Scythe—The Rise of Fenris: Episode 2A War

At the end of Episode 1, we voted for War and not Peace. We had no idea how that was going to change the next game, but by the start of set up we found out.

— Spoiler Alert: I am not even going to try to hide anything revealed by the rules for this episode. If you haven’t played Episode 2A yet, I advise you to stop now…unless you like knowing the twists and turns ahead of time, so if you do, read on!

Episode 2A War

Set Up

Basically the nations of Europa have readied for war. Each player starts with 3 upgrades, 1 additional worker in play, 1 structure in play, +4 Popularity, and can purchase a perk for $15. Thus, each side can effectively upgrade their randomized player mat to make production easier. Like maybe a good idea might be to make Deploying a Mech require only 1 resource.

Also, each player could place up to 4 of their stars on other players’ starting points to declare them a “rival”. If you defeat a rival in combat you remove the star and place it on the achievement track and get a bonus of $5.

But the biggest change was yet to come! Packaged in the RoF box was a new double-sided achievement board that you overlay atop the regular achievement list on the map board. The “war” side changes the available achievements to emphasize winning battles and collecting 8+ combat cards.

— The War Achievement Board overlay. Note how some achievements are missing, replaced by more spots for winning battles.

Game Playthrough

Stew drew the number 1 player mat and had to go first. The turn order would be:

Stew-Rusviet Union

Lee-Togawa Shogunate

Neal-Saxony

Bob-Clan Albion

— The start of the game. You can see that my (I am Saxony) two neighbors have put rival stars on my start point.

Rusviet got off to a great start. He built a mech on the first turn and increased his speed. Using his faction power to select the same action on successive turns, he quickly moved his character toward the Factory…but then veered away to reveal his Divide and Conquer objective.

— Rusviet completing an Objective by the third turn

But Stew wasn’t the only player to quickly finish an objective. Lee skillfully manipulated his units to complete his objective a couple of turns thereafter.

— Togawa Shogunate finish their objective early

As each side quickly deployed all their mechs, both the Rusviet and Saxony were able to find a quick victory in combat against a rival. Exploiting their speed, the Rusviet isolated a single Clan Albion mech guarding workers and defeated it. Saxony jumped across the board via a tunnel to defeat a Saxony mech.

–The board after the Rusviet and Saxony victories against rivals

From there the game turned into a real boring affair. Each player had generated 8+ combat cards (one of the new “war” achievements) and had deployed all 4 mechs. Saxony had the most Power, but each faction quickly Bolstered until they too were above 7 Power.

This led to each player concentrating at least 2 mechs and their character (The most units that could move together on a single action) onto a single hex with some human shields, ie workers. Nobody could get their sixth achievement without winning a combat…but nobody could attack without running into 3 units, at least an equal number of cards, and a hex full of workers that would ruin the attacker’s popularity if the attacker won.

— all 4 factions turtled up! The poor Togawa and Clan Albion couldn’t find any way to attack, and the other factions were afraid of ruining their popularity by attacking or losing the attack and giving the game away. Saxony had the best chance to attack, but would have to vacate the 3-hex Factory to do it.

The calculus was simple: if I attack but the defender’s cards are better, I not only lose the game, but I just threw the victory to the player that I attacked. This kind of “kingmaker” situation is ubiquitous in multi-player games and can portend a bad ending: the eventual reckless attack by a player that gets bored.

The Sad Ending

After a few turns of staring at each other with nobody willing to gamble on an attack, we decided to just quit rather than continue. I am pretty sure this ending is not what the game designers envisioned, but it seemed preferable to us rather than just “grinding” more turns of a senseless buildup of resources, Popularity, Power, etc. as nobody wanted to launch a reckless attack that in essence was a coin flip to determine the winner.

We all thought the problem was the rival stars. If each player had been able to take back at least one rival star still uselessly sitting on an opponent’s starting point, the game would’ve ended quickly. Instead those rival stars were “stuck” on the map board preventing a resolution. Another problem was the ability to use those first 3 upgrades to deploy mechs early meant that each side had all their mechs deployed pretty much before anybody could attack anybody else. This was particularly true for Togawa and Clan Albion. Neither has Speed so they couldn’t actually attack because their opponents could see easily avoid unfavorable confrontations.

After calculating ending coin totals, Rusviet won the episode, with Saxony in second. So, the two factions that won a combat did indeed finish higher, but there wasn’t any decisive victory.

Also poor was that the War Achievement board effectively negated the Saxony faction power. Because every faction could get 4 combat achievements, Saxony didn’t have any true advantage from its power to get any number of combat achievements.

The Verdict

In the end, this episode was quite disappointing. The set-up changes didn’t encourage combat, they instead made combat impossible. We all hope that the next episode would be better.

Scythe: The Rise of Fenris — Episode One

— the new expansion/campaign for Scythe is out. Let’s get ready to rumble!

I picked up my order of Scythe: Rise of Fenris from Meeplesource at Gen Con 2018. My gang of friends was ready to get started right away, so we got a game in yesterday. I might give away a few spoilers, so you are forewarned! And remember to be forewarned is to have four arms! Wait…that’s not right. Oh well, you understand what I am trying to say.

The Premise: The Search for Tesla

The basic idea of the campaign is that the disastrous and inconclusive Great War is over. The city-sized Factory run by Nikola Tesla that supplied all the designs for the Mechs has gone silent. It’s 1921 and the Europa powers are back on their feet. They also are trying to get into Tesla’s Factory to see what is in the sealed inner vault. (As an aside, I hope Gerardo Rivera is not involved and that there is going to be more in Tesla’s vault than Al Capone’s Vault.)

Anyway, the set up for the first game is pretty much like a normal game of Scythe, except for three differences. First, an extra Objective Card is flipped over and placed near the objective track. Each player can try to complete this Objective in addition to their normal Objective requirements. Second, each player can pick a “perk” and add its bonus to their starting position. For example, there are +2 resources, +1 starting worker, +3 Power, etc. Third, an Influence Marker is placed on each of the 10 possible Achievements plus one marker on the revealed common Objective Card.

— a couple of the Influence markers

It wasn’t explained in the rules what the Influence tokens would be used for, but whomever was first to the achievement could grab the token.

The Game

There were four of us. Stew played the Rusviet Union and got to go first. Lee was next with the Togawa Shogunate, I was third with Saxony, and Bob last with Clan Albion. Lee got off to a quick start by upgrading his board to reduce the cost of more upgrades to a single resource. Stew was first to the Factory and looked to be catching up. I developed my mechs quicker than the others, allowing my Character to move quickly around the map looking for Exploration card bonuses. Bob focused on slow expansion and placing his flags.

As the game moved along, I slowly gained the most Influence tokens, mainly from being the first to complete an Objective, Build all my mechs, and place all my workers. I got to the Factory second but the cards there were not all that good. I retreated in the face of Lee and his Shogunate mechs, and he eventually got into the Factory.

As the end game approached, Stew, Lee and myself were getting close to the sixth Achievement, but each didn’t want to end the game from a losing position. Lee had a lot of hexes controlled, Stew had a lot of coins, Bob had top tier Popularity, and I was arguably in last. When it looked like my situation couldn’t get better, I stormed the Factory with two Mechs and knocked Lee’s Character out of it–but at a high cost! The Shogunate Trap was a -2 Popularity which sunk me down out of the second-tier and back to the first-tier, costing me roughly 15 coins!

Lee and his Shogunate ended up victorious with 81 coins, Stew’s Rusviet were second with 73, while Bob’s Clan Albion and my Saxons we’re tied at 53.

Each player now could mark on their Campaign Log the Achievements that they completed. For each Achievement, a player marks a spot on their Triumph Log. At the end of the campaign, completed rows and columns will give a coin bonus.

— Lee’s Campaign Log. Note that he got to mark his Episode One victory.

The Influence Vote: Peace or War?

After calculating victory, we learned what those Influence tokens were for. Each player was given 1 extra Influence token on top of what they earned. Each player then secretly allocated their Influence tokens into two hidden piles: any in the closed left hand was a vote for war, and any in the closed right hand was a vote for peace. We made our choices and then revealed simultaneously. Saxony and Rusviet had 7 votes for war and zero for peace, while Clan Albion and Togawa had 0 votes for war and 5 for peace. 7 to 5 for War!!!

The campaign has two separate sets of rules for the second episode: one for peace and one for war. This is pretty cool as different groups and/or second attempts at the campaign can have different episodes. Sweet!

Anyway, the first episode didn’t differ much from the base game, but given this war vs peace vote, we are expecting it to lead to some sort of big changes in the next episode. See you there!