Scythe: The Rise of Fenris – Episode 4: Fenris

After the big ending to Episode 3 where the Saxony player transformed into the Vesna Faction, we were intrigued as to what Episode 4 had in store for us. Inquiring minds what to know! So my intrepid readers, read on and find out!

Setup

Episode 4: Fenris begins with a narrative that the “strange soldiers with glowing eyes” had returned to Europa. And sure enough, the setup instructions say to Open Box B and place one new “Fenris Agent” on each tunnel and two agents on the Factory.

— Box B and the “Fenris Agents”. Note: these are the upgraded meeples available thru Stonemaier Games/Meeplesource

The Special Rules included the way to “combat” these Fenris Agents. In short, a player that encounters these agents must draw a combat card for each agent, total the combat strength on those cards, and then discard any combination of power, coins, and popularity equal to that amount to defeat the agents.

Another special rule was that the game could end normally (i.e. when a player places their sixth star) but it also would end immediately when the 8th and final Fenris Agent was defeated.

Getting Started

For the first time so far, the Wind Gambit was an allowed component of an Episode, so we decided to include the Airships.

— setting up the board with the Airships deployed!

And of course, Neal would now give up playing Saxony and have to play the Vesna Faction. This faction’s special power is to draw 3 random Factory Cards at the start of the game. The Vesna player can use each card once, discarding it after using it. Vesna also has a random draw of unique Mech Mods that can be used to customize the Vesna board every game.

— the Vesna components. Love the color!

The Vesna player ended up deploying a combination of previously purchased Mech Mods and random Mech Mods: Underpass, People’s Army, Comraderie, and Speed.

After passing out factions and random player boards, we had the following turn order:

Bob – Clan Albion

Stew – Rusviet

Lee – Crimean (switched at end of last episode from Togawa Shogunate)

Neal – Vesna

We shuffled and randomly chose the following Airship cards:

Aggressive: Bombard (use resources to reduce opponent’s power)

Passive: Boost (+1 Speed from home base or hex with the Airship)

Gameplay

With Boost, all players sprinted out toward encounters and the Tunnel spaces. It promised to be a mad rush to get to the Fenris Agents. We didn’t know what benefit would be procured by defeating them, but with Boost we were going to find out quickly.

On Turn 3 Vesna completed the first Objective, Machine over Muscle by having 1 Mech, a Factory Card, and less than 3 workers. That was a very lucky card draw indeed since Vesna starts with Factory cards.

But on Turn 4 Rusviet matched it by completing Stockpile for the Winter by having 9+ resources and 1 of each type.

Then we started quickly dropping the Fenris Agents! First Vesna got 1, then Crimea got 1, then Rusviet got 1 too!

Crimea got too close to the Vesna Airship which used Bombard to decimate the Crimean Power which allowed a Vesna Mech to rout a Crimean Mech. Vesna now had 2 stars.

The combination of Boost and the alternate ending caused the game to accelerate rapidly. Rusviet used its ability to move turn after turn to nab its 2nd Fenris Agent. Clan Albion then got 1. Rusviet moved again and got a 3rd. Crimea managed to build its 4th Mech and get a star.

But soon thereafter Rusviet decided to end the game by descending on the Factory and capturing the final 2 Fenris Agents which ended the game immediately.

— the end of the game with Rusviet units at the Factory

Final Scoring

Because the game length was unusually short, no player had more than 2 stars. Clan Albion, Crimea, and Vesna were at the second stage of popularity while Rusviet was at the bottom stage. Crimea occupied the most territory and Clan Albion had a stash of coins and resources. Because Rusviet had moved so many times and fought so many Fenris Agents, it had no coins and few territories. After counting, Crimea won quite handily:

Crimea 38

Clan Albion 29

Vesna 27

Rusviet 19

Episode Rewards

But there was a pay off to Rusviet! After final scoring, each player gained a Setup Bonus for each subdued Fenris Agent rounded up. So while every other faction got 1 bonus, Rusviet got 3!

Also, after Episode 4 the Infrastructure Mods became available to campaigns that in Episode 2 were at war (if your campaign was at peace in Episode 2, you now have access to the Mech Mods).

The Verdict

This was a very fun game! The absolute speed of the Airship Boost ability combined with the special objective of subduing Fenris Agents turned the game into a mad dash! Most games of Scythe can be a bit plodding…but this Episode was completely different. It was a very pleasant break from the usual.

Cool Games that We Played Recently: Maximum Apocalypse, Kami-Sama, and Enchanters: Overlords

Welcome back my intrepid followers! Hopefully all of you have been getting in some fresh rounds of games. Well…we’ve been busy playing games over here too! Today I’ve got three games for you to try and why we think that they are fun and cool!

Maximum Apocalypse

— a mission layout

In Maximum Apocalypse, a team of heroes drives a van (yep, it’s like the A-Team) to a site and attempts to complete a mission. It might be rescue a scientist, check out a ufo, defeat the vampires, etc. Maximum Apocalypse has multiple scenarios where the “enemies” are represented by a unique pack of cards special to a unique set of missions (e.g. there is a zombie deck for missions against zombies). The heroes play cooperatively, taking turns exploring the map.

So each hero roams the map trying to find gear and the objective, while having to defeat the monsters that pop up and keep hunger at bay.

— the Surgeon with some of his cards and a zombie dog attacking him

Each hero has their own deck of cards with special abilities and items. As each player takes actions, they can place their unique items or scavenged items into play, thereby using their cards and abilities to maximum advantage (did you catch that joke?). Once the objective is found, the hero’s must deal with it and collect fuel for the van.

— a fueled up van ready to extract the heroes and the scientist.

Why this game is cool: A game of Maximum Apocalypse feels like a classic horror movie. You have to get in, complete the objective, and get out before you die from the baddies or multiple other problems. The random map allows for multiple replays of each mission. And heroes will die, so complacency, bad luck or poor planning gets punished. If you get the Gothic Horrors, or other expansions, you should have about 2 dozen possible missions, allowing for almost infinite replays.

Kami-Sama

In this new game, each player is a different Kami, or spirit, who controls a particular aspect of nature (you know, stuff like water, death, the earth, etc). Each Kami is unique and have special actions that no other Kami has. The game is played over three years with each year having 4 seasons. Victory points are gained in many ways and determine the winner. in short, players use their actions to place their shrines into regions and remove/move opposing players’ shrines.

— the victory point track. This picture is at the end of the game. The white disc player won with 56 points.

The board is circular and it rotates 90 degrees at the end of each season. Players typically can only place shrines onto the board slice that is in front of them (some actions allow placement elsewhere). Players try to strategically place shrines to gain favor and nature (which are worth victory points), create patterns that score bonuses, and to control regions.

— Kami-Sama main board in the middle. A player board with the top of it shown sits at the bottom

Why this game is cool: Kami-sama combines area control, set collection (you collect villager cards at the end of years), some light drafting (again, the villager cards), strategic placement, and asymmetrical player boards. Oh and did I mention that the Art is fantastic and evocative of the theme of Ancient Japan? I didn’t? Well, now I just did!

— a villager card

Enchanters: Overlords

Enchanters: Overlords is a fairly light game (no, not it’s physical weight, it’s complexity of play) that simulates fantasy adventuring. Each player starts with a Fist of Enchanting which they upgrade by buying items and enchantments. Each new item or enchantment is placed over the top of previous cards.

— this player now has Plate Armor of Light instead of just a worthless fist!

Attack and armor bonuses are on the top and/or bottom of each card. Newly purchased cards cover up bonuses on the top of other cards but bonuses on the bottom remain. Also all special abilities on cards can only be used if they are visible (i.e. on the top card).

To start the game, each player chooses a 25-card deck of villains/monsters (such as Bandits, Dark Elves, Angels, etc) and all of the chosen decks are shuffled together to form the adventure deck. Six cards are dealt into a community area and are available for purchase. As cards are purchase and monsters defeated, the top cards form the deck replace them. The game ends when there are no more cards to purchase.

— You can see the row of cards to be purchased in the middle of the photo. Purchase cost in crystals are listed under each card, from zero to five from left to right.

Each turn a player can either purchase (by using crystals) an item/enchantment, fight a monster, rest (to get crystals) or fight the Overlord. In this manner, the game is simple enough for anyone to play it. Basically the game is like Talisman or other D&D-ish table–top games: build up your character and then slay monsters.

Why this game is cool: Enchanters: Overlords is a fun game that remains light but does have some strategy for the more serious players. And if you look closely enough at each card, you will see that the chrome text and card names have some great witty humor. You need an example? How about the card “Grey Dragon” whose flavor text is “it comes in fifty shades”

Can You Survive on the High Seas? A Review of 7 Wonders Armada

The new Armada expansion to 7 Wonders has been released! Now you can take your empire building to the high seas. Armada promises to increase the strategic nature of your 7 Wonders games while also adding more fun.

Does Armada live up to the hype? We gave Armada a spin, so read on my faithful followers and find out what we thought about it!

What Does Armada Add?

Armada adds a brand near board for each player that tracks their naval accomplishments. True to 7 Wonders game play, the new naval board tracks a player’s fleet in the four areas of development: military (red), commerce (yellow), diplomacy (blue) and science/exploration (green).

— the new naval board. Note the four columns, each devoted to progress in a different color.

Each time a player plays a card, they can in addition pay the cost on the naval board–in the same color as the card played (ie play a yellow card, you can pay the next cost in the yellow naval column)–in order to move the corresponding boat up one space. In the photo above, all boats start on the bottom space of each column. If the player plays a yellow card, they can in addition to paying for the card, pay one wood to move the yellow boat to the next space up the yellow column. Also, each board has one column that has a pyramid symbol. When the player builds a stage of their wonder, they can also build in the column with the pyramid.

— in this photo, the player has advanced three boats one space, and the yellow boat two spaces

As the boats advance, the player gets a bonus. Red advancement gains naval shields (which work like land warfare but are a separate naval warfare at the end of each Age). Yellow gains coins. Blue gains victory points. Green leads to exploration of islands, which produce bonuses (eg resources) on special island cards.

The basic idea is that players can choose to use resources as they build normal cards to also advance their naval fleets. As such, the Armada expansion adds a second “play” each turn, if a player has the resources to pay for it. The naval board goes next to the player’s Wonder so that it is easy for each player to see what naval advancements are available.

— the naval board next to my wonder

Another twist is that at the end of each Age, there is naval combat. The naval board generates naval shields. Combat is global, so players are ranked from strongest to weakest. The weakest player gets a marker with negative victory points, and the stronger players get positive victory points based on order and Age (ie the strongest player gets more points, points are greater as the Ages move from I to II to III).

Armada also includes cards for each age that are themed to the new Armada expansion. This increases the fun as players must now contend with new and different cards with some unique twists (I won’t give any of it away, you need to buy Armada to find out).

Game Play

The Armada expansion significantly lengthens game play. Each turn, players can effectively make two “plays”: a card and naval advancement. The effect of this is multiple-fold (is that a real word? I don’t know, but I will use it anyway): 1) each turn takes almost twice as long, 2) players will be buying more resources from each other, and 3) you gotta watch each other because honest mistakes (or dishonest ones) are much more likely to happen (especially in Age III).

— here is what the table looked like at the end of our game!

More ships, more strategies!

We discovered that the Armada naval boards now allowed for more strategies. In the game in the photo above, I went for naval shields and domination of both ground/naval warfare (I am in the bottom left); Lee (top right) went for a Boston Harbour (his term for it) strategy of advancing all his boats; Stew (bottom right) went for scientific achievement and advancing his green boat to explore; and Bob (top left) went for diplomatic/governmental victory points.

These differing strategies led to all of us scoring lots and lots of points.

— the score sheet at the end of the game. I won by 6 points!

The Verdict

Armada turns 7 Wonders from a quick, simple game into a much longer highly strategic contest. We had a good time with it and would play it again. The downside is that the game was twice as long and man, we needed Bob’s entire dining room table PLUS the extra leaf we put into the table!

As such, this expansion seems like a welcome addition to those who want more complexity and a longer, more strategic game. If you are looking for a short, enjoyable game of 7 Wonders, Armada might not be for you.

Oh….and Armada is much, much better than Babel. We played the Babel expansion about a dozen times and nobody ever really liked it. I can tell you hands down that Armada is way better than Babel. The naval boards, plastic ships, naval combat, and island exploration both add a good deal of strategy and also are themed very well. It does feel like you are sailing ships and building ships. Armada fits the 7 Wonders theme very well in a way that Babel never did. In fact, I am thinking of listing Babel on Boardgamegeek to get rid of it.

Okay you landlubbers, get out your sailors and set sail!

Scythe: The Rise of Fenris — Episode 3: A Plea from Vesna

Coming off of Episode 2A, we were wondering where the campaign was going to go. As we started to set up Episode 3, we quickly found out.

Set-up

We decided on our Mech mods (purchased at the end of Episode 2A). Saxony added Camaraderie (no popularity loss from running off workers), Togawa took Stealth (move through enemy hexes without stopping) and Rusviet took Armor (enemy attackers lose a combat card and give Rusviet Power). Albion chose not to deploy any mod.

Then the rules told us to find Box A, flip it over and grab the Vesna card taped to the bottom!

— The Vesna card

The rules said to shuffle the Vesna card, plus 4 more Factory cards, into the Factory cards selected for the game. The goal of the Episode became to find Vesna (although victory would still be determined normally).

We each then selected and paid for perks and continued the set-up as normal. Based on random board draw, the turn order would be:

Saxony – Neal

Albion – Bob

Rusviet – Stew

Togawa – Lee

Game Play

Rusviet started lively by quickly deploying a Mech with Speed, jumping his character around to look for good Encounter cards. We had shuffled in the new encounter cards, and they looked to be game-changing in terms of their effects.

Case in point: Saxony found an encounter card that allowed his character to jump straight to the Factory! The Episode had a special Factory rule: 1) take an Influence token each time you enter the Factory, 2) draw Factory cards equal to your Influence tokens, and 3) if you find Vesna you have to take that card or if you don’t you may take a Factory card (or not if you don’t like what you got).

Saxony didn’t like its first draw. Already having Speed, Saxony left and returned…and found Vesna. As Saxony was looking for a good Factory card, they returned a third time. Rusviet took advantage of Saxony’s character being in the Factory alone and successfully attacked and won.

Rusviet completed an Objective and was quickly putting stars on the Triumph Track. Togawa eventually got to the Factory too while Albion spread out, gaining territory.

— the position late in the game with Togawa on the Factory

Rusviet got 5 stars on the Triumph Track and was trying to find a way to get its final star. But then Saxony struck, completing the last upgrade and fulfilling two objectives in one turn to place his last 3 stars to end the game.

— Saxony at the end of the game

Scoring

Scores were tallied and Rusviet beat Saxony 72 to 68! It was the second Episode in a row where Saxony lost despite placing all 6 stars. The difference was that Rusviet was the only faction to reach the top tier on the Popularity Track.

Episode Rewards

Each player could now select a Setup Bonus for each 2 Influence tokens (rounded up). Saxony got 2 bonuses and every other faction got 1.

The rules now stipulated that Saxony would now become the Vesna faction! The Saxony player would keep everything on their Campaign Log but would now play the Vesna faction using pieces from the Rise of Fenris expansion (from a punchboard and Box A).

— Vesna faction

— Box A – Vesna pieces inside

— the Vesna pieces inside Box A

But there was another twist: players could now also change factions! Starting with the faction with the least Wealth, a player could grab any unused faction. Albion decided not to change, Togawa switched to Crimean, and Rusviet chose not to change.

We finished by purchasing more Mech Mods.

The Verdict

Episode 3 was much more fun than Episode 2A. Also, the Mech Mods gave faction’s the ability to break the stalemate that we saw in the last Episode. The new Encounter cards (sold separately from Rise of a Fenris) also helped enliven the game

New Year’s Day 2019 Lineup

Here is the lineup of games for New Year’s Day 2019 tomorrow:

7 Wonders with Armada expansion

Scythe: Rise of Fenris–Episode 3 plus the new Encounter cards

Maximum Apocalypse with the Gothic Horrors expansion

It’s going to be a good time, I bet you wish you were invited!

Peace out and Happy New Year!