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Subject: 7 stars? rss

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Carsten Neumann
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I have a question and hope (but don't expect!) also Jamey giving some input on this topic.

I've played some 20+ games of Scythe now. Almost all of them were multi-player games. (I do like play solo as well, but prefer other games for that.)

What do you think of playing to 7 stars instead of 6?

Why am I asking? I played chess in my youth and a chess game is divided in three phases. Opening phase (more or less obvious moves), the middle game and the end game (just finish what you started - or be finished!).
Scythe is (or can be seen) similar. I start with more or less typical moves for a certain player/faction mat combination. After that the interaction begins and in the end I have to hurry up to maximize stars and territories.
Many games end in a way that several players who could end the game in the same round and would/do actually win the game. I am just wondering whether an increase of 6 to 7 stars could prolongate the really interesting middle game.

Russians for example can easily get all upgrades, mechs, workers, full power and win two combats. But seven stars would mean that they HAVE to enlist/build or be popular or fulfill and objective as well. (And I am just talking about regular factions, not Saxony; different topic.)

Would this change the nature of the game too much or in wrong way?
Did anyway try this yet?
And - @Jamey - was this part of the original play-testing phase?
Or will - whatever is new in March - it be an option for the future?

PS: I also sometime raise my eyebrows if people throw in crude ideas (like this) without having tested them. But I do not have enough people "at my disposition" regularly to test this on a large scale. So I have to ask here ;-)
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Matthew Kameron
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I don't think it would change the nature of the game.

I would expect, as you seem to imply, that it would reduce the impact of 'economic optimisation' and potentially increase the area control aspects of the game. I could see this being a potentially good thing.

I also don't imagine that it would increase game length a great deal.

Would be very interested to hear your findings after trying it!
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Jamey Stegmaier
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Carsten: Thanks for your question. Throughout the first wave of blind playtesting, players needed to place 7 stars instead of 6. But I realized through the wealth of feedback in that wave that 7 stars was causing the game to go on too long, to overstay its welcome, and to exceed the narrative arc. Also, I wanted to give players the freedom to choose a variable path out of the 10 possible categories, and I felt that shoehorning them into 7 categories instead of 6 was taking away just a little too much of their freedom as Scythian strategists.

Scythe will remain a 6-star game, but the new expansion includes a module that is specifically about the end-game trigger.
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J Kaemmer
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I think the idea is somewhat novel, and I like where your head's at... but I have some initial reservations:

1. Pace, and choice in star placements. There are only 10 spots for stars, 2 of which are the same. By increasing it to 7 stars you are effectively forcing everybody to diversify into strategies that may not work with their Faction or player boards. Crimea and Rusviet like to jam on the 5 econ stars and maybe a combat or objective star to round it out, but now they either need to fight MORE than they would otherwise or worse... sit on a bunch of power or Pop doing nothing. The Power and Pop stars are difficult to get to, except in long drawn out games and should not typically be the core of your strat. Hell, Power and Pop stars are directly contradictory to the Combat stars... and god forbid you have impossible objectives. By requiring an extra star you now REDUCE the viable combinations of stars and make objectives borderline swingy.

2. Certain Factions could unbalance the whole thing too. Rusviet is a star printing machine, they accelerate fast and have good staying power in the middle, a lead from them may not be surmountable. Keeping the star requirement low means bubble/burst turns of 2-3 stars can keep you either steal you the game or at least keep you in. Rusviet is so well rounded its practically unfair to ask anybody else to do everything that Scythe has to offer (also spamming bolster or trade for pop, will basically be a given). Saxony thrives on a short game, you've now ruined their ability to do that at all... But then again, Saxony doesn't need to diversify their stars as much (any number of combat and both objectives makes it easier for them to get 7).

3. Game length, Stonemaier wanted something that played in a reasonable amount of time. Grinding on that last star doing something your engine wasn't optimized for could add a not-insignificant amount of time to the game.

4. Loss of viable turn options. A good turn is one where you do something to prepare for another good action AND advance on a star placement. This usually means doing the top and the bottom row actions. In econ focused strategies (Rusviet *cough cough), you'll quickly burn out of bottom row actions to do. Bolstering isn't that popular of a choice, same with trade in the late game, unless of course you need that bottom row action. Once you've deployed all your mechs, built your structures, Enlisted your Recruits, or Upgraded all your actions, your economy stagnates. It stops being fun, and you begin to struggle uphill to eek out one last star. I've said it before, but this is a big pitfall to Rusviets already. They focus so hard on a few actions early on, they end up losing efficiency at the end of the game because they can't shift gears well enough. They still need to produce or trade but they've probably exhausted the bottom row action there, long before. With this rule, now everybody has to suffer that (without the benefit of a killer Rusviet start).

5. Combat presence. This is actually kind of both a positive and a negative, it depends on how you feel. Some people want more conflict, well now its practically mandatory so you might as well start early rather than it just being your coup-de-grace. I like that. Some people want a borderline solitaire Euro... well now combat is practically mandatory, so have fun with that cube pushers. If you wished combat wasn't so cut and dried deterministic, this rule wopuld actually promote riskier maneuvers more often. 1 star up can be a game changer when you have to squeeze out so much from your engine (like blood from a stone). If you, however, liked the threat of combat and jockying for position, bluffing, and posturing based around the fact no-one will fight unless they are sure to win... that's probably gone now, too. So I'll call it a 50/50.

That said, I see some benefits:
-Potentially more satisfying because you can use more of your engine to completion.
-More sense of accomplishment for everybody (more stars)
-More area control and resource denial opportunities
-More direct and indirect conflict (by necessity and the fact you're guaranteed to crowd the board)

Personally I like the length as is, because it keeps it dynamic and fun and reduces the end game grind (God running out of bottom row actions is so annoying!), but I like your idea. It makes ending the game more challenging and can create some interesting push and pull or your own interests as well as against others. I'd be willing to try it.

Edit: ninja by J.S. said alot of what I said, in much fewer wordsblush
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Kkouet Kkouet
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I think this topic is interesting, after 100+ games played, i have try many variants and one of my favor is :
Only 5 stars to Saxony, albion & togawa,
7 stars for crimea & nordic.
With this variant, it create some play style. Some factions are way more agressiv in territory occupation. Sometime when you fear togawa/albion ending the game, you are forced to fight in token land (trap or flag). It compensate the lack of mobility of this 2 factions.
Saxony can rush even faster...



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Carsten Neumann
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jameystegmaier wrote:
Carsten: Thanks for your question. Throughout the first wave of blind playtesting, players needed to place 7 stars instead of 6. [...] I felt that shoehorning them into 7 categories instead of 6 was taking away just a little too much of their freedom as Scythian strategists.

Thanks, this is helpful information. And I suspected that the topic "number of stars" came up during playtesting ;-)

jameystegmaier wrote:
Scythe will remain a 6-star game, but the new expansion includes a module that is specifically about the end-game trigger.

This sounds great!



I also appreciate the long and interesting answer of iswearihaveajob.
- Saxony is - as often - difficult, I know.
- Game length: I am not sure whether the game length is increased a lot. As almost all players will have smooth running engines, I estimate not a lot more turns.
- The points you and Jamey mentioned about forcing people to do "unnatural" things is exactly what I find intriguing (but I do understand the possible problems). I will wait for the expansion and try this idea anyway later.
- Combat: Yes, so even Swiss-style players would have to fight.
- It is not a shame to be ninja by J.S.
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Chris Laudermilk
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jameystegmaier wrote:
Scythe will remain a 6-star game, but the new expansion includes a module that is specifically about the end-game trigger.


Oooo....tidbits of info. Sounds interesting.

6 stars seems right for the game timer fuse.
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Duane Wulf
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I agree that there are many games that end right when everyone has their engine peaking, and I have often wondered if a seventh star would be better to allow you to end the game in that "third phase" (your chess example).
So one variant that we have tried, and liked, is playing without the objective cards. This may or may not lengthen the game, but in essence, is accomplishing an effect similar to seven stars, while also removing some luck (there are large differences in the difficulty of completing objectives, and these are assigned to you by chance).
Side note: When we do play with the objective cards, we draft them -- deal each player three, keep one and pass two left, then keep one and discard one of the two received from the player on your right. We base our decision on whether or not to use the objective cards based on how long of game we want to play.
Regardless, Scythe is great!
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Carsten Neumann
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Both ideas sound interesting. But I like this small part of luck.

Do you compensate Saxonia when playing without OC?
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Duane Wulf
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horstderadler wrote:
Both ideas sound interesting. But I like this small part of luck.

Do you compensate Saxonia when playing without OC?


No, because Saxony very rarely completes more than one objective, unless they were both easy, which would been a result of a lucky draw. In our experience, Saxony typically benefits from their ability mostly by wining three or more combats.
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Happy Everything!
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Kkouet wrote:
I think this topic is interesting, after 100+ games played, i have try many variants and one of my favor is :
Only 5 stars to Saxony, albion & togawa,
7 stars for crimea & nordic.
With this variant, it create some play style. Some factions are way more agressiv in territory occupation. Sometime when you fear togawa/albion ending the game, you are forced to fight in token land (trap or flag). It compensate the lack of mobility of this 2 factions.
Saxony can rush even faster...


That is an EXCELLENT suggestion, I'll definitely be playing/playtesting this one.
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Richard Parker

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I always found the factions fairly equal if you are flexible in your approach. Not sure different levels of stars isn't extremely unbalancing. But I look forward to hearing how it works for everyone.
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Richard Young
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iswearihaveajob wrote:
I think the idea is somewhat novel, and I like where your head's at... but I have some initial reservations:
...
That said, I see some benefits:
-Potentially more satisfying because you can use more of your engine to completion.
-More sense of accomplishment for everybody (more stars)
-More area control and resource denial opportunities
-More direct and indirect conflict (by necessity and the fact you're guaranteed to crowd the board)

Personally I like the length as is, because it keeps it dynamic and fun and reduces the end game grind (God running out of bottom row actions is so annoying!), but I like your idea. It makes ending the game more challenging and can create some interesting push and pull or your own interests as well as against others. I'd be willing to try it.

Edit: ninja by J.S. said alot of what I said, in much fewer wordsblush
I understand many of your reservations, but quite agree with your thoughts on potential benefits. I have always felt that the pace of the game took some getting used to. It starts off rather slowly and then quickens as more BRA are being taken (counter intuitive as that means each individual turn should be getting longer) and then suddenly bang it's over! It seemed to me that the game ends just as it's really getting going. As games of this nature go, it is not a long one at all (compare with Eclipse, Clash of Cultures, Through the Ages, etc.).

I'd be happy to experiment with a 7th star just to see what the actual effects are and with a range of player numbers to see if player count is also a factor.
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Robert Stewart
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Bubslug wrote:
It seemed to me that the game ends just as it's really getting going.


That's a common feature of engine-builders - start slow, and then suddenly the game's over. Partly that's because it's better to leave players wanting to play more, and partly because, unless you're running the game for so long that players start running out of meaningful things to do, the nature of engine-building is that extending or shortening the game by a couple of rounds still leaves it feeling like it's just getting going when it ends.

As it is, Scythe can reach the point where one or two actions are saturated and no longer worth taking, particularly with less experienced players.
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