Invaders From Afar: Scythe Board Game Expansion Review
Invaders From Afar
WBG Score: 8.5
Player Count: 1-7
You’ll like this if you like: Scythe, Terra Mystica, Root
Published by: Stonemaier Games
Designed by: Jamey Stegmaier
Scythe holds a special place in many peoples hearts within this great community of ours. It was many peoples first "big" modern board game. For a lot of gamers, it was their first or early introduction to Kickstarter. And for me, it is one of my favourite games, from one of my favourite publishers. It is very much worth making this clear from the beginning! However, I would like to think this review has no more bias other than my own passion and enjoyment for board games.
That said, I rate Scythe a 9. Whereas this expansion is an 8.5 for me. The reasons for that will become clear as I continue, by for brevity, it is not an essential expansion unless you want to play the game in a seven player. What it brings is good, and I love the variation of the new factions, but there is nothing hugely new with this expansion, but in my opinion, Scythe doesn't need that. But if you want it, you get that in expansions like The Rise of Fenris and The Wind Gambit.
This expansion was mainly designed to bring more variety and choice in the factions you can choose to be, and to give the game the chance to stretch from a five player to a seven player, and in true Stonemaier style, it does so with real class. Let's talk through all the added parts this expansion brings.
The main addition within this is box are two new factions. This gives you the chance to play the game in a six or seven player when added to the five original factions, or just have more choice at the start. Not many people would encourage you to play Scythe in a seven player game due to the length of time this would take, including designer Jamey Stegmaier himself! But I would argue differently. In a six or seven. Scythe is fantastic. Now, this does come with two conditions. One, that all players know how to play the game well. Two, that no player takes too long with each turn. Otherwise, it can drag a little waiting for your turn. But the board was designed with seven players in mind. These two new factions are not a shock. Their symbols are on the main board in the base game already. The size and layout of this board was always made with the full seven player sat around it. It works great in all player counts, and I really do enjoy Scythe in a two or three myself. But I do feel every fan of Scythe needs to try it at its full player count at least once. And to do that, you need this expansion.
Now of course, you can use this expansion without getting six other friends to join you. You could play a two player with this expansion and just use these two new factions if you wanted. So, the factions bring more than just additional player count to the table. They also bring more choice and variety when it comes to choosing who you want to play as at set-up. Lets take a closer look at what each part brings.
The first new choice you have are the two new payer mats. I like to have more option here. I have got used to the original mats, and two more to pick from is a nice addition.
The second new addition is the two new Faction mats. Let's look at each one in a little more detail.
First up we have the mat for the Togawa Shogunate faction show Akiko and Jiro. This is my favourite of the two new factions as it gives you the option to place a trap token on a tile after you have finished your movement. So long as you don't enter combat, you can add one of your four tokens to the board as a trap for another player. The trap token counts as a territory for you, increasing your end game scoring if they are still present at the games conclusion. As such, other players will want to remove them. But when they do, they must flip the token and pay the penalty. This will either be to lose four money, three power, two popularity, or discard two random combat cards. It's a fun risk to have to take when you remove the tokens, and of course as some go, you can get a chance guess what may be left.
Their mechs have the ability to move a mech or character across a river or onto lakes, gain two power before combat, and re-arm disarmed traps.
The Togawa Shogunate look like a very attack minded faction on face value, with the trap tokens and mech abilities. But I find they are better used in a defensive manner. You will start on the bottom right of the board, which is an area you may not have paid much attention too before, and you will find you have direct access to every resource unlike the other factions, but no speed function in your mechs. I quite like to build up my resources and engine, defending my territory with traps, and leaving the rest of the board and players well alone.
The second new faction is the Clan Albian. After ending movement, this faction also has the option to place something down when not in combat, this time a flag. The Clan Albian have four flags at their disposal, and each hex with a flag on it counts as an additional territory at the end of the game as long as you control the tile. The flags cannot be moved once placed like the traps, and are a great way to increase your final game points.
The Clan Albian's mechs allow them to cross rivers into or out of tunnels, reduce your opponents power by two when in combat, add two to your own power, or move to any territory that contains at least one of your workers or flags.
This faction will not start in a part of the board as unfamiliar as the Togawa Shogunate, but will still start with direct access to all resources.
I very much enjoy the variation these two new factions bring to Scythe. The addition of the two very different style of factions is hugely welcome to me. Neither factions start the game being blocked by rivers, so they don't have the speed ability to counter act this. But the rivers are not just about stopping you from moving out, they also stop other factions being able to easily move into your space. The tokens both factions have are ways to encourage players to explore the board with more efficiency, but also travel back to your home base with more speed.
So, now to answer the three questions I always ask myself when I play a game with a new expansion.
Is the game better with this expansion included?
Did it add much complexity to the set-up, rule teach, and game play?
Would I want to include the expansion every time I play?
1. Is the game better with this expansion included?
I would say yes. I like the new factions and would personally always prefer to play with them over the original five, simply as they are new, and I have used the other ones so much. So, yes for the variation, but not necessarily in a seven! It is not an essential expansion unless you want the higher player count, but it is essential if you want more variety. Which I would say very much depends on how many times you have played Scythe and how often you think you will play it again.
2. Did it add much complexity to the set-up, rule teach, and game play?
None at all. Once you explain the new tokens, which takes a minute, anyone who understands Scythe with be able to get to grips with this expansion right away.
3. Would I want to include the expansion every time I play?
Yes. As I said above, I will always prefer to use these new factions myself, both to play as and against. I like what they bring and what you have to do when up against them. So, for me, it is essential. Not for the player count. but the variety. But that is only because I love this game so much and play it regularly.