Board Game App Review: Scythe

8/10 A solid adaptation and an easy recommendation

Available on:
Steam and GOG for PC – $19.99
Apple and Google Play – $8.99

I’ve been playing more board game apps lately, in part because some were on sale during the recent Steam winter sale. I also have some that were bought previously. Most of these, I’ve only played on PC and largely solitaire with AI (when needed). I’m not usually interested in playing with strangers if I can help it (especially with limited communication when it just feels like playing against AI anyway), and I haven’t had many opportunities to play these with my regular group because everyone has to own a copy. So this is mostly focusing on the quality of the app and the content available. I’ll be reviewing several apps this week.

The Scythe app is definitely among the best I’ve played. It has a clean, readable UI that contains all the information you need, and can be expanded to include additional information. And as a nice touch, the map is actually the full game board, and you can scroll to the edges to find the classic scoring tracks, objective tracks, and combat tracks (in addition to the new UI). There are also some very welcomed options for customization: the ability to “paint” the miniatures and worker meeples, and a selectable theme for the board. This second option, however, is only viewable while scrolled out during play; scrolling in too far removes the effects and returns the board to its normal state, and I have no idea why.

I enjoy Scythe, and though there are a few things that hold it back for me, playing on the app improves the experience to some degree. For one, the actions resolve quickly, making for nappy gameplay, so the fact that the first few rounds aren’t interesting—as everyone repeats the same two actions to move and collect resources—isn’t as noticeable. Likewise, the sometimes convoluted movement rules are enforced by the app, so you don’t have to remember the myriad ways each piece can move or be moved. However, the action “board” no longer has artwork on it, preferring 100% function and 0% form. It works, but I think the artwork could have been more incorporated. There’s also a weird bug that causes menu tooltips to appear behind the menu where they can’t be read.

It’s difficult to see, but the tooltip is hiding behind the menu.

It’s a very solid app that runs well despite a couple minor issues, has good adjustable AI, looks nice, has excellent thematic music, features a few extra bells and whistles, and has one expansion (Invaders from Afar) available so far. Here’s hoping for more expansions. When not on sale, it is a bit expensive at $20. For that price point, Scythe is competing with a lot of excellent indie and older triple-A video games on PC.

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