Before we reviewed Stonemaier Games’ Scythe, we reviewed My Little Scythe, and it feels appropriate to start by saying that it was a great introduction to the more complex but similar mechanics of Scythe.
Scythe has a beautiful set up, where you have two mats (player mat and faction mat) that represent your country and your type (agricultural, industrial, etc.). The first has your action mat with indented places for specific pieces (buildings, people, etc.) and your second board has spots for the mechs and abilities that are unlocked.
Each player starts with different advantages (coins, friendship, etc.) but it never seems out of balance during the game. It gives more individualism to each role and improves upon the replayability.
Your overall goal is to complete 6 objectives (out of a possible 10) and once this happens, the game ends immediately for everyone. What we liked about objectives in the game, is that you don’t complete all of the possible ones, you just choose six you want to go for. You can build your strategy in a way that you want rather than a game telling you to complete every single item you choose yourself.
Your turn consists of moving along the action mat. You can either move/gain, trade, produce, or bolster. Then if you have the resources, you can do an extra action along the bottom (upgrade, enlist, build buildings, or build mechs). In the beginning, you are only able to really do the top items until you gather enough to do your bottom actions. You have to choose carefully what you gather to accomplish your goals. Sometimes something throws your strategy away and you have to figure out how to continue progressing towards different goals.
Some actions have a cost up front, some gain costs later (Produce costs nothing until you start to put more meeples on the board, revealing costs when the meeples are taken off that space of the action mat). This added a nice little immersion feel as it makes sense that having more people in your country would require more resources to keep them alive. It was a little jarring that when you play different characters, the action squares are in different places, but it wasn’t hindering. It was unique.
Game turns are fairly standard, kind of short especially in the beginning. However, since there is much to accomplish and each turn allows you to do a tiny bit at a time, the game does end up being long. It takes about two and a half hours to play. Sometimes you notice the time, other times it goes by like nothing. Sometimes a turn will be very quick and others you have to take your time to think about what other players will do.
We found it rare that a fight would break out on the board and the game states states that it is intentional. Sometimes it just didn’t seem worth the reward of winning a fight to risk hard earned resources and placement on the map as the losing character is forced back to their starting spot. There are usually more cons to starting a fight than there are pros, but it is worrisome to see your opponents build up their military might and start to encroach on your miniatures.
One of our favorite elements of gameplay were the encounter cards, where if you end up on a encounter spot can pick an option, often costing a little but giving either a good resource, friendship, or similar gain if you’re willing to give up whatever the cost is. It was interesting to see a moral choice in some encounters, as some choices are a little more malevolent than others.
The game for two players played very well, we want to try this with a larger group someday as it seems like it would be more complex to manage and strategize. Even at two players calculating each turn felt immersive and rewarding.
Language Barrier Playability: The game has some elements that are very language specific like the quest cards. The moves themselves could be memorized by the symbols/piece shapes but it would be difficult to play with a language barrier.
Replayability: Plentiful replayability. It is a long game that has nicely balanced and varied character stat randomization. Especially because each character has a unique ability that gives them a slight advantage but other traits that may be considerably lower than their opponents it gives them individuality.
Artwork: Oil paintings on cards, a nice terrain map, AMAZING figurines. The list goes on. Truly something we are proud to have in our collection!
Quality: The best. Stonemaeir Games has never, ever disappointed with the quality of their pieces. There is a set of upgrade coins that we will be purchasing in the future though because they are gorgeous.
Strategy: This whole game is about strategy! The ability to choose your objectives empowers the individual but there are plenty of obstacles and opportunities that affect the strategy the whole time.
Instruction Manual: Thorough. There were not any rules that were not clearly explained in the manual.
Organization: Wonderful. Everything stacks in the box and there are a lot of pieces included! If you don’t close it just right it doesn’t have that perfect seal but just putting it away nicely prevents that. It is very well organized.