I have been very excited by this game which I first saw at the UK Games Expo back in June, but I’ve only just managed to get my hands on a copy at Essen Spiel this October.
A weighty box, with lots of card, wood and plastic components, everything fits very nicely in the box and looks to be of high quality.
The game is a resource-gathering race for power and popularity as you build mechs and structures in your bid to conquer the land of East Europa. Based loosely on an alternative post WWI landscape, your character and mascot seeks to gather resources and deal with challenging objectives, as well as fight off other players seeking to usurp your bid for dominance in the region. Upon completing objectives, you place stars on an objective tracker, and once a player has placed 6 stars, the end phase begins and everyone counts up their accumulated wealth.
We had a two player game because that’s all we had available (as we’re still in Germany at the moment), and it took us three hours approximately, despite there being a precise estimate on the box of 115 minutes.
I think the first thing we took away from our first game was that there was so much to consider, that we paid little attention to planning several moves ahead or worrying about what the other player was doing. During your turn you elect to take one of four actions: Move, Produce, Trade or Bolster, and following on from that, there is an optional follow-up action that usually involves the expenditure of resources. This means that you are looking to gather the resources of a future action well in advance sometimes, and that can mean other players may try to attack you and force you back if they dare.
Not that we did, except right towards the end, thought we could see that in a three, four or five player game that combat was inevitable, and sometimes quite costly to both the defender and the attacker.
On your next turn, you cannot elect to perform the same action as on your previous turn, unless you choose to play as the Rusviets whose special faction ability is to be able to play the same action again the following turn.
At the start of the game it seems that most players will initially stick to their surrounding regions until they can build a mech which will allow them to traverse the rivers. This doesn’t appear to limit the travel abilities of the Nordic faction however, who may move their workers across rivers and lakes with their ‘Swim’ faction ability.
The art is very good, with lots of oil painting renderings of mechs in fields, under darkened skies, and lots of workers on farms and in factories, and the miniatures are nicely detailed and nice to hold. There are lots of different tokens and cards for things as well, which was confusing at first, but it made sense why factory cards are so big and combat cards are small enough to be tucked away on your power dial.
It seemed to me that the possibilities were numerous with factions and their factories being slightly different, and that pre-planned strategies could be easily foiled by the actions of others if they move in on that territory you’ve set your sights upon.
However, our game was a whitewash and Geoff easily got the lead and I was unable to catch him. His flow of resources seemed more efficient than mine, although he confessed after the game ended that his position was tenuous and I could have given him a hard time by harrying him in combat.
All in all I think it has some potential for a few plays, although I know it will annoy some of my regular gaming group as it will frustrate them that they won’t be able to come up with a winning strategy from the outset.
Included in the game are rules for solo play, and I will give that a go in the future.
Scythe is shortly available and should retail around the £80 mark.
On first impression, there is a lot to take in on your first game, but don't be disheartened. I think after playing through the game, you get a feeling for how you would have played better next time. Not being able to use the same action in consecutive rounds means that you should plan ahead a little, but with the rounds being relatively quick and painless, this should not be a problem. There is a lot to take in, but there's a lot to take in for your opponents as well, and makes for a more frantic game. If you find the game too long, you can easily reduce the number of required stars by (let's say) two, and have a game that you've shortened by 30 minutes.
I like there are different styles of play depending on the faction you choose and the player mat you go for, and the secret objectives and structure bonus cards mean that no two games are ever going to be the same. On the other hand all these options may put off players who feel confused the vast array of strategies to employ, or it may make the game longer for those people who wish to spend some time thinking about their next move.
All in all though, its a great package, and you'll get a fair number of plays out of the game before you exhaust its potential, but perhaps not a game to end the night on, unless you're happy to go with the flow and see what happens.
- GRG Steve