This game was sent to us by Stonemaier Games for unbiased review. We aren’t paid for any media or reviews produced.
Scythe is a monumentally brilliant game. It’s one that’s meaty, punchy and hard hitting. Deep in theme, quality in production and superbly thick to get into. The downside to it? It’s scary. Frightfully strange in concept and it has lots and lots moving parts and options. At its core, however, it’s quite straightforward in its elements. Different nations competing to control resources, travelling to different locations, improving abilities and performing feats to gain victory points. When diluted down, it’s quite easy to get in a simpler form. So is there one? Coincidentally, there is. My Little Scythe by Stonemaier Games is an easier access, more child friendly version of the behemoth game that is Scythe. It’s for 1-6 players and runs in about 45 minutes.
My Little Scythe works on the same principles and mechanics as the core game of Scythe. However, the gameplay is diluted and simplified to make it more accessible to both younger and inexperienced gamers. Players control two animals and need to be the first to achieve four out of a possible eight trophies.
How To Play
To kick off, players all choose one animal faction to play as and take the corresponding miniatures and tokens. The trophy tokens go on their player dashboard, their friendship token on the friendship track, and the pie token on the pie track. They are then dealt two magic cards and one personality card. Finally, players set up the board by placing the set up hex on the centre randomly and filling in hexes accordingly based on player counts. If there are only two players, only their starting positions are populated.
Players cannot take the same specific action twice, and cannot place their action pawn on the same spot they were just on. This means they can seek twice in a row, but must use the other action space. They can also only earn one trophy per turn, except in the final round. Resources are never taken from the board unless spent, and a player “controls” these resources if one of their seekers is stood on the same hex as them. Also, personality cards adjust how a single trophy is earned to their benefit. It will always aid the player and ensure they have the edge in a particular feat. There are several portals across the map, all which count as adjacent to one another and the castle. Both seekers and resources can travel through these. Finally, the centre space of the map (the castle) cannot be entered unless making a delivery for a trophy.
Taking a Turn
On a player’s turn, they can take any one of three variations of action: move, seek or make. Moving allows players to move their seekers two hexes each, or one hex with all the resources they control. Seek let’s them locate new resources and choose where they go on the board – based on die rolls. Make let’s them exchange resources they control for other things such as upgrades, pies or magic cards.
When two players share the same space, a pie fight is initiated. The aggressor loses friendship and both players take pie dials. They can then use a combination of pies on the track and magic cards to choose how many are spent on combat. Once revealed, the higher attack value wins with ties going to the aggressor. The loser of the fight goes to their camp and is “rejuvenated” and takes +1 pie or a magic card. They also have free placement of their action pawn.
The eight trophies to claim can be claimed by any players, and are claimed as soon as achieved by placing one of their respective trophy tokens on that achievement.
- Make a delivery of 4 apples to the castle
- Make a delivery of 4 gems to the castle
- Winning a pie fight
- Completing two quests
- Acquiring 8 friendship
- Acquiring 8 pies
- Acquiring both upgrades
- Acquiring 3 unused magic cards
The End Game
The game enters its final round when any player has four trophies. At this point, all players who don’t yet have four trophies take a final turn during which they may earn as many trophies as they can. Once this is finished, the player with the most trophies wins.
How It Handles
My Little Scythe is an almost impossible concept. Taking the serious tensions produced in Scythe and making them both child friendly and still enjoyable was always going to be a challenge. Not going too whacky whilst also making it appealing to children. Stripping the rules to their core without losing the elements that made the original great. Keeping that emphasis of area control on a smaller board without forcing combat. It must have been a massive ask. And the fact that they not only achieved it, but make it superbly fun and engaging all at the same time is awesome.
How’d Ya Like Them Apples?!
In all my games of Scythe, I’ve never actively sought to engage in combat. It’s always been a needs must sort of deal. It’s risky, wastes units and risks resources, but is never off the cards. With that, the system used in My Little Scythe is much more friendly. As friendly as combat gets, anyway. There are consequences to engaging and risks to losing, alongside bonuses for winning and losing. It takes away the fear of failure and stops it being this all encompassing disaster.
Players getting into fights is avoidable entirely, though it can get tight and would be foolish to not engage in. You get a trophy for winning a fight and any resources on that hex enter the victor’s control. Losing on the other hand grants you a quick teleport to your base and an extra magic card. Meaning the next time you’re in combat, you might have the edge! (Or even better, that might be the third magic card you need for a different trophy!)
Fighting in My Little Scythe only ever feels purposeful. Everyone’s in a race to achieve four incredible feats, and if all you’re doing is going around being a pest you’ll come dead last. Combat is one element of this game, and it’s a tremendously balanced game. You need pies to fight, you lose friendship for fighting and will eventually drive yourself into a hole with limited option other than to make friends and bake pies. Otherwise, the bully will become the bullied. It’ll be sweet, sweet justice!
I Wanna Be, The Very Quest…
The quests in My Little Scythe run the same format as those in Scythe. Artwork fitting the flavour text, a morally good choice, a morally questionable one and one allows you to leave without consequence. Choosing morally good or bad will result in completing a quest; a step towards achieving the associated feat. However, these require specific things or sacrifices. These can be resource losses or spending pies/friendship, or can give an opponent the edge. However, the negatives often outweigh the positives… even if it does require you to steal apples from an orchard or something equally as dastardly!
Quest tokens are the only ones that can never share a space with another resource. In fact, when placing them with a seek action they must go on a completely empty hex. They’re pretty coveted and very valuable, so it makes sense they should be harder to place and access, right? It’s a caution that players may overlook their value once they’ve achieved the respective feat. They can dish out pies, friendship, gems and all sorts to contribute to the wider needs of player actions! We found a need to remind ourselves it just how useful they were regularly. There’s not a lot of emphasis on their function or use, so make sure you’re regularly nabbing quests when possible!
Going from My Big to My Little…
Now with Scythe and My Little Scythe being classed as in the same family, it begs the question of gateway and accessibility. How similar are the two games? I spoke to a few other reviewers and some folk who’d played this as an introduction to Scythe – they said it was a great introduction. Honestly, I can’t argue. But I’m coming at it from the reverse; I played Scythe then this, and, as much as I can see the links, I’d argue they’re pretty far apart even with the difference in weight. Is this a bad thing? Heck no.
My Little Scythe stands as a superbly lighter area control, conflict game mechanically. The theme I personally don’t care for, but my group adored it! Cute animals vying for control of the land of Pomme… and the miniatures! It all was very adorable and lovely. Poles apart from the hard exterior miniatures of my other games, but again that may be because I went from Scythe to this! It fits it’s own theme set within the Scythe mechanics and does so gorgeously. In terms of concept and the introduction to the mechanics, this definitely introduces them at a good pace that’s very manageable. Will it be a good starting point for Scythe? Maybe. It entirely depends on how well you can cope with all the meat on the bone that it gives. It’s by no means light, and it’s long. This game is quite the opposite and runs in a fraction of the time.
Has This Apple Fallen Far From the Tree?
If you’re looking for a pure clone of Scythe at a lighter weight, sadly this isn’t it. To dilute any game purely on the basis of making it child accessible or lighter is always going to be a recipe for disaster. Scythe is a giant monolithic gaming mogul with an incredible theme, solid gameplay and freedom of choice in how players tackle the challenges. It’s hard gritty exterior with an alternative history is both awe inspiring and charming at times. My Little Scythe is not a diluted clone. It stands on its own with similar mechanics and concepts, in my opinion, and it does so excellently.
The Sheen of the Apple
Thematically, as I’ve said, My Little Scythe is not my jam. But I played and loved Scythe first! This game has a much more gentle, cheeky vibe to it. Animals fighting with pies, collecting apples to bake with, looking for gems. None of it sounds like it holds any aggression or angst, and that’s to its credit. The game’s for children primarily and it’ll appeal to that audience easily. With that, the actual production quality of the game is astounding. The apple tokens and crystals are easy to see on the board, the dice colours correspond nicely to the different regions and the models are gorgeous! Genuinely beautiful. I’m no painter, but I’d love for every one to match the colour schemes provided as it’s awesome. As far as the game goes aesthetically, it’s superb. Thematically? Not for me.
My Little Scythe is a lovely, light area control and conflict game with gorgeous aesthetics and a theme younger audiences will enjoy. It’s highly accessible and plays quickly, with there being enough freedom for players to take different tactics and paths to victory. However, if like me you’re coming at it having played Scythe, don’t expect as many similarities as the game suggests. Mechanically it’s diluted and has very similar ideas, but it won’t hit the mark like the big version does. Enjoy My Little Scythe as an independent, stand alone experience without ties and you’ll love it like I did. I’d highly recommend this if you’re introducing more games to a family of any size or for younger gamers. Superb fun that looks gorgeous!