a lack of conflict but a lack of interaction overall, this combined with a very static gamestate during the game, creates a situation where I simply find myself engaging in a very repetitive planning exercise game to game, with very little creativity or improvisation going on during the game, that ultimately means the game is going to outstay its welcome quite quickly for me, though I am still (semi) enjoying it after a half dozen plays.
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bort
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Nice title
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Nigel McNaughton
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I agree 100% about the Encounter Cards. Every time I pick one up I feel like it's missing just a little bit of set up.

"You encounter a Farmer fixing a Mech, do you..."

"You stumble upon an Underground Lab..."

"You are disrupted by a herd of wild pigs...
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Leigh Ryan
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BathTubNZ wrote:
I agree 100% about the Encounter Cards. Every time I pick one up I feel like it's missing just a little bit of set up.

"You encounter a Farmer fixing a Mech, do you..."

"You stumble upon an Underground Lab..."

"You are disrupted by a herd of wild pigs...


Our group might just be odd, but we do make sure everyone gets to see the art before we read out the options that relate to it. Seems to be working okay so far for our group.
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bortmonkey wrote:
Nice title


Yeah, sorry, it's pretty clickbait I must admit.
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Jesse Doe
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It's a damn pretty game. But yeah, there's not enough new here to make me want to purchase it.
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Barry Miller
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LineOf7s wrote:
Our group might just be odd, but we do make sure everyone gets to see the art before we read out the options that relate to it. Seems to be working okay so far for our group.

No, we do the exact same thing. I only wish the Encounter Cards were bigger, for that very reason!

A very superb analysis, BTW!

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Geoff
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BathTubNZ wrote:
I agree 100% about the Encounter Cards. Every time I pick one up I feel like it's missing just a little bit of set up.

"You encounter a Farmer fixing a Mech, do you..."

"You stumble upon an Underground Lab..."

"You are disrupted by a herd of wild pigs...


Yep. I actually tried to look at the art on the cards and figure out where they were coming from with their options, but I absolutely could not make the connection on most cards. I also have the complaint that the theme isn't half as immersive for me as it seems to be for everybody else.

There is one notable exception. In the game I played, the Polish faction player (who gets to choose two options from a card) drew a card that let him choose between showing the locals how well he can control his animal or making it go berserk. He opted to first make it go berserk and _then_ flex his animal taming skills by getting it back under control. I really dug the story he was able to paint with that card.

Thematic deficiencies aside, however, I greatly enjoyed my play and look forward to yoinking my own copy.
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Luke Jacobs
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This is a great review and critique. Thanks!
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A J
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I sort of see what you are saying regarding how the game guides you towards a certain strategy. I haven't played the game enough to know that for certain, but your strategy is pretty much given to you at the beginning of the game, and thereafter you are playing a tactical game.

Which, isn't the worst thing in the world. Just need to know what you're getting into, I suppose.
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Pierre
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ayejae wrote:
I sort of see what you are saying regarding how the game guides you towards a certain strategy. I haven't played the game enough to know that for certain, but your strategy is pretty much given to you at the beginning of the game, and thereafter you are playing a tactical game.

Which, isn't the worst thing in the world. Just need to know what you're getting into, I suppose.


That's one of the things I actually like a lot about Scythe. Imagine all player mats being the same. All actions, structures, enlists and upgrades in the same order and configuration.
After 5 games you would have seen everything, have laid out a strategy for each faction and that's it. This really gets repetitive and - as OP hints at - samey even sooner.

But with up to 25 combinations? Yes, the combinations won't feel totally different from each other, but all of them lead you in slightly different directions to explore. Some may be more similar to each other than others. But none are the same.

I'd compare this to Blood Rage where each player starts with exactly the same player mat and customizes their faction step by step in any direction they like and cards allow. I do agree that Scythe does not offer half as much customization (heck, even less), but this also makes explaining the boards and developing a strategy so much easier and (best of all) newbie-friendier. Explaining each and every possible upgrade in Blood Rage can get tedious at times. The basic concept is straight forward, and yet I mostly have to explain each section to make sure everyone gets the idea of pimping your warriors, gaining monsters and whatnot.

Where Scyth falls flat for me is the lack of player interaction. Having a combat every now and then is just not enough, and oftentimes it's not even worth considering to initiate a combat due to the possible loss of popularity. The rulebook encourages players to make bribes and form short-term alliances, but I have yet to see that happen.

One of the first things that came up in my group was this: "I've got food, anyone got metal?". I like the idea of non-action trading among players similar to Settlers. Has anyone tried that yet?
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Thank you for a fantastic review of the game, and one that puts into words anything and everything I have been contemplating for a few days. You said it so much better than I ever could.

Two days ago, I played Scythe for the second time. This time with 5 players, whereas the first game was with only 2 (the two extremes in non-automa play). Before I had played it even once, I was bummed to not have had the possibility to back the Kickstarter project, and looking for a way to get my hands on a Collectors Edition in some way. After the first game, I still thought "yep, amazing game, I HAVE to have it". Then came the second game - and I began to waver in my conviction.

I had a hard time putting a finger on what I did not like about the game, or what made me look at it a different way. After all, art, theme and material are superb, and gameplay is at least very good - that I was sure of.
Finally I realized that I strongly disliked the race for efficiency which is at the core of this game. To win, you have to play as efficient as possible, and that means you have to figure out what your best possible way of playing the game is, based on your faction ability, your starting point and your action board. Factor in what your opponents are likely to do, and secure yourself against them foiling your plans (which they inevitably will do), and take advantage of weaknesses they show. The player who can achieve this the best way possible, in the shortest amount of time, will most likely win (if he hasn't made mistakes).

This efficiency race, however, leaves no room for leeway, for exploration or improvisation. To use a RPG term (and build upon the OPs description) - the game is almost completely railroaded, with your starting setup providing the rails and the direction. The only deviations are those times where you either can react to your opponents (to gain an advantage out of their weakness) or have to react to your opponents (because they try to gain an advantage out of yours). For me, this efficiency race is the one thing I strongly dislike, as the game is over too quickly to do anything but what you need to do. It feels like not only has the game been polished towards the point where everything unnecessary has been stripped away, even the smallest details - this is also the case with its gamePLAY.


Regarding it feeling "samey", I also think that this game will become to samey for me, too fast. In my games, I strive for variation, in a bigger way than what the game here lets me do with the faction and action boards. Either through exploring different ways of strategy, through being forced to "improvise" (as the OP puts it) due to my opponnents' moves, or through bigger differences in factions available. I do not enjoy mastering a game to a point where I can play it as efficiently as possible (or as good as possible).
Regarding the last point, I will briefly compare it to Cthulhu Wars, one of my favourite games at the moment. Of course, it is a radically different game that really cannot be compared in many aspects. But what I intend to compare are the different factions (or starting positions) you can play. Each faction plays radically different than the others. Not only do you have to adapt your "efficiency" engine to incorporate your faction ability, your starting spaces and your action board (okay, CW does not have that), but you have to completely rethink how you play the game.
Additionally, it makes a huge difference which factions you play against, as they will impact the game in different ways, and you have to figure it into your plans and adapt accordingly.
Granted, once you have played each combination of factions, and each faction, you have "seen it all". And the base game is limited to four factions only. But that is not the point I am trying to make. The point is that, for me, the different factions do not vary enough. You still have to do the same things in a similar chain of actions, to achieve efficiency in Scythe. And that is not enough variation for me, in a game that railroads you. Sure, CW does that, too, in a way (your faction tells you how to play), but it is always a challenge, and it can always be altered greatly by what your opponents do...



As you can tell, I fully agree with the OPs review of the game, in every single aspect (including the slight "thematic" aspect regarding the gorgeous, gorgeous encounter cards). And it has helped me come to the conclusion that I not need to purchase this game. I have two friends who already own it, and as beautiful as it is, the "flaws" I see in its design would not, could not, justify me owning it.
...especially not if I had to explain to my better half why yet another costly game had to be purchased...

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Jonathan Kinney
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I agree that the variability of handing out the play mat and leader does limit the amount of ability to determine a strategy, but I've been mulling on this since my third game with a third different set up.
What if you decided ahead of time?

Figure out when you're playing, figure out the leader and player mat distribution ahead of time and let me develop strategies before they show up. It's not that hard.

I'm definitely going to suggest that the next time I play and see how it goes.
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Troy Laurin
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It really might be worth changing that title, it really seems out of place for a game that you rated an 8. FWIW, following Betteridge's law of headlines the answer is "no".

Theme and the encounter cards will probably depend greatly on the group you play with. My regular group is a bit dry, so encounters usually end up in reading the options. More dramatic groups might try to embellish a story based on what's shown and how they react to the encounter. There's no particular reason why the rest of the table need to know what the unchosen options are, although for newer players it can be interesting to know what kind of encounters are available. Perhaps the takeaway is that the theme isn't handed to you on a silver platter. The silver platter is, but you and the rest of the group have to fill in your own stories, if that's something that your group wants.

Regarding the map... the large map won't fit on all tables

For strategy, efficiency and a static environment... granted that I don't know how many times you've played, but have you tried playing differently where the situation allows it? Perhaps don't try for a victory by stars, but instead building a production and popularity engine and hoarding resources?

I wonder... if you were to play against a larger pool of players online, like you can with Terra Mystica, would you (and others) continue to say the same thing about being railroaded into a particular playstyle? I know that I hope the answer is that there's room for interpretation of strategy in the game, but I'm not naive enough to think that hope is a valid data point. Be interesting to see the answer some months/years down the track.

I find the game fun (even when losing abysmally), but it's not a 10 game for me either. Not sure if I know what a 10 game is, to be honest. A game so good that I expect that I will always want to play it to the exclusion of other games? I wonder how many people who rate 10s actually follow the BGG guidelines? How many people have multiple games rated 10? surprise
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Troy Laurin
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Also this comment from a similar thread (https://boardgamegeek.com/article/23264590#23264590):

Dormammu wrote:
I've now played seven times and I had an observation that brought me back to your review. I think one thing that makes the game feel bland is that the stars (which give you points and trigger the endgame) are largely awarded for maxing out on actions. The problem is that you are therefore running an engine for the sake of running the engine. Upgrade so you can get credit for upgrading. Build so you can get credit for building. Etc.

I don't like that. It feels circular and thereby pointless.

Conversely, I have seen glimmers of something else. There are some spatial interactions I'm starting to see come up more often. As players get more experienced, they seem to interfere with each other more. There is more combat, more moving to claim spaces first or hem in an opponent's freedom of expansion. This gives me hope it might get better still. I wouldn't normally give a game so many tries to get good, but everyone wants to play my copy so it's getting a workout.

That said, my opinion may not be useful to you based on the games you mention. I'd rather not play a board game at all than play Viticulture, Vinhos, Signorie, Madeira, Small World or Navegador.

laugh


I read that as: If you play Scythe as a multiplayer solitaire game then it will probably get stale pretty quickly. If you play Scythe to interact and interfere with the other players, it could have a long life.

Combat is inefficient? Then force the other guy to fight you to be able to do what he wants.
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MrTroy wrote:
Also this comment from a similar thread (https://boardgamegeek.com/article/23264590#23264590):

Dormammu wrote:
I've now played seven times and I had an observation that brought me back to your review. I think one thing that makes the game feel bland is that the stars (which give you points and trigger the endgame) are largely awarded for maxing out on actions. The problem is that you are therefore running an engine for the sake of running the engine. Upgrade so you can get credit for upgrading. Build so you can get credit for building. Etc.

I don't like that. It feels circular and thereby pointless.

Conversely, I have seen glimmers of something else. There are some spatial interactions I'm starting to see come up more often. As players get more experienced, they seem to interfere with each other more. There is more combat, more moving to claim spaces first or hem in an opponent's freedom of expansion. This gives me hope it might get better still. I wouldn't normally give a game so many tries to get good, but everyone wants to play my copy so it's getting a workout.

That said, my opinion may not be useful to you based on the games you mention. I'd rather not play a board game at all than play Viticulture, Vinhos, Signorie, Madeira, Small World or Navegador.

laugh


I read that as: If you play Scythe as a multiplayer solitaire game then it will probably get stale pretty quickly. If you play Scythe to interact and interfere with the other players, it could have a long life.

Combat is inefficient? Then force the other guy to fight you to be able to do what he wants.

Yes, as mentioned in the review, I think to play well, you should keep your eye on other players and interfere at opportune moments.

We have had quite a few battle per game (five player games mostly) I would say an average of 4 or 5 each, which is pretty decent. But that's still a very low level of interaction with the other players. There's no competition for action spots, abilities, or points on the map except maybe briefly at the central hex or the encounter cards. Nothing much changes during the game, so by necessary implication, it will become samey. Because it is.

I've never seen a game before where you could basically pre-programme in all your moves before you even start, not change a thing and probably still do pretty decently, except for maybe a couple points in the game where you might get attacked.

Quote:
Combat is inefficient? Then force the other guy to fight you to be able to do what he wants.

That's not really a hugely helpful point in the context of this game.
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Paul Newsham
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I think this is a really good review, well written and well argued. Please don't do this, though:

not a real person wrote:
this is about as close as I get to an 'objective' criticism of the game


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Valerij Kozlov
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London
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LineOf7s wrote:
BathTubNZ wrote:
I agree 100% about the Encounter Cards. Every time I pick one up I feel like it's missing just a little bit of set up.

"You encounter a Farmer fixing a Mech, do you..."

"You stumble upon an Underground Lab..."

"You are disrupted by a herd of wild pigs...


Our group might just be odd, but we do make sure everyone gets to see the art before we read out the options that relate to it. Seems to be working okay so far for our group.


So far all groups I played with go straight to "Ok, I can either have $2 and one love or pay for..". Personally I find it a nice touch, but would not waste game time inspecting art or reading bold text.
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Mark O'Reilly
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There is so much love for this game, it takes intelligence and a fair bit of bottle to stand up to the crowd and voice your opinion in such a reasonable and thought out way.

It's also very refreshing that no one has attacked you for it.
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Trevor Taylor
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This was a good read, although the Title is probably a bit too provocativedevil

You're 'faults' (as you say, some aren't really faults) are all very well explained and I too find it far more thematic on the bigger board and wish there was a little more flavour text to the encounters.

I think it's probably a little early for anyone but play-testers to talk about the level of re-playability in the game. I also think that you're missing something in the iteration of players/pre-defined strategies of the starting conditions.

As you play this game more, you're going to start seeing what is the likely goal of every player and deciding who wants to do what and where they might go. As soon as players start playing based on what others might do (like enlisting likely used actions by others) you will then start second guessing each other and so on.

Although I understand how you might feel on-rails because there seems a most logical path to take (you get the same sort of thing from other games like Roll for the Galaxy). But then I find that most engine building games have various starting strategies which will get you going and people develop their favourites. I find that very few games will be highly re-playable if you play the same people every time and everyone always followed the same prescribed routes. If you played chess with someone and lost, there's obviously an incentive for the winner to play the exact same moves, but the loser will need to change.

Obviously chess involves far more interaction than Scythe (and less variable starting conditions), but Scythe still has a lot of subtle interaction in the enlistment action and combat (which isn't always about you getting the most benefit, but maybe hindering your opponent the most). As long as your friends continue to innovate, you should get plenty of games out of this.

PS. This is why the Automa concept has been so successful in games thus far. For Scythe it creates a different opponent every time which means that however much pre-planning you do, you'll spend a lot of your game changing things up based on what your (artificial) opponent does.
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Great review with some excellent, thoughtful arguments!

I've just been wondering about the comparison to Terra Mystica: Why do things change fast in Terra Mystica and not in Scythe? Not having played it, I don't get why it's so different.

I mean, I've already figured that playing Scythe with just two players probably isn't going to be that interesting in the long run, since you can easily avoid the other player and concentrate on engine-building as efficiently as possible.
But with more players won't the other player's actions limit your options, causing you to either fight them or choose other inefficient actions?
Especially, as you pointed out, since factions aren't actually all that different.

I'm also wondering on the impact of the random elements in Scythe. E.g. could a string of (lucky) events be sufficient to make reconsidering the 'default' strategy worthwhile? Are the extra action boards you can get at the factory good enough to alter your strategy?

I also found it interesting that someone brought up Cthulhu Wars. After three games I already got a suspicion that there isn't actually that much variety in the game. While it's true that (almost) every faction plays radically different, everything else in the game is fixed.
There's seems to be a reason why there's so much extra-stuff, i.e. alternative maps, neutral great old ones, etc.

Regarding the comparison with Kemet: I don't actually see it. Combat arguably seems rather lackluster in Scythe. It's a solid system, but nothing to get excited about. Kemet revolves around combat.

I still like the idea of getting Scythe more than, e.g. getting Terra Mystica. I'm not in a situation where a single game is typically played so often, that every player will eventually figure out the optimal strategy for each of the possible starting setups resulting in 'samey' gameplay.
So, I feel that most of the criticism isn't really relevant for me.

Oh, and I'm also excited by the possibility of solo-play in Scythe goo
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S. R.
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Rheinland-Pfalz
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jhaelen wrote:

I also found it interesting that someone brought up Cthulhu Wars. After three games I already got a suspicion that there isn't actually that much variety in the game. While it's true that (almost) every faction plays radically different, everything else in the game is fixed.
There's seems to be a reason why there's so much extra-stuff, i.e. alternative maps, neutral great old ones, etc.


Absolutely true.
But for the point I was trying to make, replayability was not an important factor.
However, if you have all (now) 8 factions, I would say you can get quite some replayability out of them without additional maps or neutral figures, if you play only 4-player games (or 5-player). Also, while the spellbooks are fixed, the order of them can greatly change gameplay style for each faction.
But I digress. CW is not the subject here...
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Julien Robert
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Haven't played the game yet (1st session planned this week end) but am already a bit worried about this...
It also reminds me of another geek list [geeklist=https://boardgamegeek.com/article/23305936#23305936][/geeklist]

But if this is a "only" a matter of optimization then I will say you have to think outside of the box and try to adapt your strategy to destroy the other's (after all as everything is predictable according to your analysis)
while benefit yours.
Any thought ?
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Trevor Soule
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I think "solving" the game is a bit of a worry for me with these types of static games. You always start in the same area, with the same resources, etc. so you tend to take the same actions for the first couple of turns. The encounters and objectives add a bit extra in terms of "what do I want to do", but since the objectives are only 1/6th of the victory conditions it seems like often times it's more effective to simply shoot for the other victory conditions if the objective deviates too far from the faction's strengths.

This creates the "this is the only sensible path" scenario. It's entirely possible that the more people play the game, the less likely the samey-ness will be because the players will predict which path the player will take based on their faction and try to disrupt it. Hard to say how it will play out, and whether or not the data from the 750 playtests for Scythe addressed this issue already.
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Luke Heineman
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I can't really disagree that the game is an 8. I think that's a pretty solid estimate.

I would like to know how many games the OP has had, and how many player counts. I understand the thinking behind the "game on rails" complaint, but I don't understand how he can claim Terra Mystica is any better in this respect. It's the same thing: You're given your faction and based on its powers and starting (stuff) items, you are guided into a strategy.

With Scythe the variability and replayability should come from the other players. Are you really playing with a group that's going to robotically play the same way every time based on your starting factions and abilities? Combat has played an integral part in our games and completely knock peoples' plans off the rails. Wait until one player cooperates with another to take the brunt of an attack only to soften the opponent up for the other player.

Sure, getting the engine going should be relatively "samey", but the board state should alter things enough to change up the game. I don't know . . . I'm a big fan of both Terra Mystica and Scythe. I'm not disagreeing on any particular points here, but I guess I just don't see the replayability issue.

Perhaps the game could benefit from different end game scoring tiles in addition to the buildings bonus tile?
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