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 #3: Produce no Workers with Engineering Nords

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

My first 2 Case Studies (#1 Here, #2 Here) focused on in-depth coverage of how two somewhat similar starting points (Agricultural Polonia and Agriculural Crimea) might enact the same base strategy (a rush up to 8 Workers). I tried to show a complete picture of my game plans for doing this, how those plans differed, and how I would adapt to situations that came up. For this blog post, I'll try to do something as different from those two posts as possible. I'm going to look at how it might be possible to play given the constraint that I will be producing no Workers at all. Furthermore, rather than abstractly look at all the different choices I might face, I will instead post the turn-by-turn action sequences I did for a single game. (Hopefully, my notes are complete and accurate. Let me know if it looks like I missed something)

(NOTE: If you want to skip all my theorizing and jump to the game, it starts below the pictures of the Player and Faction Mats)

The Theory:
Now, most experienced Scythe players know that there are generally 3 "optimal" number of Workers: 3, 5, and 8. 3 Workers is the most you can have without Produce costing you anything. At 4 Workers Produce will cost you a Power, and so 5 is the next optimal point. 5 is also probably the most common number of Workers that I see people stopping on. Anything more than 5 will cost you Popularity, so you might as well have all 8 out at that point. The extra Coin that 8 Workers costs over 7 is almost inconsequential (given that you'll only be producing once or twice after that) and 8 Workers is a Star. 3, 5, and 8 also correspond exactly to the number of Workers that you end up with when you produce 1, 2, or 3 times after moving a single Worker onto that Village, so these numbers are tend to be very Action-efficient as well.

But there is an additional cost associated with getting to a particular number of Workers that some players may not have really considered: the number of Actions it takes to get there. Remember, Scythe is a Race. Usually the first Action you take moving a Worker to your Village comes with no BRA (Bottom-Row-Action). Or even if it does, you probably did some Trade or Produce with no BRA to set that up. Next you have to spend two Actions to Produce up to 5 Workers. That's two Actions you're not making resources and at least one turn - often two - with no BRA again. Finally, you have to move those Workers off of the Village. If you've built a Mech to do so, you probably didn't also have the time to acquire resources to perform a BRA while you Move here.

And it's avoiding all these Dead Actions with no BRAs that I'm going to take advantage of to make a 2-Worker strategy possible. Effectively, instead of Moving onto a Village, Producing Workers, and Moving back, I'll just be Producing and Trading and building my engine. Hopefully, the early engine-building and extra resources gained during the first few turns will make up for all the Resources I won't be Producing on later turns.

Which Faction/Mat?
So if I'm going to go with only 2 Workers, the first thing I'm going to have to do is pick the right Player Mat. I'm going to be Producing a lot - that's the whole point. I'm also probably going to be Trading a lot, too. And, in order to be able to afford everything, I'm going to be Upgrading early and Upgrading a lot; that 's the "engine-building" I alluded to. The BRA for Bolster gives $2 or $3 (I'm only using the base game here) so ultimately I really want the cost for my Trade/Produce/Bolster cycle to cost 5 resources total.

Actually, let's do a little math here and make sure I'll have enough resources to pull this off... Let's say my plans are roughly to Trade 6 times, Produce 6 times, Bolster 4 times, and Move twice. I'm getting 24 Resources in total from Trade and Produce. Assuming everything is fully Upgraded: 6 Upgrades is 12 resources, 4 Resources for 1 BRA and 8 Resources for another comes out to exactly 24 Resources. Because some of my BRAs must come before I'm finished Upgrading, I don't realistically have enough resources. I can effectively get some resources from Encounters or the Factory, but I don't want to Move too much. But there is an out here: A can build a Mill! An early Mill can possibly add 4 to 6 more resources to the equation.

One thing I glossed over when discussing the disadvantages to strategies involving greater numbers of Workers is that more Workers let's you take over more territories. I showed this in the previous Case Studies. But Buildings can also hold territories. Furthermore, Workers act as a deterrent to your opponents' aggression. I can't really do anything to make up for having more Workers here, so the best I can do is maybe stay out of the fray longer.

OK... So I need Produce or Trade over Upgrade. That means Engineering or Mechanical. I also want Building under anything but Move, so Engineering it is! Also note that the Produce/Trade/Bolster options line up exactly with resources available in the Nords starting Peninsula. So I'll be using the Nords as my Faction. Given that the Nords are also the only Faction that don't have a Village in their starting peninsula, they were really the ones I was probably going to use anyway. And so begins my game without Producing any Workers...
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The Actual Game:
I start a 4 Player game against random opponents. Building bonuses are for building on Tundras and Farms. Pretty good for me. I am dealt the following two Objectives:
- Stockpile for the Winter (9 resources on one territory)
- Get Rich or Cry Trying (Get to $20)

Sooooo... stockpiling isn't going to happen. $20 is doable, though. My plans involve generation $12 from Produce/Upgrades and $8 from Bolster/Build. And I start with $5. But I'm Trading a lot. I may or may not hit that Objective; I'll see how it goes. Other than building no Workers, my game will start out fairly normal. I'll get to the first Encounter without missing too many BRAs.

1. Trade - Oil + Oil
2. Produce; Upgrade Move-->Upgrade
3. Trade - Metal + Oil
4. Produce; Upgrade Bolster-->Deploy
5. Trade - Metal + Metal; Deploy Speed
6. Move Character to Encounter, Worker to Mountain. Leave Worker on Tundra.

I'm really glad the Encounter didn't give me the option to place a Worker for free. That would defeat the whole purpose of this game and I'd have to wonder if I should start a new game . Instead, it offers me a reasonable option of +1 Popularity and +2 Oil. I take this. Now, because I have the resources to Produce/Upgrade twice more, I can delay my Mill a little bit while continuing to make Build less expensive.

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(The current state after 6 turns)

7. Produce; Upgrade Bolster-->Deploy
8. Trade - Metal + Wood; Deploy Seaworthy
9. Produce; Upgrade Trade-->Build

I've used by my "free" Oil. I'm ready to strike out to the Factory, or perhaps lash out at any weak Faction that puts their Mech too close to my homeland. I'm debating a Mine on my Mountain so that I can effectively hit most of the map in a single turn. I really wish I had a second Combat Card, though. It's hard to complete 2 Combat Stars without one.

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(The current state, start of turn 10)

10. Bolster; Build Mill
11. Produce; Upgrade Gain-->Build
12. Bolster; Build Armory
13. Trade - Wood + Wood (+1 Power); Build Armory
14. Move Character to Factory, Mech+Worker to adjacent Oil Mine, Mech to Lake.

Time to start spreading out. At a minimum, I have to move my Workers to new territories or I can't Build. Lets see my Factory Card choices:
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At this point I'm eyeing both a Max Power Star and my Objective Star. These are not the best Factory Card choices. My Popularity is so low at this point, I was really hoping for something I could spend Popularity on instead of Coins. I go with the one on the right, figuring I can at least gain 3 Power the first time I use it. I'm setting up to do some attacking soon.

Unfortunately, I don't have a screen shot of everything that happens here. Rusviet kicks my Mech and Worker off of Oil. I Spend 1 Power and gain 1 Card. Then Saxony attacks Rusviet. A lot of Power is spent by my opponents overall. I sense that now is the time to attack Polonia. Rusviet is actually the the easier target, but I've got my eye on Polonia's 3 Food which I can then spend when I use the Move Action to get my next Combat Star (probably against Rusviet).
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As shown above, I use my Factory Card to gain 3 Power. I am now a single Bolster away from my Max Power Star. I move and attack Polonia. Now, how much Power do I spend? Polonia has Power and I have 13. They know I can force a win (unless both my cards are 2 Power). If they spend any Power and lose, they're basically not winning any Combats at all this game. And so, I decide to gamble and ensure my Max Power Star on my next Bolster:
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15. Factory: +1 Power, Enlist Deploy-->2 Power, Attack Polonia. *COMBAT STAR*
16. Bolster; Build Monument. *MAX POWER STAR*
17. Move (Spread out); Attack Rusviet ; Enlist Enlist--> $2 *COMBAT STAR;

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The current state, start of turn 19)

I'm at a point where I can end it. I incorrectly choose to Trade for Metal and Deploy instead of Produce and Upgrade, which nets me an extra $2. I wasn't paying enough attention and actually didn't finish my Upgrades as planned. Whoops. The game ends:
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Post Mortem:
Not a particularly amazing end game score. 67 points in 19 turns is enough to win against mediocre opponents, but probably isn't winning against solid opposition. And against good players, I'd probably have to throw a little Power into the Polonia attack. They can see me at 13 Power and know there's a chance I'll skimp on spending during that Combat. I'd probably spend an additional 3 Power there.

Looking back, though, I feel I made some major missteps somewhere along the way. The ability to either Upgrade or Deploy for my last star is a red flag. When you end the game one turn away from your 7th Star, chances are you're trying to do too many things. This is the first game I tried this strategy out, and there was probably a way to cut a turn or two off. Or ending the game with a Coin or two more. A $70 turn 17 or 18 finish would be more respectable.

Overall I'm not really displeased with the outcome. Hopefully, what people reading this will take away from the outcome is not so much the specific result. What's important for me is to show exactly how much you're giving up Producing Workers. By comparing this game to some of your own, you can see that while 2 Workers will not usually be enough in most cases, the costs to Produce the additional Workers are not insignificant. And by contrasting this game to the strategies in Case Study #1 and Case Study #2, you can see how having a different number of Workers should effect your mindset both in terms of Production plans as well as how you'll grab and hold territory.
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