Scythe the Boardgame Review

Scythe is the most anticipated game of the year 2016. Fun fact: scythe is used for both farming and war. Personally for me Scythe is an alternative to Terra Mystica, both are great games.

Mechanism and Heaviness:
It's basically an action-selection game with resource management and engine building. Solid mechanic. Multiple paths to victory. Very similar to The Gallerist, each turn you choose 1 out of 4 sections with 2 actions available. You can do the top-row action, or bottom-row action, or both (top-row first), or neither. In summary: move, produce, bolster power/ popularity, build structures, deploy mechs, upgrade and enlist recruits. There's no rounds or phases. It's medium heavy. It's thinky. If you like thinky Euro games like Terra Mystica, you'll like this game. Straightforward and intuitive gameplay. The depth of the game relies on the strategies players apply during the game. Almost no downtime, the turns can go very fast between players as resources are limited. Clear iconography. The actions you do are quite similar to the 4 main order tokens in Forbidden Stars/ Game of Thrones though GoT order tokens are more war-based (march, defend, support, raid, consolidate): Deploy (units and structures), Dominate (exploit for resources), Strategize (combat cards), Advance (move units). However, I like Scythe better because there's no destroyed units/ structures.

Theme
It's alternate-history Eastern Europa circa 1920s. Building your small empire on the map. The factions, the miniatures and encounter cards gives more thematic feeling. The encounters provide more options to get more resources, and if you spend more time to read the flavor text on the encounter cards, you get to immerse yourself into the worldbuilding, similar like Arkham Horror game. Can be retheme as Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings if you want.


Components and Setup
The components are superb and top notch, so many different shapes of tokens, different types of cards, the character and mech miniatures looks great on the board! The setup feels very much like Terra Mystica with starting resources (military, combat cards, objective cards, popularity, money) and units + buildings on personal player boards. Wooden token management on the mats like in Terra Mystica and Eclipse. There are several decks like combat, encounter, objective (just need to complete one per game) and factory cards (extra action space, gained when visited The Factory for the 1st time).

pictures courtesy of https://geekdad.com/2015/10/scythe/
pictures courtesy of https://geekdad.com/2015/10/scythe/

Factions and Replayability
Well-balanced asymmetry faction and mech abilities like in Terra Mystica. 3 out of 4 mech abilities are to improve mechs' and character's movement, while the other 1 is to improve combat. Variability created by random pairings of faction mat and player mat for each player. Terra Mystica base game has 14 different factions, with Fire and Ice expansion has another 6 factions (10 different coloured boards), Scythe base game has 5 faction boards and 5 player boards, with 25 different combinations. With the Invaders from Afar expansion, there's gonna be 49 combinations! The replayability is high. Different faction, different starting available terrains, different strategies. You've got to adapt to your surrounding.





Actions
TOP: move/ gain money (by moving, there can be combat/ encounter/ factory), bolster military power/ gain combat cards, trade resources/ gain popularity or produce on tiles (different tile different resource, resources stay on board with worker: wood, oil, metal, food or worker); BOTTOM (pay with resources): upgrade (move cube from top row to bottom row for discount), deploy mechs (special faction abilities), build structures (mine/ monument/ armory/ mill) or enlist recruits (1-time bonus and unlock action-reaction). Dual benefits of the upgrade system - increase top-row action benefit and decrease bottom-row action cost. Some small reminders: mechs share abilities with character, not workers, which include riverwalk; mech and workers can transport resources; mill is an extra territory for production; enlist ongoing bonus include activation from active player and immediate neighbours.

Combat
Threat of combat is constant, but not mandatory. Deterministic combat systemu sing power dial and combat cards like in Dune/ Rex (also Game of Thrones, Forbidden Stars, Cosmic Encounters). Add numbers on power dial (up to military power to spend) and numbers on combat cards (2 - 5, depend on number of units on tile except worker). The combat resolved fast, unlike those other games. Sometimes a game can be without combat. Each faction need only to win 2 combats to put 2 achievement stars on triumph track except the Saxony. Combat will lower attacker's popularity if there is any retreating workers from the opposition faction. There are no units/ structures destroyed, only retreating to home base.

Endgame
Endgame condition triggers when 1 player put 6 stars on the triumph track after fulfilling various requirements. The stars will come out very fast towards the end of the game. Unique endgame condition, very similar to console gaming with the achievement stars on triumph track. Most money win - popularity (love) reminiscent to Euphoria's morale track affect how much money collected for each stars, territories controlled (The Factory counts as 3 territories) and resources controlled. Plus random structure bonus scoring tile.


 
Solo Variant - Automa
There are 4 levels of difficulty, Autometta for easy, Automa for normal, Automaszyna for hard and Ultimaszyna for hardcore. The Automa cards make the solo variant plays very smoothly. Mostly the Automa units would aim to reach The Factory. The Automa actually use a different type of movement with "neighbourhood" concept in which the Automa's unit can teleport to adjacent hex of his other unit, it's a bit tricky to implement at first. The solo variant is as good as The Gallerist and Castles of Mad King Ludwig. A good challenging solo AI indeed and true to the spirit of the game, there's always a threat of war breaking out & I have to be in constant vigilance, prepping my power, mechs & combat cards.




Final Thoughts
Scythe is a keeper. Fans of optimization games like Terra Mystica, The Gallerist, Eclipse, Game of Thrones and Forbidden Stars will be at home with this game, with extra ability to play solo, more streamlined and smoother gamelay plus more backstory during gameplay which adds the thematic feels. Reputable designer of Viticulture and Euphoria fame. Watch Rodney's Watch It Played video before playing the game really helps you understand how the game flows.

picture courtesy of Boarders Tabletop Games Cafe

Expansion
The expansion with extra 2 factions is a must, the board just scream for epic 7-players game! With the base game, it's War of the Five Kings, with the expansion, it's gonna be Battle of the Seven Kingdoms! I think with few more plays, Scythe opening moves will be a bit repetitive, compares to Terra Mystica because the latter has round bonus tile that gives points for different stuff every round that players can aim for. Hope the Invader From Afar expansion has some modules like Tuscany for Viticulture that can be played with the base game. You can play it online at https://beta.tabletopia.com/playground/play/scythe/ though it's abit fiddly there.
 

What Other Reviewers Says So Far:

"The game reminds me of a less overwhelming Clash of Cultures, with thematic choices like Above and Below, with the resource management like an easier version of Eclipse." - ZombieDad2

"The stakes are raised immensely nearing the end. Once those stars start hitting the board they come fast and furious .. and before you know it the game is over!" - rorschach9

"Absolutely beautiful art. Great Production Value. HUGE amounts of variation make for lots of replayability. Simple gameplay with deep strategy. Quick turns with very little downtime. Well integrated theme. Great sense of development and building. It took economy and asymmetry from Terra Mystica, combat from Blood Rage, and "cool parts" from Viticulture." - mavericklancer

"A game with simple rules, but one that lets you use those rules in a diverse and interesting array of ways will stand head and shoulder above the rest." - IronSyndicate

"You're never punished for making "poor choices", only rewarded for making good ones. There's no mechanism that sets you back, no random penalties, and nothing to prevent you from doing whatever you want to do with your faction. You have complete freedom, limited only by the fact that somebody will eventually end the game" -  jayahre

"Recognize that this is a Euro game, much more than it is a war game. Battles are a key element of the game, but they're not the focus. To me it's a perfect blend of minis and meeples, but if you're a hardcore Euro fan who dislikes anything that's not a wooden cube, or conversely, a die-hard Ameri-gamer who wants to move armies of minis across the map and wipe out his enemies, know that Scythe is neither of those games." - powerhouse

"For us, this game is awesome - it allows us to try to build an engine, to produce and harvest resources, to do so under duress and threat of conquest, and it requires that we be aware of what each other player is doing - very aware - so that our own plans can adjust to compensate. Every decision has a tension to it that builds and grows throughout the game. You can develop a strategy, based on your Faction/starting location and your player mat that you can follow throughout the game, but you will have to use good tactical decision making if you want your engine to click into gear before someone triggers the end of the game." - clbroad

"The game is more about the threat of conflict rather than the actual act of exterminating everything that stands in your way." - hazelnutman

"So throughout Scythe, players will be using their action boards as efficiently as they can to send out workers to produce goods, they’ll be spending goods to do things like deploy mechs, build structures, and upgrade actions, they’ll be adventuring with characters to interact with the setting via encounters, and they’ll be occasionally skirmishing—or trying to look tough to keep anyone else from messing with them." - http://www.phdgames.com/scythe-farming-mechs-factory/

"Scythe is a hybrid that leans more toward the euro side, is more complex than Blood Rage, but more “fun” than Terra Mystica, with a decision space similar to games like Dominant Species, and has less combat than Kemet, but more of a buildup to combat similar to Cyclades. Scythe is a complex game, but it is not complicated. It is simple enough to learn and play, but playing well is an entirely different matter. It is certainly a medium to medium-heavy game, and has immense breadth of decision" - pacman88k

"Unsurprisingly, first-timers might find it mind-boggling and unfocused until they finally navigate a path to stomp forward. After that first time, however, Scythe is one of the most interesting games of the year. This is game design at its most rewarding, offering meaningful interaction on the map alongside the fiddle of fine-tuning your faction board, not to mention the balance of powerful mechs alongside alternate strategies for neutering their effectiveness, geography that both matters and can be circumvented, and an entire host of interesting decisions every step of the way." https://thurot.com/2016/07/26/scythe/

"Scythe is a game about efficiency, and your player board is essentially an efficiency puzzle with results that play out on the main board. There's something so satisfying about building your faction up from nothing and seeing your production chain turn into a well-oiled machine. When you're able to plan ahead to set up a string of perfect turns, you feel like an unstoppable genius." http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2016/07/scythe-the-most-hyped-board-game-of-2016-delivers/

"Scythe is a game of puzzles and efficiency with a strong spatial planning element and it is gorgeous! It makes me feel like an adventuring economist, planning to take over the world with my numbers and books and resources and clever planning. I love the multi-layered race and the puzzles generated by the variable action boards and player powers." - milenaguberinic

"Balance is a joy of Scythe. Scythe is a well-timed, evenly paced game that rewards thoughtful examination of the board state and consistently timely action selection. Timing is everything. Combat is incredibly rewarding, while not essential to the game. You cannot warmonger, but the advantage to spread out is too great to turtle. By end game, our small plots of land have filled with war, stolen resources, terrified civilians, and one player who managed to make himself seem less tyrannical than the rest of us. This once empty board is now full of the tales and the legends of how we shaped the history of our game. Action selection and engine building is very exciting and leaves players thinking about how they could have played differently to become more efficient" - http://www.geeksundergrace.com/gaming/tabletop/review-scythe/

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