With some time off work I felt like I had the time to play through one of my favourite games and give it the justice I feel it deserves. I will highlight the extras that I have (I don't have the promo stuff) and will not be showing any of #Scythe: The Rise of Fenris to avoid spoilers but I'll give my opinion on it.
And of course, this will be in my usual rambling style. I hope you enjoy it!
A Bit on Stonemeier Games
#Scythe was I think the third designer game I ever purchased after getting back in to board games. I had it setup on the table learning the game when I took a break to take care of something.
One of my dogs got up on the table and chewed up all the black wooden bits. I have no idea why as they hadn't done anything of that nature before and haven't done anything like it since.
I contacted Stonemeier games and offered to pay for replacements. Instead they shipped me out a whole new set of wood bits no charge and they came very quickly!
As someone returned to the hobby this really impressed me and cemented my love of the board game industry.
Just thought I'd toss this in here as I think it's important to recognize when you get quality service.
First of all, the most ridiculous money I've spent on a board game. I bought a big empty box to store Scythe in. (Except for Rise of Fenris.) Why did I do this? I found it on sale and I have pretty much everything else. It's just plain cool and I love the art work.
This is not something you need to get.
I picked up the combined ringbound rulebook. I call it bling as it's unnecessary but really it's very awesome and super useful to have everything in one place!
If you have all of the expansions I'd highly suggest getting this one.
The Scythe encounter pack which was put together from gamer ideas on BGG. There are some CRAZY encounters in here which can really change the flow of the game.
I would definitely not say you HAVE to have this but if you play Scythe a lot they will inject some new spice in to the game.
The extension board. One side of the Scythe board is 2/3rds of a larger board image. If you buy the board extension it sits flush with that and you end up with a VERY large board.
I've actually found this useful for 6 or 7 player games. Add to that there is one player who likes to run a "caravan" around the board so his hex gets really crowded. (I don't suggest this strategy by the way.)
If you play larger games I'd pick this up. Otherwise it's not needed.
The modular board is one I picked up but haven't had a chance to play yet. It mixes up the spots on the board and also moves around the player starting locations. You can put in fewer modules if you want a tighter space for fewer players as well.
I'd recommend this if you have played Scythe a lot. It can really mix things up.
The realistic resources are the first real bling item I purchased for any game. I got them for a good price (As I do with most of my things. Patience is key people.) and I love them. The resource that come with the game are just fine but these really bump it up a notch and are a joy to handle during the game.
I love the metal coins as well. Each coin relates to one of the civilizations in the game. Unnecessary but they also add to the physicality of the game.
I find the encounter tokens often get lost in the board, especially as the players spread out more.
I had bought some small coin cases for the worker chits in #Orléans and had some leftover which worked perfectly for the encounter tokens. (Get them on Amazon, they are dirt cheap and don't charge shipping. They come over on a shipping container with a bunch of other stuff and get there when they get there.)
Yup, this is a picture of my iPad. The Scythekick app is, for me, a must have when playing solo. It works with all the expansions except the modular board, will easily run multiple automa, and in fact shows you what to move where on the board.
If you have a new iPad it will use the camera and augmented reality to show you on your actual board what piece moves where. (I haven't tried this yet mind you.)
I've run the entire Rise of Fenris Campaign with 4 AI using the app and it was amazing and easy to use!
There are two aspects to this expansion:
1) Different end game behaviour. There are several options included for different ways to end the game instead of just having a player hit 6 stars. This aspect is pretty good. Some of the end game changes are better than others. It can definitely mix up the end game flow that often happens which makes this a good module for those who play often.
2) Airships: I'm a bit mixed on the airships. Most of the games I've played with them they haven't done much. You pick on aggressive and one passive card which apply to all airships. (In a variant each player gets their own.)
They don't control a space but can move resources and workers around. They usually can move 1 space at a time and I tend to find that typically I want to move something else a lot more than the airship.
On the other hand, once people learn the game including them isn't a huge issue. Every once in a while surprising things can happen with them.
Overall, this is the expansion I like the least and if you aren't a huge Scythe fan you could give it a miss.
This expansions include 2 new factions to play and 2 new action boards. Their home bases are already on the board as this was a planned expansion from the get go.
The two new factions are interesting. They don't have to worry about riverwalk to get to the middle of the board but they have no option to get +1 speed. They also both have counters that go on to the map which do a variety of things to help them and possibly hinder the other countries.
It never hurts to have more action boards as well.
I definitely recommend this expansion if you enjoy Scythe.
I can't show you what's in the box as it's worth waiting for. I can tell you that I have played the entire campaign solo and I REALLY enjoyed it.
In fact I would say that this is probably the best expansion I've ever played.
I don't want to say much but it includes modules you can use in the regular game, a great replayable campaign, and a bunch of surprises.
Stuff I am missing
There is a neoprene mat sized between the regular board and the extended board. I have a friend who owns it but he doesn't recommend it. Apparently it's the regular board image stretched out to a larger size. This means that places where the cards sit are too big among other issues.
There are a bunch of promo encounters and combat wheels I don't have which would be cool to have but I wouldn't go too far to get them myself. There's plenty here to play already!
The game has great component quality. The art is amazing for sure and can be found everywhere. The cardboard components are great quality, the cards are great quality and everything is nicely finished.
The wooden bits are awesome. The buildings are all distinct and each factions workers looks different. The popularity and power markers are cool too.
The miniatures are good.
The character miniatures really give you a feel for the character and the story they have behind them.
The mechs generally invoke the powers they have. (For example, the Nordic faction mech is a boat on legs and the Nordic mechs can gain the ability to go in to the lakes.) The general idea behind the mechs are that they were at some point useful machines that have been turned in to war machines. So they invoke farming equipment, boats, etc.
The airships are ok with a couple of issues. They all look the same which is normally not a problem but considering the factions have different characters, mechs, and workers it's disappointing they didn't differentiate them here.
The other issue is that they are quite big. It's needed as they can carry resources and workers sometimes but on the other hand they really clog up the board.
To setup the game each player gets their faction board and their action board. The unusual thing in this game is that you don't know where you are sitting until you get the faction as each faction is in a certain spot. (Unless you are playing the modular board.)
Each faction will have a special power which is usually useful for where your faction is placed and typically should be exploited at least early on in the game.
Place your mechs, workers, upgrade tokens, buildings, and enlist tokens on the board.
The combination of faction board and action board determine how much money, popularity, power, and combat cards you start with.
Each player gets two objective cards. Typically you are able to achieve one objective card in a game.
You get your character (and airship if you are playing with them), on your faction base and a worker in each territory beside your base.
Put the encounters, factory cards (number of players +1), and combat cards on their spots on the board.
You are ready to go!
The objective of the game is to have the most points (represented by coins) when someone puts their 6 stars on the score track. In the base game as soon as this happens the game stops and scoring is done.
You can place a star for doing all your upgrades, deploying all your mechs, building all your buildings, doing all of the enlists, getting out all of your workers, achieving an objective, winning two combats (2 max for most factions no matter how many victories you have), achieving max popularity, or achieving max power.
On each turn the player moves their pawn to a different top action/bottom action combination. (Except for the Rusviet faction which can do the same action over and over.) Every board has the bottom actions in the same place (although costs and benefits will differ) and different top actions.
The player can do the top action, the bottom action, or both although it has to be in the order of top->bottom if they do both. They can do the action to get the rewards even if they can't do everything. (So looking at the board below, they could spend the oil to do the upgrade to get the 3 coins even if they can't upgrade anything.)
Bolster: Costs a coin. Get power or combat cards and if you have built the monument get a popularity
Produce: Pay the amount exposed in the red section and then produce 1 resource per worker in 2 (or 3 if you have upgraded the action) territories. Also, if you have built the mill, produce in the territory where the mill is located counting the mill as a worker.
This is a pretty key action and the more workers you have out the more it costs so timing this well is important.
Also a key note: Resources are placed on the board where they are produced. They do NOT come back to your player board. This means all resources are potentially up for grabs if another player attacks and takes the territory. When you spend resources take them off the board from any space you control.
Move: Move 2 (or 3 if upgraded) different units or gain 1 (or 2) coins. Movement amount depends on mechs upgrades sometimes. A mech can carry any amount of workers or resources. A character can carry any amount of resources. Airships can carry a limited amount of workers or resources.
Tunnels: The tunnel (red outlines) spaces are considered adjacent to each other. If you build a mine then that counts as a tunnel for you alone. This is great because it means the board is not as big as it appears to be and even 2 or 3 player games keep things exciting.
Riverwalk: At the start of the game factions cannot cross rivers. This limits 5 of the factions to a limited space at the start of the game. Certain mech abilities will allow a faction to move to specific types of spaces across the river. Building a mine will also allow a faction to leave their starting area.
If a character ends its turn on an encounter card then after movement is done pull a card:
Pick one of the options (usually). The first option is often a "good" option where you get a lesser amount of stuff for free, the second option is neutral and usually costs you something to get something, and the last option is the "bad" option typically costing popularity but getting you the most stuff.
If the character ends their turn at the factory they (once per game) get to pick one of the factory cards. These are often powerful cards if you can get them early. They all include a special bottom row move action that allows one unit to move TWO spaces in a turn. (Mech upgrades can increase this to three spaces.) They become another action the player may take in addition to the 4 they start with.
If a plastic character from one faction goes in to the same space as another plastic piece from another faction combat will occur at the end of movement.
Trade: Pay a coin to get 2 resources of any type. Place them any space you control.
Upgrade: Spend oil to move a cube from the top row (increasing top action benefits) to the bottom row (decreasing bottom action costs). It's not too often you get all 6 upgrades out but upgrading the move and produce action are usually pretty key.
Deploy: Spend iron to deploy a mech on a space where you have workers. You can pick any of the 4 mechs. The ability underneath is then active for the faction. (See the Nordic board below for examples.)
Build: Spend wood to build a building on a space where you have workers. The buildings give you a variety of bonuses such as extra power or popularity when taking certain actions, extra production, and the ability to have a space act as a tunnel but only for you.
Every game also has bonus scoring that depends on where you build your buildings. The example above is getting bonus points for each mine you have built next to.
Enlist: Spend wheat to take the enlist action. This removes an enlist token from the action board and lets you place it on your player board to take a one time bonus of power, coins, popularity, or combat cards. From then on everytime you OR the players to your right and left take that bottom row action you get the bonus shown under the enlist token. These are great to get early!
When combat starts the players decide how much power they want to use in the combat (up to a max of 7) They each secretly set their combat dial to the power they want to spend and then MAY add combat cards; one for each plastic character in the combat.
The player with the highest power wins. All power spent and cards used are gone. The loser of the combat gets one combat card as long as they spent at least one power.
Combat Consequences: All of the losers units are returned back to their home base.
If any defending workers are returned the winning attacker loses one popularity for each worker sent back. (This is a major consideration as popularity is pretty important.)
If the attacker wins any resources that were on the attacker space stay there and now belong to the attacker. (Potentially to be immediately used in the borrow row action!)
Once a player places their 6th star the game IMMEDIATELY ends. (No bottom row actions are taken, any units that are due to have combat are instead moved back to where they started.)
Then scoring occurs.
-You get coins for the number of territories you control, the number of stars you placed, and for every 2 resources you control.
Popularity has a big part to play here. There are three tiers of popularity 1 - 6, 7 - 12, and 13 - 18. Each range gives you a certain number of coins for the territory, stars, and resources.
so in the example above all players will get 4 coins per star, 3 coins per territory, and 2 coins for every 2 resources.
- Any coins you had already are addedto that total. (You can get a lot of coins just by in game actions.)
The person with the most points wins!
The game typically starts off slowly as the factions engines aren't upgraded and most of the factions are stuck on their starting territory until they can get a mech or a mine out. Each faction starting territory and action board will lend itself to going a certain direction.
Generally speaking you want to try to set yourself up to be able to take top and bottom row actions as much as possible. To start you will be taking top row actions only to get some resources going.
Move and produce will be used often. The odd trade will happen and the key upgrades should be looked at.
An early enlist or two is beneficial if you can do it during the early stage.
I usually like to get my character to the first encounter to take advantage of the bonus.
it’s hard to pin it down exactly but this stage lasts maybe 6 turns give or take.
Once players can expand a bit more out of their home area by building the mineor getting their riveralk mech it is worth trying to get to the factory if it fits easily in to your plans. Getting to a village to get more workers out to get more resources quickly is more important at this point. You don't want to get too many too quickly as it increases production costs but it's worth getting more out.
The factory is usually a hot spot here as everyone tries to get a factory card. If you don't get a factory card early at this point it's probably not worth pushing until end game. (It's worth 3 territories at the end of the game.)
Some combat will occur at this point if a lot of resources can be acquired or if a factory card is needed or the player wants some combat stars.
At this point you should have idea of what your opponents are going for and how you are going to work towards 6 stars.
This is in the 7-12 turn range.
Once someone has 3 or 4 stars the game could potentially end on their next turn. (3 stars to 6 in one turn is harder to do but 4 to 6 stars is easily done.) So at that point everyone should start spreading out and acquiring what stars they can. There will be more combat at this point as players jostle for territory and resources and getting that last star or two they need.
It's important to remember that with the tunnels no one is too far away to be attacked by anyone else. Things tend to get a little chaotic at this point.
This is 12-18 turns however typically games can end sooner for sure or later. A lot of it depends on how much players mess with each other.
A Word on Combat
Yes, there are cool mechs in this game. Yes there is combat.
However, it is important to be clear as to what combat means in this game. This is not a war game. It is a cold war game.
You cannot play this game passively. You need to get your power out on to the board where you can potentially harass and attack other players.
BUT, you can also be too aggressive. Attacking uses your power and combat cards and makes you vulnerable to other players.
Combat in ths game is all about opportunity costs. You need to have your forces out there so when you see a juicy target with resources you need you can pounce on it. But you only want to do that when it gives you a big boost because it costs you military power and possibly popularity.
On the other hand if someone has an awesome engine running and is pulling ahead a quick attack or two from the rest of the players can slow them down!
I find it a very cool balancing act that I always enjoy. It's a delectable set of choices. The tunnels make it even more brilliant as anyone can reach any other players territory at pretty much anytime.
You are never safe but typically when you get attacked it's because you left yourself vulnerable with a juicy target for your opponent.
It's only at the end game where players need territory and stars that you'll see more outright war happen.
Solo in this game with the Scythekick app is awesome. You can play multiple automa with no issues. The automa generally gives you the feeling of playing in a regular game. There are some oddities where the automa can teleport across the board but generally it feels fair and it won't attack in your back lines or anything.
The Rise of Fenris campaign is awesome with the app as well. Highly recommended.
There's no surprise that I love this game. It has a depth to it that is not always apparent on the first few plays. It has a beautiful aesthetic and with the blinged components it's just amazing.
It plays great at all player counts and with the expansions etc has enough content for a lifetime of play.
I have so many good stories with this game of great plays made by me or against me.
Just a ton of fun I can't recommend enough!