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Subject: Uptown Gamer Elite Reviews Scythe rss

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Kurtis Rose
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My Review will have various subsections headed in Bold, please scroll down for a specific subsection. Otherwise, enjoy!

Introduction
Scythe was published in 2016, via Kickstarter, by Stonemaier Games. This is an action selection, area control, and resource management (plus more) game in which players will move workers, mechs, and their character across a map, attempting to accrue and control resources, which will be spent to accomplish various actions/goals. At game end, the winner is the "richest" player, which is decided both by tangible money, and also several categories which can be improved upon by obtaining "popularity" throughout the game.

Gameplay Summary
Scythe is played over the course of a number of turns, the number of which is dictated by the players' accomplishments; when one player has accomplished 6 of the 10 goals which are available to all players at the beginning of the game (more on this later), the game ends. Players begin the game with one random faction (of the 5 available), and also one random action board -which contains four action areas that the players will choose to use each turn. Additionally, there is a board which all players will manipulate; the main feature of the board is a map of hex-areas, which each contain one resource. This is an image of what the main board looks like:



Players will start the game in the territory dictated by their faction -they MUST start on this territory, there is no alternative. In the player's starting territory they will place their singular "character" and two wooden workers. In addition to this, they will receive a variable amount of starting items which will be dictated by both their starting faction sheet and their starting action board.

The player with the lowest turn order number on their action board will start the game, and play will proceed clockwise from there. On a players turn, they will indicate (on their action board) which action they'd like to take, and they will perform that action; each action has both a top and a bottom portion -of which they may perform both, either, or neither. Here is an example of one of the five action selection boards:



While all players' top-actions are functionally exactly the same (Move, Bolster, Trade, or Produce), their orientation will be different, compared to the bottom actions. The bottom-actions will always be slightly different for each player (with regards to resource payment), but will always have the same orientation compared to other players' action boards. Because of this, on any given turn, each player will have access to a different combination of actions when compared to each of their opponents.

So, what are the top actions? These are the easiest actions to accomplish; they are mostly free (or low-cost) to do, and a player will most likely be able to do them every turn that they pick them. The actions are:

-Move: the player can move 2 individual units one space. There are several upgrades that can modify movement throughout the game, but that is the very basic rule. Units are not able to move over water, unless upgraded, and players are not restricted by moving units which are in the same space or to the same space.

-Produce: the player chooses two hexes in which s/he has worker(s) and produces (up to) a number of resources -as indicated by the hex- as the number of workers that are in that space. The items produced are always initially placed directly onto the space in which they are produced (the items are not pooled on the player's board). Players will produce either more workers, or one of four resources (wood, metal, food, or oil).

-Bolster: the player will pay one coin to either gain two military strength or one "power card" which can be used in battle.

-Trade: the player will pay one coin to either gain two resources of any type or one popularity.

Upon completing their top action, the player will have access to one of the following bottom actions, which may be completed AFTER having chosen whether or not to perform the top action:

-Upgrade: the player will pay a certain amount of oil to move uncover one top-action upgrade on their player board, and, simultaneously, cover one resource cost on one of their bottom-actions.

-Deploy: the player will pay a certain amount of metal to deploy one Mech-unit (a military-type unit) to an area which contains one of their workers. Additionally, by deploying a Mech, they uncover one ability that all of their Mechs, as well as their "Character" unit will now have access to.

-Build: the player will pay a certain amount of wood to deploy build one of their four structures in an area containing a worker. Each of the four structures provides an entirely different bonus from the other three, and each player has the same four structures that each of their opponents has at the beginning of the game.

-Enlist: the player will uncover one of their enlistment spots which is used to feed off of the actions of their neighboring player -when the neighboring player (or the enlisting player) takes that action at any point until the end of the game, they will now gain a bonus (which is printed under the uncovered enlistment token).

Finally, it is important to note that players are not allowed to take the same action two turns in a row. The above actions are the meat and potatoes of how the game functions, and past those actions there are really only a few more rules. I'll give a brief explanation of the more essential rules, but you shouldn't rely on this as a full explanation of the game:

Combat: of major importance is that two players' units cannot coexist together on one hex space. Players can invade each other's spaces, however. Players will never invade with just a worker (wooden) unit. They must initiate a combat with a plastic (Mech or Character) unit. If the opposing player's space is only occupied by worker(s), the workers will not put up a fight and are sent to the defeated player's home territory; the victor will lose one popularity per evicted worker. If there is a Mech or Character unit in the defending territory, then a combat ensues. Combat is very simple in this game: the involved players will secretly chose a number of military strength that they wish to expend (up to 7), and may choose to add one combat card per (their) involved military units. Players then reveal their total strength (total of their combat cards plus chosen military strength); the victor is the player with the highest number. Interestingly, in the case of a tie, the attacker is the winner. All defeated units are placed in their owner's home territory.

Goals: as a mentioned above, each player is (perhaps) striving to complete up to six goals. When one player accomplishes this, the game is immediately ended (no more turns!). Goals include reaching certain bench-marks (such as earning the highest allowed military strength or popularity), completing all of one type of bottom row action (i.e. building all types of buildings), winning in combat (two such goals are allowed per player), and achieving one of two missions (which are assigned randomly at the beginning of the game).

Popularity and Scoring: achieving a high popularity can be essential to scoring. Past earning tangible money in the game, there is an end game bonus grid which is divided into three scoring categories: stars (goals attained), territories controlled, and resources. The value of scoring for each of these categories is increased when a player crosses certain thresholds of popularity; for example, if a player achieves less than 7 popularity, they will receive the lowest compensation for each of the scoring categories (3 for stars, 2 for territories, and 1 for every two resources), however, if the player manages to achieve 13 or more popularity, they will score the highest in each of the categories (5 for stars, 4 for territories, and 3 for every two resources).

The Factory: the factory is the heart of the game; it is the most central hex on the map! In fact, the lore of the game is based around this all-important location. Functionally, in the game, it serves two purposes: once reached by a particular faction, it gives them access to a new action (in addition to their original four) that no other faction will have access to; also, at game end, the player controlling the factory is considered to control 3 territories for that singular hex, which is important in end-game scoring.

Strategy Versus Luck
Sythe is highly strategic. Everything that a player chooses to do will directly affect the outcome of their game. There are no dice rolls in the game, and most card draws will intuitively be better when performed sooner and more frequently than opponents.

There are a couple elements of luck in the game which should be mentioned. First, player and action boards are randomized; these were play-tested and balanced very well, and I think that most player (faction) boards are very even-keeled. I am not, however, entirely convinced that the action boards are on an even playing field since play runs clockwise from the player with the number 1 board, yet the player with the number 5 board could be sitting next to that player, and that player (I believe) received slightly more resources at start-game than other players.

Additionally, player experience and orientation should be taken into account, particularly in this game, because players will have the most contact (perhaps combat) with the players closest to them. This can make a huge difference in a lower player-count game because the starting positions are not randomized -they are fixed based on what faction is dealt to the player.

Rule book
This is an amazing rule book! The rules are very easy to pick up, despite the daunting size of the book, and the rule book is very easy to reference during game-play. The graphics in the rule book are very helpful and help to clear up any questions that the reader may have from the text.

Past learning the rules, teaching the game is very simple. The meat of explanation can be focused on how the actions in the game work, and most other concepts are a breeze; I enjoy greatly how refined most of the mechanics in the game feel -it does not seem like there is a lot of fat to trim.

Player Appeal
Who would this game appeal to? Although this game feels much more euro-centric, I feel that this game would appeal to people who fall on both sides of the ameritrash/euro spectrum, particularly if players are playing with like-minded people. The pace of this game is entirely dictated by the players. While my interpretation is that combat is not ultimately that important in this game, it can become incredibly important if one of your opponents is focusing on combat and harrying you throughout the game. Yet, there is only so much time in this game, and the main focus for a winning player will likely be in building up their own empire or engine, and focusing less on their opponents. That being said, there are key moments where even the most passive players may find fruit that is too ripe to avoid plucking from their opponent's hands.

As far as who this game will appeal to, lets consider several categories. My opinion is that, where gender is concerned, this game might appeal a little more toward males. It is not a heavy war theme, and there is never really any violence depicted on the card art, but some females may stray from the theme. That being said, I think that most females who would enjoy this weight of game, to begin with, will enjoy the game itself, and the theme. Where age is concerned, it is likely that most 12 year olds could comprehend and enjoy this game (maybe even younger for fairly advanced children). I think the art in this game alone would really be appealing/inspiring to kids who have good imaginations. I don't think anyone would particularly age out of enjoying this game, as long as they enjoy games to begin with.

This game is not for beginners, I would venture to say, but it is not entirely complex either. Someone who has played Small World, or one of several other similarly weighted games, a few times should be able to comprehend and thrive in Scythe.

Components
The components in this game are great, particularly if you upgrade to an edition that includes the metal coins -everyone loves to play around with them, hearing the metallic clinking. The main board in the game is well constructed, and feels great -with a, I want to say, linen finish. I do not have the upgraded resources, and stuck with the wooden ones included in the base game which are great! They're pretty easy to handle, and each resource has a different cut. My one complaint about the resources is that they are sometimes hard to see on the board due to dark coloration in some areas of the board. All of the cards in the game seem to be of very high-quality card stock, so much so that I don't feel that there is much purpose in sleeving them.

The individual player components are also great, from the wooden worker tokens (which are shaped differently for each faction -great choice), to the plastic mechs and character tokens. I should mention that one of my wooden buildings came (superficially) broken, but its nothing that a dab of wood glue won't fix -though I know this would bother some people immensely.

One criticism that I have is that the player/action boards are very sharply cornered, and they will definitely be prone to edge-wear overtime. This could be a slight problem aesthetically and when it comes to randomizing them, but that's a minor complaint compared to the overall component quality.

Art
I doubt that these are the first words that you've read about the art in this game, but I'll simply agree with everyone else: it is phenomenal. To my understanding, the whole game was built around the concept art, which really says something about the designer's enjoyment of the artist's talent. The art has a very furturized-retro, post world war I style. Past that, I can describe it as being very whimsical and agrarian, most often with a looming piece of technology featured somewhere on the graphic.

Also, the graphic design on the board and on the cards is second to none. After playing the game once, it is very easy to simply take the components out of the box and set up the game, without having to look at the rules, due to the fact that there are indicators of all items of distribution on the components. The graphic design was handled to such a degree that it does not detract from the pleasant art.

Symbology
There are numerous symbols in the game, but they really help the game flow well once learned. If you are able to learn the symbols in a game like 7 Wonders, this should be no problem for you.

For people who may have visual impairments, this game may present a bit of a challenge. Some of the cards have text, and that text is fairly small; I don't think it could have been avoided without diminishing the presentation of the art, though. Additionally, players who have an issue with color blindness may have some troubles discerning some of the player tokens (such as the stars and buildings, but most of the other components are unique, in one way or another, to such a degree that I would consider this game fairly friendly to color blind players.

Theme
The theme in this game is entirely derived from the art and the players' interpretation of it, and this was clearly the designer's intent. This works to great effect. One of the types of cards in the game actually indicates in the rules that the player who drew it should hold it up so the other players can view the art. This might seem cheesy to some, but I've actually done that, playfully, each game, and I think all of the other players enjoyed it (because they continued by doing so as well). Can flushing a player's field of vision with amazing art actually create theme in a game? Well, combined with overall mechanics in the game, I'd say so.

Value
The basic version of Scythe (with no upgrades) has an MSRP of 80 dollars. Once more readily available, it could probably be acquired for 60-70 dollars one of the discount-gaming sites, and I believe that it is fairly valued at any of those prices. There is no question that it is an impressive game, and something that will bring thrill and enjoyment to new players, but, as you'll read below, I question the long-term replay value of the game. My recommendation is that you try this game before buying the game, but, if that is not possible, I think it is a solid purchase.

Overall
If you read nothing more, know that I, as most people, really enjoy Scythe. I give this game an 8/10, wavering slightly toward 7.5. I think that there are a lot of overly-positive reviews of the game, to the point that it has reached (at the time of this review) the number 12 spot on BGGs all-time ranking list. While I don't feel as glowing about the game as some, I will certainly be keeping it in my collection (for the foreseeable future). That being said, I think that there is one major flaw with Scythe:

The factions are built in such a way that they feel as if they are always going to be directed toward one, optimal strategy. A major part of the game is, doubtlessly, figuring out what the best move is for the faction that you're playing as, but once you've played as each of the factions, you'll probably understand all of the factions' strengths and know how to counter the strengths of your opponents. If all players are on an equal level, I believe that repeated games of this may become very choreographed.

Yet, for the enjoyment that you'll get from this game in the interim, I cannot knock it that much. It is a very solid, well-thought game. It contains very well-balanced asymmetry, matched with really solid mechanics, and brilliant art/production. This game is a must for board game collectors, and would be an excellent choice for someone looking for a fun, strategic, medium-weight game.
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Stephen Miller
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On the art - I think it goes a step further than you imply - Scythe is set in the 1920s Universe that the Jakub created and did some art for to realize.

Scythe isn't just based on concept art, it's set in a licensed IP that had previously been an art series, which... Is truly fascinating to me, and is the first piece of media, in any medium, that I can think of where that applies to (Maybe. Wasn't The Adams Family and Mars Attacks originally series of postcards or something?)
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Michael Frost

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Gizensha wrote:
On the art - I think it goes a step further than you imply - Scythe is set in the 1920s Universe that the Jakub created and did some art for to realize.

Scythe isn't just based on concept art, it's set in a licensed IP that had previously been an art series, which... Is truly fascinating to me, and is the first piece of media, in any medium, that I can think of where that applies to (Maybe. Wasn't The Adams Family and Mars Attacks originally series of postcards or something?)


Just fyi... The Addams Family started life as a series of classic single panel cartoons, many of them in The New Yorker. Back in 1938!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Addams_Family
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Trevor Schadt
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Rosekurt wrote:
The factions are built in such a way that they feel as if they are always going to be directed toward one, optimal strategy. A major part of the game is, doubtlessly, figuring out what the best move is for the faction that you're playing as, but once you've played as each of the factions, you'll probably understand all of the factions' strengths and know how to counter the strengths of your opponents. If all players are on an equal level, I believe that repeated games of this may become very choreographed.
While I can't argue with the core concept of this point, I think the random assignment of the player mats mitigates this a lot. A faction will play considerably differently depending on which player mat you're playing, and how each individual pairing of top and bottom row actions meshes with the faction's inherent strengths, default strategy, starting resources, etc.
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Greg
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ryudoowaru wrote:
Rosekurt wrote:
The factions are built in such a way that they feel as if they are always going to be directed toward one, optimal strategy. A major part of the game is, doubtlessly, figuring out what the best move is for the faction that you're playing as, but once you've played as each of the factions, you'll probably understand all of the factions' strengths and know how to counter the strengths of your opponents. If all players are on an equal level, I believe that repeated games of this may become very choreographed.
While I can't argue with the core concept of this point, I think the random assignment of the player mats mitigates this a lot. A faction will play considerably differently depending on which player mat you're playing, and how each individual pairing of top and bottom row actions meshes with the faction's inherent strengths, default strategy, starting resources, etc.


I agree. A friend of mine had a very different experience with Polonia last Monday night due to the player board he got.

Also, it was a 5 player game and I was Crimea. I never ended up using Wayfare, or even unlocking that mech. Nor did I end up using combat cards as a resource, their faction ability. I needed the combat cards for combat, one combat which also got me a star for completing an objective, for 2 stars that turn. The Rusviet player was agressive and my biggest competition that game. He attacked me and Scout helped me get a good card and I won, placing my 6th star. I ended up beating Rusviet by 1 point. Rusviets attacked me because they knew I was going to put my last star out anyway on my next turn, which was right after his, so he took a chance to be able to win and end it himself and win.

I've played 11 games with player counts of 3, 4 and 5. I haven't found anything to be choreographed yet.
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Kurtis Rose
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Great guys! Thanks for your opinions and information.
 
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Kellen Feral
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ryudoowaru wrote:
Rosekurt wrote:
The factions are built in such a way that they feel as if they are always going to be directed toward one, optimal strategy. A major part of the game is, doubtlessly, figuring out what the best move is for the faction that you're playing as, but once you've played as each of the factions, you'll probably understand all of the factions' strengths and know how to counter the strengths of your opponents. If all players are on an equal level, I believe that repeated games of this may become very choreographed.
While I can't argue with the core concept of this point, I think the random assignment of the player mats mitigates this a lot. A faction will play considerably differently depending on which player mat you're playing, and how each individual pairing of top and bottom row actions meshes with the faction's inherent strengths, default strategy, starting resources, etc.



That is actually something that scares me. If a faction pulls you one way, and then your player mats pull you another, you are at a disadvantage. Or rather, is there an optimal player mat for each faction?
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Kurtis Rose
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lanfearl wrote:
That is actually something that scares me. If a faction pulls you one way, and then your player mats pull you another, you are at a disadvantage. Or rather, is there an optimal player mat for each faction?


No, despite what Ryoo wrote, my opinion is that the player mats don't really change the flavor of the game much at all. All they really do is change the combination of actions that you'll be able to do each turn, and what you might have to pay to do them. I still assert that the individual faction's ability, starting position, and mech/character upgrades are going to be the driving forces behind variety in each game -and those are always going to be the same for each faction.
 
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Rosekurt wrote:
No, despite what Ryoo wrote, my opinion is that the player mats don't really change the flavor of the game much at all.
Hmm, actually I feel, it's the opposite: the player mat influences my strategy more than the faction because it rewards taking certain actions that may or may not help to further my faction's 'default' approach.

Then again, I'm not particularly good at the game, yet, so perhaps I'm completely wrong.
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