Scythe (board game)

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Scythe boxart.png
DesignersJamey Stegmaier
IllustratorsJakub Różalski
PublishersStonemaier Games (2016)
Setup time10 minutes
Playing time90-115 minutes
Random chanceModerate
Age range14+
Skills requiredStrategy, tactics, logic

Scythe is a board game for 1 to 5 players designed by Jamey Stegmaier and published by Stonemaier Games in 2016. Set in an alternate history 1920s Europe, in Scythe players control factions that produce resources, build economic infrastructure, and use giant dieselpunk war machines called mechs to fight and control territory.[1] Players take up to two actions per turn using unique player boards, with the game proceeding until one player has achieved six achievements, at which point the players receive coins for their achievements and territories controlled, with the player with the most coins winning.[2]

The game was originally released via Kickstarter, raising over $1.8 million.[3][4] Scythe received highly positive reviews for its gameplay, theme and the game's artwork, which was produced by Polish painter Jakub Różalski under the name World of 1920+.[5][2][1] Three major expansions have been released for the game in addition to several spin-offs. As of April 2021, the game had sold 382,102 copies worldwide.[6]


Scythe gameplay.

In Scythe, players represent different factions in an alternate history 1920s Europe recovering from a great war, where each faction is seeking its fortune. Players build an economic engine by choosing one of four main actions each turn, listed on the top of their personal player board, which cannot be the same as the main action they selected in their previous turn. They can also take a corresponding second action listed on their player board. These actions allow them to move units on the board, trade for or produce goods, bolster their military, deploy mechs, enlist recruits for continuous bonuses, build structures, and upgrade their actions to make them stronger or cheaper.[7]

Each player has six stars that they will place on the board upon completion of certain goals, such as deploying all four of their mechs.[1] When one player has deployed all their stars, the game immediately ends, with each star and territory controlled granting a certain amount of money depending on how much popularity the player has achieved during the game. The player who has the most money is the winner.[8]

Development and release[edit]

Painting by Różalski, 1920 – Before the Storm, used as the cover for the board game Scythe

Scythe was designed by Jamey Stegmaier, CEO of Stonemaier Games, and revealed as a Kickstarter campaign on October 13, 2015, with backers contributing over $1.8 million during the campaign.[9][10] It was delivered to backers in July 2016 and released in retail stores the following month.

Stegmaier discovered Polish artist Jakub Różalski's work in August 2014 while browsing Kotaku and was interested with series of alternate history artwork, World of 1920+. Stegmaier subsequently contacted Różalski and requested the rights to make a board game within the fictional world in which.[11][12] During the early stages of developing the game, Stegmaier pitched the game as "Agricola meets Kemet".[12]

Różalski's initial design for his World of 1920+ art was primarily focused on two factions that were based on the Polish–Soviet War.[12] Stegmaier collaborated with Różalski while respecting his vision for the World of 1920+, making requests only to improve gameplay such as adding a factory and additional factions to add into the game to allow more players to play.[13][12] Stegmaier initially wanted each faction to be more card-based than the final game, with each faction had its own deck of cards but changed the design during development.[12] Stegmaier was also using the Polish-Soviet War for inspiration, particularly from the real Polish bear and wanted to add bear units for each faction. However, during development, Stegmaier was playing Dead of Winter and wanted to implement the same depth and diversity of the characters. This led instead to each character from each faction being accompanied by a single animal unique from the rest.[14] Morten Monrad Pederson developed the single-player mode, in which he expressed Scythe was the most difficult project to develop for at the time. Morten Monrad Pederson developed the single-player mode of the game, which he expressed was one of the hardest single-player projects he's done.[15]

Multiple names for the game were conceived and proposed but both Stegmaier and Różalski agreed to the name "Scythe" with Różalski designing the logo himself and incorporated a scythe as the letter "C". The name was conceived by Stegmaier and was chosen because the tool of the same name represented the themes of the game; being used for harvest and combat.[11]


Scythe won 5 Golden Geek awards for 2016 from BoardGameGeek, winning for Board Game of the Year, Artwork & Presentation, Strategy Game, and Solo Game, and placing as a runner-up for Most Innovative.[16] Scythe also won the Origins award for 2016 board game of the year.[17] The game was featured as one of Geek and Sundry's best board games of 2016, with reviewer Charlie Theel saying that "Scythe is a fantastic design that will not soon be forgotten."[18] Popular Mechanics also dubbed Scythe "the best game of 2016."[19] The game's artwork has received exceptional praise from reviewers for its images of agrarian life juxtaposed with giant war machines.[20][8] Ars Technica also named the game one of the best in 2016, describing it as a "deep, puzzly, interactive Euro-style board game" and praised the simplicity of the turn structure which complements with the "many complex, interlocking parts" as well as the engine building mechanics. [1] Similarly, the game's balance of depth and accessibility was also praised by Tabletop Gaming, as well as the encounter mechanism, which was said to "round out Scythe’s in-game universe and offer a more micro-level human edge", and the "cleverly designed" player mats with upgrading systems showing an example of engine building.[21] The Board Game Detective also praised the theme and production, as well as the scalability, encounter mechanism and combat, but also criticised the imbalances of the factions and sudden ending.[22] As of January 2022, Scythe was ranked as the 14th best board game out of 22,000 entries at Board Game Geek, with a mean rating of 8.2/10.[23]


Scythe received three major expansions, Invaders of Afar, The Wind Gambit and Rise of the Fenris. The first expansion Scythe: Invaders from Afar released in 2016, which added two new factions into the game that increases the player count from 5 to 7 and additional player mats. It was praised as "a really solid addition to Scythe" that enhances its variety and retains high component quality, but commented that "nothing about it feels mandatory" by The Cardboard herald.[24] The second expansion, Scythe: The Wind Gambit, released in 2017, adding airships and variable end-game conditions to the base game.[25] The expansion won the Golden Geek award for the best game expansion in 2017.[26] Kotaku also praised the expansion's components and the victory conditions enhancing the end game, but criticised the airships despite its improvement of the early game, the appeal of its abilities declines.[27] Scythe: The Rise of Fenris, the third expansion published in 2018 introduces 11 modules featuring a 8-episode campaign and cooperative mode.[28] The expansion received acclaim, winning the 2018 Golden Geek for best expansion.[29] Polygon described the expansion as of "an incredible value, and represents board gaming’s new state of the art", praising the replayability improved through the campaign; storyline and the art.[30] TechRaptor described the campaign as "flavorful, exciting, memorable and, most importantly, extremely fun", describing each module as "mind-blowing" and states that it is "an absolute triumph". Scythe Encounters, a set of 32 promotional encounter cards primarily designed from fan submissions, was published in December 2018.[31]


In 2017 a stand-alone spin-off inspired by Scythe but rethemed to a more casual, family-friendly version with "cute animals", My Little Scythe, was released. Originally based on a print and play designed by Hoby Chou and Vienna Chou, the game won the 2017 Golden Geek Print and Play award before being published by Stonemaier Games and received generally positive reviews.[32][33][34][35][36][37] An expansion for the game, My Little Scythe: Pie in the Sky released in June 2020, introducing two new factions and airships.[38]

Several digital video games based on Scythe have been published, includingScythe: Digital Edition published by Asmodee Digital in September 2018 via Steam.[39] The visuals for the digital game was praised, but the AI opponent and rules guide were criticised.[40][41] The 1920+ universe is also featured in Iron Harvest, a real-time strategy video game, released in September 2020 and received praise for its artwork and thematic setting.[42][43]


  1. ^ a b c d Zimmerman, Aaron (July 30, 2016). "Scythe review: The most-hyped board game of 2016 delivers". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on July 30, 2016. Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Guarino, Ben (September 16, 2016). "The Most Hyped Board Game of 2016 Earned It". Inverse. Archived from the original on April 1, 2017. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
  3. ^ Oide, Thomas (March 8, 2017). "Fueled by love of games, MU professor creates successful board game of his own". Columbia Missourian. Archived from the original on March 8, 2017. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
  4. ^ Fenske, Sarah (March 26, 2016). "St. Louis-Based Company's Kickstarter Rakes in $1.5 Million (Seriously)". Riverfront Times. Archived from the original on March 29, 2016. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
  5. ^ Plunkett, Luke (July 12, 2016). "Scythe: The Kotaku Review". Kotaku. Archived from the original on July 12, 2016. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
  6. ^ Design, Dave Hewer (April 8, 2021). "2020 Behind-the-Scenes Stakeholder Report for Stonemaier Games". Stonemaier Games. Archived from the original on April 8, 2021. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
  7. ^ East, Oliver (June 16, 2017). "Scythe Review – Strategic Turn Based Brilliance". Just Push Start. Archived from the original on August 1, 2021. Retrieved September 22, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Hall, Charlie (August 12, 2016). "In Scythe, my buffalo fights for the people". Polygon. Archived from the original on August 14, 2016. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
  9. ^ Paez, Danny (December 18, 2015). "Crowdfunded board games surge despite video market". CNBC. Archived from the original on December 18, 2015. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
  10. ^ Schleicher, Keith (October 13, 2015). "Stonemaier Games launches Scythe on Kickstarter". Gaming Trend. Archived from the original on April 15, 2016. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
  11. ^ a b "Wywiad z twórcami „Scythe"" [Interview with "Scythe" creators]. Ciekawe Gry (in Polish). October 6, 2015. Archived from the original on March 21, 2017. Retrieved August 8, 2021.
  12. ^ a b c d e Dirk Knemeyer, David Heron & Jamey Stegmaier (May 22, 2015). Episode #125: Stonemaier Games and Scythe with Jamey Stegmaier. The Game Design Round Table (podcast). Event occurs at 01:07:09. Archived from the original (audio) on May 27, 2015. Retrieved August 1, 2021.
  13. ^ "Episode #125: Stonemaier Games and Scythe with Jamey Stegmaier". ArtStation. November 9, 2016. Archived from the original on November 14, 2016. Retrieved August 8, 2021.
  14. ^ Gabe Barrett & Jamey Stegmaier (October 18, 2017). The Making of Scythe with Jamey Stegmaier. Board Game Design Lab (podcast). Event occurs at 42:12. Archived from the original (audio) on October 24, 2017. Retrieved August 8, 2021.
  15. ^ Jameson, Jamie (September 21, 2019). "The Solo Saturday Post with Morten Monrad Pedersen (Automa Factory)". BoardGameGeek. Archived from the original on January 5, 2021. Retrieved August 10, 2021.
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  19. ^ Herkewitz, William (September 29, 2017). "The 50 Best New Board Games". Popular Mechanics. Archived from the original on February 9, 2015. Retrieved October 7, 2017.
  20. ^ Bolding, Jonathan (December 22, 2016). "Our favorite board games for PC gamers". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on February 22, 2015. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
  21. ^ "Scythe review". Tabletop Gaming. 2017-02-03. Retrieved 2022-01-28.
  22. ^ Jeremy (2018-07-23). "Scythe Review". The Boardgame Detective. Retrieved 2022-01-28.
  23. ^ Francis, Eric (June 19, 2018). "This Board-Gaming Craze Comes With $2,700 Tables". Bloomberg. Retrieved June 27, 2019.
  24. ^ "Expansion Mini Review - Scythe: Invaders from Afar". The Cardboard Herald. Retrieved 2022-01-28.
  25. ^ Hall, Charlie (2017-04-17). "This expansion will completely change the best board game of 2016". Polygon. Retrieved 2022-01-28.
  26. ^ "12th Annual Golden Geek Awards Winners for 2017 | Geekdo". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2022-01-28.
  27. ^ "Scythe: The Wind Gambit: The Kotaku Review". Kotaku. Retrieved 2022-01-28.
  28. ^ Hall, Charlie (2018-01-03). "Scythe will get a campaign expansion this year (update)". Polygon. Retrieved 2022-01-28.
  29. ^ "13th Annual Golden Geek Awards Winners for 2018 | Geekdo". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2022-01-28.
  30. ^ Hall, Charlie (2018-07-11). "Scythe's final expansion pushes tabletop gaming forward yet again". Polygon. Retrieved 2022-01-28.
  31. ^ Design, Dave Hewer (2018-06-08). "Scythe Encounters". Stonemaier Games. Retrieved 2022-01-28.
  32. ^ "'My Little Scythe': Discover the Power of Friendship". GeekDad. July 3, 2018. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  33. ^ "My Little Scythe: Have Yourself an Adorable Family Game Night | Dad Suggests". Dad Suggests | Fatherly Thoughts on Kids Books and Board Games. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  34. ^ Gerding, Bryan. "My Little Scythe Review - Truly a Children's Game | Meeple Mountain". Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  35. ^ "My Little Scythe Review - The Best Welcome". TechRaptor. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  36. ^ "My Little Scythe Review - No Ponies In Sight". Just Push Start. January 21, 2019. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  37. ^ Design, Dave Hewer (2018-04-04). "My Little Scythe". Stonemaier Games. Retrieved 2022-01-29.
  38. ^ Design, Dave Hewer (2020-03-31). "My Little Scythe: Pie in the Sky". Stonemaier Games. Retrieved 2022-01-29.
  39. ^ Law, Keith (September 15, 2018). "Review: Mega-hit boardgame Scythe goes digital on Steam". Ars Technica. Retrieved November 23, 2018.
  40. ^ "Review: Scythe: Digital Edition". Destructoid. Retrieved 2022-01-29.
  41. ^ "Scythe: Digital Edition". Metacritic. Retrieved 2022-01-29.
  42. ^ "Painter's Art Turns into Video Game with Dieselpunk Robots". Archived from the original on March 3, 2021. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  43. ^ Bolding, Jonathan (2020-09-01). "Iron Harvest Single-Player Review". IGN. Retrieved 2022-01-29.

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