Scythe – a combination of Euro point mechanics and a war game – is an incredibly interesting and complex game. This a highly rated game on Boardgame Geek, but if you haven’t come across it then do check out my review for a sense of the gameplay and the core mechanics.
If you have played it though, then I hope the below initial strategies helps give you some ideas for which branching paths you might take in this game:
During the game:
Early Encounters; Early in the game there are encounter tokens scattered across the board. Don’t over reach for these, but gathering the nearby ones with your character can give you a material boost forward with your plans (or perhaps even in forming a plan). The resources, popularity or even mechs can give you big opportunities in the early game – be brave and take risks to play out different strategies with these.
Early Meeple Builds; Another early route to success is to build more meeples – this is important early because every build thereafter is more efficient. Of course you need to position carefully to benefit from this, but getting the most from each build is an important part of building up early game and mid game resources and not wasting turns.
Building Meeples Efficiently; Watch out though because big production rounds cost you coins, military power or even popularity. This is expensive if you then end up producing multiple times. You can minimize the cost, or maximize the output though if you are careful about how many meeples you produce – odd numbers just below the next cost level are more effecient that building one meeple at a time / building on all the even numbers.
First or Second Factory Card; These early factory cards are also useful. The more players, the lower the need to rush; however, with even with the full five players the benefit of choice amongst the cards is important. Players later the factory might not even want to go because the go cards have actively been taken by early players.
6 Stars; That’s all it takes, just a simple small number of stars ends the game. So work out early which six you want and don’t waste time building for the rest. Focus your efforts and perhaps even spot what other players are going for and how quickly they are going to achieve them or if you are contributing to their victory. Knowing when the game may end, even if not at your hand will help you to then maximize late game points.
Leaving Military Late; Leave a military option to the end. This allows you the attack of opportunity. At the end of the game a weak player may pop up, or an isolated mech that you can rush with multiple mechs and characters. This last military rush is a common way to gain that last start and trigger the end game – an attack of opportunity.
Popularity Impact; One of the biggest swing factors in this game is popularity. The stars you got, the land you fought for and even the resources you gathered, are all effected by your popularity. The simple reality is that shifting the popularity by one group has a big impact on your score and late game you should be pushing for at least mid level popularity.
Control End Game; As with the military opportunity, controlling the end game is important. The lack of an equalizing last turn means that the final round is important and perhaps surprising others with two stars in that round can have a real impact on scores. It’s a tricky thing to risk (because you don’t want to miss out on stars if others complete), but a sudden rush of late stars can push the game in your favour at the finish.
Late Land Grab; If you know you are heading to the last star, yours or someone else, then you might want to think about grabbing land. No matter your popularity this land is worth points and spreading out just before the finish can suddenly amass a lot of points for you. Be careful not to leave yourself or your resources too exposed to other players, but grab those points.
Combat Cards (Surprise); Combat cards are the surprise in war. For each mech or characters you can use another card. Given the dial doesn’t go beyond seven and the cards top out at five, you can be sure of victory if you outnumber your opponent and have good cards. If it’s an even fight, then as a defender holding that surprise 5 card in your hand might give you that last star from an unexpectedly strong defence!
Mechs & Workers; Last little note, when doing that last land grab, use your mech to pick up workers and then move them in bulk to new areas ready for them to spread out. This is an effective way to create a wide spread of citizens with lots of points. Don’t leave meeples on the mechs if you can help it, because then they are a target.