Scythe – A board game review

By | 09/01/2019

The game: Scythe
The publisher: Stonemaier Games
The designer: Jamey Stegmaier

Benjamin Franklin once said, “The way to wealth depends on just two words, industry and frugality”, yet when purchasing a copy of Scythe players are offered a third word for this eponymous quote…Mechs. This is Scythe. The game where diesel powered mechs along with grizzled warriors and their animal companions work towards a thriving economy and happy populace in a race to be the richest nation in the room.

Scythe logo

The design of Scythe

Designed by Jamey Stegmaier, who based the game upon the stunning artwork of Jakub Rozalski, Scythe takes place in an alternate history of Europe where five nations are in an uneasy peace and are seeking to rebuild from the ashes of war. This is represented by a beautiful game board, hundreds of wonderful component pieces and artwork so stunning that the rules state that you must show it to other players. Further to this are the nation boards and nation focus boards, best described as ‘Who you are and how you make your money most efficiently’. In these two boards we find the nuts and bolts of the game as a worker placement and efficiency engine creator, deciding whether to produce resources on the spaces your workers inhabit, build bonus giving monuments or use your leader to interact with unique encounter cards. Players will find themselves thinking moves ahead in a bid to fulfil the various criteria that lead to them claiming objectives and generating the most money. However, almost all of this can be done without ever having to interact with anyone else… which is where this game may lose you.

Scythe board

What about the mechs?

‘Hold on’, I hear you cry ‘You said this game had mechs which means lasers and massive cannons and stomping over my opponents like a robot Godzilla whilst twirling my villain like moustache…doesn’t it?’. Well let me tell you that…no. it doesn’t. The box cover art shows Mechs walking across an agricultural landscape and whilst we may assume that means mech warfare it actually and accurately represents the farming and mech support this game entails. Mechs become worker transports and offer bonuses which can be cleverly utilised to give you the edge in worker placement. They open new choices and tactics rather than the tired ‘Mech Smash!’ aspect we could have been given and it is better for it.

There is combat and it is simple and does gain you one of the six stars you need to win the game, but it comes with negatives. Negatives that hamper your final score if you are not careful and as you can achieve your six stars without combat you may find yourself looking for more lucrative paths to success. If you were expecting heavy mech combat then Scythe is not going to cut it but as an expansive, beautiful efficiency engine it cuts it right through the middle.

Scythe artwork mech

Do I buy Scythe?

The question we all want the answer to when reading reviews and a question that is just as hard to answer because only you know what you like. Having said that…yes buy Scythe. It is a beautiful game with supported expansions and has the air of friendly competition as well as being able to join in a shared experience of the artwork, often hilarious encounter cards and either the joy of perfecting one combination or trying a plethora of different ideologies and nations. The components are lovely and can be painted, if you are so inclined, with a clear rule set that rewards just playing and learning as you go.

Scythe is a game that is worth your time and money. It will repay your investment back to you many times over as you visit this beautiful world of diesel and determination.

By Gareth

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