That has always been the thing with Scythe, if you were to look down a list of games that you had to play before you die, or at least experience before you went to bed, then it’s fair to say that it’s definitely going to appear somewhere on ‘that list’. It’s almost legendary in its acclaim, it’s definitely well known for carrying out one of the biggest tricks in tabletop with regards to presentation of theme over actual gameplay. For every review I’ve read of Scythe calling it one of the best games in existence, there is another matching one talking about how it’s more about resource management than mechanical behemoth type battles, which some find brilliant and others frustrating.
Either way you look at it, Scythe is one of those games that requires a decent amount of time set aside to play it and savour it, to drink in everything that Stonemaier wants you to experience. For many that means it can end up being a special occasion game, something that you pre-plan to play instead of a birthday surprise that just lands on the table to fanfares and balloons.
Which takes us on to Hoby Chou, who clearly decided that he wanted Scythe to be like a birthday surprise, except for children. He also cleverly decided to enlist the help of his daughter Vienna, who clearly made all the difficult and important decisions. My Little Scythe could be seen as a watered down child friendly version of Scythe, but that would be like editing a movie to take out all bad bits to make it watchable for the average eight year old. The result would be something that lacks the intention and the heart. My Little Scythe lacks neither and in fact has enough heart to maybe lend some to it’s bigger sibling.
On the face of it, the aim of the game is exactly the same, in that you are looking to be the first to earn a certain number of trophies in order to trigger the end of the game but here you decide ultimately who will rule over the kingdom of Pomme for that year.
In practice it follows the mechanics of Scythe in that you have one action you can carry out on your turn, which can either be a move, seek or a make action. Seek allows you to add resources to some of the various areas of the board depending on the roll of a dice while the Make action allows you to create pies, spell cards and even upgrades to your Move and Make actions. If you happen to move into a space with another player, then you enter into the combat phase. Well, its actually more of a flan based fracas, a tart based tacklefest, a pastry punch up. A pie fight as you will. In this case you total up the number of pies you wish to commit to the battle and then just like the original, the person with a larger crust capability will win the match. The person who was the attacker automatically loses a friendship point, while the loser is returned to their base to flan another day, which might have ramifications down the line when it comes to winning trophies.
Otherwise you are doing you best to try to deliver four apples or jewels to Castle Everfree in the middle of the board, or have eight pies at your disposal, or complete quests, in order to reach the magical four trophies and trigger the last round. You aren’t really going out of your way to win the trophies and you rarely end up in the situation where you don’t have some kind of action at your disposal that isn’t going to take you one step closer towards earning one. In that way, My Little Scythe is forgiving to the youngest of players, as it’s pretty easy to catch up by just playing the game and not worrying too much about a strategy. Interaction is encouraged, as placing items in the spaces of your opponents will gain you easy friendship points, and even losing pie fights sets you back at base camp, but has you starting with a nice bonus to set you on your way.
My Little Scythe isn’t about the winning, because that’s merely the result of playing for long enough over a period of time. The emphasis here is on family getting together and enjoying themselves. It’s a showboat of a game. A huge paddle-steamer of lights and noise and colours that shine out from the table. It’s a real table hogger in terms of space and player boards, almost taking up as much room as it’s older sibling and for some it might mean a bit of a squeeze when you have larger player counts. Just like Scythe, the production values here are stunning. I can’t emphasis this enough. This is a kids game where Stonemaier could have dialed things back and still had a looker on the table. The apples and diamonds are solid acrylic tokens, with thick quest tokens and markers for friendships and pies. The real stars are the miniatures, that add a wonderful level of personality to each of the factions that you play as. They’re solid and have a real presence on the table. Marchen Atelier has excelled themselves in the sculpts, while the artwork from Katie Khau is cutesy and bright and complete the wonderful presentation of My Little Scythe. In terms of value for money, considering everything that comes with the game and the replayability, its very good value for the $50 price tag from Stonemaier Games.
Surprisingly, My Little Scythe isn’t a three hour long endeavour. In fact, you only really see a huge increase in the time when you ramp up the number of players around the table. A decent game will last anywhere between forty minutes to an hour, and with more players you’ll still be finished well within the time before little minds start to wander and wonder and tap out. At that point when you do decide to put things away, then all the components go back into their allotted places on the specially designed trays, and the minis into their slots and cards in their bays, all ready to be easily brought out for the next time you fancy a little trip out in Pomme.
But It Doesn’t End There..
You see, even after delivering My Little Scythe, Hoby and Vienna must have thought about where they could go next. It seemed that the only logical way forward would be up. With the Pie in the Sky expansion, you are literally taking the action into the air, with the inclusion of the ‘Airship Kai’ and two further animal factions to play with. The Airship acts as a different way to allow the factions to collect resources and potentially earn their trophies alongside increasing the number of trophies you need to win.
Each of the factions now have a special power that they can use when they activate the Airship, with some having additional gadgets that can be placed on the map, that will create extra effects on that particular map space. At set-up, you have a choice either to allocate the special Airship powers at random, or stick to the Airship effect that applies to that particular faction. While there isn’t a huge difference in terms of the powers themselves, I can see asymmetry potentially causing issues when rival siblings are involved, simply because the playing field is no longer level, (even though for all intents and purposes, it still would be). A little bit of curating will solve any issues that may cause and more experience with the game shows up the pros and cons of each power.
The Airship only comes into play when the players play their seek action, which now includes a new shiny purple die to play with. In an interesting twist, the number of spaces the Airship can move is based around the number of trophies the player still has to get, unless you roll the one off six, which allows you to move that number of spaces. You must finish the move on a space with either a gem or an apple and then you can add that to your hold, giving you additional storage and an easier way to collect resources. The best thing about the Airship is that is never becomes exclusive to any single player, and because It combines with the normal seek action, you’re never sacrificing the normal flow of the game, it adds to the tactics available to the players.
Pie in the Sky is a great addition to the My Little Scythe base game. It might add additional complications that you will need to keep in mind for younger players with the addition of the asymmetrical powers. It also adds wonderful component furniture to the board and continues to make MLS sight to behold on the table.
Final Updated Thoughts
All in all, there’s very few times a publisher will have a chance to make a change to a much loved IP and take it off into an entirely new direction. Stonemaier made the right decision in taking Hoby and Vienna’s game ideas and making them a tangible product. My Little Scythe sheds much of the grandness and pomp and circumstance of it’s bigger sibling and replaces it with an innocence and fun that still doesn’t shrink away from trying to be as bold as possible. It balances being overly complicated for younger players while still being fun for adults who want to win a pie fight, and for that alone, it’s definitely worthwhile considering adding it to your collection. Now with the addition of the Pie in the Sky expansion, this entry in the Stonemaier catalogue goes from strength to strength.
We were provided a discounted review copy of My Little Scythe from Stonemaier Games.
We were not paid any other fee for this review.
You can visit their website for more information https://stonemaiergames.com/games/my-little-scythe/
Jamey Stegmaier has appeared on the podcast previously
Hoby Chou has not appeared on the podcast to date