Doug's Dungeon - Scythe
We’ve talked about a lot of short and mid-tier board box bois on this show. But sometimes you need to plan a whole night around a game. Sprawling epics filled with plot twists. Shaky alliances. More miniatures and tokens than you can shake a baggie at. While this week’s highlight is not the heaviest of the heavy weights, it sure does pack a punch. Punches like an 1800s cold war game, where all the central European races you play with have big “Sir this is a christian server, please leave” mechs. Please give a 2-4 hour welcome to Scythe:
In Scythe, players command a unique nation in order to spread influence over the shattered mech-related-post-war continent. You’ll micromanage workers, erect buildings and go on fun little adventures with your leader. You might even sit your mechs on an enemy’s border, forcing them to commit exorbitant resources to reinforce a mining facility and the resources held within so you can’t just mosey on in and take it all.
Scythe is a big game. Physically. This bad bozo will take up most of a standard table with ease, and many like myself will be forced into maximum-extra-table mode. Not only do you have to have the board, but you’ll need a space for each player’s tableau as well. Each game players get different races AND civilization types, changing the strengths and weaknesses they will have to work with. These tableblables also represent the four actions you can take. Now if it weren’t enough to be set in Europe, this game is also very ‘euro’. By that I mean you can’t take the same action twice in a row. This encourages players to plan out their moves. Unless you are the Rusviets. They do whatever whenever.
These tableaus are really sweet. See, like in many Euro games, building things and hiring workers pulls them from the board, revealing changes to the costs/rewards of your actions. Researching takes the little cubes from the top row and adds them to the bottom action row, making your basic actions more effective and your advance actions easier to buy. Each tableau shuffles up the action pairings, so don’t get too comfortable after your first game, sonny. But what, you ask, are those yellow boys on the race space? Why they are the mechs, of course!
The miniatures in this game are of pretty decent quality. Each race has their own mech type (with unique abilities) and a sweet leader (and pet (but none of them have a cat (which makes sense because cats are jerks))). Together they make up the fighting force that you deploy onto the board and into the battlefields. But how do we win this big ol game?
Victory points, obv. There’s a big list of things you can do to earn said points and ‘stars’ for the end game. Gaining popularity. harvesting lots of resources. Hiring all mercenaries from your tableau. Hoarding power. The game length is tied not to rounds, but to how many stars have been earned. Once a set number is hit, the game is over. The problem is getting there. You see, fighting people sounds fun. But this isn’t warhammer. First off, if you invade enemy territory, you have to commit a secret amount of your power and combat cards to the fight. Whoever reveals the most wins, but all power used is lost. Opponents could strike at you just to get you to drain power, and distance you from claiming that star.
Winning the fight is no glorious regime either. Any enemy worker you send home running loses you popularity, which is a victory point multiplier at the endgame. And since any materials harvest sit in the hex they were harvested from, you now need to transport or spend the spoils... before less weary opponents come to claim it all for themselves. And it’s not just key locations (determined by a bonus tile drawn at the start of the game). Apart from the 6 red tunnel spaces that you can use to quickly traverse the map, there’s the mysterious ‘factory’. Going there nets you a sweet future tech card that gives you an extra type of action for the rest of the game.
So who should go grab Scythe then? Well if you’re up for a very purposeful, methodical territory control game, you want this box. If you love the scenic painted landscape style of art that’s weirdly pleasing when delivering a world on the brink of war, you want this box. If you have around 4 hours to spend on the first play to get the hang of it, you get this box. If you have more than 4 friends (but no more than 6) who want to play this game, then get this and the expansion box that adds the 6th and 7th player races to the mix. (Editor's note - There's also a bigger board you can get, it's like the normal board just larger)
I’ve only played up to 4 players though. So do let me know how your full 7-man reenactment of “War and Peace” goes for you.
I'm an avid lover of all things table top. I also have a growing collection of board games which inspire me to create my own. I put my loud and expressive personality to good use as a dungeon master for my friends, having run many campaigns through 4th and 5th edition D&D.
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