In 2016 Stonemaier Games put out an iconic steampunk strategy game called Scythe. Shortly after that, a kid and her dad reimagined it as a cute family game and shared it as a free print and play. SM games checked it out, and they were so impressed they published it in 2017, giving it the full deluxe treatment they are famous for. That turnaround alone is very impressive.
This is what it looks like after a 2-player setup. The hex in the center is the randomizer that tells you what resources to put in each hex.
Scythe is a 90-180 minute, 3-4 weight monster. My Little Scythe pares that down into a lean 45 minutes. You have 4 goals instead of 8, and they are easier to achieve. There isn't a top and bottom to each action. There are no variable player powers in the base, but the Pie in the Sky expansion adds an airship that gives each faction a unique ability. You don't exactly control area, but you do fight if two factions are in the same hex. Both games are a race through a series of goals, but My Little Scythe is quicker, simpler, and cuter.
Gameplay and Mechanics:
This plays very much like Scythe in fast forward. There are three actions on your player board.
Each round, you have to move your pawn to a different circle on one of the actions (Move, Seek, or Make).
Move: Move your 2 minis around the board to collect or deliver resources. An empty-handed mini can move 2 spaces. A mini with a resource can only move 1. Each mini gets its own move of 1-2 hexes. The pink gates are portals that make moving faster. They even connect to the castle in the center. All resources on the same hex with your mini are yours.
If you move to a space with a quest token, you draw a card and choose one of the three options, usually give up X to get Y and keep the card, or discard the card to gain X. Having two quest cards is one of the eight goals.
Seek: Roll dice to put some resources on the board. Each die has a type of resource it puts out. Each side is a different color to tell you which region to put that resource in. If you put it in a space with an opponent, you go up on the friendship track. If you are in that region, you can give it to yourself.
Make: Turn resources into other resources. You can get pies or spell cards to use in battles (pie fights), or you can upgrade one of your actions. All of these things are goals.
This is an upgraded player board.
The panel on the left is the main addition from the Pie in the Sky expansion. We now have airships that provide a special ability.
Everyone shares the same airship mini, but each player has their own power and cargo hold. Resources can be spent from your cargo hold to do actions, including the deliver apples/gems to the castle goal. Some of them have an associated gadget that you can move around for various effects. Others simply allow you to do something in the space the ship is in. The airship moves as part of the Seek action. You will roll a purple die to see how many spaces the ship can move. Most results will be a trophy, which means you can move the airship a number of spaces up to the number of trophies remaining on your player board. If you roll a 6, you can move up to 6.
When the ship stops moving, it can either take one resource from that space into your cargo hold or do its special action.
With the Pie in the Sky expansion, you will have to put out 5 trophies instead of 4. It adds a couple new factions, a couple of quests, and four new power-up tiles. It sounds small, but the change is significant.
These are the goals where you will put your trophies.
The top row, from left to right: Reach the eighth space on the friendship track. Have two power-up tiles. Have three magic spell cards. Have two completed quest cards.
Second row: Deliver 4 gems to the castle. Deliver 4 apples to the castle. Win a fight. Reach the eighth space of the pie track.
Fights work just like Scythe. You can use one magic spell for each of your minis and spend pies using the secret wheel. Players reveal at the same time. The highest value boots the loser back to home base. As a consolation for losing, the player is rejuvenated. They gain either 1 spell or 2 pies, plus they remove their marker from their action board. This means they can do any action on their next turn.
Every game I've played has come down to a tiebreaker. It's surprisingly tight. The ending sneaks up on you. In our first game, about the time I'd be getting my engine going in Scythe, I suddenly realized I only had about three rounds to put out two or three trophies, or I was going to lose. That's one of the things that made me like this game. I was all set for a pleasant stroll through the goals, and then the end came down like the boulder in Indiana Jones. The jolt made me sit up and pay attention better than Scythe ever did. I was expecting baby Scythe and got speed Scythe.
Theme, Artwork, and Components:
The theme is friendly and playful despite your actions being basically the same as Scythe. It's not as agro as the original. You don't have to control land, but you can steal resources or get into pie fights. Gaining friendship from helping out other players in an interesting mechanic. I'm surprised that it works well with two players, but it does.
Stonemaier does not skimp on components. These minis are adorable, and all the bits are top-shelf. The insert is one of the best I've seen, but it doesn't have those clear plastic bit holders like Scythe.
What I liked:
My Little Scythe is an excellent, light version of an excellent heavy game. It's the same race to the goals as the original, but with fewer steps. I might actually like this version better. I've played Scythe so many times it's gotten a little stale. It takes a long time to set up and play. This sets up in a couple of minutes and plays so fast we still have time for a long game or a few shorter ones. In the end, I feel like I played Scythe.
What I didn't:
I don't have any complaints. Light/family games are not my thing, but for what it is, it's fantastic. I should mention that my wife is a huge fan of Scythe, and she was less enthused. I had very low expectations going in because I'm burned out on Scythe, and I generally want a game to be more complicated rather than simplified. She had very high expectations and felt it was paired down a little too much. My Little Scythe is made for smart kids, so if you want a big serious game, stick to the original.
Final Thoughts: This is the perfect game to introduce young kids to board games. Once they understand it, the pivot to Scythe will be very easy. Once you can play Scythe, you can play just about anything.
For Players Who Like
Light, cute games that are accessible to kids but engaging for adults.
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About the Author:
Stephen Gulik is a trans-dimensional cockroach, doomsday prophet, author, and editor at sausage-press.com
. When he’s not manipulating energy fields to alter the space-time continuum, he’s playing or designing board games. He has four cats and drinks too much coffee.