Scythe: Digital Edition

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Scythe: Digital Edition Game Poster Image
Complicated strategy game worth the high learning curve.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Beyond rebuilding a war-torn continent, no messages are obviously positive or negative in the game.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nations compete for dominance, but none are portrayed as overtly good or evil.

Ease of Play

Long list of rules, too-basic tutorial, and complex interface conspire to frustrate new players.

Violence

Combat is minimal and shown simply as a difference in numbers; units are never killed. No blood or gore is shown.

Sex
Language

No profanity exists in the game, but online chat could contain inappropriate language.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Scythe: The Digital Edition is a downloadable version of the popular tabletop strategy game for Windows PCs. At $19.99, it's considerably cheaper than its physical counterpart (which retails for $79.99), but it's no less complex. Its high level of difficulty and strategic thinking puts it beyond the reach of younger children, and online multiplayer contains chat functionality, which could expose players to inappropriate comments. Players can add friends in a public pre-game lobby and play against friends or random strangers.

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What's it about?

SCYTHE: THE DIGITAL EDITION is a 4X grand strategy game (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) set in the 1920s in the semi-fictional dieselpunk continent of Europa. Countries are recovering from a terrible world war, and players control one of five factions, taking turns on a digital game board. The idea is to rebuild, gather resources, and claim territory. Winning depends on completing various objectives like monopolizing a certain industry or becoming the most popular leader. Though combat exists, it's a small part of the game, and units can't be killed or destroyed. When defeated, they're simply returned to the player's home base. Players can play online against four other players or alone against the AI, choosing among Easy, Medium, and Hard difficulty levels.

Is it any good?

If you're looking for an easy-to-learn, action-packed war game, this is not the game for you, but if you stick with it, it will reward you with great strategic play. Like most grand strategy games, Scythe: Digital Edition takes a while to learn and much longer to master. It's meant for patient, thoughtful players -- the kind of people interested in out-thinking their opponents rather than bashing them over the head. Still, even at their best, grand strategy games are tough to absorb. Faced with a too-basic tutorial and a complex interface, you're really in for a challenge.

Good as it is, Scythe: The Digital Edition fails new players from the get-go with a tutorial that just doesn't get its point across. Though it marches you through the basics, it fails to clarify each faction's strengths and how best to achieve your objectives. And once it's done, you're left alone with an icon-filled map and menus and no real clue what's happening. Tool tips appear when hovering over the game board, but your options can feel overwhelming, and the rules are hidden in the options settings. (If you click the rules button, your browser opens on a 32-page online rule book!) While it's true this stuff isn't exactly encouraging for strategy newbies, if you're willing to play a few games anyway, things start to make sense. The noncombat emphasis of the game and the slow burn of growing your territory starts to become satisfying. You'll notice the brilliant artwork and soaring music, revel in your first win, and realize this is a really well-made game. You'll see that the pace (of single player at least) is good, and that it's a nice change to win by more interesting means than just by obliterating your enemies. So if the initial difficulty gets you down, be patient. Neither Rome nor Europa were built in a day.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about strategic thinking. Can you think of a game that demands more thought in order to win?

  • Is multiplayer more fun in a digital board game or a tabletop board game? Why?

Game details

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