Saturday, May 6, 2017

Tried Scythe.. an unspiring worker-placement cube-pusher

I sat down with my friends Jim and Jeff today to play the hyped-up game Scythe, by Stonemaier Games.

The cover art looks beautiful, and it has an alternate-Earth theme which I love and Mechs, which interest me as I never got to scratch my Battletech curiosity itch as a kid.

It's set in this 1920 post-WW1 dieselpunk theme somewhere in Russia, or what we would call Russia on our timeline. I don't know much about the Scythe universe, but I imagine the Scythe is a mirror symbol of the USSR's sickle.. We had the Russian Revolution (the Sickle) and Scythe had Mechs and different factions vying for power in a war-torn land.  At least, that is my guess on why the game is called Scythe, history-lover that I am.

Whatever.. let's get to the mech combat I thought...

The first thing I was told was that it's a Euro cube-pusher...


and despite the beautiful box cover art, every side gets only 4 mech minis for this entire huge board.

My friend Jeff, who owns the game, had to stress to me and Jim that this was not a strategy war game but an economic worker-placement game with a bit of Mech warfare thrown in.  Despite Russia's famous steamroller of infantry historically, this game's only combat is 4 Dieselpunk Mechs per side. No infantry.

Jeff got the game from someone who Kickstarted it with all the goodies, so the production values were nice..  Nice metallic coins, oil barrels, wheat bags, wood and real metal bars.. I was overall impressed with the Kickstarter production values.

The cards in the game have whimsical text that was interesting (for example, the "bears frolic together in snow") and really beautiful art to be honest..


Then came all the moving parts to this game.. you build resources to generate points and build mechs, you upgrade, you trade resources, you do this, you do that.. this affects that.. that affects this..  I just rolled my eyes at first until I got used to it..

Every turn you can do two things on your card as indicated in four columns with a top part and a bottom part.. for example, buy resources and build a mech is in one column.. Jim let out an unintentional gag during the game when he said he had no wood and couldn't do the bottom action..This turned out to be the highlight of the game for us.

With all the resources on the large map and the paltry 4 mechs each, the game seemed bare to me.. Sure the map looks pretty and takes a large footprint, but it didn't do it for any of us.

Combat in the game is dull. You basically add an amount based on your energy to this wheel and throw in some combat cards... add them up and compare it to the other guy.. the highest wins. And by winning, he doesn't destroy the enemy Mech nor his workers, but they just start all over again in their home base.

Not only is combat dull, but it's discouraged despite the impression you get looking at the box art. It's discouraged because combat costs energy points, but more importantly, it could cost you popularity points, which affect multipliers at the end of the game when assessing victory points.

For example, the red and yellow hearts represent a mid level of popularity, which give 4 x, 3x and 2x, multipliers on certain victory conditions. If yellow engages in war and loses 1 popularity point down to 6, his end of game multipliers when counting up victory points is now 3x, 2x, 1x.. Why the hell would anyone risk combat because of that?

Neither me, nor Jim nor Jeff, were overly impressed by this game. The alternate-Earth Russian mech theme seems bolted on to cube-pusher mechanics.. the alternate Earth dieselpunk theme (even though on beautiful art and map), seemed almost an afterthought.

With just 3 of us on a large map, we just expanded and pushed cubes around.

I am getting tired of board games to be honest, especially the hype over the new shiny ball syndrome that this hobby suffers from. Scythe was raved about by all the Euro loving players, who love all the worker placement stuff, but I see now it was just overblown hype.

I'd rather just paint models and fight miniature battles at this point, instead of wasting my Saturday afternoon chasing victory points by making sure my wooden cubes are in the proper place.


  1. Games like that are why I never play "bored" games anymore ;-)

  2. lol.. I agree Blackstar.. unfortunately, my gaming buddies are still into board games and I have to push them for miniature battles at times. Sigh.. :-)

  3. The game just did not give me the wood I thought it would.

    Board games with a good theme and well executed mechanics still create a great experience but while this one had some interesting mechanics they did not captivate with the bolted on theme.