WBG Score: 9.5
Player Count: 1-5
Published by: Stonemaier Games
Scythe is a huge game within the board game hobby. Currently ranked 16 on BGG, it is beloved by many within the community. Scythe launched Jamey Stegmaier into the stratosphere, and has seen a number of popular expansions made for it. You can read about one here, where I cover Invaders from Afar. An expansion I suggested was not as essential as this one.
This review will be spoiler free, so there is only so much I can say or show. But this is a campaign game that develops over a series of eight games. It can be fully reset and played again, this is not a legacy game. Or the various components can be added into individual games of Scythe as different modules as you see fit. It also introduces a cooperative version of Scythe but this is not the exciting bit. I want to cover the campaign. The campaign is full of twists and turns, and I would hate to ruin that for you. But this review will give you an idea of how it plays and help you decide if this is for you or not. I will mark any part that has anything close to minor spoilers so you can move on if you like, but they will all be at the end in the "Is It Fun?" section. With that said, let's get it to the table and see how it plays.
First you need to decide how you want to play this game. You could just open everything up from the off and add any of the eleven modules within this box into a game of Scythe right from the beginning if you wanted. The rules explain how to do this, but to cover that would be full of spoilers. As such, I will focus on the campaign mode, where these modules are revealed one at a time across a series of eight differing games of Scythe. Some are full games close to what you may be familiar with. Others can end a little quicker, and play with differing set up and in game rules. But that is spoiler territory, so I will leave it at that.
For your first game, set up the game as you usually would. The only real difference is that you will add one of the personal objective cards next to the triumph track to add an extra way to place a star. Other than this, the first game plays pretty much as any game of Scythe would. To play Rise of Fenris though, you will need to read through a few pages of extra rules and narrative text to explain the background of the setting. If you want to get a flavour for this you can read the first two pages below. If you want to keep that a surprise until you play, the below text should be small enough without clicking to enlarge to avoid! There are four more pages of this which if you really want to get into, you can check that out here, from page 8 onwards. Careful not to read any other pages beyond this though if you want to avoid spoilers.
Inside the box you will find a number of tokens and boxes. Do not look at the tokens as this will easily spoil things to come, and definitely do not open any boxes. The game will clearly let you know when you are meant to do this. But it will look like this before you open anything. Don't worry, no spoilers here. But inside these boxes, oh my!
How To Play
When you are ready, turn to the first chapter of the game on page 14 of the rule book and complete the final part of the special set up for this first game. This adds new tokens to the board that I will not go into here, but that will determine the effects of the next game in a huge way. You wont know this until you finish the first game, so I won't spoil that here. The rest of game one works just as a usual game of Scythe. Just ask Rodney if you need some help with that. Scythe it is way to easier to learn than you first think, and you should not let the size of the box or the amount of components worry you. I promise it is a fairly simple game once you get the hang of things and it plays oh so smoothly.
When you have finished the first game, you will start to log your progress on one of the below sheets. These are paper, and there are loads in the box. You won't feel like you are ruining a nice laminated rule book. On this sheet you will log you wins and loses across the eight games. Your wealth, (your final score) which accumulates over the eight games and can be spent on various upgrades such as the Perks and Mods that I won't go into, again for fear of spoilers. (But they are awesome!) In the Triumph log you will mark which stars you were able to place in each game, and these then accumulate over the eight games to earn you more money that can also be spent on upgrades.
And that is all I can say about this without spoiling the game. Below I will explain what I liked and did not like about the eight game campaign experience. I will keep spoilers to a minimum, but avoid the below paragraph if you want to experience it fresh. All I will say before I leave some of you is that it was a truly wonderful experience that breathed new life into Scythe. It made me appreciate the different ways you can play the game a whole lot more, made me a better Scythe player (mainly from playing it eight times in a few days), and the experience of playing the eight games was an absolute joy. The surprises the expansion bring are all brilliant. And the way they are integrated into the game is just fantastic. But more of that below.
Is Is Fun?
Oh my goodness, yes! I played the eight games over the course of two days, with a two day break in-between (forced by other life priorities otherwise I would have happily done thi sis two days straight). I did not want to rush it, as I wanted to savour the experience, but it was just too good! After each game I just wanted to play another to use the new things we had gained, and to find out what was coming next. I loved the story the game is built around. It is very well written, absorbing, and wonderfully interwoven into the fabric of the Scythe universe. For me, this is some of the best narrative writing in board games that I have experience so far. From the 11 modules in the game, I would say there are now four to five that I will regularly use in every stand-alone game of Scythe that I play. This game massively increases the replayability of Scythe well beyond the campaign itself.
I would love to tell you more about the treats and surprises we found in the boxes of this expansion but it would ruin it for you. All I will say is none of them disappoint. All of them make the game different, better, and more interesting. This is one of the best expansions I have ever played. It makes Scythe, a game I love, better in ways you cannot really imagine. The Rise of Fenris is a masterpiece within the board game world.