Updated: Dec 4, 2019
Since it first appeared in 2016, Scythe has been one of the big hits of the board game world. Designed by Jamey Stegmaier with art by Jakub Rozalski, and published by Stonemaier Games, Scythe remains one of the best area control/resource management euro games ever published. Its legion of fans rave about the game’s cleverly counterbalanced mechanics and its high-grade components. In the wake of its success, Scythe has spawned several expansions, each of which can be added as optional modules, including an multi-module expansion this year that enables players to compete across an unfolding eight-game campaign.
When My Little Scythe was announced, we weren’t alone in initially dismissing it as an April Fool’s prank. Surely no-one was seriously going to publish a children’s version of Scythe. Surely the ‘My Little Pony’ take on Scythe was just a joke, like the suggestion in The Simpsons that DC Comics were planning a series of Watchmen Babies comics.
We were wrong. My Little Scythe is very real. It was designed by Hoby Chou and Vienna Chou. They have taken the key elements of Scythe, simplified them and adapted them to make them more family friendly. Cute animal minis with art by Katie Khau and a neat tray design by Noah Adelman have completed the process, and Stonemaier Games have embraced and published what began life as a fan’s home-made take on Scythe. The net result is an exceptional and beautifully packaged family game that can be picked up and played by children from the age of 8 but which, cutesy theme aside, adults can play competitively and enjoy. There are seven pairs of animal characters in the box, and the game caters for up to six players, but, like the original game, My Little Scythe can also be played solitaire against a game-controlled opponent.
My Little Scythe works, in effect, as a gateway game that introduces several key euro game mechanics, including a simplified version of the action selection mechanic in the original game. Players can progress by completing pick up and deliver actions and they can spend resources to pick up cards that upgrade the actions available to them.
Because friendship is one of the elements tracked (similar to popularity in Scythe), then players need to weigh up the friendship gain or cost of the actions they take. The game is competitive rather than co-operative but you may nevertheless want to take actions that help an opponent because that will boost your position on the friendship track. Actions that harm an opponent (for example, beating them in a 'pie fight') are at the cost of friendship. You are drawing cards and rolling dice to determine the resources that are placed out, so there’s inevitably a degree of luck in My Little Scythe but this is a game where you’ll be making plenty of tactical choices, including over when and how you interact with the other players.
If you are familiar with Scythe, there will be much you will recognise in this game, albeit in simpler form. Combat is more light-hearted but it is resolved in exactly the same way as in the original game. Just as in the original Scythe, there's even an Achievement sheet to record the outcome of games, though there is less need for it in My Little Scythe because one of the simplifications is the removal of asymmetric player powers.
Players each turn take just a single action: Move allows the player to move their animal avatars, Seek adds resources to the board, and Make allows a player to convert the resources they have collected. Players cannot repeat the same action they took the previous turn, so each turn becomes a choice between two core actions. This leads to quick turns and a rapid game: you will learn to plan ahead and you aren’t going to be sitting around for ages waiting for your next turn to come along. You can realistically expect to complete a game in around 45 minutes. Just be warned that there is every likelihood that the players may very well want to dive straight into a repeat match!
If you’re a keen games player looking to introduce non-gamers (not just children) to mechanics that are a few steps up from more mundane run-of-the-mill board games, then My Little Scythe is just the game you are looking for. But this is a game that works at every level: the kids can play it among themselves; all the family can play together and, when the children go to bed, you can pull My Little Scythe down from the shelf and happily enjoy it as a light but very playable game for the grown ups. Another one that should be on your Christmas list!