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Subject: Scythe: My Thoughts, Opinion, and Experience Playing Solo (Automa mode) rss

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Derek Strand
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So I have owned Scythe for awhile now and only recently have I actually attempted to play the Solo Automa version of the game. This was mostly due to the prospect of having to learn another rulebook. The approximately 6 page rulebook was a little intimidating. However, I have finally read through it and played 4 solo games in a row! Firstly, I can say, I really enjoyed my solo experience! I usually do not really enjoy solo plays too much, but this game, solo, was much more fun, so I thought I would post my opinion of the solo variant and some thoughts that have come up during my run-throughs of the solo game.

First of all, the solo rulebook was well organized and fairly easy to follow. I did find the Automa movement rules to be rather confusing though. The whole neighbourhood movement rule for workers did not feel intuitive and it took me awhile to understand the number system used in the rulebook to explain where an automa-worker move. I had to watch a tutorial video to help get a handle on it. This wasn’t a big deal, but did it need to be so confusing? The rulebook did warn that movement would take some getting used to however. And after a few plays, I felt like I was getting a handle on how the movement works. Props to the game designer for including reference cards for ALL the automa movement options, attacks, etc. I often referred to the reference cards during game play, and they really helped mitigate confusion and having to look in the rulebook over and over.

Although somewhat confusing, at first, Scythe Automa works really well. The way the automa moves (i.e. teleporting to the closest enemy units) makes for likely confrontation and really good interaction with the AI. I didn’t feel like I was playing alone (but I was).
Interesting: In regard to movement, I noticed some strategies that seem unique to playing solo. During an automa attack, because the automa mech will move toward the weakest enemy unit to fight (ties broken by closest to factory, or reading order), if you pair up your own mechs on important territories, you don’t want to be attacked on, the automa mech won’t likely attack you. This is because the automa prefers to attack the weakest enemy, i.e. solo mechs (unless there are none within their neighbourhood) on a territory. I find this is nice way to hold onto the Factory until end-game scoring.

Another interesting experience is playing with more than one automa. I tried a couple of games playing against 2 automa. I found that depending on where you place automas, in relation to one another and your own faction, will change the game experience for you. In one game, I played Rusviet, and the automa were Nordic, and Saxony. In a second game, I played Saxony, and the automa were Rusviet, and Nordic. With the automas closer together in proximity, I found that they interact with one another much more. With myself, between them in proximity (as Rusviet), the automa had less opportunity to interact. Now before I go further, I will start off by saying, I am not sure whether the designer intended for the automa to fight each other, but I allowed this to happen and it made for an entertaining experience. If I didn’t allow this interaction, then the automa would have attacked only my faction and the game would be A LOT harder. If you do the former, and allow the automa to attack one another, then you will find that they will often choose one another to fight over your faction, especially if you are not between them, OR you keep your mechs paired together (i.e. attacking mechs always choose the territory with the least enemy units).
Another observation to share, is my experience with automa worker movement and trying to win Scythe solo. Due to the automa worker movement mechanism, it seems that the automa will acquire territories quite easily as their workers will spread across the board. I found that if I did not mitigate this by driving some out, the automa would usually end the game with approximately 9 to 11 territories. This would equal a fair amount of coins for automa and I would struggle to keep up in my own territory count. I did the best in my last solo game. The final score was myself with 123 coins, and automas with 60 and 54 coins. I found a couple of important factors: 1 - I had to get my popularity to at least tier 2 if I was going to win (above in tier 3 even better), 2 – I had to move my mechs in proximity to the automa. If I did this, the automa workers were not able to advance forward and gain more territories, and 3 – I had to take coins whenever possible to keep up with the coins automa gets regularly.

My feelings on Scythe now that I have played it both with others and solo?

First of all, for me, Scythe was a highly anticipated game. Once I finally got to play it, I wasn’t disappointed. The original game rules are streamlined, and easy to read. The artwork is amazing! The game mechanisms are interesting, and the game play is fun! I find that you know a game is excellent when, after playing it you and your opponents are talking game play (i.e. strategy, decision making, climatic moments, etc.). Scythe elicits all this in my experience.

Now after playing Scythe solo, I love the game even more! How awesome that I can enjoy Scythe by myself as well! As I said earlier, I didn’t feel like I was playing alone. I could enjoy my individual play as usually experienced with human players because the solo variant is so well developed. YES, some of the solo mechanisms were confusing. And yes, I needed to watch a tutorial. But once I got a handle of the movement, the solo automa turns moved very quickly. I was surprised, really, how little time it took for the automa turn. That was really awesome because I was back to focusing on my own game play quickly (even with 2 automas!). I love the reference cards for automa actions! Wow… I referred to them so much!
The automa deck and the Scythe app are also super awesome designs; they really helped me keep track automa turns. I have always hated playing solo because I often forget whether I performed an action or not (when I lose track of automa’s turn). However, in Scythe, I NEVER had this problem. It was very clear whether I did their turn or not because action card was played and turned over. This made Scythe solo streamlined and easy!

So bottom line… I love Scythe! What an awesome design and a very fun game to play. Don’t get me wrong, Scythe is NOT a perfect game (no game seems to be in my experience), however, the fun factor, and relatively easy game play, the strategy, the art, make Scythe probably the best board game I own. Scythe is great… and it deserved its reward as Dice Tower’s Best Game of the Year. Well done, Jamey. I look forward to other games by Stonemaier.
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Morten Monrad Pedersen
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Hi Derek

Thank you very much for your thoughtful review, I really liked your discussion on the solo mode didn't feel like playing alone and your analysis of which aspects of playing against the Automa didn't feel like playing against a human player. I found that insightful.

dboyee wrote:
I usually do not really enjoy solo plays too much, but this game, solo, was much more fun


I'm so happy to hear that. Since 2013 I've worked on removing the stigma of solo gaming and showing gamers that solo gaming is fun, but different way of enjoying board gaming.

dboyee wrote:
The whole neighbourhood movement rule for workers did not feel intuitive and it took me awhile to understand the number system used in the rulebook to explain where an automa-worker move.


Yeah, there's a definite learning curve to this part of the rules. We worked hard on finding the best way to explain this and every other way we could cook up made the rule explaination tedious and hard to read - particularly when you had to look up the rules for the a specific action.

dboyee wrote:
I didn’t feel like I was playing alone (but I was).


This another type of comment that I love to see. One of our core design principles is to capture as much of the feel of the multiplayer game as we can.

We most definitely didn't succeed fully with this (and we never will) as you discuss in your review.

dboyee wrote:
I am not sure whether the designer intended for the automa to fight each other


I intended the player to make the decision on that based on his/her preferences .

dboyee wrote:
Now after playing Scythe solo, I love the game even more! How awesome that I can enjoy Scythe by myself as well! As I said earlier, I didn’t feel like I was playing alone. I could enjoy my individual play as usually experienced with human players because the solo variant is so well developed. YES, some of the solo mechanisms were confusing. And yes, I needed to watch a tutorial. But once I got a handle of the movement, the solo automa turns moved very quickly. I was surprised, really, how little time it took for the automa turn. That was really awesome because I was back to focusing on my own game play quickly (even with 2 automas!). I love the reference cards for automa actions! Wow… I referred to them so much!
The automa deck and the Scythe app are also super awesome designs; they really helped me keep track automa turns. I have always hated playing solo because I often forget whether I performed an action or not (when I lose track of automa’s turn). However, in Scythe, I NEVER had this problem. It was very clear whether I did their turn or not because action card was played and turned over. This made Scythe solo streamlined and easy!


Thanks: thumbsup .
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Derek Strand
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mortenmdk wrote:


dboyee wrote:
The whole neighbourhood movement rule for workers did not feel intuitive and it took me awhile to understand the number system used in the rulebook to explain where an automa-worker move.


Yeah, there's a definite learning curve to this part of the rules. We worked hard on finding the best way to explain this and every other way we could cook up made the rule explaination tedious and hard to read - particularly when you had to look up the rules for the a specific action.

Albeit confusing at first, once you figure out the automa movement, it flows rather nicely. And as I said in my review, the reference cards were a nice touch. I placed each card in close proximity to myself. When the certain movement came up, I was able to easily refer to the particular card in question. I think the addition of those cards was a smart, thoughtful idea. It made the game flow nicely.

mortenmdk wrote:

dboyee wrote:
I didn’t feel like I was playing alone (but I was).


This another type of comment that I love to see. One of our core design principles is to capture as much of the feel of the multiplayer game as we can.

We most definitely didn't succeed fully with this (and we never will) as you discuss in your review.

I think the game-changer in your design was the speed at which the player can manipulate the automa's turn and get back to what they are doing on their own player mat. Also, because the automa can teleport, the human player has to be careful where they place their units. As human player, you can feel the risk of leaving a single unit on a territory in proximity to the enemy automa. That was a nice feeling.

On a negative side of playing solo, it is sometimes hard to punish yourself! What I mean by that is - for example: you take a risk to attack a automa, and you lose the battle, it is tempting to draw another card. Take back a move. Or whatever. You make a bad decision and you feel like re-setting things. This is just something that happens in solo and feels bad at times. Getting beat up in solo-mode can suck at times.

mortenmdk wrote:

dboyee wrote:
I am not sure whether the designer intended for the automa to fight each other


I intended the player to make the decision on that based on his/her preferences .

Good to know. I wondered this while I played solo. I actually really enjoyed being the third party watching the automa go at each other! On the negative, it makes the game feel easier. I haven't played with the automa only attacking me. I would imagine that it would be way harder! It was fascinating how automa placements in proximity to one another changed the feel of each game.

Morton, well done on designing the solo variant. I am really happy that I can now enjoy solo Scythe when no one will play with me! I found my experience entertaining. I am excited to see how your variant will impact Jamey's future projects. For reasons I stated above, you may have changed my feelings regarding solo plays - other than punishing gulp one's self.
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Morten Monrad Pedersen
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dboyee wrote:
And as I said in my review, the reference cards were a nice touch. I placed each card in close proximity to myself. When the certain movement came up, I was able to easily refer to the particular card in question. I think the addition of those cards was a smart, thoughtful idea. It made the game flow nicely.


I use them myself every time I return to the game after not having played it for a while .

dboyee wrote:
I think the game-changer in your design was the speed at which the player can manipulate the automa's turn and get back to what they are doing on their own player mat.


I'm happy to hear that - we worked very hard to achieve that.

dboyee wrote:
On a negative side of playing solo, it is sometimes hard to punish yourself! What I mean by that is - for example: you take a risk to attack a automa, and you lose the battle, it is tempting to draw another card. Take back a move. Or whatever. You make a bad decision and you feel like re-setting things. This is just something that happens in solo and feels bad at times. Getting beat up in solo-mode can suck at times.


The upshot is that there's no one there to see that you cheat and the Automa won't complain.

dboyee wrote:
Morton, well done on designing the solo variant. I am really happy that I can now enjoy solo Scythe when no one will play with me! I found my experience entertaining. I am excited to see how your variant will impact Jamey's future projects. For reasons I stated above, you may have changed my feelings regarding solo plays - other than punishing gulp one's self.


Thank you, I appreciate your kind words.

The next projects from Stonemaier, my team and I, have been involved in are Charterstone, Scythe: The Wind Gambit, and Between Two Cities: Capitals.
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Derek Strand
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mortenmdk wrote:


The upshot is that there's no one there to see that you cheat and the Automa won't complain.

thumbsup

mortenmdk wrote:

The next projects from Stonemaier, my team and I, have been involved in are Charterstone, Scythe: The Wind Gambit, and Between Two Cities: Capitals.

Yes Looking forward to those! thumbsupthumbsupthumbsup
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Tom C
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So far, I have actually ONLY played solo. First time, it was no Autos and literally just getting a feel for turns. Second time was against 1 auto. Then against 2 autos. Last time I played was up to 3 autos. Going to keep going until I play against all 6 autos for a 7 player solo game.

One of the things that I think I really like about the solo mode, is that the auto forces you to keep pace. When you have two humans with their face in their own business, game play moves slowly. (Again, I haven't done it in Scythe yet, but this happens with many games where players cause end game scoring to occur rather than some game mechanic such as a turn limit, or round limit. If players cause it, and both players are more focused on building up a massive empire, NEITHER tends to hold pace.)

With that said, the auto is very predictable. So while it forces you to keep pace, you don't really learn all of the different ways humans can manipulate the board or their factions to win.
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Derek Strand
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Tomspice wrote:
So far, I have actually ONLY played solo. First time, it was no Autos and literally just getting a feel for turns. Second time was against 1 auto. Then against 2 autos. Last time I played was up to 3 autos. Going to keep going until I play against all 6 autos for a 7 player solo game.

One of the things that I think I really like about the solo mode, is that the auto forces you to keep pace. When you have two humans with their face in their own business, game play moves slowly. (Again, I haven't done it in Scythe yet, but this happens with many games where players cause end game scoring to occur rather than some game mechanic such as a turn limit, or round limit. If players cause it, and both players are more focused on building up a massive empire, NEITHER tends to hold pace.)

With that said, the auto is very predictable. So while it forces you to keep pace, you don't really learn all of the different ways humans can manipulate the board or their factions to win.


I think I agree with you. It was evident to me that you have to keep pace with the automa if you are going to win: keep up in territories, popularity, etc. I would say you need to keep pace with human players also but perhaps it is less necessary - you are right, end-game can come up abruptly in human vs.

I also agree that solo play is more formulaic but that provides a new interesting way to play Scythe. I definitely had to adapt my approach to the game when playing solo (i.e. removing automa workers from the board). So, yes, playing against human players is a slightly different experience.
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The automa in this game is amazing. Some things I noted after playing with automa several times:

- automa wants the factory
- automa wants to spread around the factory
- the automa mechs block you from getting to the factory, and then tries moving in on you
- automa gains power fast

If I can get my economy rolling correctly from the start, then beating the automa on normal mode is reasonable. If I make a few mistakes during my initial starting moves, most likely I can't make a comeback against the automa, as the automa has a set # of turns.

I am looking forward to see how the next 2 expansions add more depth to the automa system.
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Derek Strand
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ayano wrote:
The automa in this game is amazing. Some things I noted after playing with automa several times:

- automa wants the factory
- automa wants to spread around the factory
- the automa mechs block you from getting to the factory, and then tries moving in on you
- automa gains power fast

If I can get my economy rolling correctly from the start, then beating the automa on normal mode is reasonable. If I make a few mistakes during my initial starting moves, most likely I can't make a comeback against the automa, as the automa has a set # of turns.

I am looking forward to see how the next 2 expansions add more depth to the automa system.


I agree with all your points. The automa experience is quite different from playing against human opponents.
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I played my first automa game this morning and it was fun.

It is scary how quickly the automa covers the board with mechs and they use large amounts of power to win combat and then just repower up faster than you can possibly achieve!

I still won anyway though
 
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Derek Strand
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Vladvonbounce wrote:
I played my first automa game this morning and it was fun.

It is scary how quickly the automa covers the board with mechs and they use large amounts of power to win combat and then just repower up faster than you can possibly achieve!

I still won anyway though

Yes, their ability to power up is incredible - There is one card where they get an increase of 5 power in one turn!
 
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Tomspice wrote:
So far, I have actually ONLY played solo. First time, it was no Autos and literally just getting a feel for turns. Second time was against 1 auto. Then against 2 autos. Last time I played was up to 3 autos. Going to keep going until I play against all 6 autos for a 7 player solo game

With that said, the auto is very predictable. So while it forces you to keep pace, you don't really learn all of the different ways humans can manipulate the board or their factions to win.
r

When people play with multiple automas are they using multiple Automa decks? And do the Automas fight each other?
 
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Derek Strand
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jedimusic wrote:
Tomspice wrote:
So far, I have actually ONLY played solo. First time, it was no Autos and literally just getting a feel for turns. Second time was against 1 auto. Then against 2 autos. Last time I played was up to 3 autos. Going to keep going until I play against all 6 autos for a 7 player solo game

With that said, the auto is very predictable. So while it forces you to keep pace, you don't really learn all of the different ways humans can manipulate the board or their factions to win.
r

When people play with multiple automas are they using multiple Automa decks? And do the Automas fight each other?


It is possible to buy multiple decks so that you can use one for each faction. However, I use the ScytheKick app which has multi-use automa decks built into it for all factions.

Alternatively, I actually tried using 1 single deck for 2 automa factions and that worked pretty well (I only own 1 deck). I just shared the deck between the 2 factions and when the scheme switch happened, I reshuffled all the cards and re-distributed as each faction took its turn! This worked well, however, I wouldn't probably use a single deck for more than a few automa factions.

Yes, Automas can fight each other - which is quite amusing at times.

However, you can also isolate their attacks only on you! You just treat all automa factions as friendlies to one another - yourself being the only enemy units on the board.
 
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Lea Hudson
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Hi Derek,

What a useful and interesting review, thank you for taking time to post

Although I often play games with my son, I increasingly find myself wanting to play something when he isn't around and so I began to look recently at solo gaming.

Scythe is the top of my list now after reading the general reviews and particularly this one about how it performs for only one player.

The game looks incredible and although I'm aware of jumping aboard the hype train, it does seem this is one of the few that tends to live up to expectations.

Take care,
Lea
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Derek Strand
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lealoc wrote:
Hi Derek,

What a useful and interesting review, thank you for taking time to post

Although I often play games with my son, I increasingly find myself wanting to play something when he isn't around and so I began to look recently at solo gaming.

Scythe is the top of my list now after reading the general reviews and particularly this one about how it performs for only one player.

The game looks incredible and although I'm aware of jumping aboard the hype train, it does seem this is one of the few that tends to live up to expectations.

Take care,
Lea


Hey Lea,

Thank you for your kind words. I am glad you enjoyed my review. If you'd like to read another one of my solo experiences and reflections, see links:
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1819529/my-solo-session...
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1824110/solo-4-automa-f...
 
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Paul Kanter
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Vladvonbounce wrote:
I played my first automa game this morning and it was fun.

It is scary how quickly the automa covers the board with mechs and they use large amounts of power to win combat and then just repower up faster than you can possibly achieve!

I still won anyway though


This was my experience playing 3 solo games. (I haven't played with other players yet). From watching multiplayer playthroughs on Youtube, a game with other players may or may not involve a lot of combat.

Playing solo is very intense because the automa is very aggressive, and I may have several battles in a game, one doesn't go well, but a second one did, and there was a great feeling of accomplishment in that. It forces you to keep track of your combat readiness along with everything else you're trying to accomplish in the game.

The above just gives you more to adapt to and puzzle out to win the game. I really enjoy it. Even planning where to go on the board, I literally took a Mech with a lot of workers pretty far to kind of settle an area far away from the automa, was able to build up some area control and resources, and ended the game just before the automat was getting dangerously close. So playing solo is not a boring experience!

And my experience is basically still learning the game and playing against the easiest automat, so this gam will have ALOT of deployability!! (Along with all the Factions!)

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Derek Strand
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paulkanter wrote:

This was my experience playing 3 solo games. (I haven't played with other players yet). From watching multiplayer playthroughs on Youtube, a game with other players may or may not involve a lot of combat.

Yes, combat doesn't ensue as often in multiplayer games.
paulkanter wrote:

Playing solo is very intense because the automa is very aggressive, and I may have several battles in a game, one doesn't go well, but a second one did, and there was a great feeling of accomplishment in that. It forces you to keep track of your combat readiness along with everything else you're trying to accomplish in the game.

I would agree that you have to keep an eye on combat when the enemy is close by, however, if you play with more than one automa, the two automa will often attack one another, rather than you (especially if you pair up your mechs).
paulkanter wrote:

The above just gives you more to adapt to and puzzle out to win the game. I really enjoy it. Even planning where to go on the board, I literally took a Mech with a lot of workers pretty far to kind of settle an area far away from the automa, was able to build up some area control and resources, and ended the game just before the automat was getting dangerously close. So playing solo is not a boring experience!

Yes. In my last game, I also kept many workers together to pool resources. It is ideal, however, to spread out and occupy territories, and also spend a few popularity to scare automa workers off territories (since the teleporting mechanism means the automa accumulate territories very quickly).
paulkanter wrote:

And my experience is basically still learning the game and playing against the easiest automat, so this gam will have ALOT of deployability!! (Along with all the Factions!)

Agreed - there is so much re-playability in Scythe! I LOVE IT.
 
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