Tabletop Tips: Scythe

Generally considered a resource game, I think of Scythe much more as a tempo game.  Tempo is a common term used in reference to strategy for many games, most notably in chess and Magic: the Gathering.  Boiled down to the simplest definition, tempo means time.  And time in turn based games are measured in, well, turns.  In chess, if you achieve a desired result one turn sooner than another play, you have gained tempo.


Turns in Scythe are segmented into a top action and a bottom action.  You will always take a top action, but not always a bottom action.  Bottom actions are important though, as these actions build what you need to improve your faction throughout the game and also significantly contribute to your victory points (usually through gaining stars).  What this means is that in any given game of Scythe, I have a general goal of trying to activate my bottom action as often as I can.  Producing and trading resources should take into consideration what bottom actions you have available, and lining up those bottom actions with your top actions to maximize your resource generation and expenditure.

While maximizing your turns by activating multiple bottom actions is one way to gain a tempo advantage in Scythe, another way is by streamlining your star completion.  Stars in Scythe represent reaching a particular objective for your faction which includes building all your mechs, winning combats, completing your secret mission card and several more objectives.  It is important to note that there are far more than six objectives obtainable in any given game.  This means your goal in Scythe should not be to gain a star for every conceivable objective in the game, but rather to focus on six stars as your end game.  Your faction, the resources in your starting area and your secret mission card will all play a role in how you determine what stars you want to claim in any given game.

While certain improvements (recruits, buildings, combat power, upgrades and popularity) may not be completed in any given game, one that should almost always be maxed out is your mech force.  Mechs dramatically improve both your combat capability and your mobility.  The other strategic implication of the importance of mechs means that when I make a recruitment, I almost always select the Mech recruitment option first.  This usually results in netting 9-12 extra gold throughout the course of the game.

Scythe often deceives newer players since it seems to focus on steampunk based combat utilizing mechs, combat cards and combat power.  However, combat, especially repeated combat, can be quite costly, even to the player that wins multiple battles.  Driving a worker away results in lost popularity, and every spent combat power only serves to further weaken your military power.  Usually it is correct to work on developing your combat power and mechs as a means to defend your resources, but not necessarily drive an aggressive campaign against your opponents, especially if you are trying to reach 16 combat power for the star.

Don’t forget to get full use out of your workers even as the game begins to draw to a close.  You may no longer need resources for constructing upgrades, units or buildings, but you can still utilize your workers to claim locations on the board for end of the game scoring.  There are few disadvantages to dropping a single worker off in an unoccupied hex, especially if you don’t need them to produce many more resources.  Your opponents can claim the hex themselves easily with a military unit, but they will still lose a popularity for such a move, and they won’t be able to take every hex you control.  You can achieve this kind of worker spread easily by picking up multiple workers and dropping them off with mechs as you move through hexes with your mechs.

The key to maximizing tempo in any given game, whether it’s Scythe or chess, is a clarity of purpose.  By focusing on your objectives you can make the most out of every turn you take.  Keep your position and available resources in mind to determine your best possible turn and you’ll be crushing your opponents under your heel in no time!


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