Harvesting new modes of Scythe (@stonemaiergames, 2016) – Our first #boardgame play of 2020

SCYTHE (Stonemaier Games, 2016) OCCUPIES A SPECIAL PLACE IN THE ROCKYMOUNTAINNAVY PANTHEON OF GAMES. When I attended the CONNECTIONS 2017 Wargaming Conference, this very brash guy named Uwe Eickert from Academy Games spoke about the incredible design innovations in the game. On the power of that recommendation I picked up the game and eventually, although with some trepidation, it landed on the RMN Gaming Table. In the past three years, the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself have enjoyed many plays of Scythe. When RMN Jr. suggested we play Scythe as our New Year’s Night Game we all enthusiastically agreed!

As much as we have played Scythe, we have stayed a bit vanilla in terms of expansions. We have used Invaders from Afar (2016) from our beginning in 2017 and started our Rise of Fenris (2018) campaign in 2019. For the New Year’s play we decided to go ‘back to basics’ and use the Base Game + Invaders from Afar while also adding airships from The Wind Gambit (2017) on the new Modular Board (2019). After randomly setting up the board and selecting factions, we pulled one of the modular tiles off and set off.

For this game the faction match-up included:

  • Togawa / Patriotic for myself
  • Rusviet / Agricultural for RMN T
  • Nordic / Mechanical for RMN Jr.

The Wind Gambit expansion includes Resolution Tiles. There are eight (8) tiles and at the beginning of the game one is chosen and placed near the Triumph Track. These tiles have different win conditions that modify how the game can end. In our game the variable win was ‘First player to more than $40’ as well as the normal ‘First player to place 6 stars.’

In Scythe it is always interesting to see the different approaches the game allows. I generally employed a ‘get the Mechs out early’ strategy whereas Jr. focused on upgrades while T took a more balanced approach. RMN T definitely won the award for ‘most thematic play’ as we watched him send his Rusviet red hordes of Mechs and workers across the board. He was also the first to the Factory, really making it a ‘Red Factory.’

In the end, the real battle was between T racing to 6 starts and Jr racing to the alternate end condition of amassing $40. Jr won the race and, given his advantage in money, also took the win with 87 against 55 for myself and 47 for T.

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Courtesy Stonemaier Games

In our post-game discussion we agreed that the Scythe Modular Board delivers new interesting challenges. On the base game board we all understood how to get out of our home areas; now we need to think harder as the way out may not be immediately obvious. The use of airships opens up many different movement options. More challenging is the use of the Resolution Tiles which change the end game trigger.

Even with all the new rules added in our play time for this game of Scythe was under two hours. RMN T gripped (rightly, IMHO) that Jr. triggered the end game too early. In Jr’s defense he saw the chance to win and took it; we didn’t do enough to stop him.

Now that we have played with The Wind Gambit airships we are ready for the next episode of our Rise of Fenris campaign. The boys agreed that we will need to mix campaign play with regular Scythe games. By the end of the year I feel we will mixing in expansion modules from Rise of Fenris into our regular games. It is a real testimony to the design of Scythe that even after several years the game feels fresh every time it lands on the RMN gaming table. Most impressively, the many expansions and variations give players plenty of options to harvest for play.

 

Going back to the well – #boardgame quick-play of #Scythe (@stonemaiergames, 2016) + Scythe: Invaders from Afar (2016)

Scythe (Stonemaier Games, 2016) continues to amaze the RockyMountainNavy gaming family. We bought the game in 2017 and played it three times that year. We didn’t play it al all in 2018. So far in the first month of 2019 we have already played it twice! This weekend, we also added in the Invaders from Afar expansion with Youngest RMN Boy playing Clan Albion. Best of all, we played a complete game in just about 90 minutes. This is the fastest game of Scythe we have ever played.

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Courtesy Stonemaier Games

The last time we played with Invaders from Afar, the Middle RMN Boy (the one with ASD) had a hard time. I think that subconsciously we shied away from the expansion after that. This weekend, the Youngest RMN Boy wanted to play “the hawg faction,” or Clan Albion, so we bent the rules and openly picked factions while randomly drawing player mats. While this certainly made for a fun game, at the same time I noticed Middle RMN Boy went “back to the well” with the Nordic Faction. He won with it last time finishing 25 points ahead of everyone else. This time he absolutely wiped the floor with us again, gaining 100 coins and ending 22 coins ahead of everyone else. It could of been worse; he actually could of ended the game three rounds earlier than it happened but kept playing to build up more points. Even then, at the end of the game my Saxony faction attacked his Nordic in the Factory to knock Nordic back and rob them of three territories (and the money/victory points associated with that).

Some folks on BoardGameGeek have done analysis that seemingly indicates the Nordic Faction is the dominant faction at three players. In our (limited) experience this appears to be true. The real test in the future will be how well he plays with other factions and if he continues to have an interest in Scythe even if he starts losing. So far, the indications are good; at the end of this weekends game he and his brother were joshing each other over what other faction they wanted to play next time.

I think the faster play tonight resulted partially from all of us being more comfortable with not only Scythe, but different game mechanics in general. In many ways, the RMN Boys have become real “gamers” in the past two years. I am still the one who actually reads the rules and teaches it to them, but the RMN Boys absorb (and process the rules quickly.

That said, Youngest RMN did make a mistake in this game and it may have cost him. The Clan Albion special faction ability is Exalt. With Exalt, the Albion character (Conner and Max) can place up to four flags on territories after they move. Territories with flags count as two territories when it comes to scoring. If he had remembered to place his flags he could of gained 16 extra coins finishing with 95 coins total and placing just 5 coins behind his brother. I get the feeling he won’t forget his special faction ability next time!

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Windships courtesy Stonemaier Games

The RMN Boys want to get Scythe to the table again. I feel that the game may become our “evergreen” title of 2019 like Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017) was for 2018 when it was played 10 times over the course of the year. As far as expansions go, after reading multiple reviews I am not sold on the airships in Scythe: The Wind Gambit Expansion though at around $20 it may be worth the investment.

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The mystery of Rise of Fenris (courtesy Stonemaier Games)

More vexing is the Rise of Fenris Expansion. I am not sure that we really want to play an eight-game campaign (with different rules?) just to unlock 11 interchangeable modules. With the price hovering in the $40-$50 range, I am not sure if this is the best use of my gaming budget.

Oh, who am I kidding. With the current popularity of Scythe in the RMN hacienda I have a feeling both Wind Gambit and Fenris will make appearances this year.


Feature image courtesy BoardGameGeek