The Scythe's the Limit--An Interview with Jamey Stegmaier

Today we're talking with Jamey Stegmaier--founder of Stonemaier Games, Kickstarter guru, and long-time friend of the blog--about his latest game: Scythe.

Jamey, thanks for joining us. For readers who might not know who you are, tell us a little about yourself.

Thanks for having me! I’m the president and co-founder of Stonemaier Games, which publishes several games of my own design—Viticulture, Tuscany, Euphoria, and Scythe—as well as a game by other designers, Between Two Cities. I also write a lot about crowdfunding on my website,, and in my book, A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide. I live in St. Louis and have two cats, Biddy and Walter.


You have a campaign on Kickstarter that is CRUSHING. To what do you attribute Scythe’s success?

It is pretty cool to see Scythe attract so many backers (over 12,000) and so much funding (over $1.2 million). I’ve spent the last year of my life talking about Scythe online, designing it, working with Jakub to develop the world and the art, and coordinating the 750+ blind playtests. I think all of those factors contributed to its success, as well as peoples’ confidence in me and Stonemaier to deliver on our Kickstarter promises.


Tell us about Scythe, and what makes it a game worth owning.

Scythe is a 4x game set an alternate history, 1920s Eastern Europe, a world where giant mechs share the landscape with farmers and peasants. Each player takes the role of a character and their faction as they seek to expand their empire into this land. I think Scythe is worth owning because of what it brings to the table as a 4x game: Unique theme (most 4x games are set in space, but not Scythe) and beautiful art, reasonable playtime (115 minutes), quick turns, lots of interesting decisions, and some original mechanisms like the upgrade system, encounter cards, and that all resources are kept on the map where they were produced or traded for.


There’s been some controversy surrounding the Scythe campaign. What’s that about, and how are you dealing with it?

Early on in the project there were some backers who didn’t like the “daily goal” system I implemented instead of traditional stretch goals (though the effect was largely the same). I listened to their feedback and reverted to a more traditional stretch goal system, and it’s worked well ever since.


Scythe has perhaps my favorite artwork of any game. How did you get connected with artist Jakub Rozalski?

Thank you! His art really captured my imagination when I first saw it featured on Kotaku over a year ago. I instantly knew I wanted to design a board game in that world, so I e-mailed Jakub to see if the board game rights were available. Fortunately they were, and we’ve worked together ever since.


You’ve written a book: A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide. How hard was it to transfer principles learned in running game campaigns to other types of campaigns?

For a while now I’ve tried to write my crowdfunding blog in a way that applies to all types of creators, not just those in the board game space. I think a lot of the ideas are universal: Put your backers first, build an audience in advance, offer fair prices, figure out effective shipping, etc.


What’s the most important principle people will learn from your book? (Or maybe the second-most important, if you don’t want to give up the farm…)

That’s tough. I talk about several big ideas in the book, but perhaps the overriding idea is to dig deep and find what truly motivates you. Find your core philosophy and apply it to everything you do. I have a chapter in the book about my core philosophy—“Make it about them”—and how I return to it time after time when faced with tough decisions.


Despite your busyness, you’re still able to find time to play games. What are some recent favorites?

I do! That’s one of the nice things about running a game company—it’s important to play other games all the time. :) Recently I’ve been playing Pandemic: Legacy the most, and I’ve enjoyed its unique take on the legacy mechanism. I don’t think I’ve played many other new games lately, though one game that wasn’t around when I last made my top 10 list (and will certainly be on my next top 10 list) is Castles of Mad King Ludwig. I absolutely love that game.


What’s a cool mechanism you’ve experienced recently that you think you’ll incorporate into a game?

I actually have a YouTube channel where I talk about my favorite game mechanisms, so this is a topic I greatly enjoy. The most recent mechanism I heard about that triggered some ideas was actually from an article I read about an online trivia fantasy league. In the league, players secretly assign point values to the questions their opponent is answering that week. So if there’s a really easy question, I might assign 0 points to it because I think they’ll get it, while I’ll assign a 3 (the highest number of points) to the question I perceive to be the hardest. I think this is really clever and want to use it in a game.


What’s your theory as to why Luke Skywalker isn’t on the Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie poster?

Spoilers! I’ve avoided any mention, image, trailer, etc of Star Wars, as I want everything to be a complete surprise to me when the movie comes out. So this question was actually a mild spoiler for me (though no harm done!). I will now try to forget I read this. :)

Oh crap! Sorry! Though to be fair to us, that's not really a spoiler. It's the movie poster, for cryin' out loud! :)


Lightning Round! Five fast questions with five fast answers!

1. Favorite type of bear?

Polar bear (a la His Dark Materials trilogy)

2. Fermented cabbage: Yay or nay?

Like kimchi? Definitely yay.

3. Best book you read in the last six months?

Very close between Mistborn and The Emperor’s Blades

4. Favorite theologian?

Richard Rohr

5. Favorite album cover of all time?

Probably the first CD I ever bought (for nostalgia, not aesthetics): The soundtrack to Empire Records.

Thanks for the time, Jamey!

Thank you!

Check out the Scythe Kickstarter for yourself. There are only a few days left to join in. It looks AMAZING!!

Thanks for reading!