In the alternative Eastern Europe of Scythe – you don’t drive mechs, mechs drive you.
Scythe, designed by the amazing Jamey Stegmaier, is a game with a little bit of everything. There’s worker placement, militaristic combat, RPG elements, strategic thinking – to be honest, playing it, it is immediately obvious why it became one of the most talked about games of 2016, and why it is currently the eighth highest rated game of all time on BGG. The more I think about it, the more I think the serious board gaming world is split into two groups of people – those who own Scythe, and those who are going to own Scythe.
Scythe is, at its heart, an asymmetrical game. Each character has a faction they are trying to have dominate the heartland by any means necessary. Some may do it through popularity, some through exploration, some through economy, and some through conquest. Each faction has special abilities and rules completely unique to them.
A few days ago I wanted to try playing as the faction I was convinced would be the weakest faction in the game, just to see what it would be like playing as them. This (I believed), after reading through all the factions again, turned out to be the Crimean Khanate. Looking back, how wrong I was. They have a lot of potential.
Since Scythe board game strategy is an interesting topic to write about, this is a breakdown of Crimean Khanate and what they can do better than any other faction.
Who Are Crimean Khanate?
The Crimean Khanate is the yellow faction in Scythe, designed to be based around the (now) Russian peninsula of Crimea. They are led by the hero Zehra, whose story says that she is a princess of the Khan of the Crimean Tatars. Growing up she became something of a seer amongst her people, being able to see short ways into the future, a skill which helped her both socially and politically.
The Khan heard of the new mech technology that was being used by the people of the North (think the Nordic Kingdoms), and so he sent his daughter into the heartlands with her trusty eagle, Kar, eager to learn the secrets of the new machines.
The Crimean Khanate are Scythe‘s explorers, seeking out the knowledge of The Factory before they become technologically inconsequential.
What Are The Crimean Khanate Abilities?
Story aside, the abilities behind the Crimean Khanate are interesting and somewhat contradictory. They have the ability to spend combat cards like resources, using them as the kind of Joker of the resource pile. They can act like any resource and that could be useful; however, it is a bit strange, namely because they are possibly the only faction to not start with any combat cards.
Where the Crimean Khanate comes into its own however is with the mech abilities. Along with the standard Riverwalk ability, the Crimean Khanate have a couple of surprises that make them formidable in the field. Most notably, out of these, the Wayfair ability, that allows Mechs and Heroes from the Crimean Khanate to travel to any unoccupied home base on the map. This includes their own. The real clincher is they can do this from any territory.
The ability for those mechs to be able to teleport is something that really comes into its own throughout the game. For all other factions, bar maybe the Nordic Kingdom, the Riverwalk mech makes sense as the first one to get because otherwise their workers are stranded – this needn’t be the case for the Crimean Khanate as they can effectively teleport once they enable Wayfare.
Wayfare is a superb ability that paints the way for the Crimean Khanate and the kind of faction they are. They have the Riverwalk mech also, allowing for them to cross rivers, and the Speed ability which gives them +1 movement speed.
Aside from that, the Crimean Khanate have two pacifist abilities. The first is the faction ability, which (as mentioned before) allows for them to use combat cards as resources. The other is one of the other mech abilities, which is Scout. Scout allows you to steal a random combat card from your opponent before you face them in combat. This increases the survivability of the Crimean Khanate, and also allows them to gain a resource when matched with their innate ability. This, where potentially useful, is not where the primary strategy for the Crimean Khanate lies.
Instead, the crux of the Scythe board game strategy surrounding the Crimean Khanate revolves around movement.
What is the Scythe Board Game Strategy for the Crimean Khanate?
The strategy for the Crimean Khanate revolves around colonisation. One of the primary ways of scoring in Scythe is to try and take over as many territories as possible. Territories are worth one point each in the end game, with the centre of the map (The Factory) being worth three points. With the mechs the Khanate have, especially if they have that Wayfare ability unlocked first, they can branch out into unused areas of the map. This means they don’t need to immediately run towards the centre of the board, but in essence, they have the potential to colonise other areas safely and efficiently. They can stay out of harm’s way, whilst colonising as many different territories as possible. If the enemy does get wise to this then you can simply jump on a mech and get the hell out of Dodge. It is because of this that the Wayfare ability also acts like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. The fewer people playing, the more space there is to colonise, the more possibility there is for the Crimean Khanate.
This ability to hop around only becomes stronger with the Speed upgrade, allowing mechs to move further, propelling villagers into the heart of other territories. Meanwhile, Wayfare can help Zehra and Kar clean up the event opportunities that are scattered around the board.
What About Combat?
It Scythe combat is almost always inevitable. At some point it usually makes sense to try and take a space by force. When playing as the Crimean Khanate the best strategy is actually to act in direct opposition of this. Instead, use the power for gathering resources.
When looking to colonise you need as many workers as possible. You need to keep going to the village and gaining meeples in order to control as many territories before the end game. It is also an idea to gather wood (which helpfully isn’t anywhere near the Khanate home base) in order to build structures. To get around this it makes sense to travel to the Togawa Shogunate or Republic of Polania bases in order to gather that wood. Depending on which one your opponents are nearest, go to the other one.
This is where Riverwalk can be useful, as there is even more wood slightly south of the Republic of Polania (or North of the Saxon Empire, depending on where you want to go). Controlling that area can be incredibly strategic for the game.
It is worth pointing out that workers require power, popularity, and coin when you start getting more and more into the field. This is another reason to stay safe, stockpile, and liberally use the trade action when needed.
So, do you go into combat? No. Not if you can avoid it. The Factory is the only real reason to fight, unless you find yourself losing ground in the late game, and that is only done for the territory. The upgrades, since you will probably get there just before the end game, are fairly hit and miss. Yes, you will get the coveted “move the same unit twice”, but as Crimea, that won’t make a huge difference. I mean, you can teleport, right?
So there you have it. There you have an exploration of a possible option for playing the Crimean Khanate in another Scythe board game strategy. The trick is to know when to jump and when to stay put. It is the difference between knowing when to turn tail and when to build a homestead.
The most important thing though is to make sure you can report back to the Khan to tell him about the technology, or so the story says at least.
To wrap up, playing as the Crimean Khanate is a challenge and, to be honest, I wouldn’t completely recommend it for new players. Instead, assuming you are not dealing factions out at random, maybe go for someone like the Saxon Empire or the Nordic Kingdoms. The Crimean Khanate require a deeper level of different strategic thinking in order to outmanoeuvre your opponents and, it is probably worth pointing out, I have lost with them more times than I have won.
That being said – it is so fun to teleport in behind an enemy or teleport out of trouble just when they think they have you beat. It requires a bit more leverage to completely and utterly strategically disorientate your opponents, but it is so worth it when it does happen, simply because you are never where they think you are.
What is your favourite Scythe strategy? What do you think of the game and what is your favourite faction to play? Let me know in the comments below.