If You Like: Bison on Flying Blimps, Steampunks
Player Count: Competitive for 2-5 Players. Solo Mode available.
Complexity Rating: 3 - Heavy
Average Playtime: 60-115 Minutes
Each player begins the game with different resources (power, coins, combat acumen, and popularity), a different starting location, and a hidden goal. Starting positions are specially calibrated to contribute to each faction’s uniqueness and the asymmetrical nature of the game (each faction always starts in the same place).
Scythe gives players almost complete control over their fate. Other than each player’s individual hidden objective card, the only elements of luck or variability are “encounter” cards that players will draw as they interact with the citizens of newly explored lands. Each encounter card provides the player with several options, allowing them to mitigate the luck of the draw through their selection. Combat is also driven by choices, not luck or randomness.
Scythe uses a streamlined action-selection mechanism (no rounds or phases) to keep gameplay moving at a brisk pace and reduce downtime between turns. While there is plenty of direct conflict for players who seek it, there is no player elimination.
If you have ever seen a video on the unboxing and component’s drop of Scythe, you can hear thousands of netizens cheer at the sheer amount of content within this game, which featured a lot of STUFF (well, at least back in 2016). If you’ve done your own research on the internet, you may be confused and very on the fence regarding whether or not you will like this game. Well, here are our thoughts:
Scythe is...interesting. It’s not necessarily a Eurogame since you have looming mechs shifting through the farmlands, mountains and forests that can potentially engage in combat with one another, nor is it simply another fight-heavy Ameritrash game because timing your developments and managing your economic upkeep is just so crucial to keep your civilisation/engine running in order to do well. But what’s also interesting is that, all the grand plans you have in mind, and the specific high-level order of steps you will take, are broken down into many, many seemingly incremental turns. And what’s even more interesting is that you can never take the same action twice consecutively with the exception of the Rusviets (Russian-Vietnamese?). Coupled with the rule that players are allowed to overlap their turns to keep the game in pace, this may mislead players to not care as much about what other people are doing since again, each turn seems so low-impact. But we think this encourages the wrong behaviour, blinding players who will then get frustrated during the middle of their four move chain to deploy that last mech when suddenly,
the game is over?
It’s time to do the scoring?
- You did not spread out your workers to cover more territories,
- You did not play your secret objective that you have been holding back,
- Your popularity track certainly has not even broke into the second tier? And,
- You’re sad, no… you’re disappointed.
So what’s just happened? Is it what's on the table that is a poor design implement or is it the person sitting on the chair?
Is Scythe just a hyped-up kickstarter that only pissed off die-hard Eurogame fans? We disagree. If you can put past the fact that Scythe is not a traditional Eurogame or Ameritrash, and see it for being the 4X Tabletop hybrid that it is (AND as a bonus if you are a fan of Bison Cavalry heroes fighting giant robots over a large honeypot farm), then we think Scythe is perfect for you.
Whilst every turn may seem incremental, this allows players much needed breathing room to observe and react to their opponents, pushing and pulling with the shifting needs of your own economy and the tension of your units moving closer and closer to your opponents, and theirs to yours. SO close to each other that both players could taste war... and unpopularity if you win, because war is bad. So! What do you do? You Bolster to increase your fighting strength because your opponent is moving his Mech towards you. Your opponent, sees you bolstering and gets nervous, so he Bolster's too, so the both of you get stronger and stronger in military power but for the last 5 turns no one has initiated anything yet... sound familiar?
Scythe rewards players who plan their strategy out well, yes. But the victory goes to the player who has been watching and adjusting their strategy ever so slightly per turn to stay on top, and we think that this design is unique, and done well. We don't really have a list of our favourite heavy hybrids, but Scythe would be at the top of that list.