Rule an Alt-History Empire of Bears and Mechs in the Board Game 'Scythe'

The alt-aftermath of WW1 gets gritty and tactical on cardboard.

Scythe, an empire-building game set in an alternative 1920s Europe, is raking in the crowdfunding dough, having blown past the $1 million mark this week on Kickstarter, with two weeks to go. Game designer Jamey Stegmaier, who authored A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide — is putting others people’s money where his mouth is. And he’s doing it remarkably fast.

The appeal of Scythe is in no small part aesthetic: It took its world-building cues — smartly — from dramatic concept art by Jakub Rozalski, who depicts a Russian Empire full of Motherland-types fighting with trained tigers and mechs. The gameplay, to rely on early buzz, is no slouch either, borrowing elements from Terra Mystica’s lauded Euro engine and meshing it with the ancient Egyptian-themed fighting game Kemet. The result, in tabletop jargon, is a 4X game — meaning players explore, expand, exploit, and, ultimately, exterminate.

Scythe’s twist is that it’s asymmetric, as certain factions have their own advantages, considering where they begin on the world map. For the players who prefer their pastimes electric, think along the lines of Sid Meier’s ‘Civilization’ series. The top board game campaign currently active at Kickstarter, Scythe joins the ranks of two-comma club big names like Exploding Kittens and Zombicide: Black Plague.

A great Kickstarter does not always mean a fantastic game — or even a game, as The Doom That Came to Atlantic City proved — but at this point Scythe looks as solid as its pseudo-Soviet walking tanks. Nor is this game designer Jamey Stegmaier’s first crowdfunding rodeo, who’s been fairly candid about his successes and missteps for those who might want to watch their own games blow up. For more on Scythe, here’s Stegmaier walking us through a few turns:

Related Tags