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Scythe» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Review of Scythe rss

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Brett Baumgarten
United States
Oshkosh
Wisconsin
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Scythe is an engine-building game with strong territory control elements and a little bit of combat thrown in for good measure. After a much-hyped and heavily-funded Kickstarter campaign, it rose very quickly up the BGG rankings. Does the experience match up with this meteoric rise, or does it land somewhere south of that area?


Rules; or, How does this hybrid game differ from others which share similar elements?

Let's get one thing straight about Scythe. Despite the designer's well-intentioned statements, it is NOT a 4X game. It is an efficiency-focused engine-building game first and foremost. The engine-building is important primarily because Scythe has no set number of turns. Variable game length is not unique in and of itself, but it means that every action has to count, or otherwise be part of a player's larger overall plan. If one doesn't play efficiently, striving to perform both potential actions each turn as often as possible, one will invariably lose to someone who does.

As a territory control game, Scythe isn't breaking a lot of new ground. It's an integral part of the game, dictating what resources you are able to produce, what other areas of the board you can get to, and often accounting for upwards of 40-50% of your final score. The unusual way that territory control factors in is how it interweaves with the engine-building (and by extension, the combat). As mentioned earlier, the territories you control dictate the resources you can produce (if you have workers there, etc.). Unlike other games, these resources are placed in the areas that produced them, rather than into some inaccessible Bag of Holding that each player has located off the board somewhere. This means that if you don't properly safeguard them before using them, another player can potentially swoop in and take them by force.

That leads us to combat. Continuing with the theme of “Scythe didn't do it first,” combat is pretty simple, sharing elements from (as I understand it) games like Kemet. It has been argued round and round to no end about how important combat is or is not in Scythe. I'm not entering that debate. Combat exists. It's there. It's a thing. Some metagames will employ it more than others. In my experience, very few games go without any combat. It is not the focus of the game, but its presence can't be ignored, or you risk getting trampled underfoot by those who do employ it.

Finally, bearing special mention is the solo mode, made possible by the automa deck. This deck of cards is meant to control a non-human player in a way that simulates a human opponent as closely as possible, and it does a remarkable job. It has varying degrees of difficulty, and given extra automa decks, it is possible to play against multiple non-human opponents.


Appearance; or, Does this mech make my resource management look fat?

Scythe is a game that came about due to the inspiration provided by the artwork of Jakub Rozalski. This art permeates every facet of the game. It's on the cards, the board, the box, and the rulebook. The miniatures are based solely on this artwork. It is a unifying vision, and the game's aesthetic either lives or dies by it. By most accounts, it doesn't just live by the artwork, it thrives. The world that Scythes builds through its artwork, lore, and gameplay is consistent and engrossing. The attention to detail in all of these areas is apparent and appreciated.

I can't speak to all of the extras that can go along with Scythe, namely the realistic resources, the board extension, or the art book. I do have the metal coins, and they are generally very high quality. The paint on the $1 denominations that get used most frequently began to rub/chip off after 15-20 plays, while the other coins are all pristine.


Gameplay; or, Is it actually fun to harvest giant fighting robots?

I'm going to take the stance that Scythe is indeed fun. Personally, I love the solo mode, and the bulk of my plays have been logged in this manner. I love efficiency, and Scythe rewards this behavior. In multiplayer, you are rewarded for paying attention to the actions of other players and adjusting to and accounting for them. Strategy is paramount, but tactical decisions are still presented and games can hinge upon them.

Scythe is not for everyone, however. Those who feel that the early and sometimes middle/late game are “on rails” or “scripted” have an opinion that is no less valid than those who feel it is “dynamic” and “exciting.” At the end of the day, I disagree, but I can definitely see where they are coming from. In the early game, everyone is confined to their own hemmed-in peninsula. In the late game, you are either racing for that sixth star, or racing to spread your forces out to glom extra territories onto what you already have in an effort to outscore the others who are racing for that sixth star. To me though, there is a lot that can and does happen between those two points in the game. How you get there tends to vary, and there's something very satisfying about figuring out the best path while avoiding the hazards presented by the other players.


Conclusion; or, Why should you buy this game?

You should buy Scythe if you want one of the finest-looking games in recent memory. You should buy Scythe if you appreciate building an engine, but want to add in the threat of someone busting up one of your pistons (or vice versa). You should buy Scythe if you enjoy both solo and multiplayer gaming. You should buy Scythe if you are the person at work who is always telling others how they could be more efficient. You should buy Scythe if you stock your kitchen in such a fashion that you minimize the number of steps required to go from getting a bowl, to getting the cereal, to getting the milk, your spoon, and then sitting at the table.

You should not buy Scythe if you are expecting a 4X game. You should not buy Scythe if there is a large skill gap between potential players, as some may never feel like they're even competing most of the game. You should not buy Scythe expecting combat to rule the roost. You should not buy Scythe as a purely solo experience, not because it's bad, but because there are much more affordable options in that space (I guess that's more my opinion, as everyone handles their money differently, but for the price that Scythe generally goes for, I just can't recommend it when there are games like Friday, Deep Space D-6, etc. out there).


Kickstarter Experience; or, I backed this on Kickstarter and want to say things about that thing too.

Scythe was the first game I backed on Kickstarter, and ended up being the first game I received from Kickstarter as well. It was advertised as an August delivery, and arrived a full month early. Updates on the game's status were frequent, and creator Jamey Stegmaier provided a number of behind-the-scenes glimpses into every phase of the game's journey. One of my player mats had a production-related defect, and it was extremely quick and easy to get a replacement. I wouldn't hesitate to back a future game that interested me from the same creator, and might even be tempted to back a game that otherwise didn't interest me as much as a direct result of this experience.
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Randal Divinski
United States
Natick
Massachusetts
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Very nice write up. There are a lot of reviews out there, so it is no mean trick to add something concise and original to the discussion. This is almost a field guide to the Scythe-Discourse. But you also took a position, which I appreciate. I give your review 6 STARS.
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v b
United States
New Jersey
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Are the automa decks part of the retail game or just the kickstarter?
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Jay K
United Kingdom
West Malling
Kent
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Nothing to see here. Please move on
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Skrell wrote:
Are the automa decks part of the retail game or just the kickstarter?


There is an Automa deck in the Retail version I believe.
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Paul Wise
United States
Tupelo
Mississippi
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Yes, that is correct.
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corum irsei
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Impressive review - concise and accurate, in other words: excellent.

Thanks for posting!
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Michael Frost

Iowa
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An interesting, effective review. But one with a most unique perspective: "I'm going to take the stance that Scythe is indeed fun. Personally, I love the solo mode, and the bulk of my plays have been logged in this manner." I can't imagine having much "fun" playing this solo, but to each their own.
 
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Chuck J
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Skrell wrote:
Are the automa decks part of the retail game or just the kickstarter?


I'm just Reposting from "Online Automa cards for Scythe"

Greetings:

I've been working on an online Automa simulator similar to the one that was released for Viticulture.

The version I've created for Scythe is right here:

http://ai.nagy.tech/scythe

Please post any feedback you have and I will aim to improve it.

Special thanks to jameystegmaier and Flávio for helping me source the icons.

Regards,

Jonathan
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Brandon Zappala
United States
Florida
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Bravo!
Great Review!
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