Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Scythe

 

Product-Scythe

Producer– Stonemaier Games

Price– Preorder here http://stonemaiergames.com/buy-scythe/

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 115 minutes (1-5 players)

Type- Euro

Depth-Medium

TL; DR-Great parts, but player count dependent. 95%

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Basics-  COMRADE! Scythe is a board game of nation rebuilding and development following an alternative World War I.  Players take the roles of different nations attempting to become the most successful nation after the fall.   Each player is given two player boards to start the game.  One board is your nation, describing your nation’s special power and unlockable powers you get when you build mechs-giant walking war machines that provide you with extra powers when you build them.  

The second board each player receives is an action selection board.  Here is where you get more variety from the game.  Each board has a specific type of focus associated with it.  These focuses range from industrial to manufacturing, and the focus of your nation will drastically change how you play.  The second player board also has the actions you will take each turn, but divides the board into top action and bottom actions.  These actions are simple to read as actions with an icon in red being a cost, while icons in green are the resources they provide. This allows for language-independent play.  Top actions typically get you resources to spend while bottom actions are where you spend resources to build your nation.  The top actions are bolster (get points/cards for combat), produce (get resources depending on the tiles you are on), move (move your pieces/earn money), or trade (get two resources or get popularity).  The bottom actions are upgrade, deploy, build structures, or enlist.  These actions require a bit more description.  The action board has a number of spots filled in with squares.  When you spend the upgrade resources, you move one cube from the top (revealing a new option when you take that action) and cover up a bottom cost (making that action that much easier in the future).  Deploy is how you place mechs on the field.  Each mech you deploy unlocks new powers for your character as well as all other mechs such as moving across rivers or having bonuses to combat.  Build allows you to move a structure from your board to the main game board.  Once removed from your board, the space uncovered unlocks new options on your turn like allowing you to move across the board or harvest extra resources.  The final action, enlist, allows you to get extra materials off-turn when opponents to your right and left take bottom row actions.

With the basics, the game starts off with you having two workers on the main game board next to your base and your character mini on your home base.  Players then take actions as described above.  A player selects an action space, then takes the top action, if he/she wants to, of that spaces and then takes the bottom action, if he/she wants to, of the same space.  What makes this interesting is the next time a player selects an action, that player cannot take that same action space!

Two of the things I mentioned above are combat cards/points and popularity.  Popularity is used in scoring at the end of the game.  Popularity measures how well the common man thinks of you.  Depending on your popularity, you receive more points at the end of the game for each area you control, each thing you accomplish, and how many resources you control.  Lower popularity means you earn fewer points, so this is an extremely important number!  Combat is also a simple and fast.  When you move a mech or a character onto a space of another player, combat might happen.  If there are only workers on that space, those workers flee back to their home base and you lose one popularity.  If a mech or a character is on that space, then combat happens after the move action.  Each player selects how much combat power they want to spend on the fight, from 0 to seven, and may select one combat card to add to the fight.  Combat cards range from one to five.  Each side selects what they will spend, (power is spent regardless of whether they win or lose), and reveal to their opponent.  The loser moves back to their home base, the winner gets the tile and all the delicious resources on the tile.

There are a few other minor things as well.  Your character can have encounters which are random cards that describe fun, extra events in the game such as finding a herd of cows that you can kill, buy, or steal causing you to lose or gain resources in the game.  Your character can also move to the center tile of the game and encounter the factory, an old relic of the last war.  The factory has a deck of cards that provide you with an extra action you can take with new exciting options like double moves and bonus resources.  The final thing of note is your goal.  Every player starts the game with two goal cards.  Goal cards state an action you must have accomplished on your turn for you to unlock a bonus way to score in the game.

This game follows a very similar end game mechanic to Euphoria-each player has six stars.  When a player completes a goal such as deploying all his/her mechs or winning a combat, that player places a star on the board in that spot.  When a player places his/her last star, the game is instantly over.  At this point, every player scores points based popularity and tiles they control, stars placed, and each pair of resources as well as the extra structure bonus tile.  The player with the most money/points at the end of the game wins!

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Mechanics– I liked this game’s mechanics, but I didn’t love this games mechanics.  I had fun and built an empire, but I don’t think it’s much of a combat game.  Your actions are quick and easy to do, but the concept of fighting feels slightly added on.  Overall, the game is sleek and works well, but it feels like a cog missing one tooth-the machine hums along well, but every once in awhile, you get a bit of a clunk.  However, the two pieces of the player’s boards do make for an awesome mix as you get vastly different empires attempting vastly different strategies with warlike nations having to focus on farming  while peaceful nations might end up with a manufacturing center.  That variety really makes the game fun.  Also the indents in the board make all the actions that much more fun.  I love the upgrade action so much as I can see and even feel my nation getting better!  I have my minor gripes, but it is a fun game.  4.5/5

Theme-Much like the mechanics, I liked this part of the game, but didn’t love this part of the game.  Combat sticks for me.  We’re post-world war, but the fighting feels simple.  That is good as you resolve combat quickly, but it also means that combat doesn’t have much depth.  I do feel like I’m building and reclaiming pieces of after a war.  The instructions build on the nation’s providing each with their own background, story, and life.  I do feel like each nation when I play and the differences in player boards emphasise the theme each nation is taking. 4.5/5

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Instructions-This game has a ton of instructions, but they do a good job explaining the game.  The rules are not complex with the bulk being chose action, maybe do top action, and maybe do bottom action.  The thickness of the rulebook is to build story (awesome) and to clarify all the working pieces.  I like what I see here.  It does have a few things I’d like clarified like how the submerge powers work, but overall it’s a well done and well laid out rule book that you can learn on the fly, if maybe a tad too long.  4.8/5

Execution– HOLY COW!  Stonemaier games is known for their parts, and it shows in this one!  Players get nice wooden pieces, the resources are all beautiful, even in the more simple price ranges, and the mechs/characters all look beautiful and different.  The details go so far as the worker meeples all have different hats.  It’s just a little detail, but it’s a beautiful one that really shows how much the creators loved this game.  I have an unboxing video showing all the pieces of the game here https://youtu.be/3g9vUQYz-pY .  5/5

Summary-This is an interesting one for me.  I like this game, a lot actually, but I don’t think this is my new favorite.  The mechanics are sleek, the gameplay is fast yet deep, and the execution is amazing.  If have a few issues with the theme and mechanics, mostly dealing with combat.  I do feel like I’m building or maybe rebuilding an empire, but there are just a few things that feel a tiny bit off.  These things don’t derail the game by any means, but it did take me out of the zone a bit.  Also, this game’s experience might rely heavily on the player count.  I have had more fun playing with five players than I did in a head to head match. This might not be the game I ask to bring to the table, but if someone asked if I wanted to play again, I would be happy to any time!  95%

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