board game review: Scythe

We brought Scythe home a few weeks ago, and we’ve played it a few times. We’ve played one 2-player and two 4-player games, and Carl played the automa version once. I think I can give a decent review of it now.

There are some good tutorials on Scythe (see the Watch It Played video and errata here), so I won’t talk in depth about how to play the game. But briefly, there are five factions and five player mats, for 25 combinations of play. Each faction has a special ability and slightly different powers, and each player mat has a different combination of basic and more expensive actions, and different costs for things. You gain stars (achievements) by gaining power or popularity, building, deploying mechs, winning combats, and other things. Everything–territories, resources, stars, building locations–is converted to coins at the end of the game, and the player with the most coins wins.

For our first game, we were a little confused about the rules, and we did a few things wrong, particularly with workers (allowing workers to have encounters, letting workers do the special mech/character actions), but we got the gist of it, and our next games were more correct. In our last game, I won without building any buildings, and I almost broke 100 coins, but I think I bribed too many people. I felt like it was a pretty nice victory. There’s an achievement sheet that lets you write down your name next to winning scenarios, which makes victory even sweeter.

The first few rounds are a little slow and offer little interaction with the other players, as you try to gather enough resources to do something useful, but once you get out of your little area, there is the potential for more interaction as it becomes a land grab and race to the factory. Combats are not as frequent as you might think, even with four players, and bribery is fun (and effective if done right).

Carl says that the automa version needs more explicit instructions. While he was playing, he called me over a few times to find out what I thought was reasonable. I haven’t tried the automa version myself yet, but I will say so when I do.

I LOVE this game. It’s complex enough to have many different winning scenarios, there’s a little bit of luck involved, and it speeds up as the game goes on. It’s not a simple game, and you have to play with people who REALLY like games, but it’s pretty great.

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