My Little Scythe
Players: 1-6 players
Time: ~50 minutes
Times Played: 3
First and foremost, I am not the target audience for My Little Scythe. The game was definitely designed for children in the six to ten age range and I haven’t fit that range since the 1990’s. I also don’t have children of my own (yet) and none of my friends have children of this age either. Our playthroughs were conducted with a bunch of thirty year-olds and one spry twenty-nine year old (at the time…).
Even though my generation isn’t the target audience, the game is definitely suitable for adults and the kid-friendly theme won’t deter older players from picking this game up. The game is cute and adorable at first glance and will definitely draw players in and peak their interest due to the color and theme. The mechanics of My Little Scythe is that of a lighter game and while it appears that there’s a lot going on (with area control, dice rolling, delivering goods, pie attacks, etc.), I would say that it’s comparatively a little more complicated than classic entry level game Ticket to Ride.
It would be easy to say that My Little Scythe is a watered down version of its bigger brother and while that’s true in someways, it would be a lazy analogy. Yes, the games share similar mechanics but it’s the framework that’s similar, not the end result.
The game offers fairly simple choices, as players must choose to either ‘Move’, ‘Seek’, or ‘Make’ each turn. Moving allows their characters to travel one or two hexagons from their current place on the board, Seeking involves rolling dice that distribute new tokens and resources to the board, and Making allows players to convert some of their resources into other resources. ‘Seek’ and ‘Make’ provide more than one option and ‘Move’ and ‘Make’ can be upgraded during gameplay to provide better abilities.
These choices are the crux of the game and incredibly simple to follow. They are the only way players accomplish their task of collecting four trophies, which signals the end of the game. My Little Scythe offers a high variety of ways to achieve these trophies and all are relatively simple and easy to earn. Grabbing four doesn’t take long and might actually feel too short as the game feels like it’s just gaining steam when the end is near.
These limited choices are a great way to give the young players options without overburdening them with decisions. Players have the ability to plan one, two, or even three turns ahead without stressing themselves out. The limited options also help immensely if what they wanted to do is no longer an option. If players make a bad choice or perform a move that they wish they hadn’t, the game is anything but punishing and mistakes will still keep them in the game. Mistakes can and will cost players a shot at winning more than likely but that doesn’t mean they won’t finish with at least some trophies.
My Little Scythe appears to be designed to let players score easily. Games are incredibly quick and most players will collect at least two trophies (if not more) each time they play. This helps keep players motivated and interested as they’re always just one or two turns away from triggering the end of the game themselves.
Everything in the game is a resource. The pies, the gems, the hearts, the friendship tracker. Everything can be added or subtracted and grabbing those resources are what allows players to score points. The resource management and interaction between players is incredibly high and it’s almost impossible to play a game in solidarity due to this. My Little Scythe forces players (especially in higher player counts) to interact and play off one another. But don’t fret if you don’t have a large group to play with, My Little Scythe has Automounties (AI players) that can be added to help crowd the board. The Automounties, similar to the Automa from other Stonemaier games, is well-designed and fluid.
The game does feel considerable different with fewer players and at two, you almost have to include Automounties as the game becomes far more dependent on dice rolls and the power-ups can easily swing the game in a players favor. The games are fast so players won’t mind as much as they haven’t sunk too much time in but it’s worth knowing going into.
Stonemaier Games is known for their component quality and My Little Scythe carries that tradition onward. The board is sprawling and massive with lots of color and iconography that is easy to read and decipher. The layout of the board is easy on the eyes and while ‘busy’, with the colors and logos and icons, nothing creates a distraction.
The character models are well-sculpted and distinct. They’re quite a bit larger than most miniatures that are found in board gaming and that should appeal to the target audience. It also makes them easier to paint and the game includes guides on how to accomplish such a task if you are a novice painter.
The characters also incorporate male and female models. The animals themselves are very anthropomorphic and can be viewed in any way but there is backstory and a name for each character, which makes them lean towards one gender over the other. I do remember reading (but cannot find it) that the characters are named after real people important and close to Jamey Stegmaier and Hoby Chou. While there are more male names than girl names, the character models themselves don’t really denote anything and players can name them whatever they’d like. I personally like seeing this representation as it creates a more realistic view of the world (…even though the characters are bi-pod talking animals that wear clothes).
The game includes two inserts, one for the characters and one for the assorted bits. The game inserts are great and the one for the characters features a top to keep them from being jostled around. There is also unused space for possible future expansions, which is nice forward thinking. I do find the bit insert to be a bit of a disaster though. If the game is not carried perfectly flat from shelf to table, the pieces become jumbled and fly around the box. It just felt weird that one insert had such great functionality and the other, well, didn’t.
The only other weak point to me was the player mats for gameplay. With everything else being so thick and stocky, the mats being thin was a letdown. It doesn’t impact gameplay in the slightest but it definitely felt the most out of place of all the components.
I love that a kid-friendly version of a highly popular game was made. I love the move to market to the next generation of gamers. I love the implementation when comparing the mechanics of the two games.
I hated My Little Scythe. One round in and I knew that I was not the demographic for this game. As an adult who plays a lot of board games, the decisions I made were too simple and the gameplay too quick for me. If you wanted to do something, you could do it. I never felt like an action was outside the realm of possibility or my grasp. If I needed to collect or harvest something, I could. If I wanted to throw pies, I just had to hunt someone down. The board looked big when laid out in front of us but once our pieces cluttered the board, we realized we could reach anywhere within a matter of turns. While there were decisions and strategy that could be implemented, it felt like I was playing on auto-pilot due to the small amount of choices and ease of play.
The theme, while adorable and colorful, made less sense to me than the original Scythe’s storyline. It appeared to be something like Hunger Games but with pie fights and gemstones? I get not wanting to have actual fighting between players but thematically, we just couldn’t follow the ideas presented by the game. To some people, theme doesn’t matter but for us it’s a big deal. We like there to be a narrative that drives home the actions that we’re doing and with My Little Scythe, we couldn’t cleanly bridge the gap from A to B.
I also don’t believe that My Little Scythe is a gateway to Scythe. I don’t think it was designed or marketed as such but I see the inevitable comparisons and heard the same rumblings from my group. The differences are larger (upgrades, movement, resource collecting, recruitment, etc.) and going from one game to the next feels like basic addition to trigonometry. There’s no middle ground and the inverse holds true as well. If I wanted to play a lighter, quicker game of Scythe, My Little Scythe does not scratch that itch as while some aspects will be familiar, they’re entirely different games. This isn’t like Carcassonne adding Inns and Cathedrals to the game; this is more in tune with comparing base Fresco to Fresco with all ten expansions. Actually, to keep it in the Stonemaier family, it might be like looking at Tuscany Essential Edition compared to the original Viticulture. You can see the bare bones structure there but it’s an entirely different experience all together.
As a family game, I think this game has a ton of merit and might be one of the better implementations of a modern game for children that I’ve seen. As a game for adults, this would be a nice jumping off point for players that are tired of Ticket to Ride and want a little more substance with a lot of flash. For players that are experienced, I wouldn’t let the bright colors and stellar design history of Stonemaier games draw you in. I’d rather recommend that experienced players should look at the rest of the Stonemaier library for their next game over this one.
I traded my copy away but could definitely see myself try and pick this game up in five or six years when my soon to be born child is ready to experience games. I had no reason to just let it sit on my shelf for half a decade. I’m more excited to see the impact My Little Scythe has on the dynamic of board game design moving forward. I hope it forces other developers to rethink the way they create games geared towards children and in five or six years when I want to re-add this to my shelf, I hope that I’m presented with the problem of having too many quality games designed with children in mind. It’s much too early to say today but here’s to hoping My Little Scythe acts as the catalyst.