Scythe plays in an alternate history of the 1920’s. Europa has faced the Great War. Amidst the remainder of ashes lays the Factory, a city which fuelled the war with powerful Mechs. Now that the Factory is closed, new factions arise to lay claim to the surrounding lands. Who will gather resources most efficiently and earn the most money?!
Scythe is a 1-5 player game designed by Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games, the expansion even allows for up to 7 players. It’s a highly strategic game based around territory building, economics, civilisation and sometimes it offers a good fight. Once you’ve mastered the rules, the game plays quite quickly with a play time between 1,5 to 2 hours. Scythe feels like a game in which a lot of fights will happen but the opposite is true in most games.
You win Scythe by having the most money at the end of the game. Funny enough it doesn’t feel like you’re playing for money when you are in the middle of a game. You can score a big amount of money with the end scoring. A higher popularity results in better scoring on territory control, goal completion and resource gathering. This can cost you the victory if you are low in popularity.
In order to achieve victory you have to strategically decide what you are going to do every turn and be as efficient as you can with your resource management, movements and territory control. The game ends immediately once a player places six of his stars. These are earned for example by building all your mechs, maxing out on power, building all your buildings, completing all your upgrades, achieving your secret goal, winning a battle and more.
Every player starts with a different faction, each having its own unique abilities and different starting positions. This combined with a random action mat you receive will determine what the best approach is for winning the game. Maybe you can build your mechs early and play aggressive, maybe you are fine on your isolated island and gather resources as much as you can and build everything you need without bothering with the other players. No game will be the same!
Look and Feel
Scythe was created after the artwork of Jakub Rozalski. The artwork is a bit grimy and mechanical as it portraits a dystopian alternative history. The color scheme is perfectly picked and gives you somewhat of an old school feel. Scythe contains nicely modelled mechs and characters each clearly telling a unique story. Even the wooden workers of each faction are unique, adding even more to the look and feel of a faction. You get thick player mats which feels really decent and have cut out spaces to slot your markers in. The coins have some nice little details as well, portraying the different factions. Overall the look and feel really fits the style of the game and there is lots of artwork to discover and link to the different factions you will be playing.
There are quite some rules you have to understand before you can actually start playing Scythe. Even though you basically only have 4 options each turn, it is still pretty difficult to master when you need to use what option. Each option has two actions and you want to try to perform as many actions as you can. In order to do this you have to manage your resources and your unit placement or movement.
Of course, like every game, it is way easier if someone is available who already played the game. It is easy to teach new players because all the information is publicly known (except for the secret objective of course). This greatly helps in supporting new players and explaining the game as you go.
Scythe has great replay-ability! The base game has 5 different factions and the expansion gives you 2 more. Every faction has a unique ability which already plays differently. When you combine this with any of the 5 (or 7 with expansion) different action mats you have a total combination of 25 or 49 different setups. This already gives you plenty of options to have a different experience every time you play the game.
Right now this is probably one of our favourite games. It has a nice theme and lots of different strategies you can try out. Once you have played it a couple of times, it’s actually a pretty easy game and that is what it makes it so hard. Eventually you get to the point where the player who wins is the player who is the most efficient with his turns. You’re constantly reworking strategies and somehow trying to block your opponents if they are running ahead. Even though all knowledge is pretty much open on the table, it can still come to a surprise how quickly the end of the game lurks around the corner. The included achievement list also gives you some challenges to work towards. All in all, lots to explore while playing Scythe.
At the time of writing there are two expansions and it is known a third one is on its way. Thus far I have only played the Invaders from Afar expansion. This adds two new factions, giving even more diversity. This expansion also opens up the game to 7 players! Although definitely possible, I think 7 is just a bit too much. Overall I enjoy the game best with 4 or 5 players. The new factions add new mechanics using tokens but they greatly suffer from movement speed. This makes these factions only a viable option if you play with more people. In a 2 player game, they are heavily underpowered.
I think the second expansion, Wind Gambit, adds more in regards to changing gameplay. It adds air ships for every faction changing the ways of transportation. It also adds new end goals to achieve which change how the game ends. Although I have yet to play this expansion, I think I will be more excited by what it adds than Invaders from Afar did, gameplay wise.
Like I said before, Scythe is probably one of our favourite games at the moment. This is one of the few games I am buying all the expansions for because I know I will definitely play them enough to be worth it. You should give this game a chance if you like a little bit more strategical games or if you like resource management. You should play Scythe a couple of times to really get a good feel for the game. If you think you are going to play a war game, let me stop you right there because this is by no means a war game even if it looks that way.
The only point of critique I have is that in some situations or combinations you can start with a bit of a disadvantage. Especially with the new factions of Invaders from Afar. You can always come up with a work around strategy. However if you play with a small amount of people, you will be heavily impacted by this.