Scythe – 9 months since UK release, does the hype live on?

Scythe is a fairly weighty Euro game set in an “alternate history 1920s Europa”, with (up to) 5 factions feuding over a state called ‘The Factory’. While this sounds flush with detail and the artwork does well to bring it to life the theme itself is fairly unimportant in my opinion, it could be any fantasy setting or real life setting with a tweak to a few pieces The characters,miniatures and theme are very cool but seem a little dare I say pasted on, I think it’s a good theme and it looks amazing but it doesn’t seem a necessary one to gameplay.. The mechs although also cool looking could easily be something else as could the leaders and then everything else is fairly standard, resources, workers and so on.

scythe pic
To be fair, this is an Epic box.

There is “conflict”, though it is the least threatening I have seen in a game, you assign a certain amount of power on a dial, another important resource that everyone tracks on the board and a card per unit you have in the space, highest wins, winner controls the space, loser moves all units back to their base, so they don’t really lose much, unless perhaps they had resources there.

Players all start with unique powers and gain different powers, I am still unsure if they are fairly weighted, some seem better than others and your main actions costs and effects are randomly assigned to you, not character reflective, this seems slightly odd to me.  The artwork is very nice, impressive even.

scythe artwork
Scythe’s artwork on player board.  I haven’t played as this faction it does look very cool.

 

Scythe feels like a merge of Terra Mystica, Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia the minor conflict is similar to that which occurs regularly in Rex: Final Days of an Empire and there is a smidge of Above and Below style story dilemmas. You are vying to have power, popularity, resources, area control and distribute six stars when you achieve certain things, such as reaching the top of power or popularity tracks or building all your mechs. This is a really nice element it means the game can end abruptly and is not necessarily a calculated win. The many goings on work incredibly well and very smoothly together, it’s a game of so much to keep an eye on, some turns feel like you achieve much while some are wholly underwhelming but the marathon is a rewarding one in the end, there is a sense of achievement at the end.

People have obviously responded well as the game is a huge hit and at the time of writing is ranked sixth on boardgamegeek, for some reason it’s taken me 9 months to play it. In the official writing for Scythe it is at no point called a Euro game, it is called engine-builder, which it is, and while games have no doubt moved on from fitting into two categories (Euro and Ameritrash) the focus is on economics, resource management and worker placement, which makes you build this engine. Scythe is almost quintessentially a Euro game just with a sense of flair, although I find myself reviewing it in a way that seems unappreciative when I analyse the individual parts, Scythe is more than the sum of its parts and it is a greatly enjoyable game.

The price point remains high at £56 minimum, oh yeah that’s why it’s taken me so long to play it, none of us in my game group wants to pay that for one game and therefore the price seems problematically high to me (plus expansion at over £20 and a bigger board to play more players too!). Scythe is a mighty game but not one that I would want to experience enough to warrant said cost. If you like nice looking weighty Euro games this is for you. Maybe the cost can be validated by playing solo, I haven’t tried it.

– James Crawley

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