While at GenCon this year I visited the Asmodee Games booth to check out one of their latest games: Scythe. Well, to be more accurate I checked out the digital version of the game. While I was walked through the basics of the game, there’s really only so much I could do while at the booth since…well, it’s GenCon, people are constantly coming and going. After checking it out I was told I could get a code for the Early Access version of the game so I could check out more of it on my own time. This was good because I had never played Scythe before until then and since I love board games, I did want to check out more of it. As of the time of this article’s post, the game is out of Early Access, so I had a chance to play around a bit with it in both scenarios.
In Scythe, players take control of their faction and attempt to become the richest and most powerful faction in Eastern Europa. This is done by exploring and taking over territories, producing resources and workers, building various structures, and deploying mechs…because nothing says 1920s Eastern Europa like giant mechs. As players progress through their turns they’ll begin to earn stars for various achievements. The game ends when a player acquires their sixth star, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they win the game. A player’s final total consists of money on hand as well as a few other factors to reach a final amount of wealth. Having more popularity when the game ends will multiply a few of those factors a bit more, giving you a better chance of winning.
As stated a moment ago, I have never played Scythe before checking out the digital version, so I’m pretty much going into the game blind. If you have played the physical version you’ll know just how big the instruction manual can be. Thankfully the digital version has a pretty good tutorial that’s split into multiple segments with each one going over various aspects of the game, from simple movement and how the player mats work, to obtaining resources, to combat and end game scenarios. If you’ve never played Scythe before I highly recommend checking out the tutorial. Each segment walks you through exactly what you need to do and explains what’s going on, and if you’re still not sure about something you can always redo a segment afterwards. Beyond that I won’t get much into details on how the game is played outside of a few minor things as that could be an entire article or video on its own.
Going through the tutorial though did give me a minor thing to nitpick about: the size of everything. That might sound confusing so let me explain. With a game like Scythe there’s a lot going on and a pretty big field of play. While I initially had concerns about this, there’s not really much that can be done about the size of things and they took care of it in a pretty good way. By hovering your mouse cursor over the various options on your player mat in the bottom-left corner of the screen, a tool tip will pop up and show you what each part of the map does. The red squares show the cost with the symbol in the square showing what gets paid such as money, honor, or popularity. The green boxes show the result, such as something getting produced, movement, and so on.
So the basics of how to play are kind of simple. Before beginning you can choose which player mat and faction you’ll be playing with, or you can choose one or both to be random to increase the fun. You can also play with up to four bots or other players, and for the bots you can choose from three levels of difficulty. On your player mat you’ll see four pairs of options you can choose from on your turns. Each turn you can choose a top option, then if able to you can perform the bottom option from that same column. The catch though is that you can use the same column on the very next turn, so if on my first turn I decide to use the Movement option to move my character, then I can’t use the Movement option on my next turn; I’d have to wait until the turn after that to move anything again. Other options you can perform via the player mats are resource production, combat, bolstering power, gaining coins, and more.
As a strategy game…well let’s just say that I’m terrible at strategy games and this one is no different, though that’s entirely on me. A lot of my first game was just trying to figure out what I should do. I talked to a friend online who has the physical version and he said a lot of your decisions will be based on which faction you choose or end up with. If you want to pick which faction to play as, get used to any special abilities with that faction to learn how they should act. As a digital version of the game, it’s pretty good so far. The tutorial does a pretty good job at breaking down how to play and allowing you to repeat any section that you might still have problems with. With the game now out of early access, a few more things have been included and fixed and Asmodee has said that the updates won’t be stopping just because Early Access is done. If you’re into strategy board games, Scythe is worth checking out. While you can play online, sadly there weren’t many players doing this quite yet so I couldn’t get a full gauge on the online play, but hopefully down the line that’ll change. Overall, Scythe looks to be a pretty fun game and I’m hoping to improve in time from “terrible at it” to “somewhat competent”.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.