dAs amazing as Scythe is, playing a physical board version can sometimes be difficult. It can be hard to get people together regularly or at all and single-player can get long to set-up and play.
Or you could just be in doubt if the game is really for you – physical version is more expensive and if you don’t like it or only play once a year, it might not be the best of investments. Luckily, you can play Scythe on PC with the Digital Edition available on Steam. The game is available for under 20€, but I have bought it on sale for less than half of that. Waiting for a sale is the right way to go.
Scythe: Digital Edition is a full port version of the board game. That means all the rules and artwork are implemented accurately. The game looks and plays just like its tabletop brother. As I have already reviewed Scythe, I won’t go into more detail here. Digital Edition is now just over a year old and received plenty of patches already.
- Price is a bargain. For just a fraction of a physical board game edition, you get the same thing (gameplay-wise). With Steam’s refund policy, you get a 2 hour of gameplay for free and if you don’t like the game, you can just refund it. If you don’t have the option to try out the game at a friend, this is the next best thing.
- Gameplay speed. This is pretty much self-explanatory. The computer does all the calculations automatically and it frees up a lot of time. That means you can play more games in the same period.
- Excellent practice tool. Scythe is a complicated game. Even when you learn and understand the rules, there are plenty of strategic options with all the different factions, mats, and cards – meaning every game requires a slightly different approach. AI is always there to challenge you to try new things.
- Undo button. Sometimes you just click on something you didn’t intend and one wrong move can easily ruin your game. This tool is especially useful for beginners trying to learn the game and the interface. Of course, there is no undo option in multiplayer.
- At the initial release, reviewers reported a lot of bugs. After numerous patches, I can report that I have not found any. Development is continued, so things are only going to improve. UI was very bad at the release and is now greatly improved.
- In multiplayer, every faction has a separate time bank for its turns, which encourages against stalling and keeps the game flowing smoothly.
- Rozalski’s art style is brilliantly ported. All the illustrations on cards are here. Miniatures and mechs are now painted in detail and look very nice and different for each faction.
- When I played for the first time I found the music a bit dull and repetitive, but after more matches with different factions, I found it very good, immersive, and diverse. It’s also different for each faction, trying to describe the flavor of each one.
- Some information is partially hidden in the interface. There are a lot of things to keep track of in Scythe: player mats, resources, combat cards, mech abilities, enlisting, etc. It takes at least a couple of games to get a good overview of everything and to know where to look and what to look after. For example, when you get into an encounter, the encounter card is covering the scoring line at the top, making it harder for you to make the best choice. Yes, the card can be temporarily hidden to see the scores, but that’s just another couple of unnecessary clicks. I’m sure a more elegant solution could be found.
- Gameplay speed. This is also a negative, especially for beginner players. As the computer makes calculations, many things happen at once (players receive bonuses on enlisting, stars, resources, etc.) and it’s hard to keep track of why something has happened. In a physical game, you know exactly why a player received two popularity because you had to calculate it yourself. In Digital Edition, its already the end of the turn, when you figure it out (if you even bother).
- Multiplayer is not very populated. Nothing much can be done here – it is a port of a niche board game in a niche hobby department. You can still find games though, just don’t expect mainstream popularity.
- Experienced players report that the AI is predictable and not enough of a challenge, even on the highest difficulty. I am still a novice player, that has problems beating the AI at medium strength, so can’t confirm it, but its something to take into account if you are a Scythe veteran.
- Invaders from Afar is the only expansion available, but it’s not included in the base game and must be bought separately.
- Sound effects are generic and not very impressive. There are tap sounds as moves are performed and music plays in the background.
- The tutorial is compiled from a series of separate challenges. Although it gives you some overview of how the game is played, an absolute beginner will still have trouble understanding it without outside help (a rulebook or a guide).
Just like its big brother, Scythe: Digital Edition reveals itself only after you played a couple of matches. The user interface takes a bit of time to get used, but the biggest revelation to me after about ten to fifteen games was just how awesome the game of Scythe is.
The more I played, the more its excellent balance of different victory conditions, approaches, resource management, engine building, and factions became apparent. Even more so is that evident with the Digital Edition, just because of the sheer number of games you can play compared to the tabletop version.
I would suggest this to anyone interested in Scythe, be a beginner or an experienced player. The amount of practice and experience you can get out of this product is second to none. I’d even go a bit further and say, buy this before you buy the physical version. It’s cheaper and you will get an excellent idea of what Scythe is all about.
Scythe is not the only board game I have played on Steam:
Have you tried the PC version yet? Let me know your thoughts about it in the comments below.