Scythe – How To Play

(music) Hi, and welcome to Watch It Played. My name is Rodney Smith. In this video, weíre going to learn the one to five player game Scythe, designed by Jamey Stegmaier and published by Stonemaier Games. In an alternate history 1920s, the war might be over, but its effects linger, as you farm the land, enhance your forces, and explore new territories, all within the shadows of great mechanized war-machines that threaten to unleash their payload on enemies that draw their attention.

You either lead your faction to victory, or be left in the dusts of Eastern Europa. So join me at the table, and let’s learn how to play. To set up, place the game board in the center of the playing area. Itís actually double-sided, and can be flipped over and rotated for use with the optional expansion board acquired separately, that allows you to play on the same, but enlarged version of the regular board. For this video, weíll stick to the smaller size.

These are encounter tokens. On the board, youíll find eleven matching symbols, indicating where they should be placed. These are the decks of combat, encounter, and objective cards. Shuffle and place them onto the three matching spaces found on these three areas of the board. Here are the factory cards.

Shuffle and deal a number of them to this space, equal to the number of players, plus one. Iím setting up for a two player game, so Iíll deal three and return the rest to the box. These are the structure bonus tiles. Randomly place one of them face up here and return the rest to the box as well. Here we have the wood, oil, food and metal resources, along with coins and multiplier tokens. The game also comes with two of these plastic cases to help you store the components, but also to organize them around the table.

Typically, youíd keep these near the game board in a general supply, but for this video Iíll place them off screen and just draw from them as required. These are the faction and player mats. Deal one of each to each player, and have them sit near the edge of the board showing the same symbol that they find here. This is known as their home base. Now take the pieces that match your factionís symbolís background color: red in this case.

And each faction will have its own unique character and workers. Place your character on your factionís home base, and on the two spaces adjacent by land, place one worker each. Your player mat has indentations to hold in place a variety of your pieces. For example, these are your six technology cubes, which youíll place in the spaces with green boxes and a black square in the corner.

Your remaining workers youíll stand and line up so they fit into this space here just like so. Then place your circular recruit tokens into the spaces for them found along the bottom. Your four structures are then assigned to the spaces that specifically fit each of them.

The mine and monument are a similar size, but they are labeled directly underneath of their spaces. Keep your action token near your player mat as well. On your Faction mat, find an unlabeled space to place your six star tokens. Then place your four mechs onto these spaces here just like this.

Note the value shown here. Three in this case. And then take your power token and place it onto that value of this track here. Now check the value shown here and draw that many combat cards, which you can look at but youíll want to keep secret from the other players. Your player mat shows the number of objective cards you should draw from this deck. You can look at your own, but keep them secret from the other players.

This value here indicates your starting popularity, And youíll track that, using this token. Place that along this column at the indicated value. Then place coins from the supply equal to the value shown here, which youíll store on your faction mat.

The coins come in denominations of one, three, five, ten, and twenty. You can also deal out a Quick Start and Riverwalk card to each player to assist them during gameplay, and each of these are double-sided with even more information on the back. Then check for the player with the lowest value in the upper right hand corner of this box as they will be the first player when the game begins. And finally place these two power dials somewhere on the table nearby.

And thatís the setup. In Scythe players will guide the actions of their faction as it grows, evolves, and expands across the map in an effort to complete objectives that will provide you with more and more coins. At the end of the game, the player with the most wealth is the winner. Starting with the first player and then going clockwise around the table, players will take turns, around and around and around again until someone has placed their sixth star onto the board, ending the game immediately.

On your turn youíll perform three steps, letís take a look. First, notice your Player mat has four separate sections. On your turn, start by placing your action token onto any one of these, as long as itís different from the one that you used on your previous turn. So, at the start of the game, you can go anywhere. Within a section, there is both a top and bottom row action. Assuming you can pay their costs, you may perform either, neither, or both.

But if you do perform both, complete the top row action first, and then the bottom one. The cost of an action is shown by these red backgrounded squares and the benefit has a green background. If any costs or benefits are covered up by player pieces, then you ignore them. To perform an action, the cost must be fully paid first, but then you can collect any amount of the benefit, as sometimes you may not want everything that youíre due to collect, as weíll see later. Once a playerís completed the actions of their chosen section, the next player in clockwise order picks one of their sections and performs the actions there. And around and around youíll go like that with players taking turns until the game ends.

In fact, in most cases, when one player is completing their bottom row action, the next player can already be choosing and performing their top row action. While the types of actions each player can take are the same, the top row actions are in a different order on each player board, creating different pairings with the bottom-row actions. Weíre going to learn each of the various actions, but this will be easier if we first go over a few basic concepts.

Letís start with the main board. This shows Eastern Europa which is broken into various locations. First there are the territory hexes, which are labeled with one of the seven terrain types.

Villages, tundra, forests, lakes, farms, and mountains, with the final type, the factory, found only in the center of the board. There are also the home bases which are represented by the large faction symbols. There are two home bases on the board that donít have corresponding pieces which will be for expansion factions to be released separately. Collectively, these are known as your units and are made up of a unique character, mechs and workers. All of them can move around the board, though not between territories separated by rivers, or onto spaces with the lake symbol – unless they have, or gain that ability. As a helpful reminder, all plastic pieces in the game can take part in combat, while wooden pieces, like your workers or structures and resources, cannot.

If you have at least one of any type of your units in a territory, you are said to Control that territory, along with any resources that are found there. During the game, you may build structures like this one, and you also control locations where they are, assuming no enemies are also in that space. So in this case, the red player controls four territories, but now they only control three. Weíll learn more about movement and combat a little bit later, but now letís go back and learn the 4 different types of top row actions. Let’s start with this one called Move/Gain. Any time you see a slash symbol like this, it means that you can choose to do either option when taking this action but not both.

This is the symbol for coins. So in this case if you choose the gain option, you add a value one coin from the supply to your collection. Although you must keep your coins on your player mat, you don’t have to declare how many you have to the other players. If they wish to try to count how many you have in a stack from a distance, that’s up to them. Instead of gaining coins with this action, you may choose up to two different units you control to move to adjacent territories.

Over the course of the game, resources will end up on the board, and any unit can bring with them any number of resources on the space they are moving from. Once you have a mech on the board, it can pick up any number of workers and/or resources in its territory when moving. but it can not pick up your character. And being moved by a mech does not count as the movement for a worker. So I could move this mech carrying these workers into this space and then drop them off, using my remaining movement to send this worker up here.

Or instead I could move a worker into a space with a mech, and then the mech could pick up the workers and move all of them for its movement. Just remember unless otherwise stated, when assigning movement to a unit, at most it can move one space. We know that units can’t cross rivers or go into lake territories, and although sometimes they may start in the home base or end up there through some other effect you can not choose to take a move action to enter your, or any other player’s, home base. Territories with this large symbol on them are said to have tunnels connecting them, and they’re considered adjacent. So with a move action I can take this worker and move it directly from here to this territory. There is no limit to the number of resources and units that can be in a single territory, but there are special rules when you move into spaces controlled by an opponent.

First of all, workers avoid conflict, so they may never move into a space with an opponent’s units of any type, However, if a territory only has a structure, any unit can move into it: let’s say the white player moves this worker in, and maybe they brought a resources as well. That moving player now controls this territory. Sometime abilities will allow you to move more than the usual one space per figure, but if you would ever move your character and/or a mech into a territory controlled by an opponent’s worker units, your figure must stop.

After finishing all of your move actions for that turn, the enemy workers in that territory are driven off, retreating to their faction’s home base, leaving behind any resources, putting them under your control. You will also lose one popularity for each worker you drive out of the territory because they’re now spreading very unfavorable comments about you to the other people of Eastern Europa. And even if you had forced more workers to retreat than you have popularity to lose, the lowest that your popularity can ever be reduced to is zero.

If you move into a territory with your character and/or a mech, which is controlled by an opponent’s character or mechs, your figure ends its movement. Remember how I said that workers can’t enter a space with an opponent’s units? Well that is true if they’re traveling alone.

However, you can have a moving mech bring them into a space it is traveling to even if that includes enemy figures. When you enter an opponent’s space, it still controls that location, so any workers there don’t have to retreat. But after you finish your movement with any other units you have to use during that action, you then resolve combat in any territories occupied by more than one player. If there’s more than one combat location, the moving player, known as the attacker, chooses the order they resolve in. So let’s say the red player decided they would resolve this combat first.

If the attacker has a mech ability that affects combat, they resolve theirs first, and then the defender resolves any they may have. Now each combatant takes one of these power dials, the color of which does not matter, but let’s just pretend for a moment that the one with the red symbol here is for the red player, and the one with the white symbol is for the white player. They now secretly select a number, spinning it under the symbol here. Again, you would do this secretly, not face up on the table where everyone could see it.

The value you set is how much power, as shown on this track, that you’re willing to spend during the fight. And you can not spend a value you don’t have. So the white player in this case could not set their dial to seven; they could at most set it to six, but they can also set it to less if they want. Regardless of how much power you have, the dial at most can be set to seven, which you’re reminded of here: this is the most you can spend during a single combat. Now each player counts up the number of characters and mechs they have in the combat, not counting workers.

So in this case, the white player has two and the red player has one. And they may play up to that number of combat cards secretly underneath of their power dial like this. Now I say secretly because the number of combat cards a player has is public information, but in a fight you don’t have to tell your opponent how many you’re planning on using. So feel free to take everything you have under the table during combat and do it secretly that way. I’m just doing it face up here so you can follow along more easily.

When both players are ready, they reveal their dials and any selected cards simultaneously. Total your values from the power dial and your combat cards, and the player with the highest amount wins, with ties won by the attacker. The white player here as a power of ten, but the red player has eleven, so red wins.

Each player then spends the power they assigned on their dial only, by moving their tokens on this track here. They then collect together any combat cards that were played into this battle and place them face up into the discard pile. You’ll also notice the values and amounts of each combat card as found in this deck are displayed right here on the board. The winner of the battle, the red player in this case, places one of their stars on one of these two combat spaces. You may only have one star on each of the spaces of this track; so if you win a second combat, place your star here instead.

And then you no longer gain stars for combat, but you may still engage in future battles. The winner now gains or retains control of the territory and any resource tokens there, and the the loser retreats all units from the combat back to their home base. For each worker that the attacker forced to retreat, their popularity is reduced by one. If the defender won and drove out the attacker, they don’t lose any popularity for driving out workers that the attacker’s mechs might have brought into the battle. Also if the loser revealed at least one power during the fight, either from their dial or a card, they draw a new combat card. If you would ever need to draw from this deck and it’s empty, shuffle the discard into a new draw pile.

But if both are empty, then no cards are drawn. It should be noted that the game does allow for informal agreements and bribes. For example, I might say to one of the players, “Hey, here’s a couple of coins. How bout you not attack me next turn?”

But the only tangible thing you can exchange in these agreements are coins, nothing else. And these agreements are not binding: they can be broken at any time. Once you start a combat, you can’t bribe your way out of it. That fight is going to happen. But you could try to persuade another player to go easy on you, perhaps saying, “Here’s a couple of coins.

How bout you make sure you play low power into this combat?” So as a quick reminder, we’ve been discussing this top row action which allows you to either gain coins or move up to two of your units which could result in combat. If moving would place your special character into a territory with an encounter token, it must stop. After resolving any combat from your moves, if your character is still on the space with that token, discard it and draw the top card from the encounter deck.

Remember only your special character piece can trigger one of these encounters: not your workers, and not your mechs. Now show the artwork to the other players, and read out the bolded text listing the options you can take. Thematically, these are the ways that your character can interact with what you’re seeing. Pick one of the options, pay any costs, and then collect as much as the benefit listed as you wish. If you can not fully pay a cost, then you can not choose that option.

If you have gained any resources, structures, mechs, or workers, you place them into the territory where the encounter occurred. The costs and benefits of an encounter are exactly limited to what is listed. In other words, if we were to choose the second option on this encounter, it says we pay four coin and then we gain one mech. It does not matter what the cost to deploy a mech would normally be based on our particular player board. You’ll also find a number on each encounter. These have no game play purpose.

These are purely for referencing the encounter if you need to post a question about it, perhaps on the publisher’s website. Once you’ve finished resolving an encounter, you can return to the bottom of its deck face down. In the center of the board is the factory, a place of untapped power. When your move action is completely finished, including any combat, if your special character is on the factory territory for the first time, secretly look through the factory deck here and choose any one to keep, returning the rest unseen to their original location. Other players who later visit the factory with their characters will then take one from what remains.

This new card you place beside your player mat, and it acts as a new fifth section that you can now on future turns move your action token to and then resolve either the top, bottom, or both actions. And if you choose to do both, again you resolve the top and then the bottom. Although some factory actions may be similar to others already found on your player board, they’re treated completely separate and do not interact with each other. You may also notice that all of the factory add-ons have the exact same bottom row action.

And this is a little bit different than your standard move. It allows you to choose one unit and move it up to two spaces, respecting all the usual movement rules. For example: you’ll still have to stop when you enter a space with an opponent’s units. Also note: you may never have more than one factory add-on, and once you claim it, you can’t discard it. So that covers the rules related to this top row action: Move or Gain.

Now let’s learn about some of the other actions. If we were to use this section then we can pay one coin to either Bolster and gain two power or draw one combat card. Record power you gain by moving your marker on this track, or if you collect combat cards draw them from the top of this deck.

If you take the Trade action, then after spending one coin you may either go up one on the popularity track or gain any two same or different resources, which again are oil, metal, food, or wood. If you take the popularity, you adjust your marker on the track here. If instead you take the goods, you place them with any worker you have in a territory, keeping in mind that sometimes workers will be forced to retreat back to your home base, but resources cannot be placed with them when they are here. This is the top row action to produce. Any cost will be shown here at the top, but at the start of the game there isnít any. You then choose up to two different territories you control and all workers on them may produce one token of the type shown on those territories.

For example if I choose these two territories to produce on, these two workers in the mountain would produce two metal and the worker over here in the tundra would produce one oil. And you can always choose to produce fewer than what youíre owed if you want. But either way new resources are taken from the supply and placed in the territory where the workers are. This is a farm and it produces food. And this is a forest which produces wood.

Lakes and the factory donít produce anything, but this is a village. Villages provide new workers. For each worker you have producing here, you can then take a new worker from your player board. So, in this case producing here would provide me with two new workers. You take them from the workers available here, starting on the leftmost side and then place them into that village. Youíll now notice on future production actions, Iíll have a cost to pay.

In this case, one power. As more workers are brought into play, my costs for all production actions increase, keeping in mind that once workers are placed you cannot return them to your mat. In this situation, all productions would now cost me one power, one popularity, and one coin. It should be noted that if a resource would run out, you can replace ones on the board with multiplier tokens so that they can be returned to the supply as needed. In very rare cases, it is possible not to be able to perform an action.

Letís say on the previous turn you have put your marker on the Move/Gain action section, but now you canít afford the costs of the other available sections. In that case, you still have to move your marker, but you wonít resolve any of the actions there. Effectively, your turn is immediately over and the next player goes. Although you could still fulfil an objective if you had one, but we will learn about those in just a little bit. For now, letís take a look at the bottom row actions.

These are the same for each player in terms of what they do. But their costs and the coins they provide will be different. And like all actions, you can choose not to claim all the benefits youíre owed when you complete them. It should also be mentioned that resources youíve paid for costs come from those on territories that you control.

You simply remove any number of them from any number of your territories as needed and return them to the general supply. For example, this bottom row action costs four metal. So I could take two metal from this space and two from here, and return them. Also, you may immediately use anything you gain from a top row action to pay for a bottom row action, even within the same turn.

This is the upgrade bottom row action. After paying the costs here, in this case two oil, you can take a technology cube from any of the green boxes on your player mat to cover any red box with these bracketed borders. Though you can never cover up the boxes with a solid black border. This upgrade will do two things.

First of all, it reduces the costs of certain bottom row actions in the future. This used to cost four metal, now it only costs three. But it also exposes a new green box benefit that you will gain when taking those top row actions. For example, when taking this produce action now, we can choose three territories, not just two. Also when this player performs the upgrade action, they gain one coin from the supply.

So just as a reminder, each of the playersí bottom row actions work the same way, but they have different costs and benefits. Here we play two oil, but this player would pay three. We gain one coin, but this player would gain two. This is the Deploy action. After paying its costs, you can take any mech still remaining on your mat. Then place it on any territory that you control that has at least one worker, however they may not be deployed to lakes, even if your faction has a special ability that allows you to enter lake spaces.

From now on, your unique character and all of your mechs will gain the benefit revealed on the space your mech was taken from. All of the different factions have some unique abilities related to these spaces, which are explained directly on them. If you do have further questions about how they work, you can look them up on these pages of the rule book based on the factions that you are using. One that I will go over with you though is the riverwalk ability because this is shared with all the factions, each having their own slight variation.

This allows your factionís mechs and its characters to cross rivers into specific spaces. For example, this faction can now cross rivers as long as the units are moving into either farms or villages. This ability works the same for other factions, but the combination of terrain types they can cross rivers into will be different.

Remember, these abilities only apply to your mechs and your character. So, this worker could not riverwalk its way into this village. However, when this mech moves, it could pick up the worker and take it along.

After paying for the Build action you then take any one of these four buildings and place it on a territory you control with at least one worker on it. However, you may not build on the factory, your home base, on lakes or on a territory that already has a structure; yours or another player. And once placed, a structure cannot be moved or destroyed. The spaces a structure was taken from on your board will now provide you with a new benefit. For example, with the monument built, when you take the Bolster action you also gain one popularity. With the armory built, taking a Trade action also gives you one additional power.

When you build a mine, it acts as a tunnel that only your faction can use. The territory it is placed in is now placed adjacent to all other tunnel spaces printed on the board, so my mech here, with its one Move action, could travel directly to this space. If you build the mill, then when taking a Produce action, you may additional target its territory to produce in. Put another way, if I was normally only able to produce in two territories with my action, I could then pick this location as a third. The mill will then produce as if it was a worker itself and if there are other workers on that location they would produce also. A territory with one of your structures is under your control, even if there are no units there.

So, in this case the red player would own this oil and food. However, if an opponent moves into that space, then they gain control of the territory, but you donít lose the benefit of the structure. So, even with my opponent here, I could still use the mines ability to move through this tunnel space to the one that my faction can use through this mine. During setup up, we placed a random structure bonus tile here.

This will give you points at the end of the game based on the placement of your structures. Each are explained in the rules and I will leave those for you to go over on your own. But I will quickly explain this one. Here you will gain a number of coins based on the number of tunnels adjacent to your structures, but you will only count each tunnel once. So in this case, my two structures are adjacent to three different tunnels. Remember we donít count this tunnel twice even though it is adjacent to two different buildings.

And based on this tile, that means Iíll gain four extra coins at the end of the game. The final bottom row action is to Enlist. After paying the costs, choose any one of these round recruit markers and place them onto any one of these four one time bonus spaces of your faction mat.

As you do that, you will gain the benefit, either two power, two coin, two popularity, or draw two combat cards. Also, the space the recruit came from will provide you with a new ongoing bonus that you will receive anytime that you or the player to your left or right takes the same bottom row action that this bonus is a part of. So, for example, if I or the player to my left or right takes the Upgrade action, I would gain one power. For this reason, it is a good idea for players to announce out loud the bottom row actions they are taking so others can check to see if they would get a bonus.

Also, if you are only playing with two players, even though your opponent is technically on both your left and your right, you only get the benefit of these abilities once each time they are triggered. If more than one player would gain an ongoing bonus like this, then the active player takes their bonus first if any, and then the player to their left and then the player to their right. However, if while gaining a bonus a player would be able to complete their sixth star, they place it and the game ends immediately before other bonuses are awarded. I should mention that even if you have completed the related activities of a bottom row action, for example if you have already placed out all of your mechs, you can still perform the Deploy mech action, you wonít be able to put a mech out, but you will still gain any bonus coins and will be able to trigger the bonus recruit ongoing action.

Each faction also has a unique special ability listed here on the upper right hand corner of the faction mat. I wonít go over each of them, allowing you to discover them on your own. And they are pretty self explanatory, but if you have any questions, you can find them explained in the rulebook in even further detail. This one, as a quick example, allows the player to place their action marker on the same section of their player mat as they used on a previous turn, something you are not normally allowed to do. Now we have covered all the different actions that you can take.

And in addition to performing either the top and/or the bottom row actions, at any point during your turn, if you would ever satisfy the conditions on one of your secret objectives, you can reveal it and show it to the other players. I had said sometimes when gaining the benefit of an action, you may choose to take less than what you’re owed and objectives are the primary reason for this. Youíll notice here it say you can complete the objective if I have the same number of workers as I have recruits. If I was performing a Produce action, I might not want to take as many workers are I am owed so I have a chance to catch up with the number of recruits I have. After completing either of your objectives, you actually discard both of them to the bottom of the objective deck because, at most, you can only complete one objective during the game.

You then take one of your stars and place it on this space here. Speaking of stars, letís look at all of the other ways that you can play them. When you would achieve one of these goals, even if it is not your turn, you must place a star from your board onto the matching space. The exception to this is your private objective, which you may choose not to reveal and claim right away, even if you satisfy its condition. You can then claim it later, assuming you still satisfy its requirements. Do keep in mind, you can only have one of your stars on any one space, though several different players can have stars on the same space.

You also canít lose a star once it’s placed, even if the conditions on which you earned them have changed. You gain a star as soon as you have completed all six of your upgrades, place all four of your mechs, all four of your buildings, all four of your recruits, all eight of your workers, your one objective as we saw, for winning two different combats as we saw earlier, for reaching eighteen on the popularity track, or sixteen on the power track. In most cases the game ends immediately as soon as the player would place their sixth star on the track, even if there are other things they could do that turn or other things that would normally happen afterwards. However, if the sixth star is being placed because of a bottom row action that is being performed, first gain the primary benefit. In this case placing the playerís last mech, then collect any coins and resolve the recruit ongoing benefit, if any, before placing that final star. If you would be placing your final star as part of a combat that you just won and you still have other combats left to resolve, instead the game ends immediately and the unresolved units go back to the territories that they moved from.

And finally if youíd be able to place your sixth star during an opponent’s turn because of a recruit ongoing bonus that you would be collecting, that placement happens after the opponent completes the action they were taking, and then the recruit bonuses occur in clockwise order, unless your opponent places their sixth star during that turn. So just to be clear, letís say my opponent was taking an Upgrade action, because I have my recruit bonus unlocked here, I would then be able to gain a bonus power, giving me a star. However, I would first have to allow my opponent to finish taking their actions. Assuming they donít claim their final star, if I was seated to the left of them, then I would gain my bonus. Or if I was seated to the right of them, I then have to wait for the player on the left to potentially gain their bonus. When the game ends itís time to accumulate your final fortune.

Start by counting all the coins you currently have, now youíll add to this even more coins based on where you are on the popularity track. Depending on the values you are considered either to be within this lower, middle, or higher section. Now youíll get a number of coins based on that for each star that you placed during the game.

I happened to place six stars, Iím in the middle section so Iíll gain four coins for each star. My opponent gains less stars, but they are in the higher section so they are going to collect five coins per star. Then Iím going to gain coins from this certain column based on the number of territories I currently control on the board.

In this case as the red player, I would gain three coins each. The player who controls the factory location actually treats it as three separate territories. So by being here, I’m gaining nine coins from this one location. You then total all the resources you currently control on the board and divide it by two, round the value down, and then multiply that by the number found in this column based on where you are on the track. So I would gain two coins for every two resources I control, and my opponent would gain three. Finally, gain any coins owed for the structure bonus tile.

The player with the most coins wins. If there is a tie, the tied players will then go through a little checklist to see who breaks the tie first, in this order. First, for having the greatest number of workers, mechs, and structures in play. If still tied, check for the player with the greatest power.

If still tied, check for greatest popularity. And then check for the highest number of resource tokens controlled, and then the highest number of territories controlled. And finally, if still tied check based on the number of star tokens placed.

The game also comes with this double sided achievement sheet where the winner of the game can record their name up to two times for up to two conditions that they managed to satisfy. And that is everything you need to know to play Scythe. The game also comes with solo rules and the components to play them but I will leave that for you to discovery on your own. If you have any questions about anything you saw here, donít hesitate to put them in the comments below and I will gladly answer them as soon as I get a chance. But, until the next episode, thanks for watching.