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Tabletop Game / Scythe

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"The ashes from the first Great War still darken the snow in 1920s Europa. The capitalistic city-state known simply as “The Factory,” which fueled the war with heavily armored mechs, has closed its doors, drawing the attention of several nearby countries. With characters from five factions converging onto a small but highly desired swath of land, who will gain fame and fortune by establishing their empire as the leader of Eastern Europa?"

Scythe is a 2016 board game published by Stonemaier Games, designed by Jamey Stegmaier and with art by Jakub Rozalski. Each player represents a faction of Europa, a fictional version of Europe that is trying to rebuild itself after World War I. The factions consist of leaders (and their Loyal Animal Companion), workers, and four giant mechs.

Besides its fantastic artwork, Scythe is known for its incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $1.8 million dollars.

Two Expansion Packs have also been released:

  • Invaders From Afar adds two new factions: Albion and Togawa.
  • The Wind Gambit adds airships, as well as resolutions which add variance to the way the game ends.

Scythe contains examples of:

  • 4X
  • Action Pet: All of the leaders have an animal companion that accompanies them on their adventures of conquest. All of them are large, apex predators (with the exception of one), so it’s difficult to believe that they wouldn’t take part in the action as well.
  • Adventure-Friendly World: The faction leaders can discover encounters while they explore the board, giving them choices that will reward them depending on their actions.
  • All Animals Are Domesticated: Bears, wolves, eagles, and tigers make great pets. At least you can argue that the dire wolves here are bred for domestication.
  • All There in the Manual: The rulebook has shortened blurbs on each of the characters, but a bit more detail on their backstories can be found on the Stonemaier Games website and in the art book. Details on the mech’s designs can also be found on their website.
  • Alternate History: What would happen if Europe had mechs as early as World War I?
  • Alternate Techline: Gargantuan mechs wander the land right after World War I.
  • Badass Beard: All of the male leaders rock some impressive facial hair, especially Bjorn.
  • Bold Explorer: All of the characters are specifically chosen by their factions to explore the land around The Factory. Anna and Bjorn, specifically, are noted for spending a lot of their time traveling with their animal companions.
  • Clockwork Creature: Some of the artwork shows smaller animal-like machines wandering the land aimlessly and without human direction.
  • Competitive Balance: The factions each have their own special abilities, and more abilities unlock every time they build a mech. The player mats are different from each other and are randomly distributed, giving everyone separate but balanced stats.
  • Cool Pet: Would you like a tiger or bear at your side?
  • Didn't Think This Through: As stars only partially contribute to scoring, it is very possible to end the game by putting your sixth star out without realizing that you aren't going to score as much as somebody else. There's even an achievement for this!
  • Diesel Punk: Takes place in an expy of Europe during the 1920s, where oil and metal are necessary resources to build and maintain technology far larger and more elaborate than what was actually made during that time period.
  • Euro Game: Resource management, no player elimination, winning by victory points (money), little luck, and skill and choice playing a large part make definitely makes this a Euro Game.
  • For the Evulz: Some of the evil options on encounter cards can be hilariously petty:
    Convince the soldier that reindeer aren't real
    Steer the cow under the mech to see what happens
  • Historical-Domain Character: Why hello Nikola Tesla, I didn’t see you there building tremendous mechanical miracles and monstrosities.
  • Humongous Mecha: Some mechs reach the size of elephants, and some are much, much larger.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: Subverted with the encounter tokens. Instead of randomly finding bonuses scattered about the board, characters discover random encounters (along with a gorgeous picture) and can pick which bonus they want.
  • Instant Awesome: Just Add Mecha!
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople): In spades. Scythe takes place in the world of Europa, where five nations vie for territorial control of The Factory. The nations in question include Saxony (Germany), Nordic (Norway), Polania (Poland), Rusviet (Russia), and Crimea. Interestingly, the Crimean faction is based on the Tartars and the Crimean Khanate, which no longer existed by that time. The expansions includes two new nations, Albion (Great Britain), and Togawa (Japan).
  • Karma Meter: The popularity track is used as a resource, and the higher it is, the more points you receive for end-game scoring. Popularity is always given for choosing the first choice on an encounter card (the “helpful” choice) and popularity is always lost when taking the last choice (the “aggressive” or “evil” choices). Popularity is also lost for forcing your opponent’s workers off their land.
  • Mad Scientist: Hard not to have that when a fictional version of Tesla is around.
  • National Animal Stereotypes: Slightly subverted. The bear is a companion of the Polania leader, as opposed to the Rusviet leader (who has a tiger). Saxony has wolves instead of an eagle. Instead of reindeer, the Nordic Kingdom’s leader has a muskox. Togawa’s leader has a monkey, which is a less frequently used national animal, and Albion’s leader has a boar as opposed to a lion or other more recognizable animal stereotype.
  • Real Robot Genre: Several pieces of artwork show farmers and aristocrats working and relaxing around robots and mechs as if they were part of the landscape.
  • Tunnel Network: The six spaces that ring a space outside The Factory create an interconnecting series of tunnels that can get players to any side of the board. Each faction also possesses a mine they can build that will give them their own personal access to the tunnels.
  • Unusual Pets for Unusual People: The factions require powerful personalities to lead their nations to victory. It just so happens that all of these personalities have been paired with unique animals.
  • Variable Player Goals: The game ends when any player completes 6 of the possible 10 goals. These include winning up to two combats, reaching the highest level of popularity or power, deploying all of your mechs, or completing one of two secret objectives. This allows players to attempt different strategies.
  • Walking Tank: Interestingly, there appear to be no actual tanks present in the world of Scythe. But there are plenty of mechs.
  • Worker Unit: Each faction starts with two meeples used for collecting resources. More can be produced, and getting all of them on the field will net you one of the stars needed for victory. Each of the different faction’s meeples have slightly different hats to add to the flavor.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: You’ll need to collect wood for structures, food for recruits, metal for mechs, and oil for upgrades. And don’t forget to produce more workers to collect those resources!

Tropes common to the factions and characters:

Anna & Wojtek of the Polania Republic
The Polania Republic is represented by a red bear standing on a white background. Anna was raised by her grandfather and taught to hunt and shoot when just a child. She is an expert marksman and spared the life of a bear cub, which she took home and raised and named Wojtek. The two of them have travelled the land during the Great War, becoming war heroes and possibly even folk heroes to their people.

  • Action Girl
  • Amphibious Automobile: The mechs also act as submarines, allowing the Polania faction to submerge and reemerge in lakes around the board.
  • Beary Funny: Several encounter cards demonstrate Wojtek’s lighter side, including pointing at other people or trying to “play” with dogs or sheep.
  • Chicken Walker: Polania is one of the two factions that have bipedal mechs.
  • Polish Soviet War: The rulebook references Polania’s fear of the Rusviet’s power and their incursion towards Polania’s eastern border.
  • Public-Domain Character: Wojtek was a real life bear, found in Iran by Polish forces and later officially enlisted into the army due to his enduring popularity with the soldiers.
  • Spirited Young Lady: She came from a long line of diplomats and ambassadors, but prefers to seek adventure with Wojtek. Bringing home a bear cub to your surprised grandfather also seems to be an accurate example.

Gunter von Duisburg & Nacht and Tag of the Saxony Empire
The Saxony Empire is represented by a gold dire wolf on a black background. Gunter’s family raised dire wolves for the Saxony army, and he developed a special attachment to two specific wolves that he named Nacht & Tag (Night and Day), since one was pure black and the other stark white.

  • Adventurer Archaeologist: The character description references Gunter’s interest in archaeology.
  • Attack Animal: While it can be assumed that all of the animals fight alongside their leaders, it is specifically mentioned that Gunter’s wolves were trained for war combat, and that he led them alongside mechs.
  • Dire Beast: The rulebook and art book refer to Nacht and Tag as “dire wolves,” and when they’re standing next to their master it’s not hard to see why.
  • Fast Tunnelling: The Saxony mechs double as drills, and their “Underpass” ability allows them to access the tunnels from any mountain space on the board.
  • Germanic Depressives: Besides being given the black color and pieces on the board, Saxony’s artwork is often incredibly dour and sometimes downright frightening, eliciting scenes of underground battles, dark woods, and faces hidden behind gas masks. Even the standard pictures of Gunter betray melancholy and seriousness.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Gunter comes from a family renown for raising dire wolves for war. He appears to be educated, feared, and respected.

Zehra & Kar of the Crimean Khanate
The Crimean Khanate is represented by a rearing horse on a yellow background. Zehra was given her steppe eagle Kar as a gift on her 16th birthday, and discovered that she could see through the animal’s eyes. She travels the land helping her people and her family.

  • Action Girl
  • Animal Eye Spy: Zehra can see through the eyes of her eagle, Kar.
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: Guns, mechs, and other advanced weaponry make their way from The Factory to the surrounding nations, yet the Khanate are still pictured shooting arrows and wielding spears.
  • Ludd Was Right: Zehra's father would rather stick to the old ways, before the time of mechs. Because the Khanate was so late to the mech-building game, their machines are pieced together from scraps.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Khan’s daughter won’t sit around idly when her people need her.

Bjorn & Mox of the Nordic Kingdom
The Nordic Kingdom is represented by the symbol of Thor’s hammer on a blue background. As a child, Bjorn was saved by a muskox, which he took on as his companion and mount and named Mox.

  • Amphibious Automobile: Sort of. The Nordic mechs can sail on top of lakes.
  • Cool Horse: Mox is a muskox. Bjorn is the only one shown riding his animal companion (and, other than Anna, probably the only one who physically could without hurting the animal).
  • Spider Tank: The Nordic mechs are designed to look like viking longships, but they traverse the land with six large legs.
  • Tank Goodness: The cannons on their mechs allow them to hit enemies far outside the normal range. This is expressed in-game with their “Artillery” ability.

Olga Romanova & Changa of the Rusviet Union
The Rusviet Union is represented by a red star. Olga was given Changa, a siberian tiger, by her first love Viktor. Viktor went missing during the Great War, and Olga now leads a regiment to explore The Factory and find her missing love.

  • Action Girl
  • Chicken Walker: The Rusviets’ mechs walk on two legs.
  • Glorious Mother Russia: Fluffy hat? Check. Red stars? Check. Game abilities that reflect an industrious and, dare we say, socialist ideal? Triple check. Slightly subverted in that her animal companion Changa is a Siberian tiger as opposed to a bear.
  • I Will Find You: Olga joined the military in order to find her missing fiancé Viktor.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong: The Rusviet faction has the “Relentless” ability that allows you to repeat the same action turn after turn.