“We are already dead. We are Robot Jox!”
When I was a kid, growing up in the late 80’s (yeesh, am I really that old?), one of the few pleasures I had in life, was sneaking out of my room late at night, after my parents had fallen asleep, and watching the experimental animation shows that they aired on MTV back in the day. Oh how I loved Liquid Television, even though my 10 year old brain could barely understand most of what I was seeing. Trust me, this story has a point.
Shortly after I was old enough to drive, I would make my way down to the local video rental store (yeah… those were a thing) and began pouring my way through the cult classic section. Sure, there were a lot of clunky Troma films, but it was also where I was first introduced to Meet the Feebles, Evil Dead, and a host of other amazing films I love to this day. One of those films was a little gem called Heavy Metal, a loosely connected collection of animation shorts based off the amazing magazine of the same name.
About a year ago, I found out that Heavy Metal Magazine is not only still in publication, but they had hired Grant Morrison, a fantastic comic book writer, as their editor in chief. So naturally, I subscribed. One of the first issues I received, featured the incredible artwork of Jakub Rozalski, and unbenownst to be, was the art he had created for this incredible board game.
A few weeks later, my friend brought the game over, and naturally I excitedly grabbed my Heavy Metal and showed it to him. I guess this story is kind of pointless, but it’s too late now. I’ve wasted both my time and yours. AWESOME!
You know what isn’t a waste of your time though? This incredibly fun game. Like Terraforming Mars or Blood Rage, there has been a recent spate of backlash, calling the game overhyped, or overrated. Is anyone else tired of the endless cycle of breathless glowing reviews, followed shortly there-after by the think pieces proclaiming the newest game to actually be terrible? Can’t we all just calm down a bit?
Scythe is a great game. It’s not the second coming, or the pinnacle of human creation, but it is a truly fun game, and don’t let the nay-sayers stop you from giving it a go. So relax, play a game or two, and then let me know how completely right I am.
Things I Loved About Scythe
This game has a great balance between the tactical and the strategic. Most board games I’ve played over the years have leaned towards one or the other, either turn to turn tactical thinking, or long term strategic planning. This game offers both.
The theme is gorgeously realized. Most games have a fun or interesting theme. But few pull out all the stops, creating an immersive world with such beautiful art, that the game probably would have sold remarkably well even if the mechanics were a complete failure, simply based on the artwork alone. Thankfully that is not the case.
The mechanics are not too hard to learn, and integrate with each other beautifully. There is a strange intuitiveness to how it all works, and after a few turns, you’ll have a solid grasp of how the game works, and can begin forming your strategies, and refine your techniques.
First to end the game and earn all six stars is not always the person to win. In fact, frequently they are not. This forces some interesting thinking and planning, balancing what other players are doing, and when they might end the game (even by accident).
Scythe has an incredibly well designed player board, so you don’t forget what actions you can take. Unlike some games we could mention (cough… TERAFORMING MARS…cough) the mat fits pieces nicely, makes this easy to track, and avoids the pitfalls of a disastrous table bump.
Things I Hated About Scythe
The method of combat is simple, but relatively uncommon and somewhat anticlimactic. With giant mechs, I would have expected more impressive giant mech battles. This is not a combat game. So if you are hoping for a board game version of Robot Jox, you are barking up the wrong tree.
The game can take a lot longer than advertised, in particular with new players. There are a lot of moving parts, and the game doesn’t end until someone decides to (or figures out how to). Budget more time than you think you’ll need.
This is definitely not a game for beginners. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of fairly advanced concepts, and if you aren’t familiar with how board games play, you’ll struggle to pay attention long enough to learn. Basically, if Candy Land is your jam, you may want to steer clear until you have a bit more experience under your belt.
When a player gets ahead, they tend to stay ahead. With the lack of direct conflict, there isn’t much of a way to even the score, and if a player jumps out to an early lead, it can be very difficult to catch up.
There doesn’t seem to be much of an overall arc to the game. You don’t really develop a civilization per se, you don’t have long term objectives, and the game ends somewhat abruptly. So you just kind of try to wrack up points while you can. So despite such a gorgeously realized setting, it really misses the mark in this regard.PURCHASE THE GAME