Scythe: Rise of Fenris Expansion Review

Scythe: Rise of Fenris Expansion Review

Michael Barnes     
 
4.0
674   0

Could this be the end of this generation's Catan?

Love it or loathe it, Jamey Stegmaier's Scythe has not only become one of the seminal games of this generation, it's also become something of this generation's Catan. Its uptake reminds of how Settlers of Catan (back when it had its full and proper name) was widely played by just about everyone in the mid to late 1990s, and it has become a game that for many is their first foray into hobby games. I think it's a great game worthy of the attention. Solid, compelling mechanics mesh with a distinctive, painterly style and a strong sense of setting driven by illustrator Jacob Rozalska. It's ubiquitous- wherever folks are gathered to game, somebody has a copy of it. Sometimes all of them do.

For me and my group, however, peak Scythe was really a year or so ago. We've largely moved on from it despite the fact that just about everyone has their own copy and we've been refreshed somewhat with a couple of very good expansions (Invaders from Afar and The Wind Gambit). So with the release of Rise of Fenris, which is being touted as the last add-on, I found myself almost wishing that we had this really quite excellent campaign-focused box of modules all along. I also found myself wishing that there were an analog for the junior version of the game, the brilliant My Little Scythe- a game I am more likely to choose to play moving forward.

But for the legions of Sunday night Scythers and the hordes of players who still can't get enough farming-mech-gone-wild action, Rise of Fenris offers 11 modules brought together under the titular 8-session campaign storyline, and that represents not only a tremendous value but also a major addition to the game. If you are worried about maintaining a regular group, fear not- it's fairly easy to add or drop players and Automa Factory has once again provided an excellent AI. This is definitely a set for more experienced players, however, and I would caution that those new to the game would be better served coming to grips with the game's intricacies without the addition of anything in this kit.

The centerpiece addition and what ties the modules of Rise of Fenris together is the campaign. It features a Wealth resource that can be used to purchase modifiers such as swords and pontoons for your mechs that replace their existing abilities and infrastructure improvement tiles that improve production, offer discounts, and more. There are also one-shot Perks that you can buy that give you a little bonus here and there impart a good sense of development over time. I especially like how each player must record the stars they earn in a game categorically, and when they complete a row or column kind of bingo card they get a $25 reward that counts toward winning the game. This simple grid encourages players to engage with all of the performance metrics over the course of the campaign.

The campaign is cool with a full storyline written for it that involves some rather unexpected personalities. Each episode offers its own special parameters and rewards with some branching options that impact the way subsequent episodes are played. Key game materials are kept in secret boxes and are revealed as you play, and if you don't already know (i.e. you haven't peeked) some of the reveals are pretty awesome. In fact, I am reticent to mention some of this game's most important additions because it should be as much of a surprise as possible

Suffice to say, opening Boxes A-E are all pretty thrilling as far as opening new game materials goes. Especially the big reveal in box D after what happens in episode 5, where you actually put box C on the factory as a discovery incentive. The big finale is completely bonkers and possibly weird depending on the path it takes. It's worth sticking through to the end to see, even if you solo through with Automata. I'm not sure there's much replay in the campaign game, but the modules you unlock through it are totally playable with one-off sessions and in any arrangement you see fit. And if you really want to, you can reset everything- there are no destructible or single-use items in this legacy game.

I like that at the end of the campaign, everything is listed out and the exact impact of the module on the game is spelled out so you can easily pick and choose which you want to use. And there's also a co-op module, which I didn't try, so you can go that route if you so choose. I'm not quite sure of the appeal there, but as a wise internet poster once posted, YMMV.

Rise of Fenris is a sweeping, epic module that caps off the Scythe product line. Best suited for advanced players, there is much to explore and even if you are burned out on the core game there is plenty here that may put a little more gas in the tank. What this add-on will not do, however, is convince those who aren't onboard the Scythe train to hop on and in fact it may drive them further way.. I'm very glad I got to play it all and see Mr. Stegmeier bring this game to a sort of conclusion, but I'm also ready to move on from it all. If this really is the final Scythe release, it's been a great run.

If you like this review- or anything I‘ve ever done- consider a tip on my Patreon site, https://www.Patreon.com/MichaelBarnes

ThereWillBe.Games accepts no payment or compensation from publishers or designers for our content. A review copy was kindly provided by Stonemaier Games.

Scythe: Rise of Fenris Expansion Review There Will Be Games

Shop Amazon - When you make a purchase using these links a small % goes to the support of this site

Editor rating

Michael Barnes
Rating 
 
4.0

Summary

Game Name
Scythe: Rise of Fenris

Michael BarnesFollow Michael Barnes Follow Michael Barnes Message Michael Barnes

Editor-in-Chief

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of FortressAT.com and Nohighscores.com as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film. 

Log in to comment
Posted: 06 Dec 2018 07:30 by ubarose #287582
ubarose's Avatar
I have never played Scythe, but I enjoyed reading your review of the expansion.
Posted: 06 Dec 2018 07:48 by SuperflyTNT #287583
SuperflyTNT's Avatar
This generation's Catan?

No.

Fuck no.

HELL to the NO.
Posted: 06 Dec 2018 10:50 by Grudunza #287609
Grudunza's Avatar
I liked Fenris better than the Wind Gambit. Something about that seemed wonky to me. Co-op was okay, but the game is much better served with the opportunities taken (or not) between players. And much as I think Scythe is a great overall design, I also think I'm done with it at this point. And so is Stegmaier, apparently.

But speaking of Catan, my girlfriend's son is in college and just started getting into Catan (apparently you're not allowed college entrance if you've never played Catan), so I've played that a few times with them recently. Damn if that game still doesn't hold up really well. Probably helped to not have played it for like 10 years, but still...
Posted: 06 Dec 2018 15:03 by WadeMonnig #287633
WadeMonnig's Avatar
SuperflyTNT wrote:
This generation's Catan?

No.

Fuck no.

HELL to the NO.

*walks into game store playing area on various Game nights*
Someone is playing Scythe or has their copy at the ready.
*shrugs*
It is this generations Catan.
insert Dark Knight quote here.
Posted: 06 Dec 2018 15:57 by Michael Barnes #287637
Michael Barnes's Avatar
It is totally this generation’s Catan. I can’t recall another title since that has had such uptake and proliferation. It’s the only game a lot of folks even own. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not, whether it deserves it or not...it’s had a major impact that has proven to be lasting.

There was a neighborhood get together a couple of weeks ago...it was 14 people who ALL wanted to play Scythe.

Yeah, I am inclined to call this the bes Scythe expansion...and really, it kind of makes the others feel a little superfluous. You can play with them, and on their own they are good...but what Fenris adds is much more rewarding. I still have yet to play with al the factions at once and...I kind of hope I never do. That is just too much Scythe in one sitting.

Catan is a timeless design.
Posted: 07 Dec 2018 02:56 by MattDP #287657
MattDP's Avatar
Michael Barnes wrote:
It is totally this generation’s Catan.

What? No way. The barrier of entry is just way too high.

I mean I get the point you're trying to make here: it's popular and impactful and has influenced the way people think about games and game design. But you get games that do that popping up every couple of years: Dominion, say or War of the Ring or Pandemic.

But by picking Catan for the comparison you're invoking a whole lot of other baggage about how board gaming became a hobby in its own right and the absolute paradigm shift that was German games vs the legacy of board wargames. Scythe is not epoch-defining on that level, not even close.

(I suspect you know this full well and you're using it to fire debate which is fine and that's why we love you.)

Personally, I think Scythe is okay, but I'm of the opinion that it's too thinly spread in trying to be all things to all gamers. It scratches lots of itches but never really satisfies. Not convinced it'll be anywhere in a year or two.
Posted: 07 Dec 2018 05:40 by Msample #287659
Msample's Avatar
SCYTHE may persist in some groups , but I see Terraforming Mars played way way more often at cons and it came out around the same time.
Posted: 07 Dec 2018 14:52 by ubarose #287696
ubarose's Avatar
SCYTHE was the Agricola of 2016. Terraforming Mars was the Scythe of 2017.
Posted: 08 Dec 2018 13:04 by SaMoKo #287751
SaMoKo's Avatar
ubarose wrote:
SCYTHE was the Agricola of 2016. Terraforming Mars was the Scythe of 2017.

In Agricola, starvation comes from lack of food planning. In Scythe, it comes from waiting for the game to end