Reading Time: 15 minutes
The Kingdom of Pomme is hosting its annual tournament: each of the animal kingdoms sends two seekers to participate, hoping to win trophies and earn their right to be the rulers of Pomme. It’s time to play My Little Scythe.
What Is My Little Scythe?
My Little Scythe is a sort of spin-off of Scythe for 1 to 6 players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 45–60 minutes to play. It will release on August 17 with a retail price of $50, and is currently available for pre-order from Stonemaier Games (with an option for Gen Con pickup if you just can’t wait). The game was designed by father-daughter team Hoby and Vienna Chou originally as a fan-made version set in the My Little Pony universe; after some more development, Stonemaier Games is now publishing an official version, though featuring animals from the Scythe world rather than the magical ponies. The game is family-friendly (I’ve played even with my 5-year-old), but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a look if you’re a kid-free gamer.
My Little Scythe is GeekDad Approved!
My Little Scythe Components
Here’s what you get in the box:
- Game board
- 6 player mats
- 2 Combat dials
- 1 Setup hex
- 8 Make Power-up tiles
- 8 Move Power-up tiles
- 30 Magic Spell cards
- 12 Quest cards
- 8 Personality cards
- 24 Gems
- 24 Apples
- 12 Quest tokens
- 5 dice
- 7 sets of player components:
- 2 Seeker figurines
- 1 pawn
- 1 Base Camp tile
- 4 Trophy tokens
- 1 Friendship token
- 1 Pie token
- Game Trayz
- 21 Automountie cards (for solo play)
The components in My Little Scythe are top-notch, as you’d expect from Stonemaier Games. I have a few nitpicks here and there (which I’ll get to) but overall it looks fantastic. The artwork is by Katie Khau, who has done a great job with the fun animal characters, who are chibi versions of the animal mascots from Scythe.
The seeker figurines (sculpted by Marchen Atelier from Khau’s illustrations) are amazing—and they’re nice and big, too: the base of each figurine shown above is the size of a quarter.
The included painting guide shows each pair of seekers, along with a story about their kingdoms and the seekers themselves, who all have names. I haven’t painted mine yet—I’m not much of a minis painter—but I’ve seen some photos of painted minis and I’m hoping I’ll be able to do that eventually. The seekers come in two (very slightly) different shades of plastic, a light cream color and a light khaki color, though it’s generally not important to tell them apart during gameplay.
The achievement sheet provides various places that winners of My Little Scythe can sign their names—the first winner in each age group, first winner for each kingdom, first winner for each month, and so on.
The resource tokens are plastic: the apples are flat tokens, and the gems are large translucent gems. The quest tokens are cardboard punch-out tokens that match the icon on the back of the quest cards.
The dice are custom six-sided dice, engraved and painted. The red dice are for finding apples, blue dice are for finding gems, and the pearlescent gold die is for finding quests.
The plastic storage trays are by Game Trayz, which makes great custom inserts (also seen in The Grimm Forest). There are two trays: one holds the figurines and player tokens and pawns, and the other tray holds everything else. The tray with the cards and resources is designed to be left in the box bottom, because it doesn’t have edges to hold some of the cards in, as I discovered when I pulled it out for this photo. My only complaint about it is that you have to dig out all the resource tokens a handful at a time, or just dump the whole box bottom over to dump them out.
The figurines tray stacks onto the other tray, and has a plastic lid that snaps on and holds everything in place. I found that once everything is packed away, everything except a few of the quest and resource tokens stayed in place even when the box was turned upside down.
The wells for the figurines are shaped in such a way that you can put any of the figurines in any space… almost. The wolf has a helmet plume that makes it taller than all the other figurines, and so I’ve turned mine head-to-head (instead of base-to-base like the others). Also of note… there’s room in the tray for two more kingdoms. Is this a hint of things to come?
The game board has room to store the various card decks, a friendship track and a pie track, and spaces for the various trophies you can earn. The map is colorful and shows six different regions, with Castle Everfree in the center. It’s a large six-fold board, so make some room on your table!
One thing I found with the board is that the spaces for trophies, friendship, and pies are fairly small compared to the tokens—it’s hard to see the icon for the trophy types if you spread the tokens out, but if you stack them then it can be hard to see which ones you’ve already gotten (unlike Scythe, which uses wooden tokens so that if you stack them you can still see all of them from the side).
The combat dials are two pieces of cardboard—one square, one round—that snap together with a plastic rivet, so that you can turn the dial from 0 to 7 pies (for pie fights, of course).
The player mats are cardstock—alas, not dual-layered cardboard like Scythe, but there aren’t a lot of tokens stored on them so they work just fine.
How to Play My Little Scythe
You can download a copy of the rulebook here. If you’re already familiar with Scythe and you just want a quick compare-and-contrast, skip to the next section!
The goal of the game is to be the first to earn 4 trophies.
Every player takes a player mat, a set of player components (2 figurines, pawn, 4 trophies, friendship token, pie token, and base camp). The friendship and pie tokens go on the tracks on the game board at level 3 each, and the trophies go on the player mat on the indicated spaces. Each player also gets 1 magic spell card and 1 personality card dealt from the deck—these are kept secret.
Players will set up base camps around the board in a configuration based on the number of players, and then seed the board with resources using the setup hex tile, which is turned in a random direction and then placed on Castle Everfree. Resources and quest tokens are added to the board only in front of occupied base camps, and then the setup tile is returned to the box. Both of your seekers go on your base camp.
Quest cards, magic spell cards, and the two types of power up tiles are placed in their spaces on the board, and the dice are kept nearby. Gems, apples, and quest tokens are also placed in a supply near the board.
On your turn, you choose an action on your playmat. You must move your pawn, so you may never take the same action twice in a row, though you may use the same section. For instance, you could use the top “Seek” action on one turn, and then switch to the bottom “Seek” action the next turn. Your options are Move, Seek, and Make.
Each of your seekers may move independently: you may move 2 spaces (but you must stop if you enter a space with another player’s seeker), or move 1 space if you are transporting gems and apples. A seeker may carry any number of gems and apples with them—in My Little Scythe, resources are kept on the board, and they belong to you if they are with your seeker.
The six portals on the board are considered adjacent to each other, so you may move from portal to portal.
Castle Everfree in the center of the board also has a portal, but may only be used if you are delivering gems or apples. You may move one or two seekers onto Castle Everfree while carrying exactly 4 gems or 4 apples. If you do, the gems/apples are returned to the supply, you earn the corresponding trophy by placing your trophy token on the board, and then seeker(s) return to base camp. You may only make each type of delivery once per game.
If you move into a space with another player’s seeker, you will start a pie fight (after finishing both of your seekers’ movements). The attacker immediately loses 1 friendship. Both players secretly choose how many of their pies they would like to spend in the fight, from 0 to 7 (and up to their maximum number of pies on the pie tracker).
For each of your seekers involved in the fight, you may also add a magic spell card, which adds between 2 and 5 pies. Both players reveal their total number of pies simultaneously—the higher total wins, with ties going to the attacker. All used magic spells are discarded, and both players adjust their pie trackers according to how many they spent. The loser’s seekers return to their base camp.
Whenever you return to base camp (whether after a delivery or losing a pie fight), you get rejuvenated: you may get 1 magic spell or 2 pies, and you also remove your pawn from your player mat, which allows you to choose any action on your next turn.
If your movement ends on a quest token, you draw a quest card and discard the token. Each quest card has three options—generally one that lets you pay resources for some effect, one that has an “unfriendly” effect that costs you friendship, and then a “No Thanks!” option that gets you a smaller benefit but returns the quest card to the bottom of the deck.
If you take either of the first two options, you keep the quest card, which can go toward earning your quest trophy. Generally, the second option has a more powerful benefit, but the friendship cost is nothing to sneeze at.
If you choose to seek, you will roll the indicated dice and add more resources to the board. The red dice will add apples, the blue dice add gems, and the gold dice adds quest tokens. Each die has six colors, corresponding to the six regions of the board. Roll the dice, and then for each die you add 1 token to a hex in that region. Gems and apples may be placed anywhere in the region, and you earn 1 friendship for each resource that you place on another player’s seeker. Quest tokens must be placed in a hex that has no seekers and no quest tokens. (If there aren’t any such spaces, don’t place it.)
The two seek actions only differ in the ratio of dice—one provides more apples, and the other provides more gems.
With the “Make” action, you can spend resources to make things. Typically, you can spend 2 apples for 2 pies, 2 gems for a magic spell card, or 1 gem and 1 apple for a power up. You may spend any resources that are currently on spaces with your seekers (including one from each).
If you choose to make a power up, you draw three, either the Move (green) or Make (blue) type, and then choose one to keep. The unchosen tiles go to the bottom of the deck. The power up goes on your player mat, covering up the existing action.
The power up tiles have fun names to give a little thematic explanation for what you’re doing. For instance, the “Stingy Baker” power up lets you make pies for 1 apple instead of two, but the “Friendly Baker” gives you 1 friendship each time you make pies. Some of the Make power ups improve one of your existing Make actions, and some provide a fourth Make action. Movement power ups will give you some a special movement ability of some sort—you might be able to move resources more quickly, or teleport across the board in a particular way.
The ultimate goal of all of this moving, seeking, and making is to earn trophies. There are 8 trophies, of which you can earn 4—but you may only earn one per turn.
Here’s how you earn the trophies:
- 8 Friendship—reach 8 on the friendship track; losing friendship will not lose the trophy.
- 2 Power Ups—have 1 of each power up
- 3 Magic Spells—have 3 magic spell cards
- 2 Quests—complete 2 quests
- Gem Delivery—deliver 4 gems to Castle Everfree*
- Apple Delivery—deliver 4 apples to Castle Everfree*
- Pie Fight Victory—win a pie fight (either as attacker or defender)*
- 8 Pies—reach 8 on the pie track; losing pies will not lose the trophy
*These trophies may only be earned on the turn that they’re achieved. The other trophies may be claimed on later turns, as long as the conditions are still met.
There are two things that affect trophies. First are the personality cards. Each player has one, and it gives you a special condition for one of the trophies that makes it easier to achieve. Some of the personality cards may have additional restrictions.
The other restriction is that you may not earn any trophies if you are below 3 friendship—this is indicated on the friendship track, because the judges of the tournament don’t like it when you’re too unfriendly.
When a player places their last trophy onto the board, there is a Grand Finale: all of the other players get one final turn, during which they may earn any number of trophies (instead of the usual 1).
If only one player has 4 trophies after the final turns, that player is the winner. Otherwise, ties are broken by friendship, and then number of total resources (gems and apples).
What’s the Difference Between Scythe and My Little Scythe?
You might already be familiar with Scythe, designed by Jamey Stegmaier and published in 2016. (You can see Dave Banks’ review of Scythe here.) It’s a 4X style game, which means that it involves exploration, expansion, exploitation, and extermination, and features lots of cool steam-powered mechs on a gorgeous board.
My Little Scythe changes up the theme from an alt-history WWI-with-mechs to a friendly tournament in the Kingdom of Pomme, but it definitely has a lot of ties to the original game that inspired it. If you aren’t already familiar with Scythe, you can probably skip this section.
Here are some of the similarities:
- Resources are kept on the board and spent from the board, rather than taken into a player’s supply.
- Both games use a Friendship/Popularity track and a Pies/Power track.
- Combat (pie fights) are resolved using dials and cards, not dice.
- You cannot take the same action twice in a row.
- Gain trophies (stars) by accomplishing certain actions.
- Similar achievements include reaching a particular level on the tracks, winning fights, and upgrading your player mat.
- Quests/encounters offer three options, one of which is unfriendly and costs you friendship/popularity.
- The map is somewhat similar, with 6 portals and a special hex in the center.
- The My Little Scythe seekers are the same animals accompanying the Scythe characters.
Here are a few differences for My Little Scythe:
- The map does not have any rivers or lakes, so everything is easily traversable.
- Kingdoms do not have specific starting bases, and do not have specific kingdom powers.
- Players just have two seekers, rather than a character, mechs, and workers.
- You start off being able to move 2 spaces without resources, one space with resources.
- There are no structures, recruits, or upgrades.
- There are fewer resources—just apples and gems.
- Resources aren’t generated in specific hexes, but instead are placed with a combination of dice rolls and player choice.
- New quest tokens may be placed onto the board throughout the game.
- You cannot gain trophies if you are below a certain friendship level; in Scythe, you can still earn stars even at 0 popularity.
- There’s a “grand finale” where everyone gets one more turn after somebody places their last trophy.
- Victory conditions are simplified: win with 4 trophies, tiebreakers are friendship and then resources.
- There are other trophy types, including delivering gems/apples to the castle, gaining 3 magic spell cards, and completing two quests.
- Personality cards give you an advantage toward one of the trophies.
- Scythe goes up to 7 players (with the Invaders from Afar expansion); My Little Scythe goes up to 6.
While it’s not a comprehensive list, you can see that there’s a lot of overlap between My Little Scythe and Scythe, but there are also enough differences that it’s really its own game. While it is definitely simpler than Scythe and has been designed with a kid-friendly look, it isn’t just “Scythe for kids,” either. In fact, I think it may also make a very nice alternative for when I want to play Scythe but don’t want to spend quite as long (both in rules explanation and in playing). I may even use it as a stepping stone; if I have people who are new to Scythe, I may start by teaching My Little Scythe so then I can gauge if they like that amount of complexity or if they want to kick it up a bit.
Why You Should Play My Little Scythe
I’ll start off by saying that I’m a fan of the original Scythe: I backed the first Kickstarter after reading Dave’s review, and have since purchased both the Invaders from Afar and Airships expansions. I really enjoy it, and both of my older daughters (now 11 and 14) like it too, though my 11-year-old is still figuring out her tactics. When I first heard about My Little Scythe last year, I thought it sounded like it’d be something fun to try, both to see if my 11-year-old would have an easier time mastering it but also because all of my daughters (including my youngest) are fans of My Little Pony, too.
Well, even though the published My Little Scythe is no longer set in the MLP world, I’ve found that it is simple enough that my 5-year-old has been able to learn the rules and, for the most part, make all of her own decisions while playing. The main things I help her with are remembering the restrictions on delivering gems and apples to the castle, and just making sure she knows what options are open to her from turn to turn.
And she’s even won once, playing against two adults and her sister—largely because, as they say, friendship is magic. The modified end game in My Little Scythe means that it’s not just enough to get your four trophies on the board, because everyone else has a final turn to catch up. Many games will go to the tiebreakers, the first of which is friendship. There are only a few ways to earn friendship: give resources to other players when you Seek, taking particular options on some of the quests, and using certain power up tiles. The easiest option is giving players resources, but that’s so counterintuitive—do I want to give you apples so you can make pies? Or gems so you can buy magic spells? Most of the older players (myself included) would occasionally give a resource to other players, but tried not to give too many to anybody else. My 5-year-old, on the other hand, gleefully gave resources away whenever possible, and maxed out her friendship track. And since you lose a friendship every time you start a pie fight, you’re limited in the trophies you can get on the final turn while still maintaining your friendship levels.
I really like that about the game—that it goes against your natural instincts when playing games just a little bit. There is some more luck involved in My Little Scythe, since the resources are placed based on dice rolls. There have been times where players tried to gain a few last-minute friendship points with Seek actions, only to roll terrains that had no opponents in them. You do have a lot of control over other aspects of the game, though, so there is a good deal of planning and strategizing as well. There’s just enough random chance to give less-experienced players the possibility of pulling into the lead if they play their cards right… and are friendly enough. Hey, even though it’s a competitive game, I don’t mind if my kid also learns that sometimes playing nice with others is good for you, too.
At the start of the game, you don’t really have unique powers—as you do in Scythe—but the personality card gives you at least one trophy that you should work on because it usually has a lowered cost. That can help point players in a particular direction, which is nice in a game where you may not have any idea where to begin. Once you get power up tiles, however, you can customize your abilities a bit more, which lets you specialize a little. The power ups are fairly small upgrades, but may be enough to nudge you just that little bit toward victory.
The action-selection aspect is elegant and easy to understand: choose an open space on your board, and take that action. With only six spaces to choose from (sometimes seven, depending on your power ups), you generally won’t get overwhelmed, so the game is a little easier for those with analysis paralysis. A six player game still has a bit of downtime, but most turns are pretty short if they don’t involve a pie fight.
I’ve had a couple people say they might prefer My Little Scythe to Scythe simply because it’s a quicker, less sprawling game. It’s a little easier to dive in and start playing for sure, and I know many people who found Scythe a little overwhelming at first. My Little Scythe still has a bit of rules explanation and is certainly more complex than many kids’ games, but none of the rules are particularly hard to grasp.
Overall, I think Hoby and Vienna Chou (with Jamey Stegmaier’s help) did a fantastic job of creating a Scythe-like experience that’s suitable for a younger audience, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it for families who are looking for something a touch more involved than many games intended for kids. I’m happy to give My Little Scythe our GeekDad Approved seal, and look forward to playing it more with my kids and friends!
For more information or to place a pre-order, visit the Stonemaier Games website.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.
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