Pie in the Sky begins on the eve of the 3000th Harvest Tournament, where stories are retold of Pomme’s ancient animals venturing into distant lands to establish their own kingdoms. To accomplish this, Pomme’s founders worked together to build the legendary Airship Kai, imbuing it with the best knowledge from all nine animal species. Sharing the ship’s powers and speed, each kingdom established its foundations. But one year, the airship and its Fox and Owl passengers journeyed into the far frontiers and were never seen or heard from again … until now.
As animals gather for the milestone tournament, the fabled lost airship emerges from the horizon, carrying Seekers from the Fox and Owl kingdoms. As if this reunion isn’t reason enough for celebration, Pomme’s Seekers realize that Airship Kai still responds to each animal species. The stage is set for the greatest Harvest Tournament in 3000 years!
- 2 new pairs of Seeker miniatures (owls and arctic foxes) and corresponding friendship/trophy/pie/action tokens
- 1 airship miniature (w/stand)
- 1 custom airship die
- 9 airship mats
- 6 Seek overlay cards (57x87mm)
- 5 airship gadget tokens
- 4 new power up tiles
- 2 new quest cards (57x87mm)
- 17 trophy tokens
- multiplayer and Automa rulebooks
- 1 achievement sheet
- 1 box (204x204x53mm; 0.65 kg)
- Watch It Played rules video
- The Mill unboxing and playthrough
- GeekDad review
- Board Game Quest review
- Game Boy Geek review
- Gaming with Sidekicks review
- The Meeple Street review
- Fuzzy Llama Reviews
- $20 MSRP; STM801; retail release date on June 19
- First print run available in English, French, Spanish, and German (from their respective publishers)
Can I play this expansion without My Little Scythe?
No. You need My Little Scythe to play this expansion.
Will the expansion content fit in the original box/insert?
It will! We designed it specifically with that in mind.
What is the extra pack of components for?
A few components were missing from the expansion box. The expansion already included the Seek overlay cards, so you can ignore the extra card in the components pack (technically that card has the correct wording of “air support,” but the functional aspects of all Seek overlay cards are correct and identical).
April 1: The Road to Unique Faction Abilities (Hoby Chou)
Here we begin the story of how My Little Scythe begins to grow up a bit. And perhaps at the top of most wishlists is the desire to play with special faction-specific abilities. However, from a design perspective it wasn’t immediately clear how’d we get there.
In the beginning, a simple realization prompted Jamey and I to pursue faction specific abilities–the fact that players of the expansion needed an incentive to play the new factions for reasons other than aesthetics. While many completionists might be satisfied with simply completing their collection of miniatures, we wanted to create something very special for fans of the game.
However, designing an expansion for My Little Scythe was immediately challenging for 2 reasons:
- While we had anticipated adding extra content (aka a “more stuff” expansion), we hadn’t planned on changing gameplay in any significant way. Whatever we added needed to fit and fit well.
- My Little Scythe was intended to be a highly accessible game–an expansion ran the risk of adding too much complexity. In fact, several iterations were scrapped because they compromised the accessibility of the core game.
After several attempts at adding asymmetry to the game, I was still unsatisfied. We tried innate racial traits (similar to those found in most other games), special events, and even ancient scythes that wielded immense power. In the end, the attempts proved to be a poor fit for a game like My Little Scythe.
One day it dawned on me that unique faction abilities did not necessarily need to manifest themselves as traits unique to each animal species. In fact, it could be implemented through a shared mechanism, which I ended up designing around the idea of a shared airship that hovered over the game map. I named the airship Airship Kai, after Kai Starck who designed Scythe: the Wind Gambit.
In the expansion, players will learn that the ancient Airship Kai was constructed by Pomme’s various founders and used to build all 9 animal kingdoms (yup I said 9). Therefore it’s technology still responds to commands from animal Seekers, albeit in different ways. While the Tigers can have the airship drop its harpoon onto the map, the Boars may activate its crop duster to help grow more apples. Realizing the airship’s potential requires acknowledging where it is on the map, each player’s current progress, and where resources are located.
The shared airship is not only intended to be a nice throwback to Wind Gambit for Scythe fans, it is designed to provide a refreshing way to play each animal kingdom. Of course, the Airship Kai has a few more tricks up its sleeve. In the next design journal entry, I will further expand upon how this shared unit can help you triumph in the Harvest Tournament!
April 2: Will It Fit in the Box? (Jamey)
The most frequently asked question we hear whenever we announce a new expansion for any game is, “Will it fit in the box?”
My answer for this depends on the project, as my primary objective whenever I design or develop an expansion is “make it awesome,” not “make it fit in a tight space we packed with content a few years ago.”
However, my answer for Pie in the Sky is a resounding YES. The expansion not only fits into the My Little Scythe box–it even fits into the custom trays.
When we were working with Game Trayz back in 2018 to design the My Little Scythe trays, we had some extra room, so we added as many compartments as we could. We didn’t know what the future would hold, but we figured it would involve a few more Seekers, more tiles, and more cards.
Hoby started working on the expansion in late 2018 with the goal of making an awesome, fun, unique expansion…and if possible, it would fit into the original box and tray. I think he accomplished that goal brilliantly, as you can see by the photos here.
We’ll talk about what these components are and how they function in the days that follow!
April 3: The New Seekers
As you could probably tell the first time you opened up the My Little Scythe box, there was room for 2 more pairs of Seekers. Well, it’s time to officially introduce you to them!
First we have Jojo and Becca from Foxland. These enterprising arctic foxes are technologists who have experience in biomechanics and replicator technology. In the expansion, this is more than just flavor text, as you’ll learn more about soon when we discuss the airship in detail.
Second we have Firean and Aubrey from the “True” W.P. Grey Academy of Magic. They’ll use their magical abilities–a combination of creativity and careful planning–to make an impact in the Harvest Tournament.
Hoby will have to remind me about how he came up with the names for the new Seekers, as all Seeker names are nods to real-life people and pets.
Just like the core game, we’ve included a painting guide in the expansion for those of you who want to add some color to your miniatures.
We’ll return on Monday to share more about the Pie in the Sky expansion!
April 6: Call in the Air Support! (Hoby Chou)
Long ago, ancestors of the animal kingdoms contributed to building unique parts of the Airship Kai. It has now returned as a powerful new air unit in the expansion capable of responding uniquely to each kingdom’s seekers. It is through this asymmetric usage of the airship that Pie in the Sky delivers unique faction abilities, as well as standard benefits accessible to every player:
Some of the animal kings can call upon Airship Kai to drop special gadgets around the map to suit their needs. Example: Because the Wolves had originally built an onboard portal for the airship, they may call upon the airship to drop a portal anywhere on the map for their use. My personal favorite, I admit, may be the “Forbidden Pie” of the Owls–I’ll let you read the description and think of creative ways to use it.
Retrieve is an action accessible by all players. Seekers may command the airship to fly to distant spaces on the map and pick up valuable gems and apples. Players now have a personal cargo hold where resources are safely stored for deliveries or crafting.
My Little Scythe’s expansion is also designed to make turns feel more productive. The airship adds interesting choices each turn, even if it’s just to pick up one extra resource (not without limits of course). Having said that, having more productive turns have also resulted in another design change–the addition of a 5th trophy to end the game–another wishlist item for many players. In part 3, I will discuss exactly how we fit the airship and its abilities into the core game without adding much more complexity.
April 7: Why the Delay? (Jamey)
Originally, we were scheduled to start talking about Pie in the Sky in early February, followed by a preorder in early March. I had already received the advanced copies and sent them to reviewers.
Everything was going smoothly until one of the reviewers reached out to say that their expansion seemed to be missing a few tokens for the 2 new factions: action tokens, pie tokens, and friendship tokens. The game is playable with substitute tokens, but it’s far from ideal to play that way.
Within minutes I knew what had happened: The tokens simply never made it on the component list in the prototype rulebook, and I never thought to add them, so they simply weren’t manufactured. In a way, this is a publisher’s nightmare, but I’m glad it was solely my fault. I would rather be mad at myself than someone else!
Our manufacturer, Panda, shuts down for the Chinese New Year, which ended up being extra long this year due to the coronavirus. So the tokens didn’t even enter production until mid-March, and they’ll soon be air freighted to each of our 4 fulfillment centers (US, UK, Canada, and Australia).
How does this impact you? Pretty much not at all. When you preorder Pie in the Sky from us, included in the package will be a little pack containing the missing tokens (and some cards that had a typo on them–not a big deal, but we figured we might as well fix it too). So just make sure you don’t throw away the component pack by accident! And if you order the game from your preferred retailer instead, we’ll be providing the pack for distribution channels.
While this hasn’t played out as I hoped, I learned an invaluable lesson about not assuming and paying close attention to component lists so I don’t make this mistake in the future. In the meantime, thanks for your patience!
April 8: More Stuff! (Jamey)
In most expansions for our games, we try to include more of the components that people already enjoy so that (a) they can add them without learning any new rules and (b) to give fans more variety.
For Pie in the Sky, that meant adding more power up tiles and quest cards. We only added 2 of each type, as we wanted them to provide meaningful variety to the game. Here are the new power-up tiles and quest cards:
We hope you have fun with these additions, and Hoby should return soon with more details about Airship Kai!
April 10: Enhancing the Core Game (Hoby)
When designing the expansion, we wanted to add even more interesting decisions in every turn. The real puzzle was figuring out how to do this without overwhelming players or minimizing the utility of existing features. New features are an exciting part of an expansion, but I personally believe that an expansion should also enable players to use the base game actions in better, more interesting ways.
This sums up why we decided against adding a 4th type of action (we already have Move, Seek, and Make). While adding that extra action to choose from wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, it could inevitably make the core game less efficient. For example: had we gone with a distinct new action to move the airship, it would take a valuable turn away from doing something else. For a streamlined game like My Little Scythe, this just didn’t fit. It also extended playtime more than we would have liked, especially considering that we are adding a 5th trophy!
The solution was–for lack of a better word–based on piggybacking onto existing actions and abilities. This not only leveraged the same streamlined set of actions, it also made each one feel more productive and satisfying. Here is an example:
Seeking with Air Support
The Airship Kai may now be called upon during your Seek action. An additional airship dice is rolled along with your seek dice (hey that’s “piggybacking”) and the results determine Airship Kai’s movement range. In most cases, this is affected by the remaining number of trophies on your player board. So the closer you are to victory, the less likely you’ll be able to move the airship very far.
We hope you enjoyed reading about our decision making process and commitment to maintaining My Little Scythe’s approachability for casual gamers and families. In the next diary entry (likely posted by Jamey) we will show how we extended our enhancements to one of the most subtle of features–the achievement sheet!
April 13: Asymmetry in a Family Game (Jamey)
A major differentiating factor between My Little Scythe and its predecessor, Scythe, is that Scythe featured quite a bit of asymmetry from the beginning of each game, while My Little Scythe does not. It made My Little Scythe easier to balance and easier to learn.
However, because of the link between the two games, people often asked us if we would consider adding more asymmetry to My Little Scythe, particularly to mechanically differentiate the different animal kingdoms. We didn’t want to add too much weight and complexity to the game, but after playtesting different versions, Hoby realized that we could give each player a different way of using the shared airship. Hoby mentioned this in his April 6 design diary.
During setup, you can distribute the airship mats in one of two ways: You can match each mat with the corresponding animal kingdom or you can deal them randomly. While the second option isn’t 100% thematic, if you always play with the same color, it gives you a ways to try out the various abilities.
When Hoby was designing these abilities, my recollection is that he had one or two early abilities that used special tokens. I really liked that concept, as it enhanced the visibility and asymmetry of those abilities, so I encouraged him to work on others. There are a total of 6 such tokens in the final version of the expansion.
We playtested these abilities extensively for balance, and I look forward to hearing about your favorites!
April 14: Achievement Unlocked (Jamey)
During the design process, Hoby had an idea: What if we included a new type of achievement sheet in Pie in the Sky?
We’ve included achievement sheets in a few of our games, including the original My Little Scythe. They offer soft incentives to pursue different paths to victory–basically, you get to write down your name on the sheet, and no one else can ever claim that same achievement.
But Hoby wondered if we might be able to add just a touch of meaning to achievements. So he devised a new system: In Pie in the Sky, at the end of each game, you’ll fill in 1 badge per trophy earned in the game. There are also some bonus badges you can earn (e.g., be the first player to win with a specific animal kingdom).
The badges correspond to a series of ranks–you can work your way from an apprentice all the way to a pie marshal. While you increase your rank, you gain little fun perks, like the ability to rename the airship for a game or even choose your seat before other players.
They’re very small incentives, as we didn’t want to give players true advantages over others. I’m curious to see what people think of it! Do you usually use achievement sheets in games that include them?
April 15: The Rise of Automountie: Do Solo Modes Have a Place in Family Games? (Morten)
When the My Little Scythe base game started development here at Stonemaier Games, we discussed whether we should include a solo mode or not.
The game is very simple because it’s intended to be playable by families, so the rules overhead of one of our usual Automas (artificial opponents) might be too much.
Apart from Klondike and such games, solo gaming is not a thing outside of the circle of core gamers and I doubt that many people know that bots for board games exist. So, including one might not be a sales parameter.
To me, though, it looked like a small step on the way to spread the joys of solo gaming to the mainstream.
That’s of course not a valid business argument. So let’s look for a way to expand the market using a solo mode: A common refrain among solo gamers is that games they play with their families aren’t played enough to warrant the expense, but the additional plays offered by a solo mode makes it worth the cost and so we can tap into a new market segment.
We weren’t sure whether that was enough to make up for the extra component cost, though. So, could we add more value?
Keeping the family peace
Before answering that question let’s go on what’ll appear as a detour.
Kids sometimes handle aggression in games and losing in an, well, let’s skip terms like “temper tantrum”, “table flipping”, “loud crying” and just go with “a less than optimal manner” :-). No matter the choice of words I think that we can all agree that it undermines the success of a cozy family time.
Direct conflict via pie fights is a small but often important part of My Little Scythe and while the cost of a lost pie fight is low, it is a loss and can give a child the feeling of being picked on.
Long arguments can be had about whether board games should teach kids to deal with this or whether games are a way for families to enjoy themselves, but let’s not go there.
It occurred to us that bad experiences could be removed if we added one of our Automas (artificial opponents) to the multiplayer game. That would give a faceless artificial opponent the human players – particularly the parents – can pick on instead of attacking each other when they need to get a pie fight trophy.
We could take this even further by creating a team mode where 2 or 3 humans play against 2 or 3 Automas. This would allow adults and children to work together in a positive manner without being divided into winners and losers.
And so, the decision was made: A new Automa was born with an extremely streamlined rule set. She was named Automountie after the iconic Canadian “Mounties” because the designers of My Little Scythe, Hoby and Vienna Chou, are from Canada.
So, did we make the right choice?
It’s more than 2 years since My Little Scythe was published, so this might be a good time to ask whether creating Automountie was the right choice?
All players who’ve been vanquished repeatedly by her will probably give us a resounding “NO!” but let’s not deal with sore losers :-).
Instead I’ll focus on the many times I’ve read about people who thought her a great addition to the game. This has been families who enjoyed including her in the games for the reasons I discussed and adults who liked the game better with more action on the board.
Therefore, I’ll conclude that yes, it was the right choice and that artificial opponents do have a place in family games.
All the feedback is anecdotal, though, and as the adage goes: The plural of “anecdote” isn’t “data”, so I’ll refrain from patting my own back :-)
Fulfilling an old promise
Before the launch of the base game Hoby “My Little Scythe Designer” Chou asked me to take a photo of my prototype, so that he could use it in a designer’s diary post. I’m ashamed to say that I forgot to do so. Sorry Hoby.
Today I’ll put things right with a comparison of prototype and final components:
- Top left: Search dice.
- Bottom left: Automountie cards.
- Top right: Seekers. I’m quite happy about how almost perfectly my prototype matches the final version. Given how hard they are to tell apart, I probably need to tell you that the meeples at the top are from my prototype while the minis below are from the actual game.
- Bottom right: After seeing the perfect match of the seekers, you’re probably disappointed about how epically my prototype failed to match the gems from the game.
And with that I’ll hand the keyboard back to Jamey and wish you many shameful defeats at the hands of Automountie.
April 16: The Rulebook Reveal (Jamey)
We’re at the end of our design diary posts, and I appreciate you joining us for this journey! Soon you’ll start to see reviews of the expansion, followed by the pre-order on April 29. The expansion will ship from fulfillment centers in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia in early May.
The full rulebooks for Pie in the Sky are now uploaded here, so feel free to check them out!
Copyright 2020 Stonemaier LLC. My Little Scythe is a trademark of Stonemaier LLC. All Rights Reserved. This content is not authorized for posting on Steam.