This new article series ‘GameSpark Rants’ is only one person’s opinion and I do not mean to offend or discredit anyone. I value all opinions for or against anything I write in these articles, and welcome civil discussions about any of it.
If you are like me, you often search around forums like BoardGameGeek or Reddit for more information, as well as other people’s opinions, before you decide to purchase a board game or back a Kickstarter. Unfortunately, much like the video game and movie industries, often the hype that is generated around a board game often leads to a let down once the game is purchased.
With the increase of Kickstarter, many companies are creating a lot of buzz over their board games before they are even released. Good examples for this category would include Dark Souls which kickstarted for over five million dollars, or Exploding Kittens which was funded for over eight million dollars. However, just because a game was funded for a lot of money, does not make it a good game. In the instance of the two mentioned games, they both have under a 7 rating on BGG, and are widely considered not to be great games.
This leads me to a specific game that we played again this week that might rub people the wrong way when I mention how much I dislike it. The game was released in 2016 and won numerous awards including the 2016 Golden Geek Board Game of the Year, and it is called Scythe. I know what you are thinking, and I do realize that this is a universally loved board game, but is it because it is a good game, or is it because of the hype that surrounds it?
Scythe is a board game set in an alternate universe Europa in the 1920s, which combines resource management, mech combat, and has no dice rolling whatsoever. That sentence alone, without seeing anything else, would be enough to get me interested. Once it hit Kickstarter, people backed it like crazy, eventually making almost two million dollars with over 17,000 backers. Talk about hype!
Scythe is not a bad game, and being a fan of other Stonemaier games I wanted to absolutely love this game. The game has beautiful art, quality mech and character models, and an interesting story (I would have said they had nice cardboard faction boards, but all of mine came warped and already peeling). However, the mechanics of the game leave a lot to be desired. The player interaction is minimal if you actually want to win, because staying in your own area makes for better engine building and a quicker win. The game boasts that is has very little luck and is a pure strategy experience, when in actuality the encounters you draw almost always guarantee a large leap ahead of your opponents.
There are other issues I have with the actual gameplay, but the major issue I have with this game is that it won so many awards, while games like Terraforming Mars and Mansions of Madness 2nd edition got overlooked for some of those same awards because they did not generate hype from Kickstarter.
So, do I think Scythe is a bad game? No, but I do think it gets more credit than it deserves because it was so hyped up on Kickstarter, and it is just an example of a long list of board games that have funded for millions of dollars leading to unwarranted hype and a biased opinion before many people have played it. Much like a movie being judged at the Oscars for the movie and not how much it made at the box office, a board game should not be judged based on how much money it made on Kickstarter.