Want to know more about the gameplay and different components of the Ultimate Scheme boardgame? You’ve come to the right place.
Ultimate Scheme works for 2 to 4 players, and takes about an hour to play on average – slightly more than an hour with four players, and a bit less than an hour with just two. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the different game elements:
Faction. You begin the game by choosing or being dealt one of the ten (or more) factions. Each Faction has a special ability, and an associated starting city. The base game starts with ten factions.
Ultimate Scheme. You also receive an Ultimate Scheme card, which you keep hidden from other players. Your Ultimate Scheme provides your victory objective—usually ten progress points with a special condition, or fifteen progress points if you can’t meet your special condition. The base game starts with ten Ultimate Schemes to choose from.
Schemes. You gain progress toward your Ultimate Scheme by completing smaller schemes. Each scheme has a resource cost and an associated location. You need a minion in the scheme’s location in order to spend the resources to execute the scheme. When executed, each scheme provides progress and sometimes other rewards, such as bonus minions, resources, or cards. There are three separate Scheme Decks, each with 21 Scheme cards:
- Criminal Schemes generally involve Finance and Science resources, and are more likely to also involve the use of the Ninja (described below).
- Subversion Schemes are more likely to require Occult and Science resources, and more frequently interact with the level of Anarchy in the world.
- Genius Schemes are mostly powered by Science and Finance resources, and have a higher incidence of Schemes that also require the rare Unobtanium resource.
Minions. In order to execute the schemes that lead to your victory, you’ll need to collect resources from around the world. Fortunately, you have an army of minions at your disposal, which look a lot like a handful of meeples. You begin play with two minions in your home city. Each round, your minions will move about the world to collect the resources you need and execute the schemes in your hand. You can gain more minions by recruiting them in certain locations (denoted by the minion icon in the location’s resources), or through completing Schemes or playing Action cards.
Resources. Each location on the game board provides a unique mix of resources which you will use to further your schemes. Finance, Science, and Occult resources are represented by wooden tokens, 40 of each, while Unobtanium is represented by small crystals. Some locations provide other “resources”, such as new minions, Action Cards, access to a Hidden location, or the Ninja.
The Ninja. The Ninja is a special resource that can only belong to one player at a time. These ninjas are mercenary and capricious, and work for whoever has paid them most recently. Your minions can hire the Ninja in Okinawa by gathering resources in that location, but the Ninja can also be swayed by completing Schemes that grant the Ninja as a reward, or through Action cards. The Ninja stays with you until someone else acquires his services, but you must have the Ninja in your employ to complete Schemes that require it.
Action Cards. Using action cards, you might ambush an enemy minion, uncover a double agent, discover a hidden location, gain bonus resources, recruit the Ninja, or undertake a number of other actions. Each card describes its effect, and also the phase of the turn in which it can be used (i.e. Move step or Resource step).
Locations. The locations on the board represent not only places to gather resources, but also the locations where Schemes must be executed. The game board displays a total of 18 locations: 12 normal locations (denoted by a solid circle around the space) and 6 Hidden locations (denoted by a dashed line around the space).
Hidden Locations. In order to move a minion into a Hidden location, you’ll first need to gain Access. You can get Access as a reward for completing certain Schemes, or through Action Cards, or otherwise by gathering resources in Doha.
Anarchy. The Anarchy track measures the level of general discord and unrest in the world. Some Schemes and Action Cards increase Anarchy when played, and some schemes can’t be executed until Anarchy is sufficiently advanced.
X-Factor. As an optional rule, in order to win the game, you must also complete this shared objective in addition to your Ultimate Scheme. The base game starts with six different possible X-Factors, making the victory conditions different each time you play. We recommend that first time players play without the X-Factor.
Each turn is broken up into five steps. Starting with the First Player, all players complete the first step, then all players complete the second step, and so on. After all steps have been completed, the player to the right of the first player becomes the new First Player for the next round.
- Draw Step. Each player draws one Scheme from his or her choice of one of the three Scheme decks.
- Move Step. Each player chooses one of his minions and moves the minion to an adjacent location. After all players have moved one minion, they each take a second move in turn order. During this phase, a player might end up moving one minion twice, or two minions once. A player can always elect to not move a minion.
- Resource Step. Each player chooses one of his minions and gains resources from that minion’s location, depleting that location for the turn. After all players have collected resources once, they collect a second time, in turn order. Resources cannot be gained from a depleted location, regardless of whether the location was depleted by an ally or enemy minion.
- Execute Step. Each player can execute a Scheme, provided the player has the appropriate resources to spend and has a minion in the Scheme’s location. While players take turns executing schemes, there is no limit to the number of schemes a player can complete in a given turn, provided that the resource and location requirements are met.
- End Step. If Victory has not been achieved, then players reset their minions used to deplete resources, and any minions in hidden locations return to their home cities. The First Player changes, and play continues in the next round.