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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Case Study #1: 8-Worker Agricultural Polonia

John Martorana
United States
Holbrook
New York
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(Start of Scythe strategy blog Here)
(Part 7 of Scythe strategy blog Here)


Hello there. Been a while since my last post. If you're a follower of my on-again-off-again Scythe blog, then all I can say is... Well let's put it in the best possible light: you're a member of an elite group. Both of you. Anyway, there's been some talk on the BGG Scythe forum about a Scythe "Opening Book". I'm not really a fan of that per se, but certainly a discussion about the way in which certain Factions and Player Mats can play out, and the advantages/disadvantages of certain choices is something I'm interested in. And so, I though I'd start the ball rolling with a look at an 8-Worker opening using Agricultural Polonia. (The thread that started me studying this particular Faction/Mat combination is Here). Also, someone recently asked a quick question about it in a thread on the Scythe forum, and that's pretty much all the prompting I need to write a couple thousand words or so...

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Overall Strategy
For any successful strategy you need to look at what advantages you've got at your disposal, and then find a way to leverage those advantages further. Here's some of the advantages we have with this Faction/Mat which we intend to lean on:
- Cheap Upgrades (although no easy Tundras)
- Polonia's Meander ability to use two Encounter options.
- Submerge
- Polonia's first Encounter is very close to the Factory.
- High starting Popularity
- A lot of money that can be spent on Encounters

The general plan is to rush out 8 Workers, along with the Submerge and Speed Mechs. We get to the Factory reasonably fast and aim to gather up Encounters all around the map. We probably will only be Producing once or twice after getting up to 8 Workers. You will very possibly never produce any Wood nor build any Buildings.

Overall, many of our choices and even which Stars we choose to go for will be based on our Factory card and our Encounters. Although the first half of the game may seem very pre-planned, this is ultimately a very reactive Strategy.

There are two main ways to begin, the "Consistent" Trade-first opening, and the "Aggressive", stronger but higher variance opening. We'll start with the "Consistent" version:

Consistent Phase 1:
1. Trade 2 Oil.
2. Move Worker to Village and Character; UPGRADE Move-->Deploy
3. Trade 2 Oil.
4. Move Character and other Worker to Village. ENCOUNTER(*); UPGRADE Bolster-->Deploy
5. Produce
6.Trade 2 Metal; Deploy Speed
7. Produce
8. Trade 2 Metal; Deploy Submerge
9. Move All 8 Workers to Oil. Move Character to Factory. Leave one Mech on the Village - you may need him in a bit.

(*)It's hard to describe what you choices you're going to make at the first Encounter without seeing how the game can go from here. We'll return back to the first Encounter later, but for now, assume we get 1 Popularity and that's it. Note that this is an overly conservative assumption - extremely so given Polonia's Faction ability to choose two options.

At the end of Phase 1, you now have all your Workers, 2 Mechs, and 2 Upgrades plus whatever comes from your Encounter.

Consistent Phase 2 (Example):
10. Produce (**)
11. Move Character to Encounter. Use two Mechs to move all Oil back to your starting peninsula and 6 of your Workers to Food; Upgrade Bolster-->Enlist (***)


(**) It should be noted that you now have exactly enough Oil to complete your Upgrades.

(***) This is possible because you left one of your Mechs on your starting Village. Should you choose to Produce now, you should be able to Enlist all Recruits off of 6 Food, assuming you get another Upgrade eventually.

I can't give hard and fast rules about what to do from here. Mostly, you need to recognize that Submerge + Speed + Factory means you can gobble up Encounters all over the map. Hopefully you picked a Factory card that is useful to use a few times. Because you have enough Oil to Upgrade whenever you Move, you can alternate between Move and the Factory not only without waste, but possibly hitting an Encounter every time with a path like this:

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(Red is a Move Action, Blue is a Factory Action)

Also to remember is that you're not going to be Producing much, probably only one more time. Once you've Produced some Food, you can start spreading those Workers all over the board, especially tunnels. Territories give almost as many points as Stars. And Encounters will fuel your Popularity. You can always Trade twice for the Deploy Star if you need it. Riverwalk can often help you get even more Encounters - especially at lower player counts - and Camaraderie can obviously allow you to save on Popularity.



The Aggressive Version
Getting to the Factory on turn 9 in the Consistent version is nice. But the nature of this opening is that it gets stronger the earlier you get out on the middle of the map. The longer you have the middle to yourself, the more Encounters you steal. Also, as stated I've stated before, Encounters and the Factory go down in value as the game goes on. This goes double for Polonia as you may start to find no good second option when Meandering to Encounters.

So what we're going to do is cut the first Trade out of our opening. We're going to rush out the 8 Workers literally as quickly as possible.

Aggressive Phase 1a:
1. Move Worker to Village.
2. Trade 2 Steel.
3. Move Character and other Worker to Village. ENCOUNTER; ???

OK, so a few things to note here. First, no guaranteed Upgrades. In fact, assuming we get nothing from the Encounter, we're going to be almost strictly worse off than the Consistent opening. To make matters worse without the Upgrades, the next Produce/Trade/Produce/Trade cycle will not be enough Metal to get the 2 Mechs out, so I don't get to the Factory any sooner. So why would I even consider this??

Well, the main reason is that I will NOT get "nothing" from the Encounter. If I get Oil or an Upgrade, then Deploy will cost 3 Metal, and I get the Mechs out. If I get a Metal or a Mech, I can similarly stay on target. There's also the possibility of getting resources of my choice. So what's the chances I get one of these? It's going to depend on exactly what promos and expansions you're using, but with the base game the answer is slightly better than two-thirds of the time. Two-thirds of the time you come out (in my opinion) significantly stronger, and one-third of the time you're set back a turn. Only, the truth is you aren't set all that far back at all, because you're only 3 turns into the game. You're not married to an 8-Worker opening. Maybe a free Mine or other Encounter bonus pushes you another way. Maybe you DON'T rush the Factory, but instead focus on a 5-Worker Build/Enlist Strategy. Honestly, most people would look at Agricultural Polonia and immediately think that Building and Enlisting looks like a pretty good idea.

There are always inherent advantages to hitting that Encounter early and building around what you get rather than hitting it later and hoping it fits your needs. (As I explained in this post Here, Encounters and the Factory lose value over time, so there's a benefit to hitting the first Encounter as early as possible)

Aggressive Phase 1b (Example):
Let's say we got 4 Oil from the Encounter. We Upgrade Move-->Deploy at the end of turn 3. The next few moves could go:

4. Produce
5. Trade 2 Metal; Deploy Speed Mech
6. Produce
7. Trade 2 Metal; Deploy Submerge
8. Move 6 Workers to Oil. Move Character to Factory. Move 1 Worker to Farm.

Phase 2 of the Aggressive version follows more or less the same as in the Consistent version, but one move ahead.


Whether you prefer the Consistent or Aggressive version of this strategy, this will be a very reactive game. You'll be trying to cobble together 6 Stars while racing around the board gobbling up Encounters. I find that by virtue of being out on the board early and having lots of options, most games I can complete at least one of my Objectives with relative ease. One or two Combats is likewise also common. But sometimes I get a Max Power Star and occasionally I get one for Max Popularity. I want to stress again that there's no set plan. If you're going to play this way, you have to be comfortable with improvising and playing much more tactically than you may be used to.

You do want to be somewhat mindful of your Objectives when playing this way. Obviously, if you've only got ones that are going to be difficult or impossible to complete with this strategy, then maybe you should try something more standard. There's nothing wrong with looking at Agricultural Polonia and saying that you're going to Build a lot and Produce a lot. Some of these "bad" Objectives which might indicate using another strategy are:

- Have 1 Factory card and 0 upgrades
- Build at least 3 structures, have 7 Popularity, and 0 Mechs
- Have the same number of workers and recruits
- Have at least $20 at the end of your turn
- Have 1 Factory card, at least 1 mech, and no more than 3 Workers

These are mostly obvious. You're likely going to be spending money on Encounters, and several of these are explicitly impossible given our opening. If you had two of these Objects, I'd consider going a different direction. On the other hand any objectives that only involve holding certain territories are pretty good. You're moving a lot and don;t need workers on any particular resources, so you should be able to do one of these. There's even one Objective to "Have at least 6 of your tokens on 1 territory", which you accomplish for free.


Summary:
So that's pretty much it. Rush to 8 Workers, rush out to the Factory and run around the board. Is this the strongest way to play Agricultural Polonia? Not always. Maybe even not in general. If your opponents are prone to playing a lot of "Solitaire Scythe" early on, where they stay in their own territory, this may be a way to punish that by taking over the board and stealing all the Encounters. If they tend to play long games going many turns, then this could punish that as well. My games on the Scythe Digital version (currently in early access on steam) against the AI suggests that I typically finish games with 6 Stars around the 17 to 19 turn mark.

But for me however, this strategy is generally the "best" way to play this Faction/Mat combo simply because I find it the most fun. Having to figure out what I'm doing on the fly, and having that change two turns later after two more Encounters is part of the charm. From the moment I start looking over the Factory cards I'm in uncharted waters. It works for me.


(For a follow-up comparison of trying to do something similar with a different faction, see my next post Here)
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