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Scythe» Forums » General

Subject: Using a "historical" lens to make thematic sense of the game-end rss

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Ryan Lopez
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A lot of people have criticized the so-called sudden game-end for Scythe. While it is their right to dislike this, it got me thinking about the ending from a thematic sense. Because I often ask myself, "What (rule/world view/experience/etc.) would make this make sense?" when wrestling with things I don't understand, I applied that to the 6-star ending and quickly came to this conclusion. This may be underdeveloped, but it is my attempt at giving thematic reasoning for ending the game according to the rules.

First, this game is a "historical" game--obviously, it doesn't represent actual history, but it takes place in an alternate-history "past" of some sort. So, it made sense to me to look at this through a historical lens. I'm no history major, and I know a lot of BGG users are, so please correct me if I'm wrong here.

Basically, history is often broken up into epochs, or eras. The TL;DR version of my theory is this: the end of the war and decline of the Factory mark the beginning of the era as played out in the game, and the acquisition of a 6th "National Achievement" star marks the end of that era, as one nation has sufficiently recovered their nation's economy (money/resources), presence (territories), and cultural/national development (stars) to mark the beginning of a new era.

Read on for the gritty details . . .

It is often virtually impossible to define the end/start of an era while one is living it, barring some monumental shift--think, industrial revolution, technological revolution, end of a war, etc. So, from this framework, Scythe is a game played over the course of a brief "era" in history (I picture a period of 10-15 years, akin to the Great Depression of U.S. history, but a little earlier). In this history, the beginning of the new era is marked by the end of WWI and the decline of the Factory--this marks a meaningful shift in the lives of all involved, and sets off the events of the game, which is essentially a game of nation-(re)building.

I call this a nation-(re)building game because the post-war environment has shaped the values and objectives of the game. The goals are all focused on nation-building:
1) Earn goodwill with The People (Popularity)
2) Build finances (money)
3) Secure/expand your borders (territory control)
4) Build your economy (resources)
5) Build infrastructure (buildings)
6) Achieve cultural, economic, and defensive milestones (stars)

In addition to these point-scoring items, there are non-scoring advancements that relate to the achievements and/or boost your economy (encounters with the locals, the upgrade system, recruits).

Returning to the idea of eras and the game-ending condition, let me reexamine point 6 from above (stars). The era defined in a play-through of Scythe begins, as stated, with the end of the war and decline of the Factory, and the era ends when a nation has achieved sufficient economic, cultural, and defensive recovery, ushering in the next stage of history (and thus a new era).

So here's why the game end "makes sense" to me, thematically, especially with regards to not all players getting equal turns. First, that's life, right? Not all nations reach the next stage of advancement at the same rate, and if they haven't been paying attention, some nations fall way behind (see: Japan in the early-to-mid 1800s). The "sudden" ending is marked by what historians would later define as an epoch-shifting event. The six stars represent sufficient advancement to mark the end of this "recovery" or "rebuilding" period, during which the game takes place. And some nations are sometimes a little behind, but them's the breaks, as they say.

Anyway, I'm sorry if that is overly simplified or flawed--I literally just came up with it tonight and wanted to share. I've played 20 times now (15 solo, and I'm NOT a solo gamer!), and I've really enjoyed the game. This was also a fun little "thought experiment" for me as well. This is long enough, so I'll post my thoughts on the "cultural Achievements" (10 Star categories) in a reply to this thread, in order to keep that idea as a kind of footnote to this one.

Any thoughts? I'm curious if I'm just tired and loopy and totally off-base here. Thanks for reading! (Especially if you made it to the end!)
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Ryan Lopez
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My (increasingly fading and hazy) thoughts on the 10 Achievements as cultural/economic/defensive achievements and how they represent the "recovery" of the nations in the game.

First, they span a broad swath of national recovery efforts. Broken down in brief:

1) Upgrades = Economic development
2) Mechs = Defensive/military rebuilding
3) Buildings = Infrastructure/culture
4) Recruits = Economic/cultural development
5) Workers = Economic development
6) Objectives = various national advancements
7) Combat 1 = Military growth
8) Combat 2 = Military growth
9) Popularity = cultural development (garnering goodwill)
10)Power = Defensive/Military growth

Each of these represents some national/cultural rebuilding or development. Presumably (from the "historical" lens), when a nation has achieved 6 of them, historians of this alternate reality felt that was a turning point toward a new era--sufficient development had been reached to pull at least one nation out of the "recovery" era and into the next stage, which defines a new era, even if some nations are still on a slow recovery.

What's more, just because a nation has made this "shift" earlier than others (got 6 stars first) doesn't mean that they have had the "best" recovery (thus 6 stars is not the victory condition, money is, which is consistent with the them of nation-rebuilding).

OK, I think I got all of my ideas down here. I hope some of that made sense because I am pretty tired for some reason. I don't know if anyone cares, but I thought I'd share these ideas.
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Barry Miller
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The concept of a game ending suddenly, yet with some advance expectation (however slight), is actually common. For instance, many wargames employ this game-ending tactic. So I think your post does a great job of tying the concept into Scythe!

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Chris Laudermilk
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Excellent post! I think you have a good train of thought going and it really does make sense.

To summarize your thoughts: end game would be when one nation emerges as the dominant entity in the post-war rebuilding.

The recruits star could go along the lines of your thinking, but there is some specific background given on those. Jamey has mentioned that this is the characters gaining the services of specific experts in their entourage. I suppose gaining those services could have the broad effect you are suggesting.

I'm thinking the combat stars would be more of instances of skirmishes/bush wars in which the nation gains reputation of still being militarily powerful, thus a force to be feared. The mech-building star would better align with military growth as a concept.
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Ryan Lopez
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claudermilk wrote:
Excellent post! I think you have a good train of thought going and it really does make sense.

To summarize your thoughts: end game would be when one nation emerges as the dominant entity in the post-war rebuilding.

The recruits star could go along the lines of your thinking, but there is some specific background given on those. Jamey has mentioned that this is the characters gaining the services of specific experts in their entourage. I suppose gaining those services could have the broad effect you are suggesting.

I'm thinking the combat stars would be more of instances of skirmishes/bush wars in which the nation gains reputation of still being militarily powerful, thus a force to be feared. The mech-building star would better align with military growth as a concept.


Thanks, Chris. Yes, your summary of my thoughts is a tidy way of stating it. Also, what you said about recruits is what I was going for, in a very broad sense. Same for combat--military "growth" wasn't the right word. I meant something closer to your idea of the military's *reputation* growing.

More specifically for recruits, perhaps I should have stuck with my original phrase for the stars, "National Achievements," or in this case "National Growth." The recruits add power, money, popularity, and combat cards, which spans a lot of nation-building and growth.

I have a poor-sleeping 15-month old and it was late at night, so my mind was a little sleep-deprived. snore
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