Design Diary

This is a compilation of the designer diary entries posted in the My Little Scythe Facebook group. They are listed here in chronological order, with the most recent entry at the top.

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May 15, 2018 (Jamey Stegmaier)

Hoby’s name for the print-and-play version of the game—the version with the My Little Pony theme—My Little Scythe. But was that the right name for the final version of the game? We had a big discussion about it early on in the development of the game.
 
First I checked with our lawyer to see if “My Little” was trademarked by Hasbro, and fortunately we found that it wasn’t.
 
Next we discussed the name internally (and with Hoby). I can’t recall if we considered other names or if was more of a “My Little Scythe” vs “not My Little Scythe” discussion. I was an advocate of keeping the name, as it had touched upon something in the gaming zeitgeist. Sure, there are likely to be people who discover My Little Scythe without knowing the origin story, but for them, the title would be as meaningless to someone who knew the connection.
 
Also, we were a little concerned that “My Little” would make it seem like it was a kids game or a reskin of Scythe, while in reality it’s its own family-friendly game. That concern persists for me a little bit, but I think it’ll be fine.
 
Finally I reached out to Jakub. Even though Scythe—the tabletop implementation of Jakub Rozalski’s 1920+ alternate universe—is owned by Stonemaier Games, it was important for us to have his blessing. I was honestly quite worried he wouldn’t like it, but he was incredibly supportive of the idea, given that it wasn’t set in the 1920+ world. He seemed to like the idea of the “cute” versions of the Scythe animals, a topic I’ll discuss more later.
 
So with those three boxes checked off, we proceeded to keep the original name. What do you think? Did we make the right choice?

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May 11, 2018 (Hoby Chou)

Like the Encounter cards of Scythe, Quest cards are also immediately revealed by the player who lands on a Quest token. However, Quests work differently. While Scythe Encounters contain 4 options that affect the current player, Quests are more interactive and contain a pattern of 3 unique choices:

There’s always a “blue” option that provides an immediate benefit to the player at a cost. This most resembles Scythe Encounters since it only affects the player discovering the Quest.

The remaining two options are a departure from Scythe.

The middle “red” option typically affects other players (but not always) and typically involves sacrificing Friendship. Sometimes it could be as simple as transferring an apple from a far-away space. It seems subtle, but what if that means delaying a player from scoring a delivery (a new mechanic in My Little Scythe) or crafting something critical?

The final “beige” option is always NO THANKS. While in Scythe you are required to immediately resolve Encounters, in My Little Scythe you can choose to gain a small free benefit and return the card into circulation instead. Returning the card into circulation means others may come across it later and reap its benefits.

My Little Scythe isn’t a re-skin but a deliberate re-engineering of an already fantastic game. Mechanics from Scythe were reviewed one by one and revised, removed, or replaced to create a unique experience in My Little Scythe. Quests are an example of something that has been revised.

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May 8, 2018 (Jamey Stegmaier)

Hoby will be writing some design diary posts for this group (the first one was on Sunday), and I’m going to add some from my perspective as a publisher, developer, and fan of the game. Today I’ll talk about how we came to sign My Little Scythe as a Stonemaier product.

It’s no secret that the original print-and-play version of My Little Scythe had a My Little Pony theme. So originally, after I noticed how much attention it was getting over a sustained period of time, I thought the only way it could be published was if we partnered with Hasbro.

I have a contact at Hasbro, so I reached out to them to see if they were interested in making My Little Scythe or if they would be open to us licensing the My Little Pony IP specifically for the game. The answer to both questions was “no.” They were polite but firm about it.

I don’t remember exactly who or when we realized that we didn’t need the pony theme—we already had a bevy of animals in Scythe that we could “cutify” for the game…if the game was actually good. So flash forward a few months later, and Hoby and I Hoby offered to show the game to me at Gen Con. While we didn’t have the chance to play it, he graciously gave me a very nice prototype to take home.

The photo you see here is my first play of the game with my co-founder, Alan. We were absolutely surprised and delighted by it. Not only was it a lot of fun due to the playful nature of it, but it also had some really compelling, unique mechanisms. I didn’t want to publish a reskinned version of Scythe, and this playtest confirmed that My Little Scythe was very much its own game. I recall Alan and I simply leaning back in our chairs after the playtest, smiling, and saying, “We need to publish this.”

I e-mailed Hoby later that day to let him know that Stonemaier Games very much wanted to publish My Little Scythe.

I look forward to delving deeper into the decisions we made during the development of the game in future design diaries, but I wanted to start with this. If you have any questions, please let me know!

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May 6, 2018 (Hoby Chou)

This first entry is a prelude. While it doesn’t dive into design or gameplay, I think it covers one of the most important topics–inspiration. Inspiration makes all the difference between accepting who you are today vs. reaching for who you can be tomorrow. It helped me find that extra spark to discover and try fresh things that I’d normally never do in board games. For My Little Scythe, it dared us to create a strategy game that draws gamers of all ages and skill together.

The most obvious inspiration for My Little Scythe was its parent game Scythe. Its engrossing theme and gameplay drove us to feverishly find ways for younger and more casual players to appreciate its beauty. But beyond Scythe, Jamey Stegmaier has alway impressed me as a role model. Before my first interaction with him, I was drawn to his humble character and his community building. Here’s this award winning visionary who’s also passionate about building that personal connection with gamers, something that I highly value as both a customer and designer. I’ll share more about what it’s been like to work with Jamey in future posts.

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. If you don’t have children, this likely applies to you anyway. Think back to when you wrote that first special letter to someone you had a crush on, or made that first Valentine’s surprise. I bet you could have spent all night turning it into your best work because all you cared about was making that person happy. While sounding cheesy, love really is a powerful source of inspiration.

We never imagined having our homemade game published. But there’s definitely a lesson here: if you do something you love, and for someone you love, people tend to take notice.

What has inspired you to lift yourself beyond your known limits? If you design games, where do you find inspiration?

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