Saturday, 3 December 2016

Playing 'Scythe'

I recently got the chance to have a game of this recently successfully KS-ed 'Scythe'.

If the art doesn't draw you attention, you can quit reading now
The setting is quite unusual, and that's appealing itself. It's some kind of weird war in the 1920's Eastern Europe. The factions in fact are the Polania Republic, the Rusviet Union, the Crimean Khanate... You get this, add Mechs and... what could possibly go wrong?

My pal will play the Crimean Khanate (yellow), I'll play the Nordic Kingdom (blue)
So, what's this all about? You will have to conquer (and retain!) several territories in order to get control of their natural resources, which will allow you to build stuff, improve your forces, etc.
You will move your workers and your special character along the board; if you are successful, you may deploy more workers or even military units, i.e., mechs.
Depending on your actions, you will increase factors like your Power (military power), your Popularity or, well, your money! These things are important as you will have to meet some requirements to complete missions or to fulfil some objectives (e.g., complete all your possible upgrades, deploy all 4 mechs, build all 4 buildings, have 18 popularity...). When any of the players fulfils six objectives, the game ends and the player with the greatest fortune wins the war, having obtained the most profitable situation from the new peace settings.

Let's have a look at the reference cards. Be aware they look complex on a first view, but once you get the baiscs it's no big deal at all. You will have a faction mat with the specifics of your unique skills. Besides, you'll have a player mat, randomly assigned, in which your production requirements are explained. This system avoids repetition, as a single faction can receive different player mats in different games, making each game different even if you play the same guys.

This will need some explanation...
In the upper pic you can see what I mean. The upper mat is about the Nordic Kingdom. You can see my Mechs ready to be deployed and my special stuff. Below, the player mat, different every game. This settles which actions will I be able to perform each turn and the related costs for upgrading/building/whatever. The more you upgrade, the cheaper will other stuff become.

You can see the player mat is divided into four sections, each one depicting stuff up and below. Those are the actions you can perform. Each turn you will have to pick any of those sections (always a different section than your previous turn) and then you can choose to perform any of the actions allowed there (the upper, the lower, both, none). Those actions can involve moving (up to X units), paying money for upgrading, paying resources for getting a mech or a building...
Workers can collect resources depending on the territory (wood, oil, metal... even more workers on villages). Mechs can combat and characters can combat and perform special actions.

Best way to explain is playing. Let's go.

Crimean workers collect food and recruit another worker
Nordic workers collect oil and wood
Way too far from each other
 When you have enough resources, you can produce a mech. Not only the mech is a miltary unit that can conquer territories (disbanding enemy workers given the case), but it also unlocks special features. So you may want to think which mech you deploy first, as each one provides different stuff for the cause.

Crimeans deploy their first mech
Few turns later the Nordics do so
At the beginning of the game you get two mission cards. Victory points are achieved by accomplishing one of them. You keep them secret until you meet the requirements. So you have to take the proper decisions during your turns in order to fulfil the specific goals. In my case I chose to go for this one:

Become a despised warmonger. Sweet
"Have 3 or less popularity, at least 13 power, and at least 2 mechs". Sooo. Popularity: Check. Power: Check. Produce a second mech... Check. Mission accomplished.

1 out of 6 goals. To victory!
The Crimeans managed to relocate a mech and a worker to get my back:

Hmm. This might get interesting
Most definitely interesting
Mech combat! Yaaay!
Combat depends on no dice rolls. It's all strategy and resource allocation, just like the rest of the game. Each player has a combat card (randomly taken from the card deck) with a value on it. When fighting, both players use a dial with scores from 0 to 7. Those are the Power points you are willing to use in the combat. You may want to add the points from the combat card. That's it. Both players reveal their points and the higher score wins.

Nordics: 2 points from the card, 5 from the dial. Total of 7. Crimeans: 5 card points, 4 dial points. Total of 9
So the Nordic mech is sent to the HQ tile and the Crimeans can set a Star on the mat:

We're even... for now!
Nordics try to cut Crimeans their way
Third mech is produced...
Crimean character advances while Nordics produce the fourth mech
Second star for the blue team!
Bad pic, but you may see a lot of yellow workers in the back
So another star for the Crimeans, having a full operative worker force
However, Nordics trade their resources and get the last upgrade. This is escalating quickly
In addition to that, Nordics get 16 Power points, another star for them

Enough! Crimeans force the battle to stop the Nordic rising
This time I took no risks and put everything I got on the combat
Another star for winning a combat. Woah, this all happened in just a fistful of turns
The Nordic character raids the enemy position and steals food
The Nordic mech takes the initiative and attacks the Crimean tank
Blue victory, sixt star positioned, the game ends!
I'd like to state some things at this point. Don't get the wrong impression at all, the game was quite balanced the whole way from the beginning to the end. Both of us could have achieved the goals, but I was rather focused on getting one done before I went for another. My pal was on the edge of getting a few of them, and he would most probably have two or three done in a couple of turns more. However, seeing your rival getting stars adds serious pressure and might lead you to rushing and losing the point.
Anyway, the object of the game is not only winning stars. Besides, we both had to check our money, the territories under control and the resources we each owned. The victory was for the Nordic Kingdom in the end, so the Vikings from ther distant North set their rule over the Tartars of Crimea!

Exhilarating game. That's how I'd define this. Scythe is quite different from the other board games we regularly play. You could say it's clearly an Eurogame, of course everything was decided on resources and the way of managing them. Right. But there's something about it that makes the difference. It may be the ambientation or more likely the confrontation style, but this more like a combat Catan. You have to take different factors under consideration, like the popularity or the size of your military forces. It's not just a matter of 'having this gives me that', there's much more depth here (for example, having the full worker force helps you to collect resources, but moving them all to the proper places is a logistic nightmare, and an overpopulation of workers will for sure affect your popularity and make some other endeavours more difficult).
I havent told about the 'Encounters' system, special events happening when your character gets on certain tiles. Another way of adding colourful stuff to the way of developing your strategy.
We didn't get to control the central tile of the board, the ominous Factory. It apparently has some particularly tasty effects on the balance of the game.

We certainly enjoyed this pretty much, but I get the impression that this is a game better served for four or five players. Interaction between multiple factions is quite a centerpiece of the whole system. So we need to enlist some more people for more games! :D

P.S.: BTW, seriously PLEASE go check the man behind the art's web:
You cannot miss it. Jaw dropping


  1. Looks fantastic mate! a lot of fun :)

    1. Thanks! A really visual game. Now I need to paint those mechs & characters!

  2. That looks like a great game in an unusual setting. Thanks for sharing.

    1. It is! It's worth of it if just for the setting itself :D
      It was cool, looking forward to try it with more players.

  3. Great looking game dude! Looks very interesting and a unique setting.

    1. I got hooked at first sight. As said, it's a kinda hardcore Eurogame, so you know what you can expect. I can say I was not disappointed at all :)

  4. Thanks so much for the in-depth review. I've had my eye on this game and this really helped me. I especially liked your term "a combat Catan".

    1. Haha, but it is a combat Catan! :D
      I've skipped a few things, but I hope it serves to give an overall view of what you can actually find in it.
      I'm commited to paint the stuff, so this is not the last you have seen of this game ;)