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.
Every part of Scythe has an aspect of engine-building to it. Players can upgrade actions to become more efficient, build structures that improve their position on the map, enlist new recruits to enhance character abilities, activate mechs to deter opponents from invading, and expand their borders to reap greater types and quantities of resources. These engine-building aspects create a sense of momentum and progress throughout the game. The order in which players improve their engine adds to the unique feel of each game, even when playing one faction multiple times.
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Lists...I like lists and I think many of you do too.
I thought I'd take a few minutes to follow a tradition I see on other sites where top 100 lists are compared.
I did a straight copy paste from the sites and did some excel work to get them in a reasonable format. I'm NOT an expert on data analysis so I won't be doing some fancy analysis to tell you interesting data points. I'm sure there is someone else more capable (and motivated) than me to do that.
If this is something you enjoy, let me know and I'll do it again. (I can't commit to a regular timeline right now however.)
I did do one piece of analysis which is shown below the list. What interesting things do you spot in the data?
First off, here is the list:
|Rank||Board Game Atlas||Board Game Geek||Reddit r/boardgames|
|1||Scythe||Gloomhaven (2017)||Gloomhaven (2017)|
|2||Gloomhaven||Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 (2015)||Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 (2015)|
|3||Root||Brass: Birmingham (2018)||Brass: Birmingham (2018)|
|4||Wingspan||Terraforming Mars (2016)||Spirit Island (2017)|
|5||Azul||Twilight Imperium (Fourth Edition) (2017)||Concordia (2013)|
|6||Terraforming Mars||Through the Ages:
A New Story of Civilization (2015)
|Twilight Imperium (Fourth Edition) (2017)|
|7||Viticulture: Essential Edition||Gaia Project (2017)||Food Chain Magnate (2015)|
|8||Spirit Island||Star Wars: Rebellion (2016)||War of the Ring: Second Edition (2012)|
|9||Pandemic||Twilight Struggle (2005)||Gaia Project (2017)|
|10||Codenames||Great Western Trail (2017)||Twilight Struggle (2005)|
|11||7 Wonders||War of the Ring: Second Edition (2012)||Great Western Trail (2016)|
|12||Carcassonne||Scythe (2016)||Through the Ages:
A New Story of Civilization (2015)
|13||7 Wonders Duel||Spirit Island (2017)||A Feast for Odin (2016)|
|14||Pandemic Legacy: Season 1||The Castles of Burgundy (2011)||The Castles of Burgundy (2011)|
|15||The Castles of Burgundy||Terra Mystica (2012)||Terra Mystica (2012)|
|16||Concordia||7 Wonders Duel (2015)||Terraforming Mars (2016)|
|17||Splendor||Concordia (2017)||Pax Pamir (Second Edition) (2019)|
|18||Ticket To Ride||Brass: Lancashire (2018)||Star Wars: Rebellion (2016)|
|19||Race for the Galaxy||Arkham Horror: The Card Game (2016)||Keyflower (2012)|
|20||Santorini||Wingspan (2019)||Brass: Lancashire (2007)|
|21||Patchwork||Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion (2020)||Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 (2017)|
|22||Catan||A Feast for Odin (2016)||Arkham Horror: The Card Game (2016)|
|23||Brass: Birmingham||Viticulture Essential Edition (2015)||7 Wonders Duel (2015)|
|24||Jaipur||Orléans (2014)||Scythe (2016)|
|25||Great Western Trail||Mage Knight Board Game (2011)||Kingdom Death: Monster (2015)|
|26||Love Letter||Puerto Rico (2002)||Root (2018)|
|27||King of Tokyo||The 7th Continent (2017)||Agricola (2007)|
|28||Kingdomino||Caverna: The Cave Farmers (2013)||Orl\u00e9ans (2014)|
|29||Star Realms||Nemesis (2018)||Viticulture Essential Edition (2015)|
|30||Everdell||Food Chain Magnate (2015)||Agricola (Revised Edition) (2016)|
|31||Lords of Waterdeep||Root (2018)||Crokinole (1876)|
|32||Welcome to...||Agricola (2007)||Mage Knight Board Game (2011)|
|33||Architects of the West Kingdom||Mansions of Madness: Second Edition (2016)||Caverna: The Cave Farmers (2013)|
|34||Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure||Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 (2017)||Race for the Galaxy (2007)|
|35||Blood Rage||Blood Rage (2015)||Android: Netrunner (2012)|
|36||Clans of Caledonia||Kingdom Death: Monster (2015)||Mechs vs. Minions (2016)|
|37||The Quacks of Quedlinburg||Everdell (2018)||Clans of Caledonia (2017)|
|38||Small World||Power Grid (2012)||Eclipse (2011)|
|39||Puerto Rico||Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar (2012)||Azul (2017)|
|40||Forbidden Island||Mechs vs. Minions (2017)||Fields of Arle (2014)|
|41||Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game||Star Wars: Imperial Assault (2014)||Le Havre (2008)|
|42||Arkham Horror: The Card Game||Clans of Caledonia (2017)||Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar (2012)|
|43||Five Tribes||Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization (2006)||Power Grid (2004)|
|44||Dominion: Second Edition||Le Havre (2008)||Lisboa (2017)|
|45||Sagrada||Eclipse (2011)||Roll for the Galaxy (2014)|
|46||Roll For The Galaxy||Azul (2017)||Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated (2019)|
|47||Orléans||Maracaibo (2019)||Dominant Species (2010)|
|48||Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar||Anachrony (2017)||The Gallerist (2015)|
|49||Coup||The Voyages of Marco Polo (2015)||Codenames (2015)|
|50||Ticket to Ride: Europe||Underwater Cities (2018)||Indonesia (2005)|
|51||Sushi Go!||Robinson Crusoe:
Adventures on the Cursed Island (2016)
|Blood Rage (2015)|
|52||Lost Cities||Android: Netrunner (2012)||Inis (2016)|
|53||Raiders of the North Sea||Too Many Bones (2017)||Patchwork (2014)|
|54||Power Grid||Marvel Champions: The Card Game (2019)||1830: Railways & Robber Barons (1986)|
|55||Sushi Go Party!||Race for the Galaxy (2007)||The Voyages of Marco Polo (2015)|
|56||Agricola (Revised Edition)||The Gallerist (2015)||Star Wars: Imperial Assault (2014)|
|57||Dixit||7 Wonders (2010)||Age of Steam (2002)|
|58||Star Wars: Rebellion||The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine (2019)||Wingspan (2019)|
Adventures on the Cursed Island
|Fields of Arle (2014)||The Great Zimbabwe (2012)|
|60||Cosmic Encounter||Teotihuacan: City of Gods (2018)||Vinhos Deluxe Edition (2016)|
|61||A Feast For Odin||Dominant Species (2010)||Troyes (2010)|
|62||Hanabi||Five Tribes (2014)||Pandemic: Iberia (2016)|
|63||Terra Mystica||Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure (2016)||Kemet (2012)|
|64||Takenoko||Keyflower (2012)||Puerto Rico (with two expansions) (2011)|
|65||The Resistance||Lords of Waterdeep (2012)||Tigris & Euphrates (1997)|
|66||Star Wars Imperial Assault||Caylus (2005)||Glory to Rome (2005)|
|67||Twilight Struggle||Crokinole (1876)||El Grande (1995)|
|68||Stone Age||Lisboa (2017)||Aeon's End: War Eternal (2017)|
|69||Mysterium||Agricola (Revised Edition) (2016)||Yokohama (2016)|
|70||Sheriff of Nottingham||Aeon's End (2016)||The 7th Continent (2017)|
|71||Forbidden Desert||El Grande (1995)||Decrypto (2018)|
|72||Keyflower||Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) (2005)||Five Tribes (2014)|
|73||Mansions of Madness: Second Edition||The Quacks of Quedlinburg (2018)||Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) (2005)|
|74||Inis||Eldritch Horror (2013)||Galaxy Trucker: Anniversary Edition (2012)|
|75||Betrayal at House on the Hill||On Mars (2020)||Hansa Teutonica (2009)|
|76||Mage Knight||Rising Sun (2018)||Sidereal Confluence:
Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian Quadrant (2017)
|77||Caverna: The Cave Farmers||Architects of the West Kingdom (2018)||Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary (2014)|
|78||Gaia Project||Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game (2008)||Forbidden Stars (2015)|
|79||Suburbia||Dominion: Intrigue (2009)||Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective:
The Thames Murders & Other Cases (1981)
|80||Champions of Midgard||Mombasa (2015)||Aeon's End (2016)|
|81||Istanbul||Troyes (2010)||Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game (2008)|
|82||The Mind||Patchwork (2014)||The Resistance: Avalon (2012)|
|83||Deception: Murder in Hong Kong||Paladins of the West Kingdom (2019)||Cosmic Encounter (2008)|
|84||Onitama||Barrage (2019)||Dominion: Intrigue (2009)|
|85||Century: Spice Road||Russian Railroads (2013)||Robinson Crusoe:
Adventures on the Cursed Island (2012)
|86||Hive||Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon (2019)||Mansions of Madness: Second Edition (2016)|
|87||The Resistance: Avalon||Clank! Legacy:
Acquisitions Incorporated (2019)
|Underwater Cities (2018)|
|88||Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King||Codenames (2015)||7 Wonders (2010)|
|89||Arboretum||Raiders of the North Sea (2015)||Tichu (1991)|
|90||Skull||Tigris & Euphrates (1997)||Teotihuacan: City of Gods (2018)|
|91||Food Chain Magnate||Roll for the Galaxy (2014)||Istanbul (2014)|
|92||Captain Sonar||Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective:
The Thames Murders & Other Cases (1982)
|Grand Austria Hotel (2015)|
|93||Galaxy Trucker||Trajan (2011)||Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan (2011)|
|94||For Sale||Dominion (2008)||Maracaibo (2019)|
|95||Magic: The Gathering||The Lord of the Rings:
Journeys in Middle-earth (2019)
|BattleCON: Devastation of Indines (2013)|
|96||One Night Ultimate Werewolf||Grand Austria Hotel (2015)||Mombasa (2015)|
|97||Castles of Mad King Ludwig||Pandemic (2008)||Millennium Blades (2016)|
|98||Bohnanza||Pandemic: Iberia (2016)||Marvel Champions: The Card Game (2019)|
|99||The 7th Continent||Lorenzo il Magnifico (2016)||Hive Pocket (2010)|
|100||Through the Ages:
A New Story of Civilization
|Kemet (2015)||Ora et Labora (2011)|
I did a quick run through the list and I found 41 games in all three lists. So there's a good chance these are all keepers. :)
|7 Wonders Duel||2015|
|A Feast for Odin||2016|
|Agricola (Revised Edition)||2016|
|Arkham Horror: The Card Game||2016|
|Caverna: The Cave Farmers||2013|
|Food Chain Magnate||2015|
|Great Western Trail||2017|
|Mage Knight Board Game||2011|
|Mansions of Madness: Second Edition||2016|
|Pandemic Legacy: Season 1||2015|
|Race for the Galaxy||2007|
|Robinson Crusoe: dventures on the Cursed Island||2016|
|Roll for the Galaxy||2014|
|Star Wars: Imperial Assault||2014|
|Star Wars: Rebellion||2016|
|The 7th Continent||2017|
|The Castles of Burgundy||2011|
|Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization||2015|
|Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar||2012|
|Viticulture Essential Edition||2015|
Edit: I should have probably recorded the time I gathered this data because the list changed quite a bit all of a sudden since this morning.
Is this because we are talking about certain games which bumps up their trending or are people voting up their favourites? I have no idea.
One of my favorite aspects of Scythe is chasing encounter tokens with my character - especially with the community made Scythe Encounter card pack . Somehow, traversing the map with my dashing Rusviet woman (and her loyal tiger) to discover these little tokens of goodness is a thrilling side-mission amidst my primary goals.
Thus, when thinking of what game piece to make next, it was an obvious choice to upgrade the cardboard tokens to something more magical - campfires.
Campfires represent a warm, inviting place to recoup after a long day's journey. They also symbolize a communal meeting place where stories are shared and friendships are formed, so they were a good match for the typical Encounter Cards, which have a variety of choices entailing interaction with the local people (albeit not always so friendly!).
Surprisingly, these took very little time to prototype, and are still one of my favorite things to make. They aren't particularly difficult or time consuming and they look incredible on the board.
What's especially fun is that the order in which you add the components is equivalent to how you build fires in reality:
1) Build a rock fire ring.
2) Add the wood.
3) Add the fire.
and Voila! Okay, that's clearly simplified, but not by much!
This project introduces a couple of new skills in clay-making, but they are forgiving and can potentially be simplified. A beginner can certainly attempt this project, and will likely be happy with the results.
Time: 2-4 hours depending on skill.
Cost: $12-20 if you're starting fresh, but you will have lots of clay and varnish left over. The actual cost of clay is closer to $2.
- 6 or 7 colors of Polymer Clay (red, yellow, brown, light brown, green, "Gray Granite," (orange is optional if you would like more variation to your fire)). I use Premo! brand, but you can use other polymer clays; however, Gray Granite is special to Premo and required for the rocks. Alternatively, this sampler pack is a great way to get started!
- 3/4 inch round clay cutter
- Gloss varnish and small paint brush
- Clay or Fondant roller. I bought this one on sale, but you can also use a hard water bottle like a Nalgene.
- Razor blade (preferred) OR sharp knife
- Non-permeable work surface (I use a dry-erase board)
Total # of Game Pieces: 11
Don't have time to make them yourself?
You can purchase these here!
Let's get started!
We need 11 bases for our fires, and they need to be of consistent thickness. If you have a pasta maker lying around, that's fantastic! But if you're like me and don't want to fork over the cash, here's a DIY hack.
Take two stacks of cards of your desired thickness, in this case 6 cards each. After warming your clay, roll an elongated piece of clay and place it in between the two card stacks.
Use your rolling pin to roll the clay out, pushing as hard as you can until both sides of the pin are touching the card stacks. This will stop the clay from getting thinner than your desired height. You will need to move your card stacks as you elongate your clay past the tops/bottoms of the stacks.
Then use your 3/4-inch clay cutter to cut out 11 bases.
If you don't have enough space for 11 cuts, take your remaining clay and do this once more.
Carefully, use a razor blade to pick up and move the bases closer to you for adding details. Your bases are done!
Rock Fire Ring
We are going to need A LOT of rocks. Each of the fires has about 12 rocks, so that's a total of 132 rocks! The best way to maintain consistency of size is to do the following:
Begin by rolling out a long piece of Gray Granite clay (called a rope). The diameter of your rope should be about 3-4mm.
Using a razor blade or knife, cut along the rope about every 3mm. You can get the clay to to stick to the blade by pulling to your non-dominant side AFTER you make the cut. You can then use the previously cut "rock" to measure out the rest of the rocks.
You will likely need to make a few ropes to finally get the number of rocks you need (I don't count them, I just keep cutting till I have a lot and if I need more I will make them).
Take your pieces and start forming little balls in your hands. They don't need to be perfectly spherical. Position them around the base in a circle, allowing the rocks to touch one another.
IMPORTANT! Make sure you warm the rocks well in your hands so that the rocks stick well to the base. This will likely occur simply by rolling them into balls, but if you have cold hands, make sure you get them warmed up!
They should look like this afterwards.
***Note: This step can be simplified!
If you want to save time and do not need the extra detail, you can merely roll out a very thin rope (1-2mm diameter) of brown clay and use this as wood. The following process is for a more realistic look.
First roll out a short, but thick piece of light-brown clay. Then roll out a thinner (but not thin) piece of dark-brown clay that is as wide as the light-brown piece is long, and is long enough to wrap entirely around the -light brown piece. *You may wish to reference the images below.
Cut the sides of the dark-brown pice to be straight. Place your light-brown piece on top of the dark-brown piece close to the edge.
Roll your dark piece around the light piece until the dark clay has good contact with itself, and make a cut.
Smooth out the cut with your finger (or silicone shaper) so that the light piece is fully wrapped by the dark piece.
Roll out the clay until it becomes a long, thin rope, eventually only about 1-2mm thick. Don't press too hard!
You will end up having to cut the rope and continue rolling each segment to get it this thin.
Once your rope is thin enough, begin cutting it into lengths of about 1.5cm, or long enough to span the diameter of your rock ring. NOTE: The ends of your rope may only be dark-brown, so you may need to cut further in to the rope to find where the "tootsie-roll" appearance begins.
You will need 3 lengths of wood per campfire.
Position each wood piece so that they cross one another at equal angles on top of the base, and so that the ends of the wood come out over the rocks.
You can also press lightly in the center of the cross, so that the wood pieces stick better to one another and the base.
For added detail, take your blade and make vertical cuts along the wood. These don't have to be perfect, and look better if they are sometimes at angles or have varying thicknesses.
They should finally look like this!
This part will take some flexibility, as it's not a rigid process and no two fires will look the same.
Begin by rolling out a chunk of red clay and about half as much orange clay. Press the orange clay into the red clay without much care and begin rolling a rope. The idea is to make swirls of red and orange.
*If you did not buy orange clay, you can make some by mixing red and yellow until your desired color, OR you can just use red clay and skip to adding yellow.
Continue hand-rolling, not pressing too hard. You will end up needing to cut down your rope and continue rolling until your rope is about 1-2mm thick in diameter.
Next, add in some yellow clay in a similar fashion, creating a rope and beginning to roll. NOTE: I prefer to keep a rope that is just red & orange in addition to my rope that is all 3 colors.
Continue hand-rolling. You will start to see these beautiful swirl patterns.
Continue hand-rolling until your rope is about 1-2mm thick in diameter. Then make cuts of about 4-5cm long. Each fire will take 3 of these segments.
This step is less tricky than it seems, but it requires some idea of how you want the fire to look. Do you want a tall roaring fire with high spikes? Or a more mellow, broad fire that spans the base?
Begin by positioning one strip of flame on top of the wood near one side. Make sure the your starting end is sticking up. You should make contact with the wood about 5-7mm into the rope and press a small section down against the base between logs.
Then make a loop (or two) with your rope such that the fire comes into contact with itself and part of the center of the wood. Position the tailing end so that it is also vertical.
This is another view angle of the first fire rope.
Add a second rope in a similar fashion, closer to the center of the wood. You will want to make sure the ends are both vertical, but the center of the rope is looped and in contact with wood and the other flame rope.
You will want to have the ropes slightly touching one another near the ends (for stability), but the actual ends free standing for a proper look.
Add your 3rd rope in a similar fashion, filling the spaces that need to be filled and making contact with the wood and other flame ropes. Allow your tips to free stand. for a more wild fire look.
This is a very loose process, so have fun with it and experiment!
Carefully use a razor blade to transfer these to the baking sheet. If you used different brands of clay, I prefer to use the baking instructions for the hottest required temp (for Premo this is 275 degrees for 30 min).
Once these come out of the oven and you've let them cool, use a paint brush to add the gloss varnish to the flames, wood, and tops of the rocks. You don't need much, and it doesn't have to be perfect. Let dry.
And your finished!
Enjoy your beautiful pieces!
Don't have time to make them yourself?
You can purchase these here!
About the Author
My name is Alee! I'm an avid board gamer who loves to craft. I started upgrading my games in various ways and stumbled upon polymer clay 4 months ago. Since then I've been making tons of board game pieces and have fallen in love with the outcome.
When I'm not playing games or crafting I'm typically out rock climbing, travelling, or watching space launches. For work I'm a molecular biologist, so I love science (of all kinds).
What's my favorite game? #X-ODUS: Rise of the Corruption
During our Wingspan giveaway, we asked for your go-to game for 3-5 players. More than 2,500 of you responded. Let’s look at the top games, each mentioned 30 times or more.
Wingspan has a player count (1-5) and a playing time (40-70 mins) that many people can comfortably get to the table. Published by Stonemaier Games, it also has fantastic art and lots of custom components. Read more about it in our review here.
Betrayal at House on the Hill
Betrayal at House on the Hill plays 3-6 players in about an hour. As you play, you build the house that you are exploring. One of your fellow players will betray you, and you must use all of your skills to survive.
Century: Spice Road
Century: Spice Road is part of the Century series, each set in different centuries and focusing on the the major trading systems and routes of that era. It plays 2-5 players in 30-45 minutes.
Pandemic is a cooperative game, where everyone wins or loses together. Your team travels around the world working to discover cures for four diseases. Designed by Matt Leacock, it has inspired legacy versions, and historical versions such as Pandemic: Iberia.
Concordia is a peaceful strategy game of economic development for 2-5 players. Designed by Mac Gerdts, it relies on how you manage the cards in your hand. Each player starts with the same set of cards, and can add to them throughout the game. But take too many cards, and it may be too hard to get the card you need.
Viticulture is another game published by Stonemaier Games. Players must develop their vineyards and produce wine. It is a worker placement game for up to 6 players that plays in around 90 minutes.
Carcassonne was the winner of the 2001 Spiel des Jahres, and can be considered a ‘modern classic’ with such games as Catan and Ticket to Ride. It is a tile-laying game for 2-5 players that plays in about 45 minutes. Players score points by developing the playing area, then placing their followers in the cities, cloisters, and fields, and on the roads.
Catan is a game of building on strategic spots to gain resources, and trading for (or stealing!) the rest of what you need. First published in 1995, it’s still going strong. Recent re-themes include Star Trek and A Game of Thrones.
Lords of Waterdeep
Lords of Waterdeep is a worker placement game set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe. Through your agents, you recruit adventurers to go on quests on your behalf, earning rewards and increasing your influence over the city.
And here we had a big jump, with an almost 50% increase in responses:
7 Wonders is a game of card drafting, where players build a hand of cards by selecting a card and then passing the rest to the next player. Cards give players a benefit, such as a discount on building a future card, increasing military strength, or providing victory points. It plays up to 7 players in about half an hour.
And another big jump, with an even larger gap than the last:
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride was first published 15 years ago and won the 2004 Spiel des Jahres. It has since sold over 5 million copies. It’s easy to teach, has both a family-friendly theme and strategy, and plays 2-5 players in about an hour. Players choose train cards to build routes across the map to score points.
Number two on our list is yet another game by Stonemaier Games:
Scythe is one of the longer and more complex games on this list, but that hasn’t stopped people from playing it a lot. It’s a competitive 4X game set in an alternate history 1920s where players compete to gain fame and fortune by establishing their empire.
And the number one go-to game for 3-5 players is:
Terraforming Mars was a Kennerspiel des Jahres Nominee in 2017, and is currently ranked #3 on BGG. Players control corporations that are working to raise the temperature, oxygen level, and ocean coverage until the environment is habitable. When the three global parameters (temperature, oxygen, ocean) have all reached their goal, the terraforming is complete and the player with the most victory points wins.
More games, and a graph
30 or more responses made for a manageable list, but plenty of great games were mentioned.
WARNING - MAJOR RISE OF FENRIS SPOILERS AHEAD
Okay, you have been warned.
I actually spent about 20ish hours creating a foam core insert for this at one point. It was my first large foam core project, and turned out rather well. But, I realized after making a couple more inserts, that I just really don't like foam core as a material.
So, with the help of my wife, I finally got around to reorganizing the box today - I used the following:
- 9 Art Bin containers from Joann Fabrics - factions
- 1 large square container from Dollar Tree - airship tiles, encounter cards, combat cards, etc.
- 5 drawstring bags - resources, coins, and various Rise of Fenris modules
- 1 of the Scythe boxes that shipped in the Legendary Box - faction and player mats
- 1 small box from Rise of Fenris - encounter tokens
I have the metal coins, realistic resources, and extended board in the box, and as you can see, it closes fully (my foam core insert however, did not ha).
What do you know about the scythe? For one thing, it’s a tool for harvesting crops. It’s also a handy weapon. But in the board game Scythe (by Stonemaier Games), does it reference a harvesting tool or a weapon? I submit that it’s both (as does the rule book, so confident I’m right about this).
Looking at the box art, one might think that Scythe is a war game. And it is. Sort of. But war doesn’t happen as often as it might seem, because winning the game doesn’t necessarily mean destroying the other players. Rather, there are many objectives players try to complete, and once a player has completed six of them, the game ends. Winning battles is only one of the many ways to get ahead in the post-Great War era of Eastern Europe.
But before we talk about anything else, it might be helpful to know a bit more about the game itself. Scythe is an area majority, resource management engine-building game for 1-5 players. Each player has a unique faction (with unique abilities) and a unique player mat (all with the same actions, but the costs of actions differ). Players harvest resources, build buildings (for bonuses), recruit mechs, and engage in thematic encounters.
I gotta say, the game is beautiful right out of the box. It may look like a lot at first glance, but worry not! Everything has its place, and it’s all streamlined in such a way that it’s not too difficult to learn. The actions are intuitive and, since there are only four main actions, you’ll get the hang of things quickly. The rule book is a huge asset to the game; it is well-written and easy to follow and understand. For a big-box game like Scythe, that’s important.
Perhaps the most important part of this review is that of gameplay. Is it fun? Is it tough to learn? Is it worth investing in all of the expansions? (I’ll leave that last one for you to figure out on your own.)
Well, I am happy to say that Scythe is a remarkably smooth game in terms of gameplay. As mentioned above, there are four main/top actions (called “top” because they’re at the top of your player mat), which helps keep your brain from exploding while learning. Those four “top” actions can move into other actions; for example, if you move into a space with another player’s mech or character, you start a battle.
There are also secondary, or “bottom,” actions (because—you guessed it—they’re at the bottom of your player mat). You can carry out a bottom action while the next player begins their turn, which helps cut out some of the downtime that would otherwise be there. I really like that aspect of the game, especially if the game is going to take a couple of hours to play through.
Another aspect of the gameplay I really like are the multiple paths to victory and, by association, the end-game condition. I mentioned that once a player places all six of their stars on achievements, the game ends. This makes it interesting for a few reasons. The first is that it gives you options. If you’re trying to accomplish one achievement but you somehow end up closer to another, go for that one instead. Each achievement can only be done once, with the exception of winning battles, which can be done two times. While this does encourage combat, it also encourages players to leave others alone, since they won’t be getting any stars out of it after their initial two.
The second reason I like the end-game condition is because the game ends as soon as someone has placed their last star. This brings the other players together—at least for a little while in the end—to keep one player from winning. The player interactions throughout the game are fun, but it’s the end-game that really ratchets things up.
All in all, I am very happy with how Scythe plays. There is a lot to like, and it’s not too tough that beginners to the hobby couldn’t pick it up after a few rounds. It’s a fantastic game for those looking for some combat but would also like to, you know, farm and build and stuff.
The theme of an alternate history 1920s Europa wouldn’t have been my first pick—or top 10 for that matter. And yet, I like it. A lot. The design really helps you get into the feel of the world, through art, actions, and encounters.
Speaking of encounters, this is probably one of my favorite aspects of the game. When your character (the human/animal duo) moves to a spot with an encounter token, you take the top encounter card from the deck. The card gives you three options, and you pick one of them. Some options include helping you gain free workers or mechs, and others give resources…at a price.
And then there’s the art. Actually, let’s make an entirely new section for that, shall we?
I can’t talk about Scythe without mentioning the artwork. It’s so good! The encounter cards show such a vivid snapshot in time that I find it difficult to choose an option because I’m too busy looking at what’s going on in the picture. They are top notch, and I highly recommend taking a moment to look at the images before choosing an encounter option.
But it’s more than just the encounter cards. The board itself looks wonderful, the faction boards are detailed, and everything is done with such quality that I’d be happy framing the cards and box for their art alone. It’s this attention to detail that helps the game stand out as it does.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to talk about Scythe’s solo variant. The first solo game from Stonemaier Games I played was Wingspan, and I thought it was amazing. The same people that created Wingspan’s solo variant also created Scythe’s, so I had high hopes.
My hopes were met. The Automa rules are really, really good. It does take some time to get used to the Automa’s actions, but it starts to make sense relatively quickly. Toward the end of my first solo game, I wasn’t flipping through the rule book nearly as much. So that’s promising.
The Automa doesn’t act like a regular human player, but that’s to be expected. Instead, the Automa kind of teleports from A to B, as per the directions on the current Automa card. What it does do to near perfection is that it simulates what another player might have or do throughout a game. Scoring was also super close, which is a sign of good balance.
While I love playing with others, I do love a good solo game, and Scythe didn’t disappoint.
These are the things that make the game so awesome (for me, anyway):
- Solo variant
- Smooth gameplay (solo and multiplayer)
- Option to battle or not as you choose
- End-game trigger
- Balanced at all player counts, including two players
Things to Consider
While the following point may not be inherently “bad,” it is something you may want to consider.
- Automa can feel a bit glitchy at times, but just for a moment or two (trying to keep track of everything it does and where it can and cannot go).
Honestly, that’s really the only thing that I could see being an obstacle, and that’s just for solo play.
For me, I love a game with a strong theme and tight mechanics; it helps me experience the game while I play it. I love how the game plays, and I love practically everything about it. I’m not always aboard the hype train (after all, there are some “highly popular” games that I’d rather not ever play again), but I can definitely see why Scythe climbed as high as it did on Board Game Geek.
And while good, smooth gameplay is essential, Stonemaier Games didn’t scrimp on the aesthetics, either. The art is stunning, and the components are all thick and high quality. This combination drives home a strong thematic experience. I’m a big fan.
What about you? What do you agree or disagree with me on from this review? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
About the Author
Benjamin hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He’s a certified copyeditor through UC San Diego’s Copyediting Extension program. He’s a freelance writer and editor, covering everything from board game rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and Instagram @Benjamin_Kocher. You can also read his board game inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.
I'm curious how y'all think about expansions.
Expansions are weird beasts, and I'm sometimes surprised at how popular they are. At the same time I really want the expansions for Scythe, so I can understand the appeal.
Personally I'm not a big fan of expansions. I will play with them, there are some games that are dramatically improved by their expansions, looking at you Catan. And, I have bought expansions and will probably continue to do so.
Broadly speaking there are two sorts of expansions. There are expansions that just add new material. The Dominion expansions fit in this category. There are also those that fundamentally change/add/remove game mechanics. I tend to have more reservations about the latter form.
I have some reservations about expansions, but I also have a deeply personal taste that inclines me towards buying a new game rather than a expansion for an existing game. So my reservations may have a confirmation bais.
In games with asymmetrical faction abilities expansions *can* unbalance the factions. For instance, in the wind gambit expansion for scythe, the airships really hurt those who's native ability permits them to cross the river sooner.
They often make teaching a bear.
How did the designer want you to play the game? I believe that most designers design with a optimal play in mind. For instance, this game can play 2-4 but it plays best at three. I am interested whenever possible to discover where and how the game was designed to be played. It is clear that some games were designed with expansions in mind. Talking about Scythe again, on the board of the base game there are spots for two factions that don't appear in the base game. So, I should probably buy the Raiders from Afar expansion since it seems like it was designed with those in mind. But, it feels like often expansions are a afterthought. "Game x has lots of fans, let's make em a expansion and stick to em." Or, on Kickstarter, "get all in now... So we can hit the pledge goals that have expansions." in both of these cases I question the effects of the expansion on the game itself.
There is a subset of this reservation that says that too often expansions are " fixing" things that didn't show up during playtesting, or that the expansions themselves are not sufficiently play tested.
In games where expansions add more material without changing the game that much the expansions can lead to bloat. I love Dominion. I love the base game. I love playing the base game with one expansion. But I know people who have everything that was ever made for Domion. Playing their sets gets tiring.
I don't feel like I have it all right about expansions. Just wanting to write down some of my thoughts and see what y'all thought. I figured I could maybe get some viewpoints that help balance mine out.
[Wingspan, Gloomhaven, Root, Azul, Scythe]
[Betrayal at House on the Hill, Wingspan, Pandemic, Viticulture: Essential Edition, Ticket To Ride, Century: Spice Road, Concordia, 7 Wonders, Catan, L...]