“It is a time of unrest in 1920s Europa. The ashes from the first great war still darken the snow. The capitalistic city-state known simply as “The Factory”, which fueled the war with heavily armored mechs, has closed its doors, drawing the attention of several nearby countries.”
Scythe, by Stonemaier Games, is a 1-5 player game with elements of area control, resource management, and combat. The game plays in about 90-115 minutes and is optimal for ages 14 and up.
Gameplay: I’m not going through the gameplay in-depth as there is quite a bit of information there. It is a fairly simple game but there is a lot of information to know up front. Once you understand the game each turn is quick and easy.
In Scythe players control one of five factions in an alternate 1920’s. Players, claim territories, manage resources, and build their factions power and popularity in order to complete a number of objectives. On first glance, especially when looking at the large mech figures, one might think that the game is one of conquest. In actuality combat and conquest play a very small role in the game, and are often times not an ideal course of action. In order to end the game players want to claim 6 objectives. These range from having all eight of their workers on the board, building all four buildings, or upgrading their faction to its entirety, to winning up to two battles, or gaining 18 points on the popularity track.
Each person has a player board with four spots and each spot has a top row and a bottom row of actions. Each turn players take turns using one of the spaces by placing their token on it. Once they place their token they can do their top row action, then their bottom row action provided they have the necessary requirements for each. The top row actions will be Move, Produce, Bolster, and Trade. ‘Move’ allows players to move two units one space, ‘Produce’ allows players to produce resources on two hexes that contain workers. The amount of resources produced on a hex is determined by the number of workers on that space. Resources are used for bottom row actions and end game scoring. ‘Bolster’ gives players more combat power provided they pay 1 coin. ‘Trade’ allows players to pay 1 coin to gain two resources of their choice.
Once the player has completed their top row action they move on to the bottom row action in the same space. These actions are Build, Upgrade, Deploy, and Enlist. ‘Build’ uses the lumber resource and allows players to build one of their four buildings which give different bonuses but also give the player a presence in a territory even if they move a unit out. ‘Upgrade’ uses Oil as a resource and allows players to make both a top row action give more, and a bottom row action cost less. ‘Deploy’ uses Metal and allows the player to deploy one of their four mechs to the board into a territory under their control. ‘Enlist’ costs food resources but allows players to get extra bonuses for their bottom row actions not only on their turn but on opponent turns as well.
As I said previously, combat is a very small part of the game. In some cases it’s best to not attack anyone. However, combat is fairly simple. Depending on the number of mechs used by the each side, plus if their character mini is present, will determine the amount of combat cards they may use. Each player involved in combat bids an amount of combat power they have available (max 7), adjusting their combat dial accordingly, and then chooses combat cards (up to one per mech/character). When both sides are ready they reveal their combat dial and cards. Whoever has the highest number bid plus amount shown on combat cards added together wins. Both players use, and therefore lose, the combat power that they bid. The losing player moves their units off of the territory to their home base, and the winning player loses popularity by one for each worker that the defender “lost”.
Popularity is a very important part of the end game scoring. The higher your popularity level the higher the tier you are likely to be at. There are three tiers and each change how many points various things give you at the end of the game. For instance on tier 1 every two resources in your possession are worth 1 point and every territory under your control is worth 2 points. in tier 3 (the highest) every two resources are worth 3 and every territory worth 4 points. It might not seem like very much but if both you and your friend have 10 territories but he is at tier 3 and you are at tier 2 that’s a difference of 10 points just for territory scoring. So it’s best to try to do things in the game that give you popularity rather than doing things that might cause you to lose it.
My thoughts: I love this game, plain and simple. It’s a hard game to explain to people because it is fairly unlike every other game out there and yet it has many similarities to many different games. On the surface it looks like a game of conquest as I said, but it really isn’t. You CAN fight, you can also just gather resources and use your mechs to insure that nobody bothers your workers. It’s a unique game. It’s deep but not too hard. It’s a bit of a longer game but it isn’t slow.
Components: Let me just start by pointing out the beautiful art on the box itself. They art work throughout the game is done by an artist named Jakub Rozalski from Poland, and he is fantastic. His art came before the game. The game was developed around the art and world created by Jakub. The beauty in the game does not stop at the art though, the character models and mechs are very well made detailed plastic miniatures. Each character is unique and each faction has four mechs unique to each faction as well. The resources are nice wood pieces in the shapes associated with what they are trying to portray. Stonemaier Games has also made deluxe resources available that are molded and painted for an extra cost. The coins used are card board but nicely done in terms of art and quality. Much like the resources, Stonemaier has high quality metal coins available to replace the cardboard coins in the box. Each player board is wonderfully illustrated by Jakub Rozalski and have indents for tokens in cases where they need to be placed. Lastly, the game board itself is very nicely painted with detailed spaces for towns, mountains, farms and the other resource producing spots. The scoring, popularity, and combat power track are very nice, easy to use, and show up well. My one complaint is that the colour used on the map portion of the board does make it look a little muddy, when looking from further away it can be harder to tell what is what in each space.
If you have a chance to play this game I highly recommend that you do.
For the Parents:
Violence: There is mechanical combat involved. While art might suggest combat, it is never graphic and usually only implied.
Sexual Content: None.