Boardgaming in 2017!


Got my copy of Twilight Imperium 4th edition today, my local guy gave me 30% off so it ended up at around $112, which is a fantastic price near as I can tell. Local stores are still the best.

Now, I have some light reading ahead of me this weekend…


That’s fantastic. My copy is setup up on the table for our first game tomorrow. I’m only playing a 3 player game as everyone is terrified of it.


That’s awesome. I only played 3rd Edition once, and really didn’t like the experience, but very keen to try the new version. Not keen enough to buy it though!


Had an amazing Black Friday day of gaming at my buddy’s house. Two or three tables going all day. Don’t know if I can even remember everything we played, but I’ll try:

Quest for El Dorado. New Knizia deck-building race game. My 3rd time playing. I quite like it, it’s light but not too light. Hope to get my kids interested in playing. I came in dead last!

Divinity Derby. I’d never even heard of this, I guess it was some sort of kickstarter. You bet on fantasy creatures and try to make them come in the place you predicted (or get them disqualified for cheating). I didn’t love it, a bit chaotic for me, but I did win!

504. We played with production, exploration, and pick-up-and-deliver. I’m not sure I like the exploration module, but other than that pretty good. I did not win this.

Sidereal Confluence. With 7 players! (All the people who were still there). My 3rd game of this too, and I almost feel like I know what is going on here. I think I came in 3rd or 4th, but I played one of the harder races, so I don’t feel too bad about it. Super fun.

Feel like I’m forgetting something, but it’s late!


Ooh, a seven-player game. I’m jealous. I’ve never had more than five!

The harder races really will punish you if you’re new to the game. One of my friends got all ambitious and decided to try Unity (the guys who make the wild grey cubes) on his first game. He pretty much tanked. He is now convinced that he hates Sidereal Confluence. He’s wrong, of course. He just didn’t play it correctly.

Do you remember which race you had? And I presume you guys didn’t have the Zeth (the race that steals from everyone else) in there?



I was the guys who don’t share technologies. Their “advantage” is that they can license their technologies to other players, but several of the players were new to the game, and it was hard to convince them that that was valuable to them. I did license a few, but they also get a severely reduced sharing bonus for inventing tech.

The game seems like it’s offering you a choice: invent techs early for the big sharing bonuses, or forget techs and just beef up your economy early, and invent techs later. But with these guys (the Yengii, I think?), since you don’t get sharing bonuses, it seems like you want to ignore early tech; but of course your only bonus is that you can license your early tech… so I don’t really know how you’re supposed to play them.

And no, no Zeth. I still haven’t played in a game with them.


I played a couple of sessions already. First impressions:

1- This is a solo game. Playing this with other people could be really hard, just because the individual characters don’t matter much, and the town phase would be ridiculous, I think.
2- Not as fiddly as I though wrt managing many components. A little pre-planning putting necessary decks close by and showdowns go pretty smooth and fast.
3- The crafting/campaign phase is really involved. Also really slow, but so far I’m really enjoying the decisions and discovery there.
4- The bookeeping is pretty intense, with several stats you need to take care of for each survivor, plus all the development and special rules involving the settlement development. Basically you have to write down all the special rules you gain, or:
5- The game can really use player aids. Looking things up in the book is what slows it down most, and some simple player aids do speed this up significantly. Thankfully Boardgamegeek is there to help. Basically all showdown-related tables and special rules need to be printed out of the rulebook.
6- The rulebook is otherwise amazingly well written wrt clarity of rules and teaching new players (the prose I don’t really care about).

So… so far I’m liking it a lot, but it is a game with a lot of luck and luck mitigation built in. Dice rolls are in very low number of dice, so the probability really spreads and bad things happen frequently. You can’t do cuasi-perfect planning like with most non-wargames, but you need to account for the possibility of failure and be aware of the risks. And I can see how this can put off a lot of people. Me? I think it almost feels fresh given current design trends, but I do enjoy hex wargames and gaming probability percentages (plus, Blood Bowl is all about managing bad dice and is one of my favorite designs).

But I’m still really early into the campaign and some aspects of the combat system (for example, positioning) have not come to fore yet (since I just got weapons of further than melee range), so I don’t know how the combat system will evolve.

I do think the monster AI is really, really clever and well done, as is the crafting system.

Armor and damage modelling is very old-school and could be more elegant, tbh. Basically, I think had they gone for a shared hit location deck with permanent injuries in the shape of cards (as to access the rules more directly) instead of separate hit locations and tables, and the design would be really clean and almost minimalist (for what is attempting).But that part of the system is a little bit pedestrian (it works, it’s just not the most elegant and brings up the need of player aids). Something like that would add several hundred cards to the mix, though, but in a game with so many cards already I don’t think that’s the reason is wasn’t designed that way.

Anyway, it’s a really weird game. Lot’s of mixed stuff in terms of design, but overall the game is really working for me so far. We’ll see what happens as I advance further, but I am positive about it for now.

I do not think it’s a good purchase at retail prices, however. The Kickstarter price was alright (if expensive), but what the game normally goes for is way too much.


Rant time:

I think I’m the only person on the internet who doesn’t really care for Scythe. I got the deluxe kickstarter version, and have played the game multiple times at all player counts, but it still isn’t clicking for me. At first, I thought it was because there was some dissonance between the artwork and the mechanics, but now I think its the actual mechanics that don’t sit well with me.

In the end, the gameplay just feels kind of meaningless for me. You shuffle around resources and guys for a little bit, move some cubes here and there, and the game ends. Even though there is progression in the game, it doesn’t feel significant. The special abilities, while making the game more asymmetrical, are just frosting on top of a bland cake. Several mechanics feel tacked on, such as building scoring and the combat system. Speaking of buildings, there is really no reason why they have to be placed on the board, since they can’t be captured. Each leader has a pet, but they add absolutely nothing to the game mechanically. Game turns are fast, but can feel very samey, especially after playing the game several times. The player interaction is limited, and the game actively discourages players from being too aggressive. There’s just no spark to the game that makes me want to play it again.

Does anyone else feel similar? I can’t believe so many people voted this as “Game of the Year” last year.


Nah. There was a whole long review from someone who really disliked Scythe at BGG, and that person got yelled into oblivion if I recall correctly. So there’s actually two people!


I’m with you - it was my most underwhelming game of 2016. The variable powers are shit, the gameplay is boring, the whole thing thats nice is the bits.


I own Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game and its two expansions, but I’ll be damned if I can get anyone to play it with me. That should change, though, with the upcoming Sid Meier’s Civilization: A New Dawn:


I like Scythe, but it’s a matter of opinion. What is NOT a matter of opinion, though, is that you can’t post a negative opinion of a popular game on BGG and expect to get any useful or civilized discussion. That place is a nest of vipers.

Oh, and @mysterio, my group played quite a lot of that Civ game when it first came out. Although, oddly, none of us really liked it that much; it was just the right player count, length, and complexity for us at the time. The main problem is that, although there were the four victory conditions, pretty much every game ended with an economic victory, with the occasional military victory.

Then they came out with the first expansion, which was supposed to rebalance everything – and then every game ended in a culture victory, without exception. And the civs with culture-based bonuses were unbeatable.

We never got the 2nd expansion.


Hey, I’m happy to go to bat for Scythe! I don’t think you’re giving the design enough credit for how the systems interact and ultimately come together. For instance:

There is absolutely a reason! They’re part of the territory control game. They can’t be captured, but they can be shut down. And they count as controlling a hex, which makes them part of scoring. In fact, they’re an important part of scoring, as you noted:

Dropping a building can be an important part of turning your economy, of course, and they’re the whole reason for wood (each resource feeds into a specific gameplay system). But you have to control territory to do it. And in any given game, the type of territory has unique weight based on which scoring tile was drawn. Adjacency to rivers? To caves? Where do buildings score the most points?

Really, Scythe is a racing game. Like Euphoria, the designer’s last game, it’s all about getting your stars on the board first. You do this mainly by tuning an economic engine, but Scythe adds a hefty territory control element, which is where combat comes into play. You don’t fight to hurt someone’s economy, but to drive back their territory control. For some players, this might feel like it doesn’t have enough impact. What good is combat if the loser doesn’t have to rebuild his forces? But that’s not why you fight battles in Scythe. You fight them because you can get one third of your stars on the board with successful battles! That’s a big deal.



Frankly, I wish there were more vipers. Instead, they’re all cheerleaders! Any given game’s board is just a gathering place for thin-skinned uncritical enthusiasts. But, yeah, not a place to go for meaningful discussions.



I think Scythe’s biggest problem (full disclosure, I love this game), is that it doesn’t look like the Eurogame that it definitely is. The art, the map, the characters and especially the mechs are all telling potential players, buckle up for some Ameritrash nonsense with big battles. But it just isn’t that game.


I agree with @cpugeek13’s assessment of Scythe and appreciate your thoughtful explanation of why it’s not clicking for you. I feel like I understand what the game is going for, but I don’t find a single moment of it exciting. I have reasons that mirror @cpugeek13’s, but with a different emphasis. To me, the systems feel unfocused and directionless, haphazardly tied together by the star system. It works for creating a strategic system of decisions, but it doesn’t stop the game from feeling like a strange Frankenstein monster of incoherent elements (unlike the wonderful Frankenstein monster of A Study in Emerald where the incoherent pieces somehow shamble into a strange and beautiful symphony, both thematically and mechanically). I like @cpugeek13’s comment “The special abilities… are just frosting on a bland cake” which is exactly how I feel. I don’t have moments while playing, just a continuous series of almost nothing happening followed by the game ending.

I don’t personally have the problem @Richard_Holt is describing. I’m definitely a Euro gamer. Stefan Feld is probably my favorite designer (or maybe Vital Lacerda). I went into Scythe expecting it to be that due to the many similar comments on BGG. I just don’t find the core mechanism of moving to a place and trying to perform the top and bottom action to be at all compelling in comparison to any of the other games on my shelf.

I’m trying to get a better handle on why this one in particular really didn’t work for me. I’ve never played another Stonemaier game but I’m dying to now in hopes it may give me a better handle on why I found Scythe dull.


Played scenarios 5 and 6 in Mythos Tales today. Hooboy.

So. I really like parts of this game. I appreciate that it’s added some additional mechanical wrinkles to the basic investigative formula that Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective pioneered, which allow for the game to actually track whether you’ve done certain things so that other events can follow, or for time of day to matter, or for things to happen at certain points during the investigation, or for it to be a bad idea to follow certain leads. (As you blunder into the evil forces at work and have your psyche scarred by the experience.) And a lot of the writing is reasonably evocative and conjures the proper mood and spirit. The cases generally haven’t been terribly difficult but the feeling of investigation is still similar to SHCD and that’s a bonus.

But man. The initial English reprint of SHCD had a well deserved reputation for typographical errors and similar that in at least one case were a real obstacle to properly understanding what was going on. Mythos Tales at first seemed like it might have gone in with that in mind. At this point it’s clear that it’s even worse than SHCD, by a considerable margin. Not only are there routine errors of spelling and grammar, but fundamental oversights in construction. Locations are referred to that don’t exist. People are referenced in scenarios that you are intended to visit but they have no entry in the Directory. There are errors on the map. Critical plot entries you’re never directed to. Requirement cards that you need to access supplementary entries that reveal crucial details are never issued. Requirement cards that you are issued are listed as leading to the wrong supplementary entry. Supplementary entries reference the wrong followup supplementary entry. At least one scenario ending question’s corresponding answer entry answers a completely different question. There’s a sheet of questions that’s presented as “something to keep in mind ongoing” but is actually the scenario-ending questions for the fourth scenario which were left out of the scenario book. And we’re only six scenarios in, of eight…

Now, mostly, these aren’t completely scenario-breaking. Generally info is repeated through multiple channels so even if you don’t wind up making it to one of them, you may well find it another way. Sometimes it’s obvious there’s something missing or mistaken. Even if you miss an entire thread of the story you might well be able to score enough points elsewhere to win the scenario. But it’s kind of a pain. And there are also some things where, e.g. you might be directed in the scenario prologue to go do something and it turns out it’s not just a dead end but one consisting of maybe two sentences. Or told “hey, you might want to talk to this person, they operate this kind of store” in the prologue, given no other info to track them down by, and then find you’re not allowed into the store until 4 days into the investigation. No reason given. So I have to say I’m cooling on this one some. Not enough to ditch it before we’ve finished the last two scenarios. But enough that I’m downgrading it from “play after you’ve done Sherlock and want more” to “maybe only play it if you really like the idea of this style of game but with the Cthulhu Mythos”.


I agree with all of your points, Tom, and I think the mechanics in the game work like a finely crafted watch. I actually really like the concept of completing goals to progress the game, but I don’t think any of Scythe’s goals are very interesting. One of them (massing military force) actually encourages people to not interact, which I think is a negative. You build up an economic engine, but it is not a particularly interesting one (harvest resource -> trade in resource for upgrade/building/points).

As far as combat goes, I’ve found that one person will often “go-all-in” in a combat, while the other will commit the fewest resources necessary to get the bonus card. Sure, the aggressor can commit fewer resources, but in the off-chance that the defender commits more, then it is a huge waste for the attacker. While it can be an easy way to get stars, it also means that you have to waste actions preparing for fighting which could be used for further optimizing your other systems (Manhattan Project also has this problem). Also, I hate how you lose reputation for attacking workers. Reputation is so important in this game that often people would rather their opponents gave an extra space than risk not getting the reputation multipliers.

The area control aspect of the game is not nearly as important as collecting stars and increase the multiplier, and I have never seen someone win based solely on territory control. The only exception would be the factory, though often a player will just camp there for most of the game. Again, like the economy in the game I think territory control is not that interesting. Once you have territories with the resources you need, then they don’t give significant boons to their owner (besides points at the end of the game). Also, unless you are playing with a high number of players, there is not even that much competition for land, and when there is, often is would be a waste of actions/reputation to be aggressive.

Overall, I think this game might have just been over-tested and over-balanced, to the point of it becoming sterile. It has been optimized to play smoothly and have multiple interacting systems, but at the cost of losing its soul. While writing this, I’m having a hard time recalling any particular games of Scythe that I have played (though, to be fair, I could say the same thing about a lot of euro games). It’s not a bad game by a longshot, but its not particularly remarkable either. If I want to play a similar-weight euro game with area control and resource management, I would much rather play Bora Bora or The Golden Ages.

That said, this is just my opinions and feelings. If you like Scythe, great! Who knows, maybe I will play it again in five years and discover that my tastes have changed and enjoy it. For now, though, it is one of my biggest disappointments in board gaming.


Fair enough on both counts! We all have our criteria for what’s interesting and exciting. I have a list of game as long as my arm that I don’t like for that reason.

But while we’re talking design specifics, let me just pick up a couple of threads.

Well, yeah it’s important! It’s a score multiplier! But I think you’re giving this system short shrift again, because it only matters inasmuch as players are chasing it. If you and I are both around the bottom of the track where we start the game, the system doesn’t matter. It only matters when one of us threatens to go up a bracket. There’s a great “who’s going to blink” dynamic in terms of dancing around the thresholds, and there are some nifty dirty tricks if you can time it right to shoot up a bracket right before the game ends. It’s the single most dramatic scoring concept in the game and it has exactly two splits that matter.

Gaming those splits is a fundamental part of Scythe.

This is one of the reasons I like the territory control is Scythe so much. It’s not a zero sum game in the sense that we’ve got limited land that we have to fight over to get our economies going. We’re not competing for land. You don’t build an economy by spreading out, as you point out.

Instead, it’s a matter of who’s using resources to spread out and hold territory! And, yes, you’re only doing it for the points. It’s not for the economy and it’s barely even for the geography because of the way tunnels work (rivers are the only real geography in the game, and they’re one of the weirder esoteric parts of the faction asymmetry). So when you say owning territory doesn’t give boons to the owner “besides points at the end of the game”, then I think you’re expressing the point of the design! :)

I kind of disagree with this as well. For the reasons you note, there’s not much point in Scythe in terms of going “all in” on combat. Maybe if you’re keen to get to the factory? But it seems to me combat is more a matter of taking advantage of emerging situations to place a star. I think of the board as a tactical puzzle about who could grab his two combat stars at any given point.

Because as I mentioned earlier, you don’t really hurt someone’s economy with battle (with the rare exception where maybe you can gank a bunch of vulnerable resources). Instead, you’re just getting a star out of the deal, and the loser is losing a smidge of territory.

So I have almost never “prepared” for battle in the sense that you’re talking about: taking actions to set it up, spending resources, gathering foces. That’s just not how the game works. We’re all getting our walkers on the board for their abilities. Scythe is not a game in which you decide whether to build a military. You will build your walkers even just as worker transports. And even then, one walker works just fine for most battles. The only things the walkers do is let you play more cards. Which is one of the big factors in faction asymmetry, by the way.

All this gets to one of the main reasons I like Scythe. You can’t really talk about one system without invoking another system, which then ties into another system, and they all feed into whatever scoring system determines a winner. To me, it all feels very tightly and meticulously integrated, and I find it exciting watching how it unfolds in any given game.

Which is one reason I’m skeptical about the upcoming expansion that adds airships. Huh? Scythe is too tight a design to allow for any silly airship expansion!

Anyway, I think we’re not disagreeing much. It sounds like a lot of the design choices just don’t work for you. If you ever come over, I promise I won’t try to make us play Scythe.



I wonder if you would like Stonemaier’s Euphoria. It’s a much more straightforward economy tuning worker placement game, but it has a lot of the same design elements as Scythe. And also a very cool thematic foundation.