ONE YEAR AGO:
I just played my third game of Scythe.
My other two games were against beginners like myself, and I had managed to win one of those games by employing the simple strategy of getting as high as possible on the popularity track, and spreading out right at the end to control as many territories as possible.
For this third game though, there was one very experienced player, and two players who had not played before, but were both very good and very experienced Eurogame players, who had studied the rules, and probably watched some YouTube strategy guides in advance.
So, the night before, to even up the playing field, I decided to watch a couple of YouTube strategy guides in advance!
The first video was by Jamey Stegmaier himself – he gave the following tips:
- For your first two turns, trade and produce in such a way that you can use a bottom row action on your second turn (occasionally this is not possible)
- Have five workers
- Don’t pay too much attention to the mission card. If it does not fit your strategy, ignore it.
- At the end of the game you can still do the upgrade action even if you have done all the upgrades – you can take the secondary benefits instead.
- When you sense the game is ending (say, 20 minutes to go) spread out and cover as many territories as possible.
The second video was from someone who claimed to be one of the top three highest ranked online players in the world “so I guess that gives me some credibility”. His video also included five tips, as follows:
- Don’t focus on upgrades. He says he never getting the star for 8 upgrades is a mistake. The only ones worth getting are bolster, movement, and (maybe) popularity.
- Do focus on Recruits. He says recruiting is by far the most efficient of the bottom row actions, and it isn’t even close. Getting all 4 recruits is an absolute must.
- Have 5 workers.
- Get the speed mech out early in the game.
- Do not prioritise the factory early on in the game.
So, on the night, of course, I forgot most of these, and the ones I could remember did not seem to work for me:
I drew the player board (#1) which meant Jamey’s first tip was impossible to achieve.
- I wanted to recruit but I needed five food to do the recruiting action – it would take me ages to get five food. I really need to upgrade, so that recruiting is cheaper, but upgrading is bad, isn’t it?
- Also, I drew the white faction, which means even if I wanted to upgrade, the setup makes it very difficult for me to get oil. I could only get workers, food, or wood.
I am really not sure about upgrades. The online player says they are not powerful, but the game designer implies he regularly gets all 8 upgrades, so …
At lease they agree that 5 workers is good. I focused on that at the beginning.
Then I noticed that my faction’s special power is to choose two options from the encounter cards. It seemed to me that this was very powerful, and that I should focus on getting as many encounters as I can early in the game. So, I did this, moving almost every other turn. I soon realised that this was not efficient though – it takes ages to get across the board when you can only move one hex at a time. Luckily though, one of my YouTube video tips was to get the speed mech, so that is what I did. I got that before long, but then, I found that even if I was moving two spaces at a time it was going to take a while. So I got the mech that allows you to use lakes like tunnels. But then, I realised that was also going to be slow – it takes one move to go into a lake, then another to pop up somewhere else, then you have wait until your next turn to move onto the encounter hex. In any case, by the time I had set myself up to move as fast as possible, most of the encounters had been taken by other players anyway.
In summary, I think my decision to focus my resources on getting encounters was a mistake. I did get more of them than anyone else, and the bonuses were nice, but they came at the expense of my infrastructure. Their unpredictable nature made it difficult to plan ahead, and also I neglected other aspects of the game while moving around so much – I soon found myself behind. I think I should have just picked up the encounters nearest me, like everyone else did.
Another mistake was that I spread out all my workers so that I had one worker on each type of hex. I found that frustrating because it meant that every time I produced, I only got one resource of each type – and remember, I need five foods to get a recruit! If the workers had been in groups of two or three, they could have generated more. I should have used mechs to move them around when I wanted different resources.
After a couple of hours, one of the newbies had five stars on the board, and it seemed the game was about to end – I had no stars at all. Zero. It was going to be a humiliation.
Then, however, I played the best move of the night. I selected the move option, and moved two mechs, attacking two other players, and winning two combat stars. Then, I revealed my mission card – I controlled three tundras – another star. Finally, for my bottom row action, I built a windmill – my fourth building and a fourth star. Total humiliation had been avoided.
I was still last though!
Since the thrashing I received a year ago, I have been studying the game. I discovered that you can play online using the Steam platform, so I splashed out a few quid on the software, and started playing against the AI.
I have made it my mission to win a game using every faction and every board, and record the tactics used.
(Note – Rusviet-Industrial and Crimea-Patriotic are banned combinations because they give that player an advantage, apparently)
I moved all my workers to the village, got them up to five, then spread out and produced as much oil and iron as I could. I also traded for wood so that I could build a windmill to get more oil. Because upgrading is only two oils on this board, I found almost every time I moved I was able to upgrade something, and before long it earned me my first star. With moves I had left over, my character was out and about having encounters that often got me other things I needed. Before long I had other stars for completing a mission card, and building all four structures and all four mechs. I was never strong or popular, and lost a few combats, but also won one after tricking an opponent into leaving himself vulnerable after attacking me. At the beginning of my final turn I was well behind the very popular Polonia AI player, but I played a move action that attacked him in the factory (for the final star), then spread out my workers and mechs into white-controlled hexes (especially where there were only white structures present) and stole the victory from him. If he had not been artificial intelligence, he would have been extremely annoyed.
Nordic Kingdoms (blue)
My initial tactic – get a windmill on the nearby mountain asap then produce a lot of iron and concentrate on getting all 4 mechs out first. I was mainly producing and trading, taking the bonus actions of upgrading and building mechs. Once I had all four mechs I bolstered and enlisted up to 16, then won two battles. I completed my card mission, and finally (with wood I stole in the battles) I built all four buildings. I was first to 6 stars, and, won by 2 points. I had a low popularity, but because I spread out right at the end (including the factory hex) I snuck a win.
That’s all so far folks!