Monday, 3 October 2016

Harvest for the World

Scythe hasn't been out of the cupboard for a couple of weeks, so when Chris suggested it last night Andrew and I were amenable.

The box and components make this look a heavy game, but as we remarked approvingly last night, it plays very quickly. Each player represents a faction trying to become the dominant culture in an alternate Europe, but rather than just fight each other you're also trying to win over the local populace to your point of view - you might dominate the landscape, but if your opponents have made themselves more appealing to the locals, you won't win the game.

Each player starts with a faction board that has four 'slots' on it, with a top and bottom action. On your turn, you choose a slot and take either one or both of the available actions. The top actions: Move and Produce get you momentum on the board/resources from workers, Bolster improves your military might and Trade lets you pay money for resources. The bottom actions allow you to Build buildings, Enlist troops to your cause, Deploy a mech (which, unlike your production-minded workers, can fight for you) or Upgrade: making your top actions more profitable and your bottom actions cheaper to achieve.


So you're expanding on the map and aiming, at first, to stay out of each other's way whilst you try and improve the virtual cards in your hand. Like Eclipse, combat becomes a more common by-product - or even just a product - towards the end of the game, when winning or losing can be crucial. However, losing a fight is not as punitive as in Eclipse, and indeed winning one can make your popularity suffer. So whilst the game encourages some aggression, you need to choose your battles.

Stanley loves it and we'd recently played it three times on holiday, and once when his Warhammer-playing pal Theo came over (competitive dad won that one). I love it too - it plays far quicker than Eclipse and is much easier to explain to newbies. Like another favourite, Caverna, turns (usually) feel productive and there's room for Plans B and C. My only criticism is the fact players can magically ping around the board as a result of certain powers (and the mines) kind of breaks up the theme slightly. But then again, in Wallenstein combatants hurl themselves into a giant tower, and in Eclipse you can ignore some of the universe and throw it away... so I think we can handle that minor idiosyncrasy.

Andrew having fun

Not sure what Chris is having

What I really like about Scythe is that there's a story to it - encounter tokens are liberally placed around the board at the start, and interacting with these allows you to make choices - they're always productive, but you can make them especially so and sacrifice your reputation (i.e. lose popularity!) or take the less alluring options and improve your reputation instead.

Several objectives allow you to place a Star to show you've achieved it - the moment any players places their sixth star, the game ends - although as I have found to my cost before, the player ending the game won't necessarily win it.

In the event, Chris found that knowing it slightly better worsened his game - possibly he thought too much? - as Andrew and I charged ahead. I focused on getting my buildings down and enlisting everyone I could - both give you ongoing bonuses for the rest of the game. My faction's special power was to take two options from the Encounter cards, so I travelled the board as far as I could maximising this - and inadvertently turding on Chris - twice - when I found myself stranded in his territory and had to fight my way out. I triggered the game end and took a solid win:

Sam  93
Andrew 62
Chris 23

With the time only 9.30pm, there was a multitude of options open to us. "Something that lasts half an hour!" Andrew said. "Forty-five minutes" Chris countered.

We played Cosmic Run. This is such a fun filler, but I'm starting to wonder if the recipe for success will always be the same. I ignored the alien cards early on and just pushed myself up the planet tracks; as we've found in the past, that seems to lead to the win - and so it was in this case.

Sam 69
Chris 42
Andrew 39

The alien cards are a lot of fun, but are they busted? Probably not, and this is just a random cluster of track-rewarding by fate. We'll see what happens next time.

Andrew called it a night and Chris and I had a quick run at Keltis: The Dice Game, the most challenging part of which - for me - was assembling the four-piece board, much to Chris' amusement. "It's double-sided!" I protested, with some (minor) justification. I got my revenge in the game itself when despite getting confused over which colour we were - in a two player game - I managed to nab the win by a few points.

Nice way to end the weekend, thanks chaps.


  1. I like scythe, the board, pieces, art and favour is lovely and well executed. I think that the game doesn't get me. There's definitely a proper way to play it and short termism is not it. Making all your moves more efficient has got to be your initial goal because it then releases you to do all the other good stuff. The cumulative bonuses start to make a big difference mid game.

    I also completely over paid in our first battle blowing my wad rather than keeping a bit back for subsequent battles....

    For me Eclipse still edges it, although there is also a right way to play it as well, I get the whole process better.

  2. I think the theme comes through more with Eclipse but I like how zippy Scythe is. Done and dusted by half nine!

  3. Yes I agree, your turn comes round quick. Andrew had some longer turns due to his sprawling empire and additional moves he needed but there is little AP and you've usually made up your mind before your turn arrives.

    I guess this is because mostly little happens which makes you change your plans. A few turns where someone unexpected turns up but then its back to managing your engine.

  4. I like Scythe a lot, although I got off to a slow start and then after I got my third star on the board I couldn't for the life of me see where the fourth star might come from. I should've been more aggressive.

    Chris began the game saying he was going to make sure he didn't forget to use his commander's special power like he did on his last game. In the end, though, I think he slightly obsessed over it.

  5. Andrew, you're probably right :)

  6. The only obsession I noticed was mine - with the chocolates Chris brought with him