scythe board game factions

Scythe board game: Factions

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Although you can play every Scythe faction as you like (they can all explore encounters, build buildings, enlist, deploy mechs and fight), this will only work against very weak opponents (I looked into basic strategy in previous article – read this first). Against better ones, you have to take into consideration your faction’s strengths and weaknesses and play accordingly. That’s the only way to stay competitive in a harder game. So, in order to get to know the Scythe board game factions, I want back to the library (or what they are called these days, the internet).

Check out Scythe’s BGG page.

There are five different factions available in Scythe – we’re talking only about the base game for now (I cover the expansion in a separate article): Nordic Kingdom, Rusviet Union, Polania Republic, Saxony Empire and Crimean Khanate.

The faction’s abilities and their constant starting positions suggest that there is an optimum always-working strategy to play each. Imagine openings at chess.

But thanks to different player mats, random encounters and objectives, this is not the case. Gameplay is different every game, but still somewhat faction specific, thus certain guidelines for each faction can still be drawn. I’d say there is just the right amount of randomness in every set-up of the game.

Nordic Kingdom
scythe nordic kingdom faction

Faction special ability: Workers have the ability to swim across rivers.

Mech special abilities:

  • Riverwalk: Onto forests and mountains.
  • Seaworthy: Character and mechs can move and retreat onto lakes.
  • Artillery: Before combat, pay 1 power for opponent to lose 2.
  • Speed: +1

Starting peninsula resources: wood and oil, with access to metal.

Starting Power and Combat cards: 4 and 1.

Nordics are your Viking lookalikes and, as their name suggests, they start on the north of the map. Thanks to the ability of their workers to swim, they are a very flexible faction to play. They are very easy to adapt their strategy to whatever player mat you get. That makes Nordics one of the better factions for beginners.

Their game usually starts with moving at least one worker to a village. They can move both, but that makes it difficult to access metal and build mechs later. When the workers swim across, you can then also build mechs there, which negates the need for riverwalk. Building an early mill is not a bad idea, because your workers will be spread out more than usual.

A defensive balanced play works best for Nordics. They can use Seaworthy to retreat to lakes if they lose combat and are then ready to counterattack the next turn – combine this with Artillery and opponents will be reluctant to attack you in the first place. Take riverwalk as your last ability.

Rusviet Union

scythe rusviet union faction

Faction special ability: You can choose the same section on your action mat as in previous turn.

Mech special abilities:

  • Riverwalk: Onto farms and villages.
  • Township: Move between any village you control and the Factory.
  • People’s Army: In combat with at least one of your workers, play one more combat card.
  • Speed: +1

Starting peninsula resources: village, metal and oil.

Starting Power and Combat cards: 3 and 2.

The Russians are a very powerful faction and another beginner friendly one, mostly thanks to their special ability. They are all about production. Sit on resource needed for your bottom row action for production and you have four turns completed and a star in the bag. This ability is so powerful, that Rusviet are not allowed to have the industrial mat. That combination is considered overpowered.

Rusviet starts on a village, which means they can start producing right away and in the second turn you can already have five workers. Trade to get the rest of the metal and carry your workers to the next tile and then produce, produce, produce.

As mechs go, speed is always useful, but with Township you can also get to the factory relatively early. Getting a good factory card can be, thanks to special ability, very powerful as well. I would get People’s Army next (do discourage attacking me) and Riverwalk for last.

One of the problems, the Rusviet has is food, which is not very accessible. That means less enlisting and less reliance on your neighbors. You have to be self-sufficient.

A lot of production and closed to the outside world. Sounds historically familiar? 🙂

Polania Republic

scythe polania republic faction

Faction special ability: They can choose two options on encounter cards.

Mech special abilities:

  • Riverwalk: Onto villages and mountains.
  • Submerge: Mechs and characters can move onto lakes and move from any lake to another.
  • Camaraderie: After combat, you do not lose popularity for forcing enemy workers to retreat.
  • Speed: +1

Starting peninsula resources: food and wood with access to village.

Starting Power and Combat cards: 2 and 3.

Poles are a very outgoing faction. They have the weakest starting position (lack of metal and oil makes problems for their bottom row actions) and are forced to move and explore. Their special ability reflects that and the more encounters you get, the more you benefit from it. Just try not to pick options where you lose too much popularity.

Best way to start a game is to move to village and move your character closer to the first encounter. You can then produce or trade for metal. Get to the first encounter – it will greatly influence how you continue with your game.

Mobility is key. Use whatever opportunity your player mat offers to get your character in the middle as soon as possible. Build a mine (use that wood you have) to move or riverwalk, if that’s not possible. Use mech abilities to further boost your movement possibilities. Do Camaraderie last.

Polania is a strong enlister and depends on its neighbors a lot. You have food. Look at what your neighbors are likely to do and enlist accordingly.

After you get to the middle and pick up a few more encounters, you’re in a very strong position for the mid and end game. All you have to do is survive the struggle to get there.

Saxony Empire

scythe saxony empire faction

Faction special ability: Number of stars they can get from combat is not limited.

Mech special abilities:

  • Riverwalk: Onto forests and mountains.
  • Underpass: Mechs and characters can move from and to mountains and tunnels as if they were adjacent.
  • Disarm: opponent loses 2 power, if combat takes place on a tunnel or mine.
  • Speed: +1

Starting peninsula resources: oil, metal and village.

Starting Power and Combat cards: 1 and 4.

The Germans are all about military might and combat capability. Their strong starting position (access to early mechs with metal) combined with Underpass and 4 combat cards means, they can start fighting and hurting other players early on and win a game before others are strong enough to respond.

Best way o start a game is move to village, then produce and get an early mech with underpass ability. Combine that with speed and disarm and Saxons can prey on weak targets all around the map. Riverwalk is not very useful.

Saxons don’t focus on economy. They can do it, but it’s not something to worry about. Build things that directly affect your combat capabilities (armory, bolster, enlist if you can afford it) and then get out in the middle and look for fights. You can go to the factory, if you like, to provoke other players even more. But if they happen to wander into a tunnel, they have no chance (Disarm).

Crimean Khanate

scythe crimean khanate faction

Faction special ability: You can use one combat card per turn as a resource.

Mech special abilities:

  • Riverwalk: Onto farms and tundra.
  • Wayfare: Mechs and characters can move from a territory to your home base of another inactive home base.
  • Scout: Before combat, you can steal one combat card from your opponent.
  • Speed: +1

Starting peninsula resources: food, village and metal.

Starting Power and Combat cards: 5 and 0.

Last, we have the Mongols. Or the Crimeans, they call them here. Combat cards are the name of the game. They can use one per turn as a resource supplement, but they start with none. Your focus should be to get a steady inflow of combat cards – best achieved by enlisting, since you have food. With bolster, it’s still better to go for power, not combat cards.

After combat cards enlistment, choose your enlistments on what your neighbors are likely to do. Crimeans are very weak for building (wood is hard to come by). They are nomads, after all.

Crimeans have a hard time to get to the middle of the board. Their only option for that is Riverwalk. They can get to other inactive bases with Wayfare and get an encounter or some needed resources that way. It’s not the best ability, but it’s better than nothing. Speed is useful, as always and Scout adds to their combat card philosophy.

Combine all these factors, and Crimeans tend to focus on the outskirts of the map and stay below the radar of others (especially Saxons like to pick on them). I find them very challenging to play, as even one combat loss can set you way back and with limited mobility it’s hard to come back.

Click here to read Scythe: Digital Edition Review

Conclusion

I have not listed the factions in random order. Instead, they are sorted by how challenging I find them to play. On top there are beginner friendly Nordics and on the bottom, challenging nomadic Crimeans.

But that does not mean any faction is stronger or weaker. They are just different and that asymmetric play with plenty of different approaches is what makes Scythe so tasteful. I like how the abilities of factions match their general philosophy, giving each a unique taste.

Click here to read my review of Scythe.

Bottom line – that means I do not have a favorite faction. I like them all. Do you have a favorite faction? Comment below.

Vasilij

8 thoughts on “Scythe board game: Factions”

  1. I have never come across any of these games before, so I’m afraid I can’t offer any experience, however, I must admit that these games do look very interesting and I would love to play them, I couldn’t find a link on this site but I found the link on one of your other posts, I also have a friend who I know will be very interested, so I will be forwarding this post to him, thank’s for sharing.   

    Reply
  2. I just started playing Scythe recently and wanted to look into the factions and which one to play. Even though I do not know much about the game yet this article made me decide which faction I would like to try out for a bit. The Rusviet Union looks like the faction that has caught my eye. Will try that out for a bit and see how it goes. Great article, really help me decide which faction to try out more.

    Reply
    • Rusviet’s are a very beginner friendly faction, so that’s a good choice. I’d even go as far to say, they are slightly overpowered. 🙂

      Reply
  3. These are really interesting games, I am not really a gamer apart from the old games such as monopoly etc. These look really interesting and I will be looking into them for a family evening. Thank you for taking the time to put this together and share. Do you have youtube channel where you show your self live playing with friends?

    Reply
  4. From reading up online, the consensus is that Crimea is the strongest faction. The 2 combat card abilities are strong, and wayfarer is good if used efficiently.

    Reply
    • I would agree somewhat. They are very strong, but also not the easiest to do well with. Number of players (for the Wayfare) also affects that. Less is better.

      Reply

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