Scythe Strategy and Planning (+Scythe-960)

My thoughts on Scythe strategy. Also expanded to include updates on my foray into randomly generating more Scythe content...
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Part 4: OK, Scythe isn't Just a Race

John Martorana
United States
New York
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(Start Here)
(Part 3 Here)

In Parts 1 through 3, I made a big deal about earning Stars - to the point that you mighy get the idea that Scythe is almost entirely about getting to 6 Stars first. There's quite a bit more to the game then that, but it's still a very important mindset to get into. There are a couple reasons.

First, there is a huge advantage to being the Player that ends the game. Any opponents who play after you get one less turn, and in a game that doesn't give partial credit for earning most of a Star, this can work out to a lot of extra points. Frequently a 6th star will be earned by a Move Action, usually by satifying an Objective Card or winning a Combat. That often means spreading out and controlling more territory on your last turn. You can catch one or more opponents a turn before they had a chance to spead out to more territories. Basically, by being the one who ends the game, you earn the most Stars and deny your opponents the opportunity to score more points. The total swing in points can be quite large.

Second, you do need to keep in mind that the game is on a clock. If you don't end the game in 18 to 20 turns or so, chances are SOMEONE will. Scythe does not reward you for partially completing a Star. You need to focus intently on always performing BRAs (bottom row actions) as much as possible. The worst feeling is being 1 BRA away from multiple BRA stars when the game ends (e.g. having 3 Mechs, 3 Buildings, and/or 3 Recruits). So even when trying to earn Points in other ways, not falling behind in Stars is very important.

OK, so all that being said, and with me once again seeming to hammer home the race-to-six-stars aspect of the game, lets focus some time on the other important ways you score points.

In a lot of the games I've played, many times I've seen my opponents treat Popularity as an afterthought. Other than not efficiently using BRAs, this is probably the single biggest and most common mistake I see.

On the other hand, some people look at Popularity as a score multiplier, but that overstates its effect a bit. Depending on exactly how your games goes, many of your points can come through Coins and/or Building placement, neither of which is effected by Popularity.

It's easiest to look at Popularity as a simple addition to your score. Typically, if you're playing well in a game, I'll have 4 to 6 Stars and 6 to 10 Territories by the end of the game, with few if any Resources left over. (Your experience may be different, especially if you play with very few players - everything here still applies, just adjust the numbers accordingly.) Popularity just adds one more point for each of these, so each tier of Popularity is worth 10 to 16 Points.

That's a lot more than a Star! In fact, 1 Tier of Popularity is usually worth anywhere from 2 to 3 Stars just by itself. Having a plan to get to at least the 2nd Tier of Popularity is almost a requirement for winning most games.

You really need to be stingy with Popularity. Don't attack Workers early on and don't spend it at Encounters without a really good reason. Too many times, I've see people pay Popularity on their first Encounter, only to end up in the bottom Tier at game's end. There's a few ways to gain Popularity:

1. From an encounter card, if you're lucky.
2. Very rarely, from your Factory Card
3. The top row of Trade, if you don't take Resources
4. A 1-time bonus of 2 Popularity from Enlisting
5. A bonus when you or an opponent Build, assuming you've Enlisted that Recruit
6. From Bolstering, if you've built a monument.

Of those, only the last two can ever be counted on to give a large amount of Popularity without going out of your way and slowing down the rest of your progression. (And both, to a certain extent, involving combining Building with another Action)

Always try to have an idea of where your Popularity is going to come from. Getting into at least Tier 2, and sometimes Tier 3, should be as important in your plans as earning Stars. You should almost always be willing to delay Stars for a turn or two if it means ending the game on a higher Popularity Tier. (I don't think I've ever seen someone with fewer than 6 stars win the game with Tier 1 Popularity. I HAVE seen someone with as few as 3 Stars win with Tier 2 Popularity)

Coins from BRAs
Very simply, the goal of the game is to score the most points, and each coin is 1 point. It stands to reason that all things being equal, you want to focus on those BRAs which give you the most Coins. In an ideal set up, you'll earn Stars for completing whichever BRAs give you 2 or 3 Coins.

How important is it to focus on those BRAs? Well let's say that by the end of the game, you can either complete your 0-Coin BRA, or use your 3-Coin BRA 3 times, and so you fail to complete it. Well, completing the 0-Coin BRA star only earns you 3 to 5 points. Using the 3-Coin BRA 3 times scores you 9 points. Additionally, if the game ends earlier than you expected, you may not get to complete one of your BRA stars. You don't get any points for Enlisting only 3 of your Recruits. But you do keep the Coins.

That's a bit of a simplification, though. Often, you're mighy need to do your 3-Star BRA once even if you're not completing a Star there. So the marginal gain for focusing there even if you're not getting a Star is much thinner. And if you're choosing between completing your 1-Coin BRA Star and your 3-Coin one, the advantages are even less pronounced - often enough to cause you to lean the other way.

Still you can't ignore the Coins. Often, roughly one-third of your points can come from Coins in the end. All things being equal, you should be looking to spend a lot of time on your 3-Coin and 2-Coin BRA and likely be aiming to get a Star there.

Territory and Buildings
A lot of your points should come from Territory. Roughly, about as many points as come from Stars. Ideally, you want to be securing Territory at the same time as you're earning Stars; it's easy to overlook how you can pick up some extra Territory with a single move sometimes. And each Territory only scores one less point than a Star!

You can also earn bonus points for Building placement. I don't really want to advocate ignoring any source of points, but these should really be seen as incidental. By all means, when you have a choice of where to place a Building, see which placement will give you the most points. But don't go out of your way for these points. Often, you'll do just as well using your Buildings to hold Territory, especially within your starting area.

If for some reason you haven't been speading your pieces across the board during the early game, you need to do so by the end. A good point to start checking your position is when someone earns their 3rd Star. At that point, between Combats and Objective Cards, the game could end quite soon and quite suddenly. If you find you're lagging the other players in terms of Territory, now is the time to rectify that.

Part 5 is next. It covers some of the more random elements of the game: Encounters and the Factory.
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