Imagine an alternate reality in the setting of post-war Europa in the 1920’s. Factions struggle for control of precious resources and attempt to gain the popularity of the masses to convince new recruits to join their forces. Each faction crowned by their prized possessions; mechanized juggernauts, built specifically to bolster the special talents of each faction.
In “Scythe” a 2-5 player game by Stonemaier games, with incredible art and world by Jakub Rozalski, players take control of the head of a faction trying to gain power over Europa in an alternate time referred to as “1920’s Plus”. Each faction grants the players special abilities, and gives the players unique strategies to gain the upper hand over their opponents. Join me as I travel to the unique world of Scythe, and see if you can acquire enough resources, and gain enough popularity over the masses, to gain control and ultimate power.
How to play
Scythe has many rules, and they may not all be mentioned in this review.
In Scythe, each player gets a unique faction, set apart by unique mechs and special abilities. Played on a board made up of hexagons, players start with a plastic leader figure placed in their home territory, and two wooden workers placed in adjacent hexes. The board is made up of different hexes that players will be producing resources on and also fighting over.
On each players turn, players get to choose one of four actions indicated on the top of their personal player board. Underneath each of these actions is a second action at the bottom of the board. If the top action is performed, and the player has the indicated resources to perform the action listed underneath that action, the player may do so. The top actions are either free or have a minimal cost, whereas the bottom actions have a large cost.
Top actions include producing resources on a certain number of hexes where you have workers, (resources as wood, metal, food, and oil), moving your pieces, trading a coin for resources, or bolstering your power to increase your factions fighting strength.
Bottom actions include building mechs (using metal), building certain buildings that give you bonuses (using wood), upgrading your actions to make them more efficient, like costing less materials (using oil), and recruiting (using food).
Players will continue taking one action at a time until the game ends.
There are two tracks displayed on the game board that players needs to keep track of. One track is the power track and shows how much power each faction has. Power is useful if factions are fighting for control of a hex.
The other track is popularity. Popularity is very important, and based on how high each faction’s popularity is on this track, they will receive a different amount of points for each end game objective, when the game is over.
At first, players will gain resources and upgrade their factions, but eventually mechs come on to the board, and players will start moving closer to each other and even having conflicts over important hexes on the board.
The game ends when one person is able to complete 6 common objectives, and places 6 stars on the objective track. Objectives include building all of your mechs, maxing out your popularity, and winning a combat, among many other things. Once someone places their 6th star, the game immediately ends and points are totaled up.
Scythe is a fluid, unique, smart, and beautiful game. Although learning took 1-2 full play throughs, the end result is a game that continues to leave me amazed by its perfection.
The game looks incredible. The art is unique, and completely immersive. I love the theme, and really want to allow myself to be taken into this world every time I play. Each faction is unique and offers a different gameplay experience. The quality of the components is top notch as well, making the game a gem in my collection.
Gameplay has a way of being deep and complex, but simple and intuitive at the same time. The game can be as simple as gathering resources and building mechs to take control of the board, to as in depth as upgrading your player board to its full potential before building anything.
I think the pivotal mechanic in the game is the managing of the player board, and learning how to be as efficient as possible in order to take both actions as often as you can. Although all players have the same actions, they are in a different order on the player boards, and depending on which board you get, some actions are easier to perform than others. This really nudges the players toward a different strategy each game and makes sure the game is never the same twice.
Winning Scythe can be difficult, but there are tons of different ways to victory. Whether it’s trying to engage in and win as many combats as possible, avoiding combat and farming resources, or taking the center of the board and trying to hold as much terrain as you can, each strategy can be effective if done with the right faction. I love this diversity. Such variety makes unlimited replayability, and after many plays, gameplay has not gone stale.
If playing with new players, the game can definitely be on the long side, even as long as 2-3 hours. I highly recommend playing a short version of the game, making the winning objective 4 stars instead of 6, until players get used to the actions and flow of the game. After many plays, a 4 player game for my group now takes about 45-60 minutes.
Do yourself a favor and add this game to your collection. Whatever game you were thinking about purchasing next, push it back and buy Scythe first.
I regret not buying this game much sooner. Scythe is now the most played game in my house and in my gaming group. It is requested by my friends more than other games, and just continues to please each time it is brought to the table.
Two expansions have been made already, one expansions makes the game go up to 7 players, adding two new factions, and the other expansion adds amazing airship miniatures to the board. There is also another expansion set to release this year (2018), said to add a legacy style aspect to the game.
If you’re interested in picking this one up (you should be), you can find it here!
Play on boys and girls!