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Subject: Scythe - a review after 10+ plays rss

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David Taranto
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I wrote my early impressions on Scythe about a month and a half ago. Since then, I’ve played the game almost 10 more times, won a few, lost a few, played as every faction, and not at all kept track of the player mats I’ve used (that’s next). I’ve been keeping up with the discussion on Board Game Geek to see if there’s maybe something that I’ve missed in this game to prevent me from loving it as much as I do.

Nope. It still stands.

So what are some of the reasons I keep wanting to come back to this game again and again?

1) The variable ‘setup.’

The math on the actual setup of the game is fairly easy to figure out (I say that now, but I probably did it wrong) - there are 25 possible faction/mat combinations. This is greater variety than most games offer, unless you’re talking about an Arkham/Eldritch game with all the expansions. Sure, not every combination will be possible every game (as you remove boards from the pool for a player several options get whittled out for the rest), but at the very start, the possibilities are still mathematically there. If playing with 5 players, there are 120 possible starting setups. at 4 players, there are 240. At 3, 180. At 2, 80. A little weird of a spread, but I think that’s correct. I also think Terra Mystica offers more options, but I have other problems with that game that I’ll start to get into a bit later on.

Even if 25 isn’t enough possible starting combinations for you, the way the game plays means you have one extra wild card that sends the possible combinations through the ROOF - that Encounter token on your home “island.” Are you Crimea with the Industrial mat and a Mech on turn 3? Or are you Crimea with the Industrial mat and an upgrade on turn 3? Or 4 metal on turn 3? Since the game’s interaction doesn’t usually happen until at least halfway through, is there any real way to know what sort of scenario you’re going to face until your ‘setup’ is complete after turn 3 or 4? I don’t think so.

This adds the entire encounter deck to the calculations, too - both effectively completing the setup as well as providing the first tactical information for both them and the rest of the players. Brilliant move.

What may -not- be considered so brilliant is that the starting positions - the “home bases” of the factions - are always exactly the same. I, however, disagree.

Take, for instance, the lack of actual choice in Terra Mystica’s setup. Yes, you can place your starting buildings wherever you want, but there are consequences wherever you place them. You want good neighboring terrains. You want neighbors. But you also don’t want too many neighbors. It is possible, after all, with poor placement, to be smothered in Terra Mystica, unable to spread out, and you spend the entire 6-round game in absolute misery. Scythe preserves (and enhances, in my opinion, but on that later) player interaction while removing that pesky variable from the game. Everyone has their space. Everyone is revving up their engines at the same time. And after the starting gates open, the players can encroach or not based on their own tastes or strategies, as slow or as fast as they want based on how they want to take advantage of the tunnel system.

Sometimes less is more, and taking the option of smothering one’s opponent(s) out of the game during setup is a very, very good subtraction here.

2) The race

There’s a few different types of ways a game can finish. Either it goes for a certain number of rounds no matter what, or there is a trigger - a goal - that will signal the end of the game. Sometimes there is a trigger, but also a cap on the rounds. In games that feature this ‘race’ to the goal, there are two types of finishes - the player to end the game is the winner (this is the rarer nowadays) or the player to end the game signals that this is the final round, giving the other players (usually finishing out the turn order) one more turn before the end.

Scythe is a hybrid of these two approaches. The game ends when a player puts out their sixth star, marking that they have fulfilled 6 “achievements” on the main game board (making all upgrades, deploying all mechs, winning combats, etc). And when I say it ends, I don’t mean it’s the trigger, I mean the game ends IMMEDIATELY (barring a not-impossible scenario that the designer has also accounted for).

I’ve seen several people complain that this leads to an unfair end - player’s can’t react to the knowledge that the game is ending! Once that sixth star is out, they couldn’t take the same number of turns, etc etc. I, however, can’t see this as being anything but the opposite. I think first, it is a player’s duty to adapt to the system presented by the designers as intended, not to force the system to adapt to you and your own preconceptions. This style of ending simply means that players have to pay more attention to their opponents during the game (gasp! Interaction!) and make the best moves they can when it is apparent that the end of the game is just around the corner. The funny thing about Scythe is that “just around the corner” comes up on you AWFULLY quick.

This is where I give the detractors a little bit of credit. When I play, it’s not uncommon for me or my opponents to knock out 3 of these achievements in a single turn - Win 1 combat, complete an objective, and finish up whatever achievement the matching bottom row action would allow (Upgrade, Mech, Structure, Recruit). That’s a lot! That’s “half the game” in a single turn! Of course, they’ve spent the entire game up to that point setting up for it, and at the same time those kinds of sudden “killshots” are what the system encourages. That’s the race!! That’s optimization. That’s part of the very idea of Scythe!

I don’t often like games that take a whole play to really grasp in terms of pace or general strategy. I’ve found it easy to simply add to my explanations, however, that “the game ends much faster than you think it will.” New players I’ve played with are usually pretty shocked when it happens nonetheless. I really do mean it!

I’ve also found that the racing element of the game is more of a mercy than a plight. One thing Scythe does not have is a “runaway player problem.” Well, it might, but if it does, then either 1) That player ended the game, or 2) That player has just become a big target.

I don’t have a problem with teaming up on the leader, I just don’t think many games do it well. One particular example of this done poorly is Merchants & Marauders. In that game, when one player shoots out to a lead, every other player stocks up on weapons and goes after them, otherwise the game will end too quickly. This leads to a continuous chain of fighting, shutting the “Merchants” part of the name out, and every lead change leads to a new target. At the same time, that player in the lead stops having fun as they might get sent home again, and again, and again with nothing new to show for it. It takes a game that might be two hours and very well possibly doubles that.

The brilliant thing about combat in Scythe is that the combat resources are finite and mostly undetermined by luck. You can prepare. You can take all possibilities into account and leverage your strengths and if your opponent wants to stop you, it will cost them. Of course, it could also get them a star if they haven’t fought yet (and they probably haven’t) but if they -do- defend themselves, it will just leave them more open to further attack on the next player’s turn as their power and combat cards diminish. And if you as the attacker win? You’re now one step closer to ending the game, too. You’ve just gained at least 5 points, and taken at least 2 away from the leader. Does it necessarily stop them? Well, no. But a 7 point swing is nothing to sneeze at. And if two other players do the same, that leader could be hurting. Considering that six stars could be gained without EVER winning a combat, it’s not going to make the game drag on for too much longer either. Not nearly as long as Merchants & Marauders and its 10 Glory Points (the M&M nearest equivalent to stars) tends to, anyway.

And even if someone does position themselves close to victory and you can’t stop them? The beauty of a racing game is that you can be put out of your misery. A couple actions later, it will probably be over and you can move on to whatever you’re playing next. Not the most positive attitude, but if you’re getting creamed, it’s something of a consolation (or at least it was for me).

3) The level of interaction

I haaaate direct combat in games, especially with area control elements where turtling is an option. I will always choose to turtle - the best offense is a good defense. I’m terrified of the social impact of my aggression and painting a target on my back for the other players to ally against me. And this impulse is something that very few games have been able to skirt for me. The only two that have done it really well are Scythe and Eclipse (because of both the alliances AND the fact that if you aren’t ready to fight by the time you abut another player, it’s your own darn fault).

Scythe encourages you in a few different ways to get your nose out of your player board and look at the other players around you. It asks you to consider the other players’ actions in both overt and subtle ways. Obvious (but easily forgotten) are the Recruit bonuses that grant you a bonus for you, or your direct neighbors, taking a particular bottom row action.

Also obvious is the map element - who is moving where? But there are a couple other elements underneath that that turn Scythe from a simple area control game with combat to a “cold war” of intimidation. Most games of Scythe I’ve played will have one to three combats in them, total. And that’s at every player count (other than solo). Why isn’t there more combat than that?

Two reasons. First, the mech abilities. These are huge! You could be ready to move into an area and kick some Crimean plastic back home, but then the turn before you do, they build their “combat” mech (every mech has 2 special movement mechs, one combat-related mech, and one mech that lets their plastic pieces [mechs and character] on the board move faster). What is that ability? It allows the Crimean player steal one of your combat cards before combat happens. All of a sudden, the prospect of your 5-value combat card being taken randomly from your hand and being added basically directly to the other side in this combat all but eliminates your bloodthirst. Polania, meanwhile, doesn’t care about bumping your workers home with their combat mech out because they don’t lose Popularity when they do. Saxony makes using the tunnel system riskier. The Nords can basically commit some attrition against their enemies, spending one combat power to sap their opponents by two, which is fine if they have a surplus of power to spend. The Rusviets can use an extra combat card if they have a worker in the battle, so their defensive line can be doubly strong by bolstering with their workers and be just as costly to anyone trying to take them out.

Secondly, combat avoidance comes down to simple resource management. If you don’t build up your combat power when you see conflict coming, or when you see your closest neighbors bulking up, you aren’t going to be ready to defend yourself when the time comes. You have to look at that track and the size of their hand of combat cards from time to time.

Interaction is also helped by how “small” the board is. The two 2-player games I’ve played have felt just as tight territorially as the 5 player games, and it’s because of both the tunnel system (that allows you to use one movement point to basically cut the width of the board in half) AND the lure of the encounter tokens and objectives. They encourage you to spread out juuust a little more than you otherwise might, aiming to control some particular spaces on the board that also leave you a little vulnerable to combat and therefore a star for your opponent. Is that worth it to you? That’s a decision you’ll have to make. And so will they.

4) A game of means

That’s because every game of Scythe is a game of means. It’s a game of having a bird in hand and having to suss out how many are in the bush at any given moment. You only ever have 3 action slots you can take (okay, 4 if you’ve visited the Factory, and 4 or 5 if you’re playing the Rusviets), but streamlining your engine and using the information on the board and the other player and faction mats to know when to interrupt that engine is where the meat of this game lies. Every turn you will probably either want to do two different things, or want to do one thing really bad but not be able to yet and have to make the most of something else. And that constant balance of excess and denial, of wanting this resource and that resource, of wanting to be here and there, is just that - balanced. You have to keep every plate spinning in the air while you march your strategy forward to get those stars out and score the most points.

How can you be interrupted? I’ve already mentioned encounters. And then the factory card is the final puzzle piece of setup. Been ignoring your upgrades all game? Well, you might find a card in that stack that will let you just gain an upgrade AND a popularity by paying two coins. But that’s also two victory points! How many times do you plan on using this? Is it worth that cost? What about paying two combat power for three coins? Is that 3 VP worth becoming militarily weaker? But what if you’ve ended up with a glut of combat cards? Those aren’t worth anything to you at the end of the game! But this factory card you just drew might allow you to turn those into mechs or recruits or structures or whatever. So do you take that one or a different, potentially better one and let those cards hang around for actual combat?

So many questions! Yet it’s also really hard to get too bogged down in Analysis Paralysis in this game, since each decision is made one tiny chunk at a time. Figuring out your next couple turns is easily handled in the downtime, even as the state of the board might change in the intervening turns. Even then, that usually affects your decisions a few turns down the line, as again, you’ll likely determine that your first next move is still the most important, but your move after that might no longer be.

Conclusion

Scythe is an engine-building game with a hint of conflict as players spend most of their time tiptoeing around each other instead of actually having high-cost combat. It starts off slow, but when it ramps up, it ramps up FAST. In your first couple games, it WILL end sooner than you think. From two to five players, the game does feel essentially the same (though it is shorter with fewer players). There’s enough variability in the setup and first encounters to keep every game somewhat different. The combat is only random in the combat card draws you have taken, but you can always take more to improve your chances, though it will cost you in time. The combat Power gamble places the responsibility for success or failure ultimately in your own hands.

Scythe is a mishmash of mechanisms that hardly does anything new (aside from keeping the resources you produce on the board, making them vulnerable to attack. I haven’t seen that before, anyway), but is a fine-tuned, well-oiled machine of a game that acts as a perfect bridge between Euro-style cube-pushing and resource management and Ameritrash-style threat. Even if that threat only occasionally sinks the teeth it bares, that atmosphere of conflict and pressure pervades the later phases of this game, which for me is exactly the right flavor I’m looking for.

Is this overly positive? Are there any faults to this game? I’m sure there are, and one or two might pop up over time, but more often than not the things people cite as faults are due to either their expectations being wrong or a facet of the game that I happen to really enjoy about it.

To be fair, the box calls it a “4X” game, which it only is from an “artist statement” sense of the word. DO NOT EXPECT A 4X GAME. Call the game farming with mechs. Call the game Terra Mystica with conflict. Call it Terra Mystica as a race. Call the game anything but a 4X game. Please. It is a mix of Ameritrash and Euro, but it is both more Euro and more Ameritrash than you might think. In fact, try to let your expectations go and let the game be what it is and decide for yourself how to shorthand it afterward.
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Kevin Garnica
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Nice review. It's a "kind" of 4X game, and it's challenging our definition, I think. Even Jamey calls it such. You expand by controlling territories, you explore by way of the encounter cards, you exploit cy way of the resources, and you exterminate (though limited). It's all there, even if it's not the way it's been done for tens of years.
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Chris Montgomery
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That is one of the best reviews I have read for a long time. Makes me want the game even more.
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Diederik D.
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pacman88k wrote:
Nice review. It's a "kind" of 4X game, and it's challenging our definition, I think. Even Jamey calls it such. You expand by controlling territories, you explore by way of the encounter cards, you exploit cy way of the resources, and you exterminate (though limited). It's all there, even if it's not the way it's been done for tens of years.


Trying to change the Geek-dictionary, aaayè? Don't expect it to happen without a fight! arrrh
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Greg
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Nice review and we'll thought out!

One thing I will add with regards to combat, or even sending a lone worker home,is that you can disrupt and opponent's objective. Sometimes this can happen by accident, in that you aren't considering that benefit when attacking or entering a territory with a worker, but once you get familiar with the objective cards, you may recognize when an opponent is after a specific objective.

If someone is stocking up on a lot of combat cards, then perhaps they may have the objective that is completed when having 8 or more combat cards after getting a star from combat. So maybe hit them first to slow their completion of that.

If someone has control of 2 villages, you can hit one of those villages with a combat or send a worker on it home to keep them from completing it.

You can also look to hit someone early that is still really low on the power track if they haven't chosen to move up on it.

Also, the more people play, the more familiar they are with all the faction abilities and be more aware of what can happen from them. You also learn the player boards more and get familiar with what an opponent can accomplish on their turns when combining top and bottom row actions. You won't be as surprised by the end of the game as you will be able to see it coming sooner and act accordingly.
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Barry Miller
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the_windcaster wrote:
I think first, it is a player’s duty to adapt to the system presented by the designers as intended, not to force the system to adapt to you and your own preconceptions.

One of the truest and most relevant thoughts expressed in the hobby today!

Nice.

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Stephen Sanders
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the_windcaster wrote:
This style of ending simply means that players have to pay more attention to their opponents during the game (gasp! Interaction!) and make the best moves they can when it is apparent that the end of the game is just around the corner. The funny thing about Scythe is that “just around the corner” comes up on you AWFULLY quick.

This is where I give the detractors a little bit of credit. When I play, it’s not uncommon for me or my opponents to knock out 3 of these achievements in a single turn - Win 1 combat, complete an objective, and finish up whatever achievement the matching bottom row action would allow (Upgrade, Mech, Structure, Recruit). That’s a lot!


You are correct in noting the credit for this complaint. This is what was a bit of a letdown in our first 4 player game experience. I made a "Move" action in the last turn of our first game, that allowed me to pick out and attack a weak opponent who had less battle cards than myself - nothing he could do to prevent that - and beat him easily for one Star. Then, in my bottom action, I finished my last upgrade - which no one could prevent - so I scored 2 Stars on that last turn for the 6 Stars. All the other players had 5 stars, and didn't notice that I could accomplish that. This would have taken a lot of attentiveness to every single possible move by every other player, and try to prevent them from making that move. Just seems too demanding to me, and could result in massive AP if all players played like that. Thanks for the review!
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Mathue Faulk
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caltexn wrote:
the_windcaster wrote:
This style of ending simply means that players have to pay more attention to their opponents during the game (gasp! Interaction!) and make the best moves they can when it is apparent that the end of the game is just around the corner. The funny thing about Scythe is that “just around the corner” comes up on you AWFULLY quick.

This is where I give the detractors a little bit of credit. When I play, it’s not uncommon for me or my opponents to knock out 3 of these achievements in a single turn - Win 1 combat, complete an objective, and finish up whatever achievement the matching bottom row action would allow (Upgrade, Mech, Structure, Recruit). That’s a lot!


You are correct in noting the credit for this complaint. This is what was a bit of a letdown in our first 4 player game experience. I made a "Move" action in the last turn of our first game, that allowed me to pick out and attack a weak opponent who had less battle cards than myself - nothing he could do to prevent that - and beat him easily for one Star. Then, in my bottom action, I finished my last upgrade - which no one could prevent - so I scored 2 Stars on that last turn for the 6 Stars. All the other players had 5 stars, and didn't notice that I could accomplish that. This would have taken a lot of attentiveness to every single possible move by every other player, and try to prevent them from making that move. Just seems too demanding to me, and could result in massive AP if all players played like that. Thanks for the review!

It really only takes some minor attentiveness to realize the end game is approaching, and then a player can decide to push towards ending the game themselves or maximize points. IMO the only way to 'stop' someone from ending is to discourage them from ending the game by piling up points elsewhere. The winner in Scythe is either the player who gets their 6th star, or the player who realizes that the game is approaching an end and best maximizes their points at the end of the game (instead of wasting actions on getting another star that may not help or be possible).
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Michelle
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Great review and I agree completely.
We've played 2p every time and we have played 17 times.
I love it. I still just like to look at it.

I turtle too except there was this hex with just one measly worker hoarding all kinds of good resources. I just had to get it. My husband complained the rest of the game how that set him back.

The ending can come quick. I would like to drag that out a bit more but it's like finishing an excellent book, you just want it to go on.
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Stephen Sanders
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mfaulk80 wrote:
caltexn wrote:
the_windcaster wrote:
This style of ending simply means that players have to pay more attention to their opponents during the game (gasp! Interaction!) and make the best moves they can when it is apparent that the end of the game is just around the corner. The funny thing about Scythe is that “just around the corner” comes up on you AWFULLY quick.

This is where I give the detractors a little bit of credit. When I play, it’s not uncommon for me or my opponents to knock out 3 of these achievements in a single turn - Win 1 combat, complete an objective, and finish up whatever achievement the matching bottom row action would allow (Upgrade, Mech, Structure, Recruit). That’s a lot!


You are correct in noting the credit for this complaint. This is what was a bit of a letdown in our first 4 player game experience. I made a "Move" action in the last turn of our first game, that allowed me to pick out and attack a weak opponent who had less battle cards than myself - nothing he could do to prevent that - and beat him easily for one Star. Then, in my bottom action, I finished my last upgrade - which no one could prevent - so I scored 2 Stars on that last turn for the 6 Stars. All the other players had 5 stars, and didn't notice that I could accomplish that. This would have taken a lot of attentiveness to every single possible move by every other player, and try to prevent them from making that move. Just seems too demanding to me, and could result in massive AP if all players played like that. Thanks for the review!

It really only takes some minor attentiveness to realize the end game is approaching, and then a player can decide to push towards ending the game themselves or maximize points. IMO the only way to 'stop' someone from ending is to discourage them from ending the game by piling up points elsewhere. The winner in Scythe is either the player who gets their 6th star, or the player who realizes that the game is approaching an end and best maximizes their points at the end of the game (instead of wasting actions on getting another star that may not help or be possible).


It may be the case, but in our game they were not able to "pile up points," even if they were scrutinizing my board for all my possible actions, myself being in last place with 4 Stars (they all had 5). But those other 3 players weren't able to "maximize" any points anyway, as their popularity was stuck on the first level in that last turn without any ability to reach the second tier. I was the only one at the second tier, getting the best multiplier, and they had no way to stop me from getting those last two Stars. So I'm not sure how that would have applied in our game.
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Greg
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mfaulk80 wrote:
caltexn wrote:
the_windcaster wrote:
This style of ending simply means that players have to pay more attention to their opponents during the game (gasp! Interaction!) and make the best moves they can when it is apparent that the end of the game is just around the corner. The funny thing about Scythe is that “just around the corner” comes up on you AWFULLY quick.

This is where I give the detractors a little bit of credit. When I play, it’s not uncommon for me or my opponents to knock out 3 of these achievements in a single turn - Win 1 combat, complete an objective, and finish up whatever achievement the matching bottom row action would allow (Upgrade, Mech, Structure, Recruit). That’s a lot!


You are correct in noting the credit for this complaint. This is what was a bit of a letdown in our first 4 player game experience. I made a "Move" action in the last turn of our first game, that allowed me to pick out and attack a weak opponent who had less battle cards than myself - nothing he could do to prevent that - and beat him easily for one Star. Then, in my bottom action, I finished my last upgrade - which no one could prevent - so I scored 2 Stars on that last turn for the 6 Stars. All the other players had 5 stars, and didn't notice that I could accomplish that. This would have taken a lot of attentiveness to every single possible move by every other player, and try to prevent them from making that move. Just seems too demanding to me, and could result in massive AP if all players played like that. Thanks for the review!

It really only takes some minor attentiveness to realize the end game is approaching, and then a player can decide to push towards ending the game themselves or maximize points. IMO the only way to 'stop' someone from ending is to discourage them from ending the game by piling up points elsewhere. The winner in Scythe is either the player who gets their 6th star, or the player who realizes that the game is approaching an end and best maximizes their points at the end of the game (instead of wasting actions on getting another star that may not help or be possible).


Sometimes it's easier than others to know all other player's situations and readiness to end the game. But this is where people need to lift their head up from their own boards and take a look around, mostly after a 3rd star is placed by any one player. If a player only has 1 mech left, then they are close to getting that star out, same with the buildings and recruits. You can also check to see what resources they have available and if they can pay for putting out the next star producing bottom action. Do they have a lot of upgrades out to make things cheaper? That requires them to have less resources and maybe a trade action will be enough to let them put out their last mech/building/recruit or upgrade.

Certainly it's easier to keep track in lower player count games, but in a 4 or 5 player game, people can try to just keep track of their neighbors and that helps somewhat. They can let others know, "Hey, you may want to attack Johnny pretty soon before he attacks you to be able to get his final star." or something like that. Then again, sometimes you may not want to alert other players and just prepare for the end coming soon and forget about long-term plans and move on to maximizing points you can get in the next turn or two.
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Greg
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caltexn wrote:
mfaulk80 wrote:
caltexn wrote:
the_windcaster wrote:
This style of ending simply means that players have to pay more attention to their opponents during the game (gasp! Interaction!) and make the best moves they can when it is apparent that the end of the game is just around the corner. The funny thing about Scythe is that “just around the corner” comes up on you AWFULLY quick.

This is where I give the detractors a little bit of credit. When I play, it’s not uncommon for me or my opponents to knock out 3 of these achievements in a single turn - Win 1 combat, complete an objective, and finish up whatever achievement the matching bottom row action would allow (Upgrade, Mech, Structure, Recruit). That’s a lot!


You are correct in noting the credit for this complaint. This is what was a bit of a letdown in our first 4 player game experience. I made a "Move" action in the last turn of our first game, that allowed me to pick out and attack a weak opponent who had less battle cards than myself - nothing he could do to prevent that - and beat him easily for one Star. Then, in my bottom action, I finished my last upgrade - which no one could prevent - so I scored 2 Stars on that last turn for the 6 Stars. All the other players had 5 stars, and didn't notice that I could accomplish that. This would have taken a lot of attentiveness to every single possible move by every other player, and try to prevent them from making that move. Just seems too demanding to me, and could result in massive AP if all players played like that. Thanks for the review!

It really only takes some minor attentiveness to realize the end game is approaching, and then a player can decide to push towards ending the game themselves or maximize points. IMO the only way to 'stop' someone from ending is to discourage them from ending the game by piling up points elsewhere. The winner in Scythe is either the player who gets their 6th star, or the player who realizes that the game is approaching an end and best maximizes their points at the end of the game (instead of wasting actions on getting another star that may not help or be possible).


It may be the case, but in our game they were not able to "pile up points," even if they were scrutinizing my board for all my possible actions, myself being in last place with 4 Stars (they all had 5). But those other 3 players weren't able to "maximize" any points anyway, as their popularity was stuck on the first level in that last turn without any ability to reach the second tier. I was the only one at the second tier, getting the best multiplier, and they had no way to stop me from getting those last two Stars. So I'm not sure how that would have applied in our game.


Well maybe at that point it was kind of late. But considering you said all the other players had 5 stars, then they should have been ready for the end well before your final turn, because somebody was going to be able to end it pretty soon. If they weren't on the 2nd tier of popularity, then that's their fault really and a lesson to be learned. Not that you can't win on the 1st tier, but I would think that you really have to have it set up right and you place your 6th star under your conditions and timing rather than someone else's.

That seems like a lesson to be applied for the next game.

I played a game of Mare Nostrum Empires on Monday night and that game can end real quick too, without you being able to do anything about it on your final turn. Lots of what goes on in that game is determined by how you set yourself up in the game and recognizing that other players are going to be able to end it soon. You can't rely on waiting until the final turn to stop them. Perhaps you can, but don't count on it.


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Hahma wrote:
You can also look to hit someone early that is still really low on the power track if they haven't chosen to move up on it.


And on the other hand, if an opponent is about to get a star for power, attack them and they have to choose between the power star and winning the fight.

Especially in 2 player, first to 16 power can become a real terror to the other player.
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Diederik wrote:
pacman88k wrote:
Nice review. It's a "kind" of 4X game, and it's challenging our definition, I think. Even Jamey calls it such. You expand by controlling territories, you explore by way of the encounter cards, you exploit cy way of the resources, and you exterminate (though limited). It's all there, even if it's not the way it's been done for tens of years.


Trying to change the Geek-dictionary, aaayè? Don't expect it to happen without a fight! arrrh


Not change the definition...maybe "expand" would be a better word. At least it's one of the four X's.
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pacman88k wrote:
Nice review. It's a "kind" of 4X game, and it's challenging our definition, I think. Even Jamey calls it such. You expand by controlling territories, you explore by way of the encounter cards, you exploit cy way of the resources, and you exterminate (though limited). It's all there, even if it's not the way it's been done for tens of years.


Yeah, that's exactly what I mean. I've read what Jamey said about it, about each of the 4 Xs and how they apply. But when you declare on the box (or in the description on BGG at least), in the first thing a reader will use to form an understanding of the game, that your game is a "4X game" it comes with preconceived notions of what that means. I understand that it's "all there" in a creative sense, and I appreciate that and his take on it, but I've seen it affect players' expectations going in and opinions of the game coming out. Which, really, is their own fault, but it's a minor point you could throw in rulebook text or designers' notes where you can also explain it, not on the back of the box where you have to define your game to your audience in both a succinct and salient way.
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MontyCrisco wrote:
That is one of the best reviews I have read for a long time. Makes me want the game even more.


Thanks, Chris! I hope it lives up to what I've written! I think expectations (or the lack thereof) are really important, and I want people to have the most honest picture of what they're getting into (my own opinion of that picture aside) for better or ill.
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Hahma wrote:
Nice review and we'll thought out!

One thing I will add with regards to combat, or even sending a lone worker home,is that you can disrupt and opponent's objective. Sometimes this can happen by accident, in that you aren't considering that benefit when attacking or entering a territory with a worker, but once you get familiar with the objective cards, you may recognize when an opponent is after a specific objective.

If someone is stocking up on a lot of combat cards, then perhaps they may have the objective that is completed when having 8 or more combat cards after getting a star from combat. So maybe hit them first to slow their completion of that.

If someone has control of 2 villages, you can hit one of those villages with a combat or send a worker on it home to keep them from completing it.

You can also look to hit someone early that is still really low on the power track if they haven't chosen to move up on it.

Also, the more people play, the more familiar they are with all the faction abilities and be more aware of what can happen from them. You also learn the player boards more and get familiar with what an opponent can accomplish on their turns when combining top and bottom row actions. You won't be as surprised by the end of the game as you will be able to see it coming sooner and act accordingly.


Thanks!!! All very true! And even if you do disrupt, can you do so for your own good? Will you be able to make good use of those villages? Or other terrain? For either resources or your own objectives? If they don't fit in your scheme is that one star a good sacrifice? So many questions!!!

And yes, definitely, familiarity breeds foresight. And that's the point where I think Scythe really shines. That's when it lets you game the players as much as the game, and that's when I think you know you've got something really special on your hands. Reminds me a lot of Troyes in that way. Bit of a learning curve, but really rewarding in other ways afterwards. Especially when you've got enough balanced variability to make the playing field just new enough every time.
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Dellarana wrote:
Great review and I agree completely.
We've played 2p every time and we have played 17 times.
I love it. I still just like to look at it.

I turtle too except there was this hex with just one measly worker hoarding all kinds of good resources. I just had to get it. My husband complained the rest of the game how that set him back.

The ending can come quick. I would like to drag that out a bit more but it's like finishing an excellent book, you just want it to go on.


Thanks!

And just like a book, there's nothing stopping you from going back to the beginning and starting again. Which it sounds like you two have done a lot! Hopefully your husband learned his lesson and will be careful about not making that mistake again!
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This is a great review thumbsup

Well constructed points and conclusions - almost a guide in itself!
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Hahma wrote:

That seems like a lesson to be applied for the next game.

I played a game of Mare Nostrum Empires on Monday night and that game can end real quick too, without you being able to do anything about it on your final turn. Lots of what goes on in that game is determined by how you set yourself up in the game and recognizing that other players are going to be able to end it soon. You can't rely on waiting until the final turn to stop them. Perhaps you can, but don't count on it.


Ugh, Mare Nostrum... Very similar but a little too conflict-y for my tastes. Scythe was heaven for my turtling self after that one. lol

This is another weakness of Scythe for me for sure. It seems like every loss carries with it a lesson for later. And once you realize in the mid-late game that you made a mistake in the early game, you're stuck with it and the mechanisms as you experienced them this time as the impression that you have. This is also where the merciful nature of the game's acceleration comes into play, however, so long as it's not another thing to put you off. If you're used to (and like) games that have learning curves as far as strategy is concerned, then great, even though I don't think Scythe's is particularly steep. I suppose that multi-play element is a facet I could have covered a bit more thoroughly in my review.
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Dave in Ledbury wrote:
This is a great review thumbsup

Well constructed points and conclusions - almost a guide in itself!


Thanks, Dave! I even made a little idea web and a simple outline to follow while I wrote. lol

I didn't cover the components or give much in the way of a rules overview, though. :/ But that was because I think Scythe has had enough other media created about it (and it's such the hotness right now) that if you're curious about the game you've probably got a good idea of how it looks and works from everyone else, or can find that information easily enough.
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I will play as the Atreides, Bene Gesserit, Emperor, Fremen, Guild, or Harkonnen.
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I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
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the_windcaster wrote:
The math on the actual setup of the game is fairly easy to figure out (I say that now, but I probably did it wrong) - there are 25 possible faction/mat combinations. This is greater variety than most games offer, unless you’re talking about an Arkham/Eldritch game with all the expansions. Sure, not every combination will be possible every game (as you remove boards from the pool for a player several options get whittled out for the rest), but at the very start, the possibilities are still mathematically there. If playing with 5 players, there are 120 possible starting setups. at 4 players, there are 240. At 3, 180. At 2, 80. A little weird of a spread, but I think that’s correct.


The math is actually represented by this formula:

[5!/(5 – r)!]^2

You are permuting for the player mats and the faction mats independently, each according to this basic equation:



where you are ordering from n total objects using r objects at a time.

That means that 5 total player mats can be ordered using r players at a time as:

P = 5!/(5 – r)!

For a given number, r, of players, this is the corresponding number of permutations of player mats:

r = 5: P = 120
r = 4: P = 120
r = 3: P = 60
r = 2: P = 20
r = 1: P = 5

Intuitively, this should make sense. If there is only 1 player, there are five possibilities for the player mat choices, because 1 player can play any one of the five mats. If there are only 2 players, there are 20 possibilities for the player mat choices: the first player chooses/is assigned one of five mats, and the second player receives one of the remaining four (5 * 4 = 20). And so on.

Because the choice of player mats and the choice of faction mats occurs independently, the same formula applies to calculate the number of permutations of faction mats in the game, based on the number of players.

Thus, in a five-player game, there are 120 permutations of player mats and 120 independent permutations of faction mats, so there are 14,440 permutations of both together. Same for four players. In a three-player game, there are 60 * 60 = 3600 permutations. In a two-player game, there are 400 permutations. In a one-player game, there are 25 permutations.

Or, in other words, let P equal the number of permutations of player mats (m) for the number of players (r) and Q the number of permutations of faction mats (f) for the number of players (r), where T represents total permutations

T = P(m,r) * Q(f,r)

T = 5!/(5 – r)! * 5!/(5 – r)!
T = [5!/(5 – r)!]^2

r = 5: T = 14,400
r = 4: T = 14,400
r = 3: T = 3,600
r = 2: T = 400
r = 1: T = 25
r = 0: T = 1
(all the mats are in the box assigned to nobody!)

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great review, I am painting my models before I get stuck into the game to make sure it looks amazing! but god its tempting to get a few games in.
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rnickster86 wrote:
great review, I am painting my models before I get stuck into the game to make sure it looks amazing! but god its tempting to get a few games in.


Thanks!

I still don't own the game yet - I completely missed the pre-KS hype somehow! - but when I do, I am sooo painting my minis! Never painted minis before, but these models (and this game) most definitely deserve it!!!
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grammatoncleric wrote:


The math is actually represented by this formula:



Thank you so much for that numbers breakdown!! Waaay more variety than I thought!
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