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 #2: 8-Worker Agricultural Crimea

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

For my first of these case study posts, I looked and an 8-Worker strategy for Agricultural Polonia. I thought that for the second case study, it might be useful to look at how a similar strategy might look for the same Player Mat, but for a different Faction. I'm going to be assuming you've read that post as I write this one.

Also, if you're reading any of my blog posts but skipping the comments, then you probably want to go back and check those comments out. I certainly get value out of the responses to what I've written. In some cases, as in the previous post, there's arguably as much value in the discussion going on in the comments as in the original post itself. There might be a question you had already (or hadn't yet thought of) answered in the comments, or even a different take on the concepts I'm writing about. I certainly miss things and make mistakes and those sorts of things tend to get pointed out as well.

OK all that being said lets's get started...
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Overall Strategy in Comparison to Polonia
Many of the advantages that existed for Polonia with the Agricultural Mat exist for Crimea as well. These include:
- Cheap Upgrades (with slightly easier easy Tundras)
- High starting Popularity
- A lot of money that can be spent on Encounters

You also have the following going in our favor:
- Coersion, which allows us a to effectively gain a large number of resources throughout the game.
- Starting on a Village, meaning you save a Move getting there
- Access to easy Metal in our starting peninsula.
- High starting Power
- Faster Enlists

You lose:
- Polonia's Meander ability to use two Encounter options.
- Submerge
- Polonia's first Encounter being very close to the Factory.

The general plan will still be to rush out 8 Workers pretty fast. But instead of:
Move / Trade / Move / Produce / Trade / Produce
We can do:
Produce / Trade / Produce / Trade / Produce / Move

Early on, the net benefit of saving that first Move action is that we will have 3 extra Food which can be spent on Enlist. You pretty much always go for Enlists with Crimea, so this will be the jump-start we get instead of to Polonia's double-Encounter. Access to Metal will make it easier to build Mechs and get out on the board. And the ability to spend Combat Cards as resources will allow us to only produce once after hitting 8-Workers instead of twice as we generally did with Polonia, and we can Move those workers to useful territories much more quickly.

We don't have Polonia's proximity to the Factory, nor do we benefit as much from Meandering all over the map picking up Encounters. So instead we will not rush the Factory, and we will focus on building on our Power advantage.

The Basic Opening:
1. Produce
2. Trade 2 Metal
3. Produce
4. Trade 2 Metal; Deploy Speed
5. Produce; ** Worker Star **
6. Trade 2 Oil
7. Bolster; Enlist {Enlist --> 2 Cards}
8. Move Workers to [Farm x4, Mountain x4], Character to Encounter; Upgrade.

Here, you're usually going to take the whatever resources and popularity the first option on the Encounter gives. The general exception is that when you can get 1 or more popularity from the second Encounter option, you can consider paying for that. The reason that you want Popularity is simple Math. You're trying to ensure you can get to 7 Popularity. Given that you're not Building anything this game, your only real sources of Popularity are:

+4 that you start with
+2 from one-time Recruit bonus
+2 from (hopefully) at least 2 Encounters
-1 from Producing once at 8 Workers (this is coming)

That makes 7 exactly. If you can get more than 1 Popularity from your first Encounter, take it! It will relieve some of the stress of getting to 7 total, as well as guarantee that you either have a little wiggle room to attack Workers or have a choice at the second Encounter.

After the Encounter, you're going to Upgrade. You're going to want to Upgrade Move-->Deploy, although use your judgement after the Encounter. Unless you've picked up Oil from the Encounter, you're going to want to use 1 Oil and 1 Card. One of the great advantages of Crimea is that you can Trade for 2 Oil and Upgrade twice off of that.

The Midgame Plan:
You're going to be Producing next. Unless something goes horribly wrong, your goal is to avoid Producing again for the rest of the game. Enlists you and other players do, as well as Scout Mech (and any lost Combats) will provide Combat Cards you can use as Resources. You can Trade for non-Metal and then spend the Metal you've already produced, for example. So a turn cycle might go: Trade for Oil; Deploy / Move; Upgrade making Enlist cheaper using Oil and Card / Bolster; Enlist getting more Cards.

Movement-wise, your goal is to star spreading out and taking territory. You've spent a lot of time inside your own home area building your engine, so you really need to get out there. Most games, you can build your Riverwalk Mech and grab that second Encounter before anyone else steals it. Your initial movement path will look something like this:
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You're going to grab your Workers with your Mechs and spread out. Your Character will first be moving to the Encounter and then possibly to the Factory. Unless you've already gotten more than one Popularity from your first Encounter, you're probably taking the first option again at your second Encounter. Where exactly you move your units after this is often decided by your Objectives. Here I'm trying to surround a lake:
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Picking up from the previous set of moves, in this particular game, I think I received 2 Popularity from my first Encounter, and my next few moves were something like:
9. Produce
10. Trade (Oil + Metal); Deploy Riverwalk
11. Move; Upgrade Bolster-->Deploy; Encounter: -$2, +4 Metal.
12. Bolster; Enlist {Upgrade-->2 Power}

Endgame Goals:
So how are you looking to end the game? Ideally, you're taking a ton of territory since you have 8 Workers and probably unlike your opponents you don't care what resources they're on. You'll also have 4 Mechs. So in a best case scenario that's 13 to 15 territories controlled, although 9 to 12 is probably more reasonably likely. Another 24 points for Stars is obviously a goal, as is maybe 10 to 20 points from Coins. No buildings, and probably not many if any points for resources. So you're looking at 65 to 80 points or so on average if things go well. I'll probably reach close to as many territories as you're going to get by turn 16 or so you generally want to see the game end as early as possible - there aren't too many points still available.

Which stars are you trying to get? Obviously the 8-Worker Star. Because you'll have the resources available, the Enlist and Deploy Starts are also a given. That 3 of the 4 Stars from the set of [Max Power, Objective, Combat, Combat]. You really do want to complete an Objective because it will give you a lot more flexibility. You start at 5 Power, get +2 Power as a one-time Recruit Bonus, Bolster at least 4 times, and probably gain a bunch of Power for Upgrades. Given that, you're possibly looking at working with about 25 total Power during the game. So getting 2 Stars from Max Power and Combat or from two Combats is very likely. It can be a bit of a stretch to get three stars that way, though. If your Objectives really aren't achievable at all, you may need to consider staying back a bit until you've Maxed out Power before starting any Combats, or just go for a different strategy altogether.

One thing to note is trying to complete your Upgrades can be a bit of a trap. You're starting on Upgrades kind of late. It can sometimes be possible if you get a Factory Card that gives Upgrades, and also hit an Encounter that grants it. Bit even then, it's more of a fall-back plan if the game doesn't go well. Usually you only want to upgrade enough so that you can afford to play without Producing again.

What can go wrong:
The biggest thing to look out for is what your opponent's can you to you, particularly to attack your Popularity. Anyone who rushes the Factory can steal your second Encounter and is likely to do so because it's the only Encounter within 2 hexes of the Factory - Polonia, Rusviet, and the Nords all have ways of doing this. Saxony can just walk out and take the Encounter, although it's a bit of an investment for them to beat you there, and they have to skip an easier Encounter to do it. If you don't pick up at least 2 Encounters, and your neighbors aren't Building, you may need to waste a turn Trading to hit 7 Popularity.

Your opponents could make sure they keep a Worker or two with each Mech, meaning you'll take Popularity losses gaining the Combat Stars which you almost certainly need to win. Ultimately, you may have to decide whether the combination of earning the Stars and setting your opponents back will be enough to justify only hitting Tier-1 Popularity.

Finally, if you find you need Max Power and 2 Combats to win, your opponents are likely to get annoying as you start getting above 10 Power. They may attack you, knowing that you really don't want to spend a lot of Power here. Getting the Scout Mech out earlier can help discourage your opponents from attacking you here.

My Results with it so far:
Usually, I like to play a strategy against the Medium Bots on Digital Scythe game, just to see how things work out. Overall, I've had pretty good results with this. The few games I've tried, I've gotten my 6th Star around turn 18, which is probably good enough. I've had one game where everything worked out and I finished on turn 15.

One thing I've noticed is that it is MUCH more of a regimented, fixed strategy than what I did with 8-Worker Agricultural Polonia. It plays out more or less the same. I'm not grabbing lots of Encounters or using a Factory Card. Most of my choices seem mapped out. There's a little flexibility from the Encounters, but ultimately it doesn't change the shape of the game - just how I get there.

UPDATE: Here's some results from playing against the Scythe Digital bots. Each game was a 4-Player game with a single Random opponent missing. The results were remarkably consistent.

16 turns, $81, (Max Power, Combat x2, Objective:King of the hill) [Didn't Deploy Scout or Wayfare]
17 turns, $78, (Max Power, Combat, Objective:3 Tundras)
17 turns, $80 (Max Power, Combat x2, Objective:3 Forests) [Didn't Deploy Wayfare]
18 turns, $70, (Max Power, Combat x2) [Bad Objectives - Balanced Workforce and Pacifist)
18 turns, $74, (Max Power, Combat, Objective: 3 Farms)
18 turns, $75 (Combat x2, Objective:Shore up)
18 turns, $77, (Combat x2, Objective:Send One Back)
18 turns, $78 (Max Power, Combat x2) [Bad Objectives - Common Man and Tech Breakthrough]

The game almost plays out formulaically against the bots. 18 turns is pretty much the "standard" length with this strategy. You can save turns if you manage to earn 4 Stars from 2 Combats, Max Power, and your Objective. Especially if you can win 2 Combats in one turn.

Also, minor strategy changes have been made to this post. Where I wrote "You're usually going to want to Upgrade Move-->Deploy or Bolster-->Deploy" when you move to the Encounter has been changed to always be Move-->Deploy. Spreading out Workers faster is better.

Also, The first trade after your last Produce (turn 10) is going to be Oil + Metal by default. If your encounters don't give you any Food, Oil, or Metal, that's what you'll need to complete all your Enlist and Deploy Stars. (4 Food is enough if you Upgrade once before Enlisting the first time, and again before your next two Enlists)

(For my next post Here I'll be looking at a strategy as different from the last two as possible)
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