The past few months, my game table has been dominated by short, solo games. Pandemic: Hot Zone – North America and Hit Z Road come to mind, and NMBR9 is one of my all-time favorites. My Little Scythe fits this category. It allows for up to 6 players, but playing 1-2 finishes is less than 30 minutes, which lends itself to multiple games in one sitting. It’s designed by Hoby Chou and Vienna Chou, with art by Katie Khau, and published by Stonemaier Games.
The origin story of My Little Scythe is heartwarming. Designer Hoby Chou wanted to play Scythe with his daughter, Vienna. Hoby described his inspiration in the game’s design diary.1
“Many of you know that I also had a very personal inspiration – my daughter and co-designer Vienna. The original prototype was – as many of you rightfully labelled – a labour of love… While sounding cheesy, love really is a powerful source of inspiration.”
I had some trouble with this one, which was disappointing as I envision families with colorblind kids trying to play. My Little Scythe is not colorblind-friendly out of the box, so some players will need help.
The base game includes 7 different pairs of characters and action tokens. I like these options, as it lets me chose the best color combinations for me, especially at lower player counts. In my personal experience, up to 5 players works well, as I can ask fellow gamers to use black, red, white, yellow, and blue. The other two colors (purple and/or grey and/or green – I’m not sure) could result in color confusion.
The prototypes for My Little Scythe’s dice started off colorblind friendly, using the same background styles as the game board.
Jamey Stegmaier shared the team’s struggle to translate that design to production dice.
“This worked fine as a prototype, but how were we going to make it work for actual custom dice? For a 1:1 translation, we would need to use something like the dice in Star Wars: Destiny, which are fine, but I think custom molded dice have a better feel and table presence. Also, these dice just looked too busy–they’re sending too many signals to your brain (red die, blue background, red apple).”
“So we decided to flip things around a bit. We made each die monochrome, but we changed the color of the icon on the die to reflect the color of the region. So you roll a red die, and if the resulting apple icon is blue, you’ll place an apple token in the blue region.”
“This worked well, even though it’s not a perfect solution for people with colorblindness.”
Can confirm. The green and grey sides of the dice are indistinguishable for some players, including me.
I asked Jamey if he could provide further insights on this design choice.
“Thanks for asking about this. The dice were a very difficult puzzle to solve, and I’m sorry the final result wasn’t colorblind friendly. We used different textures on the boards for each region, but we couldn’t convey those textures on the dice.”
To mitigate the color vision issues described above and make My Little Scythe playable, I needed to modify my copy.
GREY, GREEN, RED
To address the most problematic issue I faced, I pulled out my favorite accessibility tool, recruited a family member, and went to work. I wanted to avoid detracting from the beautiful art while providing the graphic design modifications I needed to enjoy the game.
A simple black dot on the grey side of each die and the 5 grey spaces on the gameboard helped me identify grey from green. Adding a single line on the red dice-faces and spaces on the board distinguished red from green. I left the green spaces and dice faces alone.
POWER UP TILES
The two power up tiles, Move and Make, are only distinguished by color, and while the two colors used (Green and Blue) work fine for me, I still find it helpful to double-code when feasible. I added a small boot-shaped icon to the bottom-left corner of the Move card, and a hammer shape to top-right corner of the Make card.
My Little Scythe a delightful game for 1-6 players that plays quickly. I recommend it for any age and skill level, and colorblind gamers can enjoy it with some minor modifications. You can pick it up at your friendly local game store or the Stonemaier Games website.
Colorblind Games received a complementary copy of this game from the publisher for this review.
1 Vienna photo, prototype dice image, and first two quote via Stonemaier Games, My Little Scythe Design Diary