Updated: Jun 3, 2021
Are you ready to battle your friends for control of Europa during an alternate reality set in the 1920s? If so, then hit that play button to hear what tips we have to lead you to Scythe domination! In this episode we talk through Scythe strategy, different factions, and many other facets of this great Stonemaier game. Before we hop into the discussion we talk about what we are drinking and what the mechanics the board game community wants to see more of in the future!
What's on our Flight (01:38)
Dalton’s drinking: Wit-Bellied Hedgehog from Metazoa Brewing Company. A Belgian-style wheat beer with yeasty, bread-like flavors and a tinge of orange peel. A very nice and approachable beer. 3 cheers!
Nelson's drinking: Whistlepig's Piggyback 6 Year Rye Whiskey. The dark color portrays its strong, smoky oak aging. Overall the whiskey is youthful and bold with strong, grainy rye flavors and sweet vanillin from the oak. A great introduction to the Whistlepig line that does not break the bank. 3 cheers as well!
The main topic starts at 19:57 in the episode
For a medium complexity game, Scythe offers highly strategic and tactical gameplay with multiple playable strategies depending on style, setup, and your opponents' movements on the board. We focus our breakdown in the episode on what to expect from the game, how to plan your victory, and which actions to prioritize.
In order to plan to win, it is important to first understand the details of the goal. First, winning scores in Scythe can be incredibly varied due to the variable length of the game and differences created by the popularity track. Typically, however, winning scores will land in a range of 60 to 100 points depending on how quickly the game ends. Therefore, planning for 80 points in a normal game is a great starting point and can help inform decisions you make throughout your turns. An average game will last between 18-25 rounds, trending towards something closer to 20-22. Predicting the end of the game can be difficult, especially with multiple players at the table so use this information to help guide your strategies!
Final scores come primarily from stars, area controlled, and coins, so we focus our analysis in these areas. Resources and the structure bonus are relatively small contributors and difficult to plan strategies around, so gameplay decisions should be focused primarily on the other areas. Specifically, area is generally the largest individual contributor to a player's final score. It is never too early to start spreading influence and denying other players area on the board. Finally, we find it extremely difficult to win when behind a tier on the popularity track. It is simply too large of a bonus to be ignored! Where possible, end the game only when either ahead or tied on the popularity track, or else be very sure of the math.
Planning to Win
There is an old saying that has something to do with failing to plan and planning to fail... But that is not important here because we are planning to win! The winner of the game is not the person who ends the game, but it certainly helps. So at the start of the game we recommend planning which 6 stars you will collect over the course of the game. Consider the following:
2 to 3 stars from Bottom Row Actions (BRA)
1 to 2 stars from combat
1 optional star from an objective
1 optional star from the power track
1 optional star from deploying 8 workers
and finally, never getting the popularity star.
The stars available from the BRA are very strong and encourage you to plan to take the BRA, which simply means you are doing more on your turn. We focus below on which of the BRA to prioritize, but for now just remember to plan to get at least 2, with 3 being a distinct possibility. Unfortunately, completing all 4 is generally too time consuming (it takes at least 18 actions by itself!) to accomplish in a normal game, so do not include that fourth BRA in the plan.
Combat stars are easily accessible and action cheap. They help win territory and have the added benefit of removing your opponents from key positions on the board. If a player is not positioned to win at least one combat they are generally weak in power and combat cards, leaving them vulnerable to attack from other players. So, by planning to win 1 to 2 combat stars a player sets themselves up to compete for key combats and board positions.
Objectives are a tricky decision. They can be punishing at times, forcing players well out of their way and into uncomfortable and even dangerous board positions. We recommend reviewing objectives at the start of the game and deciding whether they are worth pursuing or should be ignored. Generally, only pick up an objective if it is "on the way" towards a board position that would have been pursued anyway.
The power track is a very nice star to pick up, especially early in the game. Upgrading the Bolster action early and a key enlist on Upgrade can make the star very natural and easy to get (especially if you are targeting the BRA paired with Bolster). Additionally, the power accumulated chasing the star can be converted in to combat stars in the mid-late game. A very natural and rewarding star to consider picking up.
Most strategies will focus on deploying either 5 workers or 8. This is because deploying the 6th worker incurs a popularity penalty when producing, which is so steep a cost it should be either avoided or made the most of. The star is one reason to consider deploying all 8 workers. Another is fewer actions spent producing, so if the BRA on Produce is not a part of the plan then 8 workers may work out nicely. Either way, plan to place 2 to 3 workers on the key resources you plan to require for your BRA, and do not forget this star as an easy one to acquire at the end of the game.
Finally, the popularity star... 18 popularity is simply too high a tax to make this star achievable. The actions spent acquiring the extra popularity after reaching the third tier are much better spent pursuing other stars since popularity cannot be easily converted back in to useful resources (unlike power).
A couple of other things to consider when planning your roadmap in the game. First, we recommend pursing the star for the BRA that provides 3 coins on the player board. 12 coins (at least) throughout the game can be a significant contributor to a winning score and should be considered very seriously. We also recommend targeting the star paired with the Move action on the player board. It can be a very powerful last turn to spread workers then complete a combat and/or a BRA to end the game!
All BRA are not created equal, and which ones you choose to pursue will have a very large impact on your final score and gameplay. Consider first the Deploy (mech) star. Mechs help win combats, unlock asymmetric abilities, and maneuver workers to claim territories for final scoring. When possible, this is an excellent star to pursue and we recommend acquiring the speed mech first regardless of whether you are continuing to claim the star as well.
We also find the Enlist star to be an incredibly powerful star, especially when claimed in the early game. On average, the star will grant you 6 to 12 power, 10 to 14 coins, 2 to 6 popularity, and 6 to 10 combat cards. An insane amount of resources for very little interaction from the player. The benefits of this star obviously diminish throughout the game, so if the starting hex provides food we recommend prioritizing this star as soon as possible.
We want to note here that the above two BRA are incredibly strong and we feel make a strong argument to be pursued over the next two if possible.
Build is fairly weak, mostly due to a difficulty accessing wood. The benefits are also less strong than Deploy or Enlist. There is a minor benefit from the structure bonus and from controlling territory. However, the structure bonus is much smaller than say Enlist and the control over territory makes for very easy targets for other players. There are certainly strategies that can make this work, but overall we caution against the Build star unless there is a very compelling reason to pursue it.
Lastly, we have our most controversial BRA, Upgrade. My recommendation is to NEVER get this star. Nelson feels differently. We both agree that getting 2 upgrades is almost necessary, 3 is good, and a case can be made for a fourth depending on the game. The ability to uncover additional move, bolster, popularity, and production can all be very appealing and reasonable, especially if you will be pursing the BRA paired with one of these upgrades. The discounted BRA is helpful and should be used to create a good pairing (generally either 2 or 3 resources) with the distribution of your workers. However, after the 3rd or 4th upgrade there is significant diminishing returns on the action. Likely, the player will begin uncovering bonuses to top row actions that they will not take and decreasing the cost of BRA that they will never complete. For those reasons, the last 2 to 3 Upgrade actions are essentially a tax for the star. In some cases, such as when Upgrade is a 3 coin BRA, this tax can be worthwhile. In others, it is much better to use those actions to accomplish scoring and stars in other areas. This is an area where players need to weigh the factors of their positions and their opponents' to make a decision on pursuing this star.
Thank you for reading our analysis! If you are just itching to play Scythe after this episode, reach out to us on Discord (link in the top right of the header) and we will get something set up soon!