The digital adaptation of the successful board game by Stonemaier Games, the localized German version of which is distributed by Tierra del Fuego games, costs around EUR 20. That is a fraction of the costs that would otherwise be incurred for the board game variant. But how good can the digital implementation of a strategic tabletop game be, the attraction of which is the game material? Touching figures, looking at them, possibly painting them: all of this is part of the Scythe experience package. The PC Steam version, on the other hand, is reduced to the playful elements. What is left of the hype at the end, reveals the following game test for Scythe: Digital Edition.

An alternate reality - again

Anyone who is familiar with the board game will immediately feel at home in the video game version. There are no noteworthy differences at first, with the exception of the very nice tracking shot on the game board at the beginning of the game.

Jamey Stegmaier's tabletop is still set in an alternative reality in Eastern Europe in the 1920s, which was graphically staged by Jakub Rozalski. Players slip into the role of one of seven leaders from the immediate vicinity of the capitalist city-state, who supplies warring parties with upgraded Mech units with “the factory”. The goal: to become the “top of the bill” of the capitalists and to amass the largest amounts of money. As in the template, Scythe also ends in the digital adatpion as soon as one of the players could achieve six stars for goals fulfilled. Then it is scored or money is counted.

At Scythe: Digital Edition, figures can also be displayed painted on request.
At Scythe: Digital Edition, figures can also be displayed painted on request.

Until the final rating is reached, players have to surrender to the "dumbling" background music for a not inconsiderable period of time, which is moody and atmospheric, but not particularly varied. Here, a little more variation would be good for the ear - and thus also for the acoustic presentation. Offers attractive acoustics Scythe: Digital Edition apart from typical button sounds and sparse effects, not. The look of the game is more successful, even if some details seem almost careless.

While the leaders capture the tabletop character of the template almost perfectly, were worked out in detail and are nicely shaded, the visual presentation of the mighty mechs causes a bit of disappointment: the closer you as a player with the camera to the game board, the more detailed they become Textures. At this point, the developers could have shown the courage to innovate - but above all aesthetics. In any case, the graphics are unnecessarily blurred the closer the actors zoom in on what is happening.

After all: the models can be viewed in an exhibition room, if desired even in a painted version, which can then be activated directly for the game. Encounters, factory cards and goals, as well as the player boards, can also be viewed in an alum. That's nice, because the successful illustrations by Scythe are definitely worth a look.

Steep learning curve, size Motivation

If there is a motivator that always works in video games, then it lies in a noticeable learning curve that makes players more successful with each subsequent game they play. Already the template closed Scythe: Digital Edition had such a steep learning curve with regard to the rules and the game process that the motivation to unpack the title over and over again is given: great, but above all ideal conditions for the digital adaptation of a board game.

The basis is classic 4X, which experienced gamers know from other global strategy games: exploring, spreading, exploiting and - in the case of Scythe at least occasionally - obliteration. The 4X approach is then not worked out in detail, rather it is developing Scythe a race for resources and currencies, enriched with some tactical skirmishes. The concept goes hand in hand with countless tactical possibilities as well as three currencies and four resources that players have to keep track of at all times in order to be able to make strategic decisions at all.

4X is more of a facade at Scythe. The focus is on a tough race.

What is sometimes cumbersome in the template and always requires a look at the extensive set of rules, the digital version does almost automatically for the player. Notes appear, as soon as the mouse pointer hovers over an action, a game element or menu item, brief text information appears as a guide. The scales for strength, reputation and success can also be activated in the options if desired, in order to then become a visible part of the virtual game board. Scythe doesn't make all of this easy in the digital version either, but it is definitely more comfortable.

At Scythe, an overview plays a decisive role - this works extremely well in the digital version.
At Scythe, an overview plays a decisive role - this works extremely well in the digital version.

Beginners in particular benefit from the interactive information elements that make what is happening far more understandable. Although, or precisely because, players can only perform one or two actions per turn, they should always be carefully considered. The learning curve is extremely steep, the interlocking tactics are sometimes overwhelming, but offer enough incentives to want to deal with them intensively. Here the adaptation is in no way inferior to the original.

Fighting is allowed - but it doesn't have to be

Players decide on their way to the goal Scythe himself, also in the digital adaptation of the board game. Combat operations are an option, but they are not absolutely necessary. There are therefore rather limited opportunities to interact with other players. The parties tend to plow the board side by side on a regular basis - and each one for himself. This is also due to the fact that game strategies at Scythe are worked out in a far-sighted manner. It is important to obtain resource advantages or game bonuses through forward-looking planning. Especially in the first games, in which the rules are not yet firmly in place, this sometimes leads to slight frustrations: at times - sometimes even more than half of the game time - comparatively little happens in terms of the fulfillment of goals (which are shown in the form of stars), then the events roll over and the stars land on the scoring board every few moves. When Scythe presupposes one thing, then patience.

The counting boards can optionally be displayed.
The counting boards can optionally be displayed.

The wait-and-see attitude becomes particularly valuable when you as a player are about to meet the victory conditions, but it is clear that you will then not win the game: Delaying the end of the game is not only useful, but usually also necessary.

Still plays Scythe: Digital Edition - at least in the solo version - comparatively quickly: Experienced players spend around 30 to 40 minutes on a game. This is not a shortcoming, on the contrary: being able to compete against the AI ​​in short matches over and over again unfolds a great attraction. Trying out, using tactics, sometimes losing, never feels like wasted time in the entertaining games. In any case, the game unfolds a higher tactical density against humans; the AI ​​is sometimes not acting particularly cleverly.

Media too Scythe: Digital Edition


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Number of players: solo mode and multiplayer
Age: USK not available
Playing time: 50+ hours of play
Difficulty: medium
Long-term motivation: high

Publisher: Asmodee Digital
Developer: The Knights of Unity
Year of publication: 2018 
Platforms: PC (Steam)
Language: German
Cost: 19,99 Euro


Scythe: Digital Edition remains true to the principles of the template. If the presentation is not very impressive, the digital adaptation of the tabletop board game Scythe by Stonemaier Games or Tierra del Fuego games turns out to be an unexcited, profound tactical game with many options for action, but occasionally lacking success. If you want to experience Scythe in its entirety, you have to be patient, make plans, sometimes survive playful dry spells, in order then - at the right time - to realize game goals in comparatively quick succession.

What sets Scythe apart in the digital version are the convenience functions that can only be found in video games: Mouse-over hints for each game element, changes of perspective, automatic calculation of the game successes and a helpful rewind function with which you can play a single game or unlimited - can rewind if you wish.

Nevertheless, as a player who likes the visual charms of the board game, one does not really want to believe that the type of presentation has already exhausted the maximum possible: the representation of the animations seems too clumsy, the sound construct too monotonous, not enough charming the elaboration of the player board.

Players who did not know Scythe before will find the perfect entry into the complex tabletop with the digital version. Scythe professionals are at least given the opportunity to hone their tactics or to play against other human opponents via online mode. Extensions will also appear for Scythe: Digital Edition, regular patches - which then also eliminate existing bugs - anyway. This, too, is one of the great advantages of digital board games: They can be expanded, adapted and improved quickly and easily. The digital adaptation of the successful strategic board game, which is available for PC Steam, costs around 20 euros.