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Scythe is a board game set in an alternate-history 1920s period. It is a time of farming and war, broken hearts and rusted gears, innovation and valor.

In Scythe, each player represents a fallen leader attempting to restore their honor and lead their faction to power in Eastern Europa. Players conquer territory, enlist new recruits, reap resources, gain villagers, build structures, and activate monstrous mechs.

Each player begins the game with different resources (strength, victory points, movement capabilities, and popularity), their choice of several faction-specific abilities, and a hidden goal. Starting positions are specially calibrated to contribute to each faction’s uniqueness and the asymmetrical nature of the game.

Scythe gives players almost complete control over their fate. Other than each player’s individual hidden objective card, the only elements of luck are encounter cards that players will draw as they interact with the citizens of newly explored lands and combat cards that give you a temporary boost in combat. Combat is also driven by choices, not luck or randomness.

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, there is no player elimination, nor can units be killed or destroyed.

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.

User Reviews (9)

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Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
oddball Aeronauts fan
16 of 16 gamers found this helpful
“Not the sum of its gorgeous parts.”

Scythe represents Jamey Stegmaier’s second difficult album, technically his third but I hope you get my point. Coming as it does off the back of the highly praised Euphoria and the beloved Viticulture reprint, fans had lathered themselves up to a frothing fit of expectation. Not least due to the fabulous artwork supplied by Polish artist Jakub Rozalski that was integral in the development of the game alongside all the bells and whistles now expected of a Stonemaier product.

And putting aside any other opinions one thing that cannot be taken for granted is just how fantastically handsome this game is, from Jakub’s stunning art to the extravagant components the collector’s edition of this game cements Stonemaier as THE premium board game publisher on the market.

But is the actual game any good? While I’ll agree it’s a robust and thought-provoking experience and a highly entertaining thing to play I have to admit to finding it falls short of the lofty expectations heaped upon it.

The game is actually very straight forward, players each control a faction represented on the map by workers, and the towering mech’s a sort of steampunk equivalent of Pacific Rims kaiju thumping robots. Each faction comes with two randomly chosen and distinct player boards one representing a technology tree and the other offering perks unique to those peoples.
The meat of the game sees each player racing to develop their tech tree into building the most efficient engine to make the best of where on the board they find themselves. Each round a player takes an action to activate one section on the board and carries out those orders and pays whatever resources that are required, a more costly second option is also available on each that will allow them to manipulate their board in some way and progress the development of their faction.

It’s this activity that is the beating heart of the game as the decisions you make here affect how effective your forces are on the board the resources you can harvest and the points you’ll ultimately score. Don’t get me wrong its enthralling fun as you focus on this business, but it is essentially a table of people playing their own little solo games of tech tree Sudoku.

Lauded as part Euro and war game this is where Scythe fumbles the ball. While the Euro is there for all to see with the resource gathering and engine building the combat system feels like a cobbled on afterthought. Borrowing from Rex and Kemet yet nowhere as exciting as either, Kemet’s battle system with duplicated hands of cards for each faction lead to enthralling skirmishes of bluff and double bluff with neither side quite sure of what their opponent was going to choose, only the knowledge of what had been played previously. It simulated the fog of war effortlessly and allowed for some real tactics and ploys. Whereas Scythes battles hold no surprises the player with the most power is invariably going to win. And worse the game is handicapped against the aggressor, for every worker you dislodge in your warmongering you lose Popularity, and Popularity, as we’re about to discover, is I believe central to winning the game.

And as I brought it up let’s discuss Popularity, at the edge of the board is a track charting each factions Popularity rating, this is split into three tiers with the higher you are, the bigger the multipliers for your end game score. It’s my opinion despite all the multitude of choices and options on offer, it is this one score that can make the difference between victory or defeat.

Finally after all of that when a faction hits 6 stars the game is over. Immediately.

And if you found that a little jarring then well it is. After all this world building and tech tree manipulation there’s this arbitrary end, finished kaput and it can be sudden with little warning. A game of Scyth will go as such, everyone spends an hour maybe two harvesting, moving and tech sudokuing picking up the odd one or two stars, and then in the space of a round maybe two suddenly everyone can hit the total. Its then this mad dash of trying to suddenly grab territories or resources throwing any gestating plans on the fire in this mad grab for stuff. It’s just so sudden and unsatisfying after the journey we’ve taken, Imagine if Lord of the Rings Return of the King decided to skip that whole Gondor siege thing and volcano and ring business and just jumped to the bloody Hobbits high fiving at Rivendale. The End.

Now this sounds like I’m ragging on Scythe, and I don’t mean to. It is an enormous amount of fun, when you’re engrossed in the business of tweaking your engine and messing with your tech tree, it’s all very enjoyable, but here’s the rub.
There really isn’t anything all that innovative, it feels like I’m playing this potpourri of popular mechanics. The player boards are excellent fun, but I think TM did it better, the combat again borrowed from Kemet is nowhere near as much fun as that game. There’s a dash of Eclipse a pinch of Viticulture a niblet of Euphoria. Everything is immaculately balanced, but you know what? I love a little chaos in my world, a bit of random, there is nothing here to chance, and inevitably the whole thing ends up despite the incredible art and extravagant components feeling great when I really want to be jumping on my chair, and bellowing like Brian Blessed “It’s incredible!”.
I think I get it now Jamey is the Ridley Scott of board games, both of them it cannot be denied are masters of their form. They create these epic stylishly produced masterpieces beautiful to admire but ultimately lacking in something.

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Platinum Supporter
Mythic Kingdoms Backer 2020
I play blue
12 of 12 gamers found this helpful
“Plenty of Different Strategies to Try”

When I was looking for a game to give to my son for Christmas, I wanted something that I’d be willing to play over and over and over. After 10 plays so far, I can say that I’m very happy with Scythe, and expect to be playing it even more.

[For the rest of this review, I’ll assume you have read the publisher overview]

For me, what makes the game replayable is the challenge of trying different strategies with different combinations of factions and player mats. I really enjoy games that involve a lot of different choices rather than learning one single strategy.

The game includes an Achievement Sheet that gives some ideas for different challenges you might focus on, such as winning without any upgrades or without making any mechs, etc. We’ve printed extra copies of the sheet to use as a log to keep track of notable games that don’t necessarily result in a win (such as all scores > 100).

We haven’t tried more than 4 players at a time, but I think I might end up losing patience if there were 6 players or more. However, the game moves along at a nice clip with up to 4 players. From set up to clean up, we can usually be done with a game in under an hour and half, assuming all the players are experienced.

This is not a social game where you can carry on conversations and not think about what you are doing. It requires thought to be able to plan your actions efficiently and in the best order. That is one of the things I love about it, though.

For new players, it usually takes 5 or 6 turns before they can go it alone, but with helpful hints along the way, a new player can still have fun, assuming they like games that require them to think.

I like the fact that there is very little luck involved. It’s not like a game of Settlers of Catan where you might go a few turns without getting any resources (which frustrates me to death). The main uncertainties occur as a result of interaction with the other players. They may take control of areas you wanted. You might be fighting over the center Factory. Or, you might just be playing with somebody who doesn’t care about winning and just wants to ransack all of your workers. And yes, you have that option. If you don’t think you’re going to win, might as well just send all of the other player’s workers scurrying back to their home bases.

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Gamer - Level 1
14 of 15 gamers found this helpful
“Accessible, deep, and lots of fun. Worth every penny.”

At first glance Scythe appears daunting, with its relatively large board and components list (and let’s face it, large price tag)- but underneath the lid is a game which is worthy of the investment. You will sweat during your first setup and recheck the rule book half of the first game, but Scythe carries you along with relatively simple game mechanics, and you will quickly learn enough to appreciate the dizzying layers of strategy at every turn.

Largely a Cold War, players will find themselves initially trapped near their faction’s base, and then slowly expanding outwards into the world. Along the way they must gather resources, upgrade their war machines, and manage their encounters with encroaching opponents. A winner can balance victory in skirmishes with an ever-expanding territory and resource horde. And popularity.

In fact, the surprising lack of focus on combat made the game more enjoyable for players who normally prefer conflict-free games. With only 4-5 basic moves in the game, more time is spent stressing over how these actions domino into subsequent turns, and if achieving your fleeting plan will actually help you accrue the fortune necessary to win the game. The beautiful game cards and nice components also do their best to immerse you in Eastern Europa, though it can be a bit hard to tell the difference between some pieces in the retail game.

The Good Stuff
-The packaging of the box is great, with bags and containers galore included for components.
-Player boards do their best to help guide setup.
-The art. Just look at it. The Encounter cards are particularly breathtaking.

-Not all player boards are the same, and while this adds depth and replay value it is less welcoming to newcomers learning the rules fresh, as moves will have different costs for each player.
-There is an upcoming expansion to add 2 factions to the base game, which arguably should have been included originally as the spaces are already on the main board.


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7 of 8 gamers found this helpful
“Stay nimble, Stay flexible, and move quick”

Scythe is amazing, easily one of the top 10 games of all time for me. It can feel overwhelming at first given the scope of the options on the table, but when you start to see its a simple choice per round, you can really accelerate the gameplay. it only slows down when people treat it like chess. this game is meant to be played at a clip, its a race at its heart. get to the center and gain the most points before someone else ends the time. are you going for stars, for territory, resources, or the hearts and minds of the masses? problem is there is a way to win with each of these tactics. Its those vast arrays of options that make linear thinker and planners have a harder time with this game. I have invested in the upgrades and expansions for this and think they had a lovely depth in the tactile feel of the game. If you don’t like having to choose between lots of options then this game will probably drive you nuts, but if you are non-linear like me, and like outflanking your opponents through tactics and not just strength of force than you will find this game deeply rewarding. Add that to superior design and artwork, makes for an engrossing and stunning visual experience. You need an advanced gamer who has some time to learn the rules before play, preferably someone who can teach the ropes to the other players, but I like how the rulebook says “just try different things, you aren’t going to win your first round, and that’s okay, its the best way to learn.” So true. Don’t worry about winning the first 1 or 2 rounds, get used to the mechanics, and how the choices you have impact the options down the road, each person can find their own particular path to victory, vs other games that you have to discover the “true” strategy. All in all, this game has been a huge hit in my circle, and they clamor to try it again and again determined that have found a new way to win. That is the hallmark of a great game in my book.

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Smirk and Dagger Games fan
15 of 19 gamers found this helpful
“Had a blast!”

This game is pretty awesome.
It may seem a little overwhelming at first, but it’s a fairly simple game.
The difficulty comes in the way of strategy against your opponents.
As the game moves forward, you’ll find yourself agonizing over the choices you make.
There are also many ways to score and win. So, even if you feel you are not doing well, there is still a chance to win.

Art is outstanding
Board is big; lots of room to play.
Not very difficult to learn.

The board art is a bit muddled. It’s important because there are certain abilities that can be used depending on terrain which is sometimes hard to determine.
It requires a lot of room to set up.
The miniatures are not very detailed. Not horrible, but maybe if you like painting miniatures then you will notice the lack of face detail.

I would recommend this game.

Like I said; this is a great game. I see the replay-ability potential as high.
It is a beautiful and fun game.

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9 of 13 gamers found this helpful
“Identity crisis”

Scythe is a game that has been designed around a series of art works. Sometimes this works, in this case it really shows its flaws. My experience with the game is that it is on rails, you don’t ever feel like you are making strategic choices each turn, but rather just making the most efficient choices. Your goal is to end the game as soon as possible, and it is more like a race than a 4X strategy game.

Saying that Scythe is a 4X, is like calling love letter a 4X, or carcassonne. Two of the four X’s are missing from scythe, the eXploring and eXtermination. The game lacks any risk, you can loose a combat and you get given a card for loosing and your Mech doesn’t get destroyed, it just goes back to your base. It doesn’t even need to be repaired.

I feel that the designer has never immersed himself in the world of Mech’s as the game mechanics surrounding the use of Mech’s is bizarre. The interaction between players is very limited in the game and only occurs in combat. Combat in the game isn’t used as a tool for expanding your empire but rather to get two of the six stars needed to end the game.

This game got a lot of hype, but delivered a mediocre pseudo 4x that feels like it was aimed at kids for its lack of risk and very limited strategy.

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6 of 9 gamers found this helpful
“A nice surprise”

This game really surprised me because:
I don’t like miniature games and I liked this one.
The fact is that the miniature strategy involved doesn’t include any military stuff. The miniatures are well built and it’s really a pleasure to grab them.
These sort of games tend to have many rules, icons and be very complicated. But notr this one. When we get stuck with rules, the manual explains everything clearly. Rules are easy to be understood.
It’s almost impossible to play the same game twice because of the different races included and because of the several strategies that we can use to win the game.
There is no luck factor because it’s, all strategy.
As a miniature game, it’s rather quick wich makes it more atractive.
The art and text on the cards are logic and delightful.
I advice this game to everyone even to those who don’t like this sort of games.

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6 of 15 gamers found this helpful
“Solid game, a little slow paced and clunky gameplay”

The first thing you see when you get Scythe is the art. The wonderful, futuristic, yet simple box shows how complicated the game is. Every turn requires a handful of minutes to take. This game requires great patience and strategy many turns in advance. Scythe is a great game for people who take time to think many turns ahead. This game is not for the feint of heart, it would take the average player many hours to master this monolith. Scythe is good for intense gamers, but is much too complicated and strategy heavy for beginners.

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“This one wasn't for me”

I don’t think that this game is necessarily bad or poorly made; I just don’t really like this style of game. It’s not that the subject matter turned me off; I actually quite like its steampunk mech aesthetic. It’s too long for me and just failed to engage me with its gameplay.

There are quite a few rules to familiarize yourself with, and the action boards could be clearer about the results and costs of the various actions on them (without having to refer to the rulebook constantly). In addition, I found that most of the times I have played, this led to all sides just turtling up and gathering resources until victory (actually that was me, mostly — the opponent seemed pretty content to aggressively, albeit fruitlessly, attack…), making for rather monotonous gameplay.

All in all, while I think some people could definitely enjoy this game, it just wasn’t for me.


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