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Subject: Scythe - Feels flat and lacks Layers rss

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Paul Ferguson
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I wrote an initial review of scythe on BGG found here -https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1603061/review-scythe, this was written after one play, and I was for the most part, impressed and would say that it was a great game. After 3 solo games, one 4 player game and three 5 player games, I now see it as a good to average game. I am starting to find the game to be very simple. The complexity that first appeared within the game, mostly due to what seemed like a plethora of things to do, and seemed to be one of its strengths, has started to wane. The asymmetrical factions and action boards that should ensure a vast and varied experience with a high replay value just seems to fall flat after repeated plays.

At first Scythe seems to be a complex euro, but it is actually a very simple euro, and I feel that it is missing several key layers that would make it a great game. The lack of interaction, really hurts this game, it creates a big separation between the theme and the actual gaming experience. The world it is trying to get the player to buy into feels artificial and doesn't sit well within the game itself. Some of the separation between players, which seems to be more of an issue in higher player counts, stems from not being able to keep track of what is going on with your fellow participants. A player can go from zero to six stars in one turn. Kudos to a player that can do this, I myself have managed to complete 3 stars in one action. In my last game I managed to go from 3 to 6 stars and end the game and win, and it felt shallow, the other players felt a little robbed and I felt a bit unfulfilled as the game only took a little over an hour. I have already mentioned this but, the huge and I mean HUGE lack of interaction, which initially seemed fine, really hurts this game, it creators a big divide and somehow feels more of a solitaire experience than Terra Mystica.

I feel that there is a big missed opportunity here, to make a great game, whether through oversight or constraints, I feel the lack of layers and the simplicity of the game will cause it to be a bit of a fizzer in the long run. An example of this I can give is combat, it is missing layers. I am not jumping on the bandwagon of complaining that it is not combat heavy enough, but this lack of consequence and simplified game play extends to all the other elements of the game. It is just missing something, a little bit of complexity to each game mechanic equates to an overall flat experience with repeated plays.

I am going to expand on the lack of layers I see within the game. Look at the combat cards, for a game that is not combat heavy, I have ended every game so far with 10 to 15 combat cards in hand, which are for the most part useless. The recruit that gives you a combat card just doesn't really fit, why give combat cards for a game that is not combat heavy, why not give a resource of the players choice instead. I can turn resources into more stars than I can combat cards. I can't recall in the games I have played, seen any player upgrade the bolster action and opt for the combat card upgrade that gives you 2 combat cards, in fact I can't recall seeing any player taking the single combat card as an action. This is not the only issue I have with some of the upgrades, some of the action on the player boards feel redundant. I have yet to see a play upgrade the move/gain action and opt to upgrade the coin side before the 3 movement side. Its these little oddities within the game that make it feel like a very linear gaming experience, you do the same thing every game.

Scythe feels to much like a very simple puzzle, with only 1 or 2 solutions, I never get the feeling I am playing a strategic multiplayer game, and I don't get the experience that I am playing against other people, I am racing against myself. I can see myself playing Scythe again in the future, but if I had a choice I would rather play other games that give me a similar experience such as - Hansa Tuetonica, which has a similar upgrade action system, but has so much more interaction, Terra Mystica which has a stronger asymmetrical faction design, a similar low level of interaction, but feels more complete and has a definite end point, and Kemet, for its continues push and pull interaction towards a final victor, and the theme and game play connection.
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Richard Derr
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Interesting take. I'm wondering if you played all your games against the same people or with a bunch of different opponents?

I've played with 2 separate groups of people. The one group is much more solitaire and more focused on engine building. The second group went attack crazy. The Saxony faction place 4 stars from battle and dictated the whole board. Those 2 games were extremely different feels and the strategies required to win in each are vastly different. Not to mention you should be playing fairly different strategies with each faction.

As far as never seeing anyone taking the battle card top action, I'm surprised. When I play the Crimean faction, I usually take that action at least once in a game. Their ability to use battle cards as resources is nice. Now you can sit on solid battle cards or burn them at key moments as a resource. However, I will agree with you outside of having the Crimean faction, accumulating a lot of battle cards is fairly useless.
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Thanks for this point of view. Man, I was hoping that this would be the game from Jamey that would break my malaise over his designs, but if what you're saying ends up being true for me, this will not be the case. I loved the theme of Euphoria, but the gameplay seemed to fall a bit flat for me. And what you've written above seems to be striking the same kind of chords of concern that I had with that game. I'll still give it a fair shake, though I'm not particularly hopeful.
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Greg
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Nice review, and while I don't agree with everything, I respect that you gave it a good go and didn't find it to be as deep as you'd like.


From what I've read here on BGG and what I've experienced in 9 non-solo games with player counts ranging from 3-5, is that there are different experiences either from game to game or from play group to play group. Just as a quick example, I have never, nor has anyone in my games with several different people, ever ended a game with more than 8 combat cards, and that was only once when the player needed 8 combat cards after having a combat star to be able to complete their objective. Otherwise, people have generally had 0-5 cards by the end of the game.

I haven't seen 3 stars being placed in one turn. 2 yes, but never 3.

Interaction can be more dependent on player count and player personalities. Some people don't like combat and will try to gain their stars via the other options. That's a player issue though, as the game is designed to be accessible to many types of players. Someone may not play Kemet, Cyclades, City of Remnants, Summoner Wars, X-Wing etc, but they may be more inclined to give Scythe a try. You can move toward another player's starting area to gain resources in a specific territory or to accomplish an objective, and have those opponent's question your motives and whether you plan to invade. You can either honestly assure them that it's just for that territory you need, or you can lie and then attack later. There have always been combats in games I've played, some with more than others. For me, the interaction isn't defined in a single game, but over several games. It's not a long game at all, so it's not hard to get it played. It's also easy to teach and accessible to a lot of people, so again, it should be easy to get it to the table than say a COIN series game.

The combat card abundance seems to be an oddity and not the norm. There are only so many ways to get them, so you are either using the top row action to get them, which you say you have never seen done, or you get them from the enlist bottom row action, but the amount you get from that totally depends on if that's the first or last enlist disc you remove, and whether the players to your left or right use the enlist much. Most people spend combat cards in combat, so unless you aren't engaging in combat, then you should be losing some. Crimea can use combat cards as a wild resource, I saw that used quite effectively on Sunday. They also can steal a combat card from someone they attack if they have the Scout mech unlocked. It's also good to have some combat cards on hand as a deterrent to others, as they won't know what values you have and the more cards you have the more likely you are to have a 4 or 5, which will make them think about how much it will cost them to guarantee them a win if they attack.

But anyway, this game may not give some people the overall depth that other games do in specific areas, so they may rather play those other games to get that sense of depth or complexity they desire.
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I have only played the game 3 times, one time with 5p and two with 4p. I mostly agree with your points, except with that there are only 1 or 2 solutions. I think that you could focus on totally different actions and still be possible to win the game.
 
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Ken B.
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As far as combat, in my very first game, we had so many battles it made my head spin. Often I was clinging to one or two fairly poor combat cards and wishing I had many, many more. So it is quite possible it is group dependent to some degree. With 10 combat cards I would have been in paradise.
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Tyler DeLisle
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senorcoo wrote:
Thanks for this point of view. Man, I was hoping that this would be the game from Jamey that would break my malaise over his designs, but if what you're saying ends up being true for me, this will not be the case. I loved the theme of Euphoria, but the gameplay seemed to fall a bit flat for me. And what you've written above seems to be striking the same kind of chords of concern that I had with that game. I'll still give it a fair shake, though I'm not particularly hopeful.


I've been in the same boat with high hopes for both Viticulture and Euphoria, but both felt lacking to me. Scythe I'm still on the fence with, only 2 plays in so I can't make a call yet. One thing that Scythe definitely has going for it though, is player interaction. Euphoria and Viticulture both felt mostly like solo-player games with other players just being a bit of an annoyance through blocking. Scythe has a bit of this as the game was engineered to keep people occupied on their own for 65% of the game, but with 4-5 players you definitely run into each other in the middle as you race for locations. I really wish the combat was more interesting and not so predictable, but the game is pretty interesting. The best of his designs for sure in my opinion, but it's still hovering around a 7 or 8 for me.
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franklincobb wrote:
As far as combat, in my very first game, we had so many battles it made my head spin. Often I was clinging to one or two fairly poor combat cards and wishing I had many, many more. So it is quite possible it is group dependent to some degree. With 10 combat cards I would have been in paradise.


Were your friends playing correctly that for each worker displaced, they lose respect/heart? It's extremely debilitating to attack people, especially as much as you're stating. You're giving up the biggest point generator in the game just to displace a few workers and maybe get some resources.

Every game I've played I've ended up with close to 10 combat cards, and combat interaction always feels engineered because of course everyone has a 5 card on them.
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TyDeL wrote:
franklincobb wrote:
As far as combat, in my very first game, we had so many battles it made my head spin. Often I was clinging to one or two fairly poor combat cards and wishing I had many, many more. So it is quite possible it is group dependent to some degree. With 10 combat cards I would have been in paradise.


Were your friends playing correctly that for each worker displaced, they lose respect/heart? It's extremely debilitating to attack people, especially as much as you're stating. You're giving up the biggest point generator in the game just to displace a few workers and maybe get some resources.

Every game I've played I've ended up with close to 10 combat cards, and combat interaction always feels engineered because of course everyone has a 5 card on them.


Not all combat involves workers. Polonia has a mech ability that keeps them from losing popularity when attacking an opponent that has workers with their mech/character. There is enough space between the tiers of the popularity track, that losing 1 or 2 popularity may not be a big deal. Crimea can use Scout to steal an opponent's combat card, possibly taking a 4 or 5 from them. Not everyone is going to have a 5 value card, and even if they did, then after they use one, then another player can take advantage of that and attack them. Also, where players are on the power track can make a difference and make it less determistic, as a player may choose to use more or less of their power depending on what stage of the game it is, whether they want to save power to get a star at 16, or if they have already gotten a star for reaching 16 and don't need to do save it for anything.

Again, we've never had anyone finish with more than 8 combat cards, and that was only once. Usually 0-5 is the norm, depending on whether there were comats near the end of the game.
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Matthias Reitberger
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And you can attack with 2 mechs, which allows you to use 2 combat cards.
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Mark Jackson
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Sounds like you need to shake up the accepted strategies within your group maybe? The games only going to be as interactive as your group makes it, and if everyone is sitting back doing their own solitaire thing then i can see how that's not going to feel great after a while. If they're letting you place 3 stars in a turn, and everyone ends the game with 10+ combat cards in hand well... that might be on your group not on the game
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Nathan Ehlers
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The problem is combat scores you very few points compared to just about every other thing you could be doing. Especially because, outside of the 5p game, there's usually free land you can take without combat (or suffering reputation loss). There's a negative modifier (that is, wasted time) for hanging out in the center, so it makes sense for everyone to just take turns there until the last play, where the winning player should end the game and take the middle spot.

Games with high combat have much lower scores. I guess this is fine if everyone at the table is treating it like a zero sum game and want to fight, but anyone who is playing to point maximize will leave them all in the dust. Once everyone realizes this, then the game stops being about combat at all. It actually makes way way more sense to negotiate shame combats where one player throws the position to another in exchange for points as this is the best form of point maximization through combat the game allows. Actual combat tends to be costly (agian, in terms of points and time).

My impression is that it was a much simpler Terra Mystica. Which I get the app peal of. SG is all about making mass appeal games. I'd say Vitaculture: Agricola :: Scythe : Terra Mystica. I don't happen to like spending most of my gaming time in that space, but I get that most people do.
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TyDeL wrote:
franklincobb wrote:
As far as combat, in my very first game, we had so many battles it made my head spin. Often I was clinging to one or two fairly poor combat cards and wishing I had many, many more. So it is quite possible it is group dependent to some degree. With 10 combat cards I would have been in paradise.


Were your friends playing correctly that for each worker displaced, they lose respect/heart? It's extremely debilitating to attack people, especially as much as you're stating. You're giving up the biggest point generator in the game just to displace a few workers and maybe get some resources.

Every game I've played I've ended up with close to 10 combat cards, and combat interaction always feels engineered because of course everyone has a 5 card on them.



Yes, although Polonia does not suffer from this. This was a 5-player game and as stated above, several combats involved no workers. The battle over the Factory space alone was pretty fierce and only took place with mechs on any given side.

Again, 5-player. As soon as you start moving from your home, you're near someone.
 
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TyDeL wrote:
franklincobb wrote:
As far as combat, in my very first game, we had so many battles it made my head spin. Often I was clinging to one or two fairly poor combat cards and wishing I had many, many more. So it is quite possible it is group dependent to some degree. With 10 combat cards I would have been in paradise.


Were your friends playing correctly that for each worker displaced, they lose respect/heart? It's extremely debilitating to attack people, especially as much as you're stating. You're giving up the biggest point generator in the game just to displace a few workers and maybe get some resources.

Every game I've played I've ended up with close to 10 combat cards, and combat interaction always feels engineered because of course everyone has a 5 card on them.

In the games I've played, I don't think anyone has ever ended up with even 10 combat cards, let alone 15. I would think the game would end first, and at least one faction is encouraged to spend them.

Also, at least one faction can steal them, which increases the odds of grabbing one.

At least one faction can end the game very early by using combat.

Finally, there are only 6 5-power cards in the game, so it's actually not that likely everyone has one. And even if they do, it's unlikely they have 2, so you can potentially fake the first battle and win the second, or use 2+ characters/mechs to play more cards at once.
 
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Ah_Pook wrote:
Sounds like you need to shake up the accepted strategies within your group maybe? The games only going to be as interactive as your group makes it, and if everyone is sitting back doing their own solitaire thing then i can see how that's not going to feel great after a while. If they're letting you place 3 stars in a turn, and everyone ends the game with 10+ combat cards in hand well... that might be on your group not on the game


I've read this same reaction across multiple review threads. I'm going to call BS. It's the equivalent of saying "You're not having fun with a game? Well me and my friends use the board like a Frisbee and spend hours hiding the meeples around the house and then finding it. Maybe it's your group and not the game?" Or, even more pessimistically "you think the game is too easy? Maybe you need to stop playing with such dumb people?"

Blaming the players for not playing the game *right* is a thin excuse for a game not being good, and worse yet, doesn't actually address any of the criticisms laid out in the review. Refute the claim, that's fine, just don't imply that people doing it wrong unless there's a demonstrable instance of misapplied rules.
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sirgalin wrote:
Ah_Pook wrote:
Sounds like you need to shake up the accepted strategies within your group maybe? The games only going to be as interactive as your group makes it, and if everyone is sitting back doing their own solitaire thing then i can see how that's not going to feel great after a while. If they're letting you place 3 stars in a turn, and everyone ends the game with 10+ combat cards in hand well... that might be on your group not on the game


I've read this same reaction across multiple review threads. I'm going to call BS. It's the equivalent of saying "You're not having fun with a game? Well me and my friends use the board like a Frisbee and spend hours hiding the meeples around the house and then finding it. Maybe it's your group and not the game?" Or, even more pessimistically "you think the game is too easy? Maybe you need to stop playing with such dumb people?"

Blaming the players for not playing the game *right* is a thin excuse for a game not being good, and worse yet, doesn't actually address any of the criticisms laid out in the review. Refute the claim, that's fine, just don't imply that people doing it wrong unless there's a demonstrable instance of misapplied rules.

There's a difference between playing rules wrong and playing the game the same way.

What I think people are suggesting is that there is potentially room for different approaches (see the many posts in the Sessions or Strategy forum for examples of these) and more combat than the OP is mentioning.

Very simplistic example which might illustrate the point: Some games involve heavy PVP combat, or actions which destroy another player's units and chances. Some games are almost totally solitaire. Some people (married people, for example) do not like heavy PVP because it can lead to real-life tensions. Ergo, those people stick to the game styles they enjoy, and other people play their heavy PVP combat which they enjoy. Surely that's reasonable? Two groups of people enjoy two different styles of game.

Instead, you created a strawman argument (using a board like a Frisbee), implying people do not have a valid reason for suggesting the game is not the best match for certain groups.



I will make one minor comment about the OP's impressions -- I believe the coin action is specifically for players who make rash decisions and run out of coins. It's not normally chosen. This allows those players to slightly recover enough to pay for things, instead of being totally dead in the water. I think Jamey has discussed this somewhere on the forum. As for why it has an upgrade option, I'm not sure Jamey has mentioned that -- maybe he didn't see another good spot for an upgrade.
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sirgalin wrote:
The problem is combat scores you very few points compared to just about every other thing you could be doing. Especially because, outside of the 5p game, there's usually free land you can take without combat (or suffering reputation loss). There's a negative modifier (that is, wasted time) for hanging out in the center, so it makes sense for everyone to just take turns there until the last play, where the winning player should end the game and take the middle spot.


Combat occurs as part of your move action. If you have upgraded it you can well spread out with 2 moves and attack with the third. If you win it will get you a star and doesn't cost you territory but your opponent.
I don't see why you would waste time staying in the canter, I would rather say you waste a move when you leave it without being forced to.
The reputation loss is only as big as opponents makes it. If he wants to occupy a lot of territory he can't have many workers where his mechs/characters are.

sirgalin wrote:

Games with high combat have much lower scores. I guess this is fine if everyone at the table is treating it like a zero sum game and want to fight, but anyone who is playing to point maximize will leave them all in the dust.


They have lower scores because they end sooner. Scoring 2 combat stars is the quickest way to end the game after you have built all mechs, produced all workers, entlisted 4 times and fulfilled an objective.
And if a player doesn't want to fight you can still attack him. He will at least have to be prepared for it, which may interfere with his optimization.
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@Nathan,

So you don't see any benefit from attacking an opponent, gaining a territory and costing them territory, time to get out of their home base, costing them power that will delay them from a star from the power track, costing them an opportunity to reach an encounter token on their next turn, costing them the ability to complete an objective? This, while gaining points from a star and possibly bringing you close to ending the game on your terms.

Taking away points from your biggest competition, while gaining points doesn't seem like a wasted effort.
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GAFBlizzard wrote:
sirgalin wrote:
Ah_Pook wrote:
Sounds like you need to shake up the accepted strategies within your group maybe? The games only going to be as interactive as your group makes it, and if everyone is sitting back doing their own solitaire thing then i can see how that's not going to feel great after a while. If they're letting you place 3 stars in a turn, and everyone ends the game with 10+ combat cards in hand well... that might be on your group not on the game


I've read this same reaction across multiple review threads. I'm going to call BS. It's the equivalent of saying "You're not having fun with a game? Well me and my friends use the board like a Frisbee and spend hours hiding the meeples around the house and then finding it. Maybe it's your group and not the game?" Or, even more pessimistically "you think the game is too easy? Maybe you need to stop playing with such dumb people?"

Blaming the players for not playing the game *right* is a thin excuse for a game not being good, and worse yet, doesn't actually address any of the criticisms laid out in the review. Refute the claim, that's fine, just don't imply that people doing it wrong unless there's a demonstrable instance of misapplied rules.

There's a difference between playing rules wrong and playing the game the same way.

What I think people are suggesting is that there is potentially room for different approaches (see the many posts in the Sessions or Strategy forum for examples of these) and more combat than the OP is mentioning.

Very simplistic example which might illustrate the point: Some games involve heavy PVP combat, or actions which destroy another player's units and chances. Some games are almost totally solitaire. Some people (married people, for example) do not like heavy PVP because it can lead to real-life tensions. Ergo, those people stick to the game styles they enjoy, and other people play their heavy PVP combat which they enjoy. Surely that's reasonable? Two groups of people enjoy two different styles of game.

Instead, you created a strawman argument (using a board like a Frisbee), implying people do not have a valid reason for suggesting the game is not the best match for certain groups.



I will make one minor comment about the OP's impressions -- I believe the coin action is specifically for players who make rash decisions and run out of coins. It's not normally chosen. This allows those players to slightly recover enough to pay for things, instead of being totally dead in the water. I think Jamey has discussed this somewhere on the forum. As for why it has an upgrade option, I'm not sure Jamey has mentioned that -- maybe he didn't see another good spot for an upgrade.

This. I agree with Ah Pook's comments. It sounds like a group dynamic issue as much as a game issue. Nothing to do with playing the rules correctly or not. It's easy to play fairly passively & not see much combat. That would be a way to amass a stack of combat cards by the end of the game. For myself, I haven't seen at 10-15 card hoard at the end of a game yet. There's been several games where I or my opponent did take the Bolster action to grab a couple of cards after running out.

The amount of interaction is very much up to the players and how they choose to play the game.

All that said, the OP has a perfectly legitimate view. I don't necessarily agree, but then we all come at these games slightly differently & that's part of the fun.
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Hahma wrote:
@Nathan,

So you don't see any benefit from attacking an opponent, gaining a territory and costing them territory, time to get out of their home base, costing them power that will delay them from a star from the power track, costing them an opportunity to reach an encounter token on their next turn, costing them the ability to complete an objective? This, while gaining points from a star and possibly bringing you close to ending the game on your terms.

Taking away points from your biggest competition, while gaining points doesn't seem like a wasted effort.


Plus any unused resources the player left on that hex.
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No game has unlimited replayability, in realistic terms. If you got 10 plays out of Scythe's base game I think you did well.
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claudermilk wrote:
The amount of interaction is very much up to the players and how they choose to play the game.


I agree with this - could be a group that plays a lot of euro games and is generally low conflict
 
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Lowecore wrote:
No game has unlimited replayability, in realistic terms. If you got 10 plays out of Scythe's base game I think you did well.


Ten plays is a pretty low bar to set. I don't think I will ever be interested in buying a game (base or otherwise) from which I only expect 10 plays before it turns stale.
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Isn't it almost objectively inefficient play to wind up with that many combat cards?

They have no value at the end of the game- taking the factory in a combat can net you 3 tiles and a star, for somewhere around 15 vps

and there's such wide bandwidth in each popularity tier that you get the chance to blow some worthless extra pop on a combat attempt?

Even taking a generic tile with a few resources on it can gain you a reasonable point swing towards the end.

-and you can almost guarantee that victory by moving 2 combat units onto 1 combat unit (assuming everyone has 7 power and some combat cards.

I dunno playing the game without a couple of scraps feels inefficient in terms of max achievable vp difference between you and your opponent. so my couple of games have never seen that many combat cards held.

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Matthias Reitberger
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I also don't understand why you get so many combat cards. If you find them useless you could entlist the field for combat cards last if at all and never take a combat card as an action.
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