Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Convention fundraiser lets me try out Scythe

The highlight of the July Rincon fundraiser for me was getting to learn and play Scythe. At one point, while I was there, there were at least three tables playing Scythe and very likely a fourth table.

One of the amazing things about the Tucson gaming scene is Rincon. Not only is it a nice local con, it has fundraisers through out the year, giving me some micro conventions to enjoy as well. Seriously, it's a really amazing community.

While I got warmed with a quick game of HUE (which actually manages to impress me more and more with each play), I spent most of my relatively short time there with Scythe.

Scythe is shaping up to be one of the big games of 2016. It's set in a sort-of steampunk 1920 Europe. When I say sort of steampunk, I mean that it reminds me a lot more of the steam powered agricultural equipment of the late nineteenth century. The players play different powers in this Europe, building up their political and economic power.

Scythe is a 4X game, which means eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXtermimate. Which means move out, build up, get stuff and fight. The actual mechanics of the game is action selection. Every player has a dashboard of actions, basically the same but tweaked for their national faction.

To be honest, I'm willing to bet most folks reading this know more about Scythe and have played it more than I have. Since I knew I wasn't going to buy it, it was off my radar.

The first thing that impressed me about Scythe was the design of the player boards. They are slotted for the wooden pieces, making it easy to know what goes where. And when you reassign them, new costs or powers get revealed. Simple but so clever as far as making house keeping quick and easy.

The other thing that quickly struck me is that Scythe has very intuitive mechanics for anyone who has played Euros. I told Carrie afterwards that Scythe is Le Havre on steroids and with fighting. Which isn't a perfect comparison but it gave her an idea of how it works and that she'd be able to pick it up quickly.

My learning game got me trounced. I didn't focus on popularity track enough, which helped tank my score. And I had a blast. It was so much fun and I hope to play again.

Scythe is a really smart design. It has a lot of things going on, game mechanic wise, but all of the gears fit together really well. It's full of tough, interesting choices built on a tight economy. The fact that it has a playing time of two hours is less is just icing on the cake.

I'm not planning on buying Scythe any time soon. Between a two-year-old and three cats, we won't be playing it. But our son will get older and we can lock the cats in the bedroom. In a few years, I can see myself either picking it up or getting a game that Scythe ends up inspiring.

Getting a chance to play Scythe was really amazing. It's looking to be one of the highlights of the year for me. I hope I got to play it again :)

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