Scythe Strategy: The Nordic Kingdoms
Throughout the course of 2016, one game lit up the Board Game Geek forums like the 4th of July, and continued to burn bright throughout the majority of 2017 as well. That game, it probably goes without saying (if only because of the title of this article) is Scythe, an area control game set in an alternative 1920s where central Europe is fought over by a series of different factions, each with their own personality. One of the reasons it is so popular, like all great games, is because there are a thousand different strategies that can be employed in order to try and win the game. It is also a well balanced game, meaning it comes down to strategy and in that, always trying to keep around two steps ahead.
The whole of Scythe revolves around a star based system. Throughout the game, it is up to players to gain as many achievements as possible (noting it with stars that are placed on an achievement track), with the first player to reach six achievements triggering the end game. Interestingly though, the player who triggers the end game does not automatically win, as points are delivered in several different ways. This includes points given for the number of achievements, but also money retained at the end of the game, territories controlled in the end game, and number of resources gathered.
One of the many strengths of Scythe is that it is an asymmetrical game, meaning that each and every faction is different and plays in a slightly different way. Each faction in Scythe has its own unique ability, and these abilities can really mean the difference between winning and losing the game.
Along with looking at the different monsters in Blood Rage, over the next few months I’ll be looking at the different factions with the 1920s dystopia of mega mechs known as Scythe. In this article, let’s look at the Nordic Kingdoms and how they can use their ability to their strength. Please note, this is based on the base game and not the expansions.
Scythe Strategy: The Nordic Kingdoms
The Nordic Kingdoms, under the leadership of Bjorn and Mox, are an interesting race within the world of Scythe. On one side they start the game off at the very top of the board, boxed in on three sides by water, with what is perceived as a limited room for expansion. This can initially seem disheartening, as it means all you can do is build mechs, having a metal, an oil, and a wood to choose from. Just looking at the board it can seem like the Nordic Kingdoms have a pretty rough time of it from a Scythe strategy perspective as they have access to the fewest resources to start with. That is, until you see their special ability.
For any other faction, they would need to produce a mech as quickly as possible as, for all other factions, mechs are the only way to get villages across certain river spaces (riding them like giant rodeo bulls). Usually they can only go into two different resource types. For instance, they can move across a river into a metal space or a forest, and that is only after the “Riverwalk” mech has been built. For the Nordic Kingdoms, however, the strategy can change and adapt. This is because they have the unique ability to for the Nordic Kingdoms’ workers to swim. Oh yes, with that ability the whole map opens up.
There are, ultimately, two very different ways to play the Nordic Kingdoms that I can think of, and both are as interesting as the other. The first of these is defensively, and the second is in a far more offensive way.
Scythe Strategy: Playing the Nordic Kingdoms Defensively
The trick, you see, with the Nordic Kingdoms’ defensive game resides with one square, and getting to it as quickly as possible. That square is the village to the right (as you are looking at it as a Nordic Kingdoms player, from your side of the board – so the board is upside down) of where the Nordic Kingdoms start off. Using the swim ability, it is possible to start creating workers right away, and thus use them for oil and metal production. The key is you want as much metal as possible, as you need to get the Riverwalk mech.
“What?” I hear you ask, “But you just said you didn’t need that mech?”
Well, you don’t for the workers, that is true, but without that ability Bjorn and Mox can’t traverse across the land, and you want to get them to the Factory. The reason for this is because all factory cards have a “move one unit two spaces”, which will help them clean up as many objectives as possible during the latter half of the game.
Whilst doing that, whilst building a mech and getting Bjorn/Mox to the Factory as soon as possible, it is important to build a homestead. Get as many workers as possible and spread them out along the edges of the map. Build the mill on either an oil space (to get upgrades, especially those pertaining to movement) or a metal space for mechs. The idea behind this is because Scythe becomes a bit of a free for all in the centre of the board, whilst around the edges tends to remain clear. This allows for rapid expansion, whilst remaining fairly far from danger.
Once you have Bjorn and Mox in the centre, it is important to note that almost every other player will also be trying to get to the Factory (it is important to get there as quickly as you physically can) so once you have the upgrade, get them the hell out of Dodge. As the Nordic Kingdoms, if you want to play the defensive game, you need to avoid getting into fights. Just stay out of the way and focus on building your own mechs to fortify key positions. Keep your head down and hopefully the other players may ignore you.
Scythe Strategy: Playing the Nordic Kingdoms Offensively
If you want to play the Nordic Kingdoms as an offensive force during a game of Scythe then the strategy becomes a game, not of colonisation, like with the defensive strategy, but one of conquest. They do not tend to be the most militaristic of forces, with a distinct lack of combat cards at the start of the game; however, they can hold their own should the need arise.
To play the Nordic Kingdoms offensively you need to gather as many combat cards as possible, and that isn’t an easy thing to do. Ultimately, there are a few ways of doing it. The first is enlist the right recruit so you get combat cards whenever other players do an action (that sentence won’t make a lot of sense to people who haven’t played Scythe, but it should make perfect sense to those who have) and the other way, bar the occasional lucky event, is to bolster – and bolster a lot.
The next thing that is worth doing is, if easier than building a mech straight away, it is worth building a mine. This is because it will allow for easy access to the Factory and thus easier access to movement upgrades. That upgrade is invaluable for moving mechs further out into the field.
One move that is unique to the Nordic Kingdom is to get a worker out into the middle of the board as soon as possible (either through a mine, as mentioned above, or through swimming) and then build an armoury. This will help build power as well as assuming ownership of territory. Maintaining a worker in that position will allow for a mech to later be deployed further into the board and thus help apply pressure to the other factions.
It is important to remember one simple fact when playing offensively, however, and that is that it is easy to make enemies. It is even more important to remember that interpersonal relationships matter if you just want to play as a force to be reckoned with. There is a limit to your offensive capability, with only a maximum of four mechs per player. This means one of two things. Either, bribes are legal in the game, so make sure you keep some players sweet whilst conquering in their territory. Secondly, if you want to be offensive then it is a good idea to bullrush. In other words, go in head first and end the game as quickly as possible. This means building your mechs as fast as possible, fighting for the fighting achievements, and getting as many territories as possible before the game ends.
Which Scythe Strategy Would I Recommend for the Nordic Kingdoms?
It is always difficult when suggesting a strategy, because some of it depends on personal preference and some depends on how the other players are behaving. What I would say though is that the defensive approach buys more time and potentially allows for a stronger end game. This is contrary to the offensive approach which is to just end the game before your opponents can build up a strong end-game. If you ask me, I would recommend any strategy that puts you in a strong position as opposed to a strategy that relies on your opponents being weak.
The biggest trick with the Nordic Kingdoms is to utilise that swim ability for the workers. Get them out and exploring – whether that is around the edge or in the middle of the board – utilise that ability and you won’t go far wrong. They are the key to a strong early game.
So there we go, a brief look at how to play the Nordic Kingdoms and a bit of Scythe strategy to go along with it. Let me know your favourite strategy or what you think of the game in the comments below.