Designer – Jamey Stegmaier
Artist – Jakub Rozaalski
Publisher – Stonemaier Games, Albi, Angry Lion Games, Arclight, CrowD Games, Delta Vision Publishing, Feuerland Spiele, Fire on Board Jogos, Geekach Games, Ghenos Games, Ludofy Creative, Maldito Games, Matagot, Morning, PHALANX, Playfun Games, sternenschimmermeer
Scythe is a 1-5 (base game) player game set in an alternative history 1920’s backdrop and the world is a very different place - factions have built giant mechanical robots or “mechs” to protect workers in the fields and occasionally attack opposing nations.
Players will take control of one of the five factions in a bid to earn the most money by the end of the game which is triggered by a player placing their sixth achievement star on the achievement track.
First of all I want to admit that this is easily in my top five games of all time so this will be a pretty positive review, that being said I am not alone Scythe still boasts the number 12 spot of BGG’s top 100 board games even now six years after its original release so that, to me, shows the longevity of this game which to most people is considered a modern classic.
How it plays
I am not going to run in to too much detail on this roundup because it would go on for miles but if you want to have a look at the rules I suggest downloading them from the official Stonemaier Games website or from the BGG page.
Players will each have a faction board and player mat, these will be randomly selected during setup so can come out in a number of different variations but each player mat will have the same actions on them, the difference being that the rewards will differ slightly on each board as well as the starting money etc
- On your turn you will move your pawn on to one space on the player board and take the top action, each space will give you a different option that I will briefly explain below
- Move/Gain – This will allow you to take a number of movements or gain some money
- Bolster – This will allow you to increase your strength or take attack cards
- Trade – This will allow you to trade some resources that you already own for another type or gain some popularity
- Produce – This will allow you to produce on a hex where you have a worker
All seems pretty simple so far right? Of course I have not gone in to the intricate little rules which give the game some real meat and make you really need to think about your next few turns but this is the core of the game and if you can grasp this the rest of it comes naturally.
- Next players have the option to take the bottom action of the space they are on, this is where things differ between player boards as different actions will all have a cost but that cost and reward will be different for each mat, the core of the reward will be the same though and I will cover these here.
- Upgrade – This will allow you to take a cube which, will fill one of your top level actions and move it to anywhere on the bottom row of actions, why? You ask, well the answer is simple, when you take a cube away from the top it will increase the reward by revealing another symbol hidden underneath it and when you place it on the bottom row it gets placed over one of the resource costs which in turn makes that reward cost one less, genius.
- Deploy – This action will let you place one of your four mechs out on to the board, each mech starts on your faction mat and is covering a skill such as letting your player move over rivers or adding an extra hex to movement actions, deploying a mech will uncover and therefore unlock one of those skills and the mech, as well as looking cool on the board, will provide you with some muscle whether you are using it for fights or simply to transport your workers around.
- Build – This is going to let you take one of your four buildings and place it out on a space that you own, doing this will uncover a new ability or bonus that you will receive for taking this action in the future for example the ability to move from your mine to any of the pre-printed ones on the map or gaining and extra popularity every time you take the bolster action.
- Enlist – The final action lets you take one of the round tokens from the bottom of your player boards and place it over the top of one of the four icons on your faction mat, this will grant you an ongoing benefit every time someone takes the particular action named next to the one you have just uncovered and gets you the Immediate benefit of the icon which you place it on to.
And that is the basics of how to play, of course there is a lot more to the game and I could spend all day sitting here re writing the rulebook in my own words for you but it would not be as good as the original so I wont bother.
The game ends when someone places their final star (achievement) on the achievement track of the main board, achievements relate to every action you can take in the game and once you have completed one you place one of your stars on the appropriate box, examples being to deploy all four mechs, to build all four buildings, to achieve a personal goal (which you get during setup) win a battle and many more, when the end game is triggered each player counts up for final scoring relating to how popular they are on the popularity track, more popular players will gain extra money for tasks at the end so bare that in mind.
The components in the base retail game are great, you get dual layered thick boards, the main game board is huge, you get detailed miniatures of each character and four mechs per faction as well as a ton of baggies to keep all your bits in, personally I have upgraded all my components which I would recommend to anyone who likes the game, if you have never played and don’t know if it will be your thing then obviously just stick with the core box for now which will do you just fine and is better quality than some deluxe versions of games that are on the market.
This game has endless hours of fun, the expansions which I will cover in another article add loads to it but the base game alone can be used time and time again, in fact I was playing my friends base version without any expansions for a good couple of years before I explored further and got my own copy with every upgrade and expansion known to man. Don’t let the size of the game put you off, you can see from my short explanation of the actions that that is the core of the game, yes there are a lot of filler rules that flesh it out but if you know the basics the rest follows naturally.
If you are new to gaming you wont be able to avoid this game for long anyway, I say go for it and make this your first weightier game, take the plunge and I guarantee that you will have fun and learn some new mechanics along the way, if you are a seasoned gamer that has managed to dodge it for years then I implore you to give it a go, either way this has been and will remain a firm favourite for years to come in my household.