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Subject: Scythe: It almost lived up to the hype. rss

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Andreas Alexiou
Netherlands
Amsterdam
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I received my KS copy of Scythe (Collector’s edition + art book) 2 days ago. It’s hard to explain but the moment I opened that art book, the world started calling me in. I usually receive new games and they collect dust in my shelves maybe for months before I decide to open them up. This time it was different and it was due to the magnificent artwork of Jakub.

I managed to play two 3-player games with different groups (of gamers) already and here’s my experience with it so far.

First experience with the game was the components. I think this time SM Games set new standards. Everything seems so thought out to the tiniest detail that I was actually impressed (which doesn’t happen often). Amazing build quality, aesthetics and functionality. I don’t regret a cent I paid. I will not discuss this part more however as they are many images in this website that speak for themselves.

Second experience with the game was the rulebook, which many times determines whether I will bother with a game at all or not. It’s one of the best rulebooks I’ve had the pleasure to see in a game. I had almost zero questions after going through it for the first time. I also watched Rodney Smith’s video online (which are always quite helpful) but it didn’t add much more this time. It was like the audio book version of the rulebook.

Third experience was teaching the rules to the group. It takes a lot of time. There is an advice in the rulebook to not go through every little rule in advance but explain the basics and tell the rest as you go, combined with the rules summary cards that every player gets. It doesn’t work, unless you do a sample 7-8 rounds and reset. Even basic strategy takes a few rounds to materialize so I can’t have someone spend half an hour e.g. marching towards the “factory” in order to get an awesome tech only to share the detail that “uhm, actually it’s only your character miniature that can interact with the factory to get a technology, sorry”. So practically you have to go over 90% of the rules which can take 30 mins and everyone gets exhausted. I have to say however that everything is intuitive and there were hardly any questions asked. But there is a ton of very intuitive rules in there. Scythe is a complex but not complicated game.

Fourth experience, the gameplay itself. First of all, I would say that Scythe is a forgiving game. In two ways. In doing your actions, it lets you choose to do one, the other, both, none or part of them. This is great. The less restrictions mean less AP. Second, There is some sorts of a scaffolding mechanism embedded in there that doesn't allow you to really mess up. Nothing can really cripple you and in the end there will be no big swings in scores.

The game has a steady pace. However, it can become a little bit tiring around the last 30 mins or so. This happened both times. That’s because towards the end short-term strategies tend to become samey and also while you feel like you achieved your masterplan you still need one or two last stars to end the actual game which translates in building structures that you are not going to use or get workers that you are not going to use, or do some final moves that don’t make much strategic sense but maximize the returns when you feel the end is imminent. Both sessions lasted about 3 hrs., rules explanations included. Let’s say 2 and a half hrs. of pure gameplay. Also, I only had to go back to the rulebook 2-3 times all in all during that time which is great.

What did we do for 2 ½ hrs.? 10% Combat, 30% exploration/area control, 60% of resource/micro-management and building stuff. 5 different players (in terms of style, generally), all of us tended to fall in this pattern so my guess is that the game somehow forces you in this path. Also, in the end, all of us ended up with very similar scores despite our predictions during the game.

Was it fun? Of course not, It’s not a party game. It was engrossing and I could say rewarding too. It wasn’t very challenging, stressful or particularly exciting. For example, I find the micro-management aspect of Through the Ages more challenging, or the combat/area control aspect of Cthulhu Wars more exciting (also the faction asymmetry). But everyone liked it. No one thought it was the best game out there but we all had a good time.

Is it worth buying? Everyone agreed that the collector’s edition made the difference. This game benefits a lot from the world it creates as the mechanics themselves in their majority are not particularly unique or innovative. My two highlights are a) the fact that resources stay on the board and don’t go into players hands and b) the way upgrade works, it’s very smart. Given the above, the gigantic board and realistic components helped to suck us in. It’s like watching a blockbuster in IMAX and then at your laptop screen. It’s the same movie. It just doesn’t feel that great anymore.

Generally, if the above gameplay description fits your criteria for a good game it is worth looking into. I don’t see it as a game I will be playing again and again until I burn out. But I know that every now and then I will be hearing it’s call. I’m keeping my copy for now.

So to sum up. The brilliance of this game comes from the seamless blend of different genres and mechanics, it’s forgiving nature, the engrossing universe it creates and the fact that it makes you feel like you played a big and complex game but it does so in about 2 hrs. Scythe is a well-oiled machine that deserves a chance.

I asked everyone for their opinion after our games. The scores ranged from 7 – 7.5. I will say 7.5, and that’s for the collector’s edition. Probably a 7 for the retail one (based on BGG scoring).

Edit: Typos
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Patrick G.
United States
Glenshaw
Pennsylvania
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Excellent review.
Sounds very similar to what I am going to eventually get around writing. haha.
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Andreas Alexiou
Netherlands
Amsterdam
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Thanks Patrick! Looking forward to reading your views also.
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Michael Pflug
Germany
Schwäbisch Gmünd
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That's exactly how I feel about the game. It's nice and fun, but it doesn't blow me away.
I have fun playing it. It won't become my favorite game, but I don't regret buying it.
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Rodney Cockrell
United States
Corona
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Great review. I think your comment "10% Combat, 30% exploration/area control, 60% of resource/micro-management and building stuff" really sums up the game.
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Mathue Faulk
United States
Cedar Park
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Nice first impressions. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts after a few more games too.
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Tyler DeLisle
United States
Dallas
Texas
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Aion wrote:
It wasn’t very challenging, stressful or particularly exciting. For example, I find the micro-management aspect of Through the Ages more challenging, or the combat/area control aspect of Cthulhu Wars more exciting (also the faction asymmetry).


This was exactly my thought, and what I'm struggling with myself. The hybrid elements are weaved together pretty phenomenally... but it has trouble standing out in my collection while trying to be both. It definitely leans far more on the Euro side than the dudes-on-a-map side, so it lacks that exciting back and forth feeling of a Cthulhu Wars, or even Kemet. So what about the Euro side? Well it borrows heavily from Terra Mystica, but I'm not so sure that if I wanted that style of game if I'd reach for this over Terra Mystica which has much more to juggle and manage without someone winning suddenly because they pulled off 3-4 stars in one turn before you were ready.

Still anxious to play more and see if it grows for me.
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Forsman
United States
Ely
Minnesota
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So I have played 3 - solo games, 5 two player games, 3 three player games and my % very a bit from your review Combat can be a huge swing if surprise attacks works, Exploration seams less important so with my games 30% combat, 20 % exploration / area control 50% resource management.

one key i have found is planing out your stars for 6 can very easy to reach and fast if you don't go for everything. after our group got into it the games were about hour and half.

so for some who sadly didn't get the Collectors edition but still loves the game... so for me it's 9
 
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Adam P
United States
Seattle
Washington
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Quote:
Was it fun? Of course not, It’s not a party game. It was engrossing and I could say rewarding too. It wasn’t very challenging, stressful or particularly exciting. For example, I find the micro-management aspect of Through the Ages more challenging, or the combat/area control aspect of Cthulhu Wars more exciting (also the faction asymmetry). But everyone liked it. No one thought it was the best game out there but we all had a good time.


This is what we thought, too, only I felt the game play seemed very very similar to Antike!
 
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M V
United Kingdom
South Brent
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As a dudes-on-the-map territory control euro, the games I compare Scythe to are Eclipse and Kemet (heavy focus on direct conflict) and Terra Mystica (conflict is more abstract and indirect). I think all of those games are more innovative and elegantly designed. Scythe is a fine game, maybe slightly above average but not much more. Its appeal to me is that it is just militaristic enough to appeal to that crowd while being light enough on direct conflict to be palatable to those who just want pure euro engine building and resource management.

I think people have tended to downplay the fighting too much. It's not the focus, but it's a significant aspect of the game. If you aren't planning on violence yourself, you're still going to be constantly working to defend yourself against it - else someone's going to come over and drink your milkshake.

The art on the cards is lovely, but I found the map aggressively ugly.

 
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Tim Kuipers
Netherlands
Reeuwijk
Zuid Holland
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Aion wrote:
There is some sorts of a scaffolding mechanism embedded in there that doesn't allow you to really mess up. Nothing can really cripple you and in the end there will be no big swings in scores.]


Scythe is an efficiency game. If everyone at the table has an equal grasp of how the different actions, resources and upgrades interact, than it is possible that endscores will be very close. If this is not the case however, than it is very much possible to fall behind and be out of the running for first place. Yesterday I finished a game in which the first player (me) had a score of 87, while the last had a score of 36. So I can't agree with your perception that the game has a build in safety net. (It is impossible to be knocked out of the game, but you can be out of the race for first place.)

I also don't agree with your assessment that the game deserves an extra 0,5 points for the collectors edition components. I have the metal coins, but opted out of the realistic components. I much prefer the wooden resource bits and they are excellent quality. Honestly the retail components are such great quality that they feel like a collectors edition allready and the collectors edition adds nothing at all to the gameplay. (Even though I greatly enjoy my metal coins and art book.)
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Andreas Alexiou
Netherlands
Amsterdam
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Sgtlorenzo wrote:
[q="Aion"] Honestly the retail components are such great quality that they feel like a collectors edition allready and the collectors edition adds nothing at all to the gameplay. (Even though I greatly enjoy my metal coins and art book.)


Actually when talking about the collector's edition I was mainly focusing on the big board which for me makes all the difference. I didn't really bring the coins and resources in the picture although they were a welcome addition.

In terms of the safety net, I think many of the stars can be claimed just by "doing your own thing", and no one can really mess it up for you. If you also are a bit stingy with your coins you have a good start. The leftover resources didn't play that much of a role for us. All there is left is the area control VPs that if you spread out towards the end in unoccupied areas or do a couple of battles you can cover some good ground and there you have it...The popularity (which is the multiplier) just requires you to keep an eye on it and do some investing towards the end in order to barely make it to the next highest level (preferably the top one).

Like I said, in my first 3-4 games with new players (which I stressed that were gamers, not casual players) every single time we finished very close although only I knew the game in advance. Everyone felt the strategies were quite intuitive and given that the interaction is a bit limited its hard to have big swings in scores unless you really don't understand how your faction works or how these type of games play out. I have a hard time believing that someone that feels comfortable for example with Through the Ages, will have a hard time figuring Scythe out. For me it remains a very forgiving game which is something I like about it.
 
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M M
United States
New York
New York
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It really felt like a missed opportunity. You had this great theme. You had asymmetry. You had a crossover hybrid game. You had battle mechs which evoked RoboTech. You had great components and tons of games playtested. That you could have an instant classic. And then you just got another efficiency engine game. Could have been great. But then didn't really distinguish itself.
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Greg
United States
Lowell
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Mat628 wrote:
It really felt like a missed opportunity. You had this great theme. You had asymmetry. You had a crossover hybrid game. You had battle mechs which evoked RoboTech. You had great components and tons of games playtested. That you could have an instant classic. And then you just got another efficiency engine game. Could have been great. But then didn't really distinguish itself.


Well instant classic for one person isn't an instant classic for everyone. Sure it could have been deeper and more complex in certain areas, but then you will add a bit more time to the game. That might be fine for some, but not fine for others.

What's the most recent instant classic?

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Stephen Sanders
United States
Henderson
Texas
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Rodzilla68 wrote:
Great review. I think your comment "10% Combat, 30% exploration/area control, 60% of resource/micro-management and building stuff" really sums up the game.


Disagree with that. I won with 2 of my 6 stars on the military achievement spaces. I think that 10% combat is maybe a description of the actual gameplay you might experience, but not for the victory conditions. So this makes those two victory points huge in my opinion, since they are 2/6 of what you need. And it seems fairly easy to achieve them, since you can move around with the tunnels so easily.
 
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M Van Der Werf
Netherlands
Leiden
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Quite mimics my own experience but have only played once so far with just the normal edition. Aesthetics get a plus but the theme is weak imo, the alternative history setting is wonky I think and some stuff like the encounters and having to read out the cards fell kinda flat. Pretty quickly you just want to select one of the options without even reading it.


Some of the design things were neat though, the upgrade one especially. The cubes on your played board and moving them around in the holes is very neat. The resources on board are also a sweet idea although poorly implemented, generally it matters very little where they are as you can freely ferry them around and workers ironically defend themselves quite well with the popularity hit. A popularity seems to be worth more than a single resource, especially later on when someone else might not even have much use for the resource. So a hex with 3 workers and 3 resources is not even worth raiding for example which felt stupid.

Few things I disliked quite a bit though:

First of all the separate player mats. The different factions are cool but the player mats are just providing soem different efficiencies and not really adding much. They

They basically just scream out "ignore this option and max these two options" because some coins are randomly tacked on to stuff. The star system also felt meh, I dislike that you are building stuff just to get stars, making mechs isn't really massing an army or whatever but just getting some upgrade and working towards a star mostly. Same for buildings, the last few are pretty much pointless except getting the star.

The whole popularity mechanic and dissuading combat felt so pointless too, combat feels limited to just getting a star. I think i had much preferred it if combat wasn't so artificial, dissuaded by the popularity hit and enforced by being able to get stars, i prefer it if the reason for combat is just grabbing area which is hardly the case here. The combat system is also kinda dull, it's just an exercise in trying to 1 up your opponent or losing with a large gap. No stuff to really trick with this.

I'll rate a 7 just because I like to try again because of the fun of optimizing the separate boards a bit but it seems a rather simple and dull affair actually. The moment you start the game you can pretty much think out your first 5-10 turns where the only deviation is what you get from your must get encounter basically.
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