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 5: Encounters and the Factory

John Martorana
United States
New York
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(Start Here)
(Part 4 Here)

Scythe can be very strategic in nature; you have to plan out your action several turns in advance. However, there are three major things that can change the landscape of your game and force you to constantly re-evaluate your plans: Encounters, The Factory, and (most importantly) your opponents' actions.

It is very important to have the ability to adjust your plans in accord with the changing landscape of the game. A few times, I've seen write-ups where the author lists out the exact steps, that will allow them to reach 6 stars by turn 16 or something like that. And while that sort of thing is useful from a thought-experiment perspective, you can't honestly expect most games to go in a particular manner. Your opponents are not just sitting there letting you do whatever you want. Just as importantly, you don't want to blindly follow a pre-constucted plan and ignore the beneficial opportunities that may present themselves.

So while you need to be aiming at getting your 6 Stars as fast as possible, I find that it's best in the early game not to focus too slavishly on a specific 6. You may not be sure whether one of your Objectives is achievable, may not know how many Encounters you'll have, and you certainly can't assume you'll be in position to win 2 Combats at any particular time. Your best bet is to keep your options open. Early on, you usually want to be open to the possibility of about 8 different Stars and let the flow of the game's random elements dictate how you'll proceed. The two biggest random elements on the board are Encounters and the Factory.

Each encounter will present you with 3 choices. Generally, these are:
1. Receive a small bonus
2. Pay a little to receive a bigger bonus
3. Pay some Popularity to receive a big bonus.

Encounters are very valuable early in the game because they give you options that can help springboard your economy. Further, the earlier in the game you reach an Encounter, the more you can tailor your future strategy to take advantage of it. You get one Encounter in your starting Peninsula. Because Encounters lose value as the game goes on, you should usually aim to move your character there fairly early on.

There are generally two ways to efficiently move your character to the first Encounter. A common way is to ensure that you take two Move Actions early in your game. As previously discussed, you will usually move at least once to position your Worker on a Village and then once or twice to move the Workers off. Ideally, you make sure you are able to move your Character twice during this time as well.

However, sometimes you want to reposition one starting worker the first time you move the other one to the Village. One option to consider here is building a Speed Mech on the Village. This will allow you, in a single Move Action, to position your workers optimally within your starting Peninsula while simultaneously moving your Character from his starting location to the Encounter. (See Part 2 for an example of this.) While going this route can be very action-efficient, one thing to keep in mind is that Deploying your Speed Mech as your first Mech does not allow you out of your starting peninsula very quickly.

Factory Cards
Like Encounters, the utility of getting a Factory card is very high early in the game and goes down as the game progresses. This is effect is even more pronounced as each opponent who reaches the Factory before you reduces the number of Factory cards from which you can choose.

I find that there are players who over-value the factory and those who under-value it.

Getting to the Factory early is an option you should try and keep open. If you're the only one out in the middle of the map, the advanage of the Factory can snowball as you gobble up Encounters which provide free value above and beyond what you get for using your Factory Action. Furthermore, the ability to move an extra Hex per turn can allow you to find more favorable Combats and allow you to be the aggressor who initiates the Combats. Or, more subtly, you can zone weaker opponents out of certain areas now that they cannot enter without risking both the retreat of their units and giving you a Star. If you can hold the Factory until the end of the game it's worth a lot of points.

All that being said, arriving at the Factory early in the game (especially first) usually requires an investment. If other opponent are also rushing the Factory, you may end up being in a position where you cannot win the Combat needed to get a Factory Card. Or you may find that you can, but only by putting yourself in a position of spending a lot of resources just to be forced to retreat on the next turn. And while it's worth 3 Territories at the end of the game, if you need 3 or more Mechs and/or Workers to discourage others from kicking you off of it, then it might not have been worth holding in the first place. About half the games I've won, I didn't go to the Factory at all.

The main thing you should take away from all this: Keep your options open.
If you find that you're someone who always goes to the Factory, or that you never go, you're probably miss-valuing it. If you're someone who works out plans for exactly how you'll get to 6 Stars from the start of the game, you may find that you're having very few Encounters. If your plans ignore your opponents for a long time and assume their actions, then you may miss an opportunity for an easy early Combat Star or other free bonuses. As much as possible, make sure that your plans position you to take advantage of the upside of the randomness in Scythe.

In Part 6, I'll be covering some of Combat, including why and when to attack.
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