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Subject: Question about the popularity track rss

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Billy Loos
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Hi Jamey,

First of all I want to let you know that as a game designer you are up there as one of the greats. I have Euphoria, Viticulture/Tuscany and now Scythe and not one of those games disappoint. The other thing that I really appreciate from you and your company is how open to feedback you are. I have played Scythe a couple of times already (I got my copy 7/1/16) and I was wondering why you decided to have all the victory points rolled into popularity? Did anyone feel it made that chart very dominating? When play testing, did you try linking control to say power? After my first few plays the popularity mechanic felt very dominating.
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Jamey Stegmaier
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Billy: Thanks for this fun question. There are a few things in play here. The first is that all coins (VPs) aren't on the popularity track, as there are plenty of ways to gain coins during the game (as well as the structure bonus tile at the end). However, it does account for the majority of points. I wanted something in the game for players to have to consider the repercussions of their actions, both thematically and mechanically. What good is national pride or territorial control if the people on those territories don't like you?

There are lots of times in Scythe where you can choose to be aggressive and even mean at the cost of losing popularity. Usually they result in stars and territorial control. Or you can be much less aggressive and focus on being likable, but in those cases it's more difficult to gain control of territories and spread out.

The chart went through a lot of changes in playtesting. Originally it was much more powerful, and players always tried to move up the chart. By the end of playtesting, it was quite rare for a player to ever get up to the third tier of the chart, much less the 18-popularity star. If that's happening in your games, there might be a misplayed rule happening (either regarding aggression or production).
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Billy Loos
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How can a player combat someone who flies up the popularity track? For example, I played the Nordic Kingdoms (I don't remember the other board I had but the monument was attached to enlist and my popularity recruit was attached to produce/build) I was able to just get in the third tier for popularity. Now I only ever attacked a mech/leader without workers. So was that still a popularity penalty? Also, my first building and recruit were popularity related and I am fairly certain those were played right.
 
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Lawrence
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Laosiamus wrote:
How can a player combat someone who flies up the popularity track? For example, I played the Nordic Kingdoms (I don't remember the other board I had but the monument was attached to enlist and my popularity recruit was attached to produce/build) I was able to just get in the third tier for popularity. Now I only ever attacked a mech/leader without workers. So was that still a popularity penalty? Also, my first building and recruit were popularity related and I am fairly certain those were played right.


One of my recent games involved one player racing up the popularity track, while the other focused on quickly ramping up economy. The popularity player spent so much time and resources on going up the track that he only placed two stars by the time the economy player ended the game.

When everyone is playing optimally, the games are very, very fast. There usually isn't enough time to do everything.

Note that some player boards are also better at certain strategies. So that popularity boost you experienced may not be as easy on others.
 
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Billy Loos
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Well I opened up with a move and took my workers, via swim, to both worker locations. I had all 8 workers out real quick and switched between Trade/produce until they were out. So Maybe turn 5?? Then using Enlist I was able to get the recruit bonus whenever I used production from that point on.

I scored, in order. Workers, Objective, Recruits, Combat, Combat, Mech
 
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Lawrence
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If you had all 8 workers by the time you had the recruit bonus on produce, wouldn't that get you a net of 0 popularity?

With 8 workers, it costs you 1 combat, 1 popularity, and 1 coin.
 
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Billy Loos
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Correct, So the normal reduction in popularity was not happening. My next move was bring out the monument and I just slowly increased over the rest of the game. I never went down and it didn't hurt my economy at all.
 
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Adria D
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Laosiamus wrote:
How can a player combat someone who flies up the popularity track? For example, I played the Nordic Kingdoms (I don't remember the other board I had but the monument was attached to enlist and my popularity recruit was attached to produce/build) I was able to just get in the third tier for popularity. Now I only ever attacked a mech/leader without workers. So was that still a popularity penalty? Also, my first building and recruit were popularity related and I am fairly certain those were played right.

All structures are tied to top row actions, and are tied to the same actions for everyone. The Monument is a boost to the Bolster action. Did you mean that your Bolster (top) action was paired up with your Enlist (bottom) action?


Laosiamus wrote:
Well I opened up with a move and took my workers, via swim, to both worker locations. I had all 8 workers out real quick and switched between Trade/produce until they were out. So Maybe turn 5?? Then using Enlist I was able to get the recruit bonus whenever I used production from that point on.

You only get the Recruit bonus when the bottom action is performed. So if your Production & Build actions are paired, you would get the Popularity bonus when you do the Build action, but not when you Produce.
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Billy Loos
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Adria wrote:
Laosiamus wrote:
How can a player combat someone who flies up the popularity track? For example, I played the Nordic Kingdoms (I don't remember the other board I had but the monument was attached to enlist and my popularity recruit was attached to produce/build) I was able to just get in the third tier for popularity. Now I only ever attacked a mech/leader without workers. So was that still a popularity penalty? Also, my first building and recruit were popularity related and I am fairly certain those were played right.

All structures are tied to top row actions, and are tied to the same actions for everyone. The Monument is a boost to the Bolster action. Did you mean that your Bolster (top) action was paired up with your Enlist (bottom) action?

Correct it was the bolster action. Sorry for the cryptic attempts at explanation. i don't have the mat next to me.


Laosiamus wrote:
Well I opened up with a move and took my workers, via swim, to both worker locations. I had all 8 workers out real quick and switched between Trade/produce until they were out. So Maybe turn 5?? Then using Enlist I was able to get the recruit bonus whenever I used production from that point on.

You only get the Recruit bonus when the bottom action is performed. So if your Production & Build actions are paired, you would get the Popularity bonus when you do the Build action, but not when you Produce.


Correct, That was played that way. So When I would produce and build it cost me 1 power, 1 coin, and 1 popularity. Then I gained 1 popularity and 2 coins.
 
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Adria D
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Laosiamus wrote:
Adria wrote:
Laosiamus wrote:
Well I opened up with a move and took my workers, via swim, to both worker locations. I had all 8 workers out real quick and switched between Trade/produce until they were out. So Maybe turn 5?? Then using Enlist I was able to get the recruit bonus whenever I used production from that point on.

You only get the Recruit bonus when the bottom action is performed. So if your Production & Build actions are paired, you would get the Popularity bonus when you do the Build action, but not when you Produce.


Correct, That was played that way. So When I would produce and build it cost me 1 power, 1 coin, and 1 popularity. Then I gained 1 popularity and 2 coins.

Did you regularly produce wood to spend on the Build action to gain that popularity? You only mention paying the cost of the Produce action, not the Build action.

That looks like a nice combination to have, once you get the Enlist bonus, to keep your Production action Popularity-neutral, though it means you constantly need to produce (or buy) wood to feed the Build action.
 
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Lawrence
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Laosiamus wrote:
Correct, So the normal reduction in popularity was not happening. My next move was bring out the monument and I just slowly increased over the rest of the game. I never went down and it didn't hurt my economy at all.


From your description, it looks like this mat is what you had. Correct?



So from what you described earlier, your turns went as so:

T1) Move to Villages
T2) Produce 2 Workers > 4 Workers
T3) Trade
T4) Produce 4 Workers > 8 Workers (Pay 1 Combat, 1 Popularity)
T5) Bolster, Recruit (Pay 3 Food)?

I can see getting 2 food from the trade on turn 3, but I don't understand how you got enough food by turn 5 if you focused on getting 8 workers out? Maybe T5 trade, T6 Recruit?

You built a monument next, which would've required a move and possible Produce / Build by T8. This is a lot of turns that someone else could've used to ramp upgrades and get a competitive start on their economy or develop a stronger army and engage combat before you developed mechs.

Additonally, you start with 4 popularity but need 13 to hit the third tier, plus 1 more for the one lost to your second production (total of 10 popularity required). At this point, you're likely losing popularity on productions (unless you manage to build every production). In that case, you're losing out on 2-4 resources every production that could've gone somewhere else.

Disclaimer: I'm not trying to criticize you, I'm only trying to make sense of the situation, as popularity has never seemed overpowered in our games.

----

All that aside, note that you were using the Agricultural mat. It focuses on production and enlisting, which is exactly what you did. Other mats will have similar strengths that will allow them to execute other strategies with more efficiency.

Over your total amount of games, how many would you say were dominated by popularity? And how many of those were with different groups? Like Terra Mystica, I've found that Scythe is very dependent on player skill. If you're personally focused on popularity, and tend to play with less experienced gamers, it might feel much stronger than it really is.
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Billy Loos
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@Adria, yes I paid all appropriate costs for building.

@Lawrence, I apologize, I see your confusion. I am basing this on trying to remember a game I didn't record hence the "turn 5?" I must have had 6 by 5 and then worked on getting the recruits out. So my first action was trade for 2 oil, then move 2 workers and upgrade to the enlist action, then produce workers, then trade for 2 oil, move 2 workers North to food and upgrade, trade 2 food, bolster and enlist remove the produce recruit, produce. so 7 turns then. Again, I think that is what I did. I have no way to validate exact moves

After that I moved the workers onto the wood section so that I had 4 and when I would produce I had enough wood to build a building, which the monument was first. I would say with in the first 15 turns???

Also, It could very well be Agricultural plus the starting 4 popularity that the Nordic Kingdoms have.

The purpose for the post was that third tier 6 stars seems pretty close to a sure thing win. Maybe not 100% but close
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Lawrence
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Got it. Thanks for the clarification. It is a nice combination that ramps popularity faster than I've seen. I'll try your setup in tonight's game to get a firsthand idea of how it plays.

I feel like paying 4 resources for anything is indicative of a slower economy than could otherwise be played. To me, that's where the tradeoff is. In three games where someone has hit tier 3 popularity, the player has only hit six stars once, usually due to the opponent's economy or combat being slightly better. In the one game it did happen, it ended up being fairly close since I held the factory and more territories, while she was pushed back to her native area.

I'm curious to see if anyone else has had experiences with popularity being so dominant over multiple games.


 
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Billy Loos
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@Lawrence. How did the combo work yesterday?
 
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Laosiamus wrote:
@Lawrence. How did the combo work yesterday?


One of my work projects is a bit wonky right now, so I worked pretty late last night, so no game. Hopefully it will be a bit better today, as I'm pretty eager to try out the combo.
 
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Lawrence
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So, we got around to playing last night.

I played Nordic with the Agricultural mat. My strategy was to race to 8 workers, then use the produce-build action in conjunction with the goal for structures near tunnels. I aimed for 18 popularity and to lay down the stars listed by Billy.

My opponent played Crimea with the Industrial mat. She went for accelerated upgrades and eventually started churning out mechs for 1 metal. She got Riverwalk and made her way to the northeast side of the map via tunnel. This is where things got ugly. She spent much of the game chasing out my workers and invading my native area, making it difficult for me to keep a consistent supply of resource. I had to take trade more often than not. Combat went horribly, as her ability whittled my combat cards down hard.

The game ended with her satisfying:
- Upgrades
- Mechs
- Combat
- Combat
- Objective
- Enlistments

All with 0 popularity.

I only placed 4 stars:
- Workers
- Buildings
- Objective
- Popularity

With tier 3 popularity. Only building 2 upgrades and 2 getting 2 recruits made my turns seem inefficient by comparison.

The endgame scoring was equally ugly, as she held the factory and was able to pull off a big move, scooping up workers and mancala-ing them around territories, while moving her character to an encounter, getting that last recruit. I ended with 37, and while she had 58. Her Industrial mat got her A LOT of coins.

---

In general, I think that the Nordic/Agricultural combo works well if given time to set up. The problem is that I talked to my girlfriend about this, so she had already formulated this tactic to specifically counter that.
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Billy Loos
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I am using the Agriculture strategy with Polania again. I will see how it plays out. I think the most important piece to the whole strat is enlisting and workers. The popularity comes but you just need tier 3, not exactly 18.

Also, to note, I think it does not work as well in a 2 player game as you lose 1/3 of the enlist bonus.
 
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Luke Hector
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It's never dominated in our games, in fact I've only seen one game where someone ended up in the third tier and I think it was me and that took some serious work to achieve as Polania by grabbing multiple encounters.

Otherwise people don't care about popularity. They get whatever is necessary to spend on production and the evil part of encounters and sod the rest. It's just too hard to level it up. The monument is too slow unless you for some reason need power as well. Nobody ever trades for popularity as you always need resources for everything so unless you got lucky with a Factory tile that gives popularity you're likely in the bottom tier.

If anything I wish there were more ways to get popularity as currently the wins are dominated by area control spreading on the last turn when you know the game is going to end.
 
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