For some reason Scythe has dropped of the radar over the last year, probably because we went through a phase of playing it to death. I also don’t play it solo anymore, despite it being a very good game. Why, I hear you cry? (Or is that just my imagination!). Well, because I play it digitally of course!
Backtracking a little, let’s make it clear from the start – I Love This Game! Whether I’m playing solo or with others doesn’t really matter, as it’s the engine building mechanism that really ignites my excitement for Scythe. I enjoy having to work out a course of action in order to achieve my goals, and it’s all down to the interplay between the top and bottom halves of the selected Player Mat.
It presents a puzzle to solve and you have to combine this with your Faction, as the starting location can make a real impact in terms of what resources you can immediately get your hands on, and thus how you’re going to start your engine running.
The biggest difference I find playing against real opponents rather than the Automa is the unpredictability. Playing the Automa you get to know how it will behave and you can use this knowledge to the good. One could say that playing a human opponent should be predictable too, as good, knowledgeable players will approach the game in the same manner, but it isn’t quite as simple as that.
For starters, it’s quite easy to get drawn in to solely focusing on what you are doing and only monitoring the board state, which doesn’t tell the whole story. One has to keep an eye on the other players’ player mats too, which enables you to gauge their strategy and avoid being caught out when they gain a couple of stars in one turn.
Humans also make mistakes, such as leaving a big pile of resources lightly guarded on a mine – there’s nothing more satisfying than whipping in and depriving them of their stash! And, of course, they also don’t always play by the book, which makes for some very interesting games. Though each Faction has a certain style about them, it doesn’t always mean they have to be played that way, and approaching things differently can catch your opponent of guard. This is the joy of the game; the variant and multitude of strategies and playing multi-player means you have to keep your wits about you.
The solo game, by context, is a different kettle of fish. The Automa plays in a certain fashion. It’s steady and consistent, and it will definitely challenge you as you move up the levels. Here it is more about efficiency, getting your engine running as quickly as possible, because the Automa doesn’t hang around. It’s a great way to learn the game, and I found it the best way to explore how all the player mats work with each faction.
I’d highly recommend buying the game even if you were only to play solo, or at least I would have done before they released the digital version. The digital version on Steam gives you a bit of everything. It’s almost as good to play against your mates, especially in this last year, and it’s even better to play solo.
I would never choose to play the digital version of a board game over the physical one when playing others, unless circumstances meant it was the only way of course, but solo I certainly would, especially in this case. I don’t have to set anything up for starters, which can be a chore with Scythe when you just want to play by yourself. I can also leave the game and come back to it at a later date without the inconvenience of hogging the family table. I can play against several AI opponents without the need to buy extra Automa decks (though there is a way of using a single deck to control multiple opponents), and I can set them to play at different levels, use specific Factions and Player Mats, all of which helps in the mastery of the game.
Finally, it’s worth considering the expansions and one in particular. If you already own Scythe, or are thinking about buying it, if you haven’t already, take a look at the Rise of Fenris expansion. It introduces a campaign to the game, of which I’m going to tell you nothing at all, it’s a surprise you see. The game throws new rules at you as you progress, and presents you with some lovely boxes to open that hold… well, you’ll have to wait and see!
I will say, though, that Fenris is probably at its best when played with at least three players, preferably more, and it’s better still if none of you have played it before and can get to play the scenarios in quick succession. The added rules and stuff can also be added piecemeal to the main game if you so wish, so the expansion offers plenty of variety.
Knowing what I know now, would I still have bought it? Most Certainly!
Will it remain in my collection? Scythe is in there for the long haul. I may not play it solo anymore, but it’s a great multiplayer game that I’m looking forward to getting to the table once normal life has resumed!
One Year On – Scythe is a great game and one I thoroughly enjoy playing. Whilst first impressions may lead you to think it’s a very heads down, no player interaction, kind of game, once you become familiar with the engine building aspect you start to pay more attention to what others are doing and take every opportunity to get one over them – as they are likely to do to you too! The expansions all add to the game, especially The Rise of Fenris, and it’s definitely worthy of its top 20 position on BGG. If, though, you’re looking to purchase this for its solo play, then take a look at the digital version on Steam first.