The idea for Scythe was born when Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier games saw Jakub Rozalski’s art on a Kotaku article. Some of the artwork appeared on the Scythe BoardGameGeek page, and the game hit the hotness. Fans have been anxiously awaiting it since then, and the game is finally coming soon.
Item Code: STM600
Releases August 2016
The setting of Scythe is an alternate-history 1920s set around an abandoned factory, over which the various factions of the region of Eastern Europa compete for control. Each player will pilot one of these factions, including a main character and animal companion, workers, and mechs that can be deployed throughout the game.
The winner will be the one with the most coins at the end of the game. In addition to coins earned normally throughout the game, more coins are awarded based on territories, structures, resources, popularity, and stars placed at the end of the game.
What are stars, you ask? Well, these essentially represent achievements players can unlock throughout the game. Achieve one of these, and you get to place a star on the board. Place all six of your stars, and the game ends. You may not want to end the game if you know you won’t have the most coins, but placing more stars does earn you coins, so you can’t skip them altogether. Players will be placing stars for doing things like winning combats, sending out all their workers, achieving high popularity, and completing a secret objective.
In addition to six wooden stars in your color, you’ll receive a faction board, an action board, wooden worker pieces, wooden structure pieces, four plastic mech miniatures, a plastic character piece, some cubes, and other pieces to track your faction’s variables.
The main places you’ll be looking throughout the game will be at your action board and at the main map board, which is comprised of a bunch of hexagonal territory spaces. Each faction has a designated starting space on the board, meaning some players can start out somewhat distant from each other. The tunnel territories, though, which are considered adjacent to each other, can close the gap quickly. There are even a couple extra starting faction spaces for the upcoming expansion.
On your turn, you’ll be able to pick one of the four actions on your action board—though you can’t pick the same one you picked last turn (unless it’s your faction’s special ability to do so!). Each action space has a top action and a bottom action, but the bottom actions are more costly, so you’ll be several turns into the game before you’ll be able to take advantage of any of those. Each action board has the same top actions and bottom actions, but they’re paired up differently on each board. That means there’s a ton of replayability with the combinations of faction boards and action boards.
The top actions are Move/Gain, Bolster, Trade, and Produce. Moving is key, as you’ll need to send your workers out to the territories that match the types of goods you’ll want to produce. One of the key elements of Scythe is that produced goods stay on the territory where they were produced unless workers carry them off. That means another benefit of movement will be heading out to where an opponent is producing a bunch of stuff, sending the enemy’s workers back home, and claiming the goods for yourself.
Wooden pieces don’t participate in combat, and if an opponent’s plastic piece comes in to fight, all your wooden workers run along to your starting space. But when one player’s plastic piece or pieces (mechs and/or character) move into another player’s territory with plastic pieces, there’s a fight.
Fighting functions in large part based on the power track. Each player always has a power score that can move up or down, and during combat, players will secretly bid power values to spend to add to the fight. Players can also play their power cards, which add additional value. Each mech and character adds 1 power to a fight, and a player can play as many cards as that player has mechs and/or characters. Once players have declared power bids, played cards, and added everything up, one player’s units will be sent home.
If you defended, good for you. If you won as the attacker, however, you’ll lose popularity based on how many units you sent home. Nothing actually dies in Scythe, so while players can lose board position, no one will be set too far behind through combat (unless, of course, you put too many eggs in one basket).
The Produce action lets you put goods onto territories you control based on how many workers you have in each of those spaces. The goods are wood, oil, food, and metal, which are all used for things like building structures and deploying mechs. Workers producing on village tiles produce more workers, which are moved off your action board and uncover additional costs you’ll have to play in future Produce actions—the more workers you have working, the more you’ll have to pay to support them.
As your character wanders the board, you’ll have the chance to discover encounters. When your character enters a territory with an encounter icon, you draw an encounter card, each of which has beautiful artwork depicting a scene from Scythe‘s alternate-history 1920s. The card will present three options of ways your character can interact with the pictured environment and the people therein, from helping distressed children to overthrowing the local government and robbing peasants blind. These decisions can affect your goods, coins, power, and popularity, and they expand the tapestry of the game’s story along the way.
In the center of the board is the factory, the closing of which created a power vacuum that the players and their factions are trying to fill. When your character takes control of the factory territory, you will be able to look at the factory cards dealt face down at the start of the game and claim one. There are always one more than the number of players, so even the last player to control the factory will have a couple choices. The card you claim will add a fifth action to your action board, which can be pretty powerful.
The second-row actions on the base board are Upgrade, Deploy, Build, and Enlist. All these actions take advantage of the board-game technology of having components cover text and icons on cardboard. For example, when you Upgrade, you’ll take a cube off a space on a top-row action and put it onto a space on a bottom-row action. This will uncover an additional benefit for the top-row action while covering up a cost on a bottom-row action, making both better. Deploying a mech uncovers a special ability of your mechs, so pay attention to which mech you choose to deploy. Building a structure likewise will uncover an ability, which will apply to that structure when taking an associated action. Enlisting gives a one-time bonus while uncovering a permanent reward whenever you or an adjacent player takes the associated action.
Part of the strategy of Scythe is taking best advantage of your top-row and bottom-row actions. Each action space has one of each, and while the top-row actions are easy to activate, you’ll need to plan ahead to try to benefit from those bottom-row actions as frequently as possible.
So throughout Scythe, players will be using their action boards as efficiently as they can to send out workers to produce goods, they’ll be spending goods to do things like deploy mechs, build structures, and upgrade actions, they’ll be adventuring with characters to interact with the setting via encounters, and they’ll be occasionally skirmishing—or trying to look tough to keep anyone else from messing with them. Once someone has placed six stars, the game will end, and whoever has the most coins will control the land.
Scythe is a deep and strategic 4X game: explore by navigating encounters, expand with workers and structures, exploit by gathering resources on the territories, and exterminate each other with your character and mechs. Keeping track of everything in Scythe is a Herculean task, but the action system is so straightforward that it isn’t difficult to just navigate your own plans while keeping a wary eye out for potential intruders on your land.