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Subject: Scythe - difference is not choice rss

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Eric B
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Some comments claim that Scythe is bad because of its linear gameplay which doesn't leave a lot of room for interesting decisions.

Others regluarly answer these claims with the argument that each faction is different, and there's a very large number of unique combinations, with each of these combinations requiring its own strategy.

I don't think these two positions are actually in conflict. The "choice" argument should ask: Given a certain faction, sheet position, secret objective and so on, how man *different* strategies are there, how many choices to I have to take on my way to victory?

The honest answer to this question is, not that many, and in particular, not many which exclude each other. In a given position, there are some things which will have to be done first (because everything else is simply too expensive), and other need to be done later, when they become cheaper, and/or resources more plentiful.

Scythe gameplay (at least for me) is characterized by first deciding in which order I strategically plan to do my bottom actions, that is which two are cheap enough so I can do them in the early game, and which two are too expensive so I have to do them later. Combined with the two cheap bottom actions are two top actions, and these dictate how I'm going to play - my bad if one of the "enforced" top actions is bolster, beacuse this forces me to now and then take a third top action, the bottom action of which I can't use.

After making up my mind on these fundamental characteristics of my position, the main decision taking process for this game is done. There are hardly any surprising turns of events and I won't start doing bottom actions with a cost of 4 somethings I just can't get. For me, the game is on rails from that point on.

By lack of variability I don't mean that I have to do the exact same things each game. I lack the element of choice during the game. Even the encounter cards usually don't offer real choices - there's usually exactly one option which best fits the chosen strategy.

So yes, the game flows nicely, and there's a lot of variablility. But no, there are only very few real decisions.
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Joseph Cochran
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Mecki wrote:
After making up my mind on these fundamental characteristics of my position, the main decision taking process for this game is done. There are hardly any surprising turns of events and I won't start doing bottom actions with a cost of 4 somethings I just can't get. For me, the game is on rails from that point on.

By lack of variability I don't mean that I have to do the exact same things each game. I lack the element of choice during the game. Even the encounter cards usually don't offer real choices - there's usually exactly one option which best fits the chosen strategy.


What about your opponents? While this isn't a game with super high player interaction, there's still quite a bit of it going on on the board, and while my experience of "how I start the game" and my overall plan usually match your characterizations above, I feel like there ARE usually decisions to be made regarding the interaction with my opponents: how aggressive or passive I am with my neighbors (depending on their personalities), whether or not to compete with them for a Factory card, what race I am (which includes strategy on which mech powers to unlock), etc. If everyone just holes up in their own areas and cedes the Factory to the Rusviets (or whoever: but in a turtle style game I assume them) I can see the game devolving to what you say, but given players of roughly equal skill I think that more gameplay opens up with respect to the player interaction.

I'd also agree in general about the encounter cards with the caveat that the first encounter comes early enough that its bonus COULD cause a decision or strategy shift that's more impactful.
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Lyle Chipperson
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I think the game can be played in several ways , mostly depend on the players, it can be played as a multiplayer solitary race everyone on their corner just deploying building and stuff, could be a war if one or more players are agressive , you can spend some time protecting your territories cause you got that aggressive player and so on...


The game just gives you the tools and tell you " ok now you work your way up to six Stars and coins "

So easiest way to do that is to play multiplayer solitary , maybe that's what get people a bit bored with the game.
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Samuel Favre
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You can compare it to chess: the game starts with known openings. However, you can't say that this is linear.

There are certainly a top opening in Scythe for the first 7 moves, but then, it highly depend on your strategy, situation on the board or your opponents.
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Mathue Faulk
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This seems like a straw man argument. It may be that I'm missing a larger thread where people actually argued that the variety of factions prices the game doesn't play on rails, but logically, that doesn't follow. I don't think the game plays on rails, but it's not because of variety. It's because the game can change based on your opponents. The openings may be somewhat scripted once you decide how you want to work your board, but the game is going to evolve as you play.
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J Kaemmer
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My only counter is OBJECTIVE CARDS.

Yes you need to optimize your route to 6 stars based on bottom row costs and available resources... but the objective star is simultaneously the easiest star and most difficult one. On one hand it usually asks you to do something that's not in your short- or long-term plan, on the other hand, a good player will be able to incorporate an objective into their strategy to accomplish it while still driving towards their other goals.

If you'd like a little more drama, make objective cards open information!

Of a similar argument. Combat is a much easier and faster way to place stars than any of the economic sources. If you are playing just your boards you could easily lose to an aggressive player who disrupted your engine while placing stars faster than you ever could.
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Paul Ferguson
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Well said. It is a linear game on rails, that only changes are with what race and action board you get. It lacks layers and an organic game flow. Encounters aren't even encounters, (An encounter should be - unexpectedly be faced with or experience something hostile or difficult) they are pick from 3 choices to get some free stuff.
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Mark Jackson
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You fell in a pit on the first turn. Good job!
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Play with more aggressive or just better opponents and see if your on rails approach still works for you. I feel like it won't, but I'm curious to hear your results.
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Reverend Uncle Bastard
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The primary argument against "on the rails" is not that there are different faction/player mats, but that you can upgrade your player board however you choose, deciding which actions to reduce the cost of and/or boost in order to pick a direction to head for the game. I have had a mat where the cheapest bottom row actions was deploy a mech, yet I came in 2nd (withing 2-3 points of winning) without deploying a single mech!

I am 25 games in and I am still discovering interesting ways to win the game.
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Aaron Fleming
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I don't really understand the complaint here. Were people expecting more Runewars and less Terra Mystica?

Much like Terra Mystica, the faction/race you pick is going to drive your entire strategy; I don't see what's wrong with that. Most games of this type don't have a lot of interaction between players other than possibly blocking certain moves or taking something before someone else can. If that doesn't float your boat then fine but that isn't a flaw with the game - it's just a category of game that you don't like.

I love 'Roll for the Galaxy'. I think it's great even though there is no player interaction and my success requires that I get the dice results I need. Some people hate that. But that doesn't mean the game or design is flawed.

It seems to me that some people were expecting 1920's Battletech. It's a worker placement game that just happens to have mechs.
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Eric B
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Re: Other players actions, attacks in particular:
I think that attacks in this game are difficult. They require quite some preparation like building a mech and spending move action(s), they cost extra resources, and the reward is diminished by a possible reputation loss. Since reputation is the dominant victory condition, reputation loss is a severe penalty.

I believe that serious attacks with the goal of conquering a resource hex become viable only during the mid to late game. At that point, even non-aggressive strategies are able to muster a plausible defence.

Skirmishes around the factory, maybe denying a factory card, are not a severe setback. I'm pretty sure that the free resources from the encounters are better than a factory card early on, and later the developed standard actions are better.

Re: Upgrading the player board in different ways
Upgrading the board mostly plays itself too. In the early game, there are two bottom actions which you can pay. I think it's trivial to improve these two actions first, and deal with the others second.

Re: Terra Mystica
I don't think this one compares well to TM (which I like a lot btw). In TM, I'm regularly faced with tough decisions where it's not clear which option is best, what I should do first, or even whether maybe passing does the trick. I played a lot more TM than Scythe, and I'm feeling less confident about my decisions in TM than here.
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Reverend Uncle Bastard
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Mecki wrote:
Since reputation is the dominant victory condition, reputation loss is a severe penalty.


Popularity is not the dominant victory condition. Only around half the games we have played have been won by the person with the highest popularity.

Mecki wrote:

Upgrading the board mostly plays itself too. In the early game, there are two bottom actions which you can pay. I think it's trivial to improve these two actions first, and deal with the others second.


Thinking does not make it so

It sounds like you are making a lot of assumptions about the game, and as a result of those assumptions you are choosing to "play on the rails". The actual game can be played, and very effectively, in different ways than you are suggesting. Just your assumption about popularity being the dominant victory condition is absolutely incorrect. We have had several games won by players with 0 popularity. It is easy to make up the difference with the extra hexes and stars you can get while others are using and/or limiting their actions in order to increase their popularity. Also, when you popularity is 0 there is no reason not to attack spaces with workers, making your opponents late game resources open to attack.

This game definitely isn't for everyone, but it is far from "on the rails".
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Eric B
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reverendunclebastard wrote:
Popularity is not the dominant victory condition. Only around half the games we have played have been won by the person with the highest popularity.
...
We have had several games won by players with 0 popularity. It is easy to make up the difference with the extra hexes and stars you can get while others are using and/or limiting their actions in order to increase their popularity.


I haven't seen a game won by a player in a lower popularity category than another player. Maybe in your group there's a silent agreement that popularity is overrated? Sure, there's no difference between popularity 0 and 6. But the jump from 6 to 7 is big, and IMO always worth going for it. It takes a lot less effort (in terms of resources and actions) to reach pop 7 than to muster a meaningful, successful attack.

And even if I'm in a position where aggression is a viable strategy, I again have only few (TM-like) interesting decisions.
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Christoph Weber
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Whenever I see this dicussion come up I think it'll be great if you would play a game of Scythe together to see whose strategy will prevail..
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Eric B
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lol, +1
 
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Reverend Uncle Bastard
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Mecki wrote:
lol, +1


Agreed

I would be willing to bet money that I could beat you at a game of Scythe! If I am ever in Germany I will look you up for sure and we can put our theories to the test. Would be fun.
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Phil Campeau
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I've absolutely won the game in tier two popularity against other players in tier three.

If you're focusing on boosting your popularity, you're neglecting other things. It's all part of the balancing game.

I've seen so many different strategies win in the 15 games I've played, and there are at least 3 I've thought of that I haven't seen yet which I want to try.

Lots of people here are saying that this "game on rails" view of Scythe comes from group-think, and I have to agree. There's one group I've played the game with three times, where I've dominated every game. The players in that group are very non-aggressive and focus only on their own game.

In my other game group, where the rest of my plays have occurred, people are much more interactive, attacking, trying a variety of strategies. I've still won a few games there, but not most!
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Reverend Uncle Bastard
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Mecki wrote:
reverendunclebastard wrote:
Popularity is not the dominant victory condition. Only around half the games we have played have been won by the person with the highest popularity.
...
We have had several games won by players with 0 popularity. It is easy to make up the difference with the extra hexes and stars you can get while others are using and/or limiting their actions in order to increase their popularity.


I haven't seen a game won by a player in a lower popularity category than another player. Maybe in your group there's a silent agreement that popularity is overrated? Sure, there's no difference between popularity 0 and 6. But the jump from 6 to 7 is big, and IMO always worth going for it. It takes a lot less effort (in terms of resources and actions) to reach pop 7 than to muster a meaningful, successful attack.

And even if I'm in a position where aggression is a viable strategy, I again have only few (TM-like) interesting decisions.


Nope, I am not talking about the difference between 0 and 5 or 6 popularity, I am talking the difference between 0 and 7+ popularity. in my group I have seen several instances of someone with 0 popularity beating someone who was in tier 2. I have also seen someone in tier 1 beat someone in tier 3. After the first few games there is no more "groupthink" in our group about this game. Each game plays out quite differently and each person has won their fare share of games.

I would humbly suggest that you try playing the game some more using different strategies and see how it goes. When someone is one tier above you in popularity, even if they are 2-3 stars ahead of you, it only takes a handful of territories, or some smart conservation of money, to make up that difference. I have seen lots of evidence that more popularity or more stars does not equal victory.
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corum irsei
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Mecki wrote:
I haven't seen a game won by a player in a lower popularity category than another player.
If that's the case in your game group, I'd consider your group to be highly unusual.

In our games it's at least as common for a player from a lower population bracket to win the game than a player from the same or higher bracket.
(I don't think I've seen a player in the lowest bracket winning against a player in the highest bracket, though.)

Imho, in Scythe you're doing best if you manage to maintain a good balance between the different scoring categories. The only exception is if a player manages to win using a rush strategy, but that's extremely hard to pull off in a group of experienced players.
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fortheloveofdice
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When up against someone in tier 2 popularity, giving up on the popularity race can be a powerful strategy.

Spend all your popularity on production or choices on encounter cards. Drive back workers without fear. You can do a lot with 6 popularity and the option to keep doing some things once you hit zero.

When you try a different strategy such as abandoning the fight for popularity you become unpredictable, and you force your opponent to adapt. Goodbye rails (assuming they were there).
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Eric B
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After a few more games I feel my opinion confirmed.

To reiterate: I don't claim that I win every game. I don't think that attacking is not a valid strategy. I'm even ready to take back my assumption that being in a higher reputation category is mandatory.

But the core of my statement remains that for any given starting position, there is not a lot of choice. The number of really interesting decisions is rather low. The game is won by the person who micro-manages their strategy best, and that strategy is pre-determined by the starting position.

Terraforming Mars (which I played a lot more than Scythe recently) makes me rethink my strategy every turn, and has a very high number of interesting decisions. I also has its drawbacks (rather high luck factor even with drafting and an evil random desaster generator), but it excels in offering variety and choices.
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Zach Mckinney
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While I won't deny that faction management is the key that puts you on the path to victory there many roads that take you there. Last two games I played I won with combat, one of which netted me four stars in a turn. I've won with 3 stats and using a factory card, high popularity, low popularity, buildings, mechs etc. Yes at the beginning everyone is locked in and options are limited, but the game is a break out a scenario, once people jump the river is when the game begins and player count and which race is at the table matters. Are the Russians there, are they going to power rush the factory and then scoop up the encounter cards, mech rush the board or just out produce everyone. Is Crimea going to spread around the board, make a consitrated trust, farm and out recuit there neighbors etc etc. A linear game would produce consistent victory responses. I think the game opens similarly but once you break out or with the new factions, start out on the main board that is when game begin, the rest is set up your gambit to win.
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Jack S
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I'm curious, what if you tried (with the same game group) to play with the exact same faction mat pairings, but with all the other cards (encounter cards, objective cards, etc.) dealt randomly, and see if it's consistently the same player winning with the same strategy?
 
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Thomas Müller
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Mecki wrote:
After a few more games I feel my opinion confirmed.

Did you play all those games with the same group(think)?

Mecki wrote:

Terraforming Mars (which I played a lot more than Scythe recently) makes me rethink my strategy every turn


I don't know Terraforming Mars, but if you have to rethink it every turn, it might not be a strategy but tactics.
 
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Brandon Zappala
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I completely disagree with the original poster.
The situation that one is dealt (including objectives) can certainly put one on their initial plan, but there is A LOT of variability to the decision tree that arises as you start to attempt to achieve your 4th, 5th, and 6th stars AND measuring ones need to attain popularity and power. The only reason one would not have to do any risk-assessment is if your plan is COMPLETELY unopposed by your opponents.

Did I say completely disagree...?
Okay, I don't "completely" disagree if yellow-patriotic is in the game. Then the original poster is completely correct. ; )
 
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