Raiders of Scythia is a reimplementation of Raiders of the North Sea… with some changes. Scythia is by Garphill Games – the same publishers that produce Shem Phillip’s other games. But it doesn’t look like one of Shem’s games. A different artist’s at the easel: Sam Phillips, Shem’s brother. Raiders of Scythia retains the core of what makes Raiders Raiders though. It comes with an essence of Hall of Heroes (one of the North Sea expansions) sprinkled on top. Plus, this version introduces eagles and horses, as well as a different setting.
Your crew look restless in the Scythian village. You’re stocked up on provisions and everyone’s swigged kumis. A battle horn blasts and warhorse hooves clatter into enemy turf. It’s time to go raiding! Let’s learn how to play Raiders of Scythia.
How To Go Down In Scythian Raiding History
Raiders of Scythia is a worker placement game for 2-4 players; it also boasts a solo mode. In it, you juggle resource management and build up a crew tableau. It’s a Euro-style strategy game; you’re aiming to outscore your opponents on the victory points track. You earn points throughout by raiding Settlements in neighbouring countries. You earn end-game points by completing Quests (and hoarding excess Plunder). You might also score end-game points according to your tableau of Crew, horses and eagles.
The crux of Raiders of Scythia lies with your solitary worker. You place one worker into a vacant location, performing the action stated there. Then you remove a different worker, already on the board, triggering that action, too. Two actions per turn, then, with turn order going clockwise. The game end triggers in one of two ways. If there are only two (non-raided) Settlements left on the board, or once there are two unclaimed Quests left on the board. After this, everyone gets one more turn. Then it’s time to add up the scores! So: let’s set it up and see how it plays.
Set-Up: Look At All That Plunder!
Of the 26 square Quest tiles, place two at random, face-up, in the top-left in the Scythian Village. According to player count, place other Quest tiles face-down, one per space, in the silhouetted Raid Spaces. (In Cimmeria, Assyria, and Persia – not in Greece.) Every pair of Raid Spaces is a ‘Settlement’. Leave the 3+ and 4+ columns empty if playing with fewer players. Return excess Quest Tiles to the box.
A stated number of Plunder sits above each face-down Raid Space, including those still blank in Greece. Place all 80 hexagonal Plunder into the draw-bag. (Yellow Gold, grey Equipment, brown Wagons, black Livestock.) Draw Plunder from the bag, blind, and place corresponding quotas of it onto each Raid Space. Ignore Plunder on Raid Spaces in the empty 3+/4+ columns if playing with fewer players.
This, along with the random Quest Tiles, creates a modular set-up for Raiders of Scythia. Some factors remain the same, though. Above each Raid Space, place one stated-colour worker (grey or red). In the Scythian Village, place a blue worker in the Town Centre location, in the Meeting Tent and in the Market. Also, give each player one starting blue worker; return any excess red/grey ones to the box.
Place the Silver, Kumis, Provisions, Wounds and the six raiding dice next to the board. Sit the unused Plunder next to them. Last of all, shuffle the Animal deck and deal three cards face-up. That’s the main board all set up. Now let’s sort out the individual players…
Pick Your Own Starter Crew
Give each player a mat. Place their matching colour Score Markers on zero along the score track. Give each player three Silver and one Provision and establish a start player. Shuffle the deck of eight Hero cards. Reveal one per player plus one, then shuffle the deck of 76 Crew cards. Reveal one per player plus one, sitting them alongside the Hero cards. (So in a, say, three-player game, you’d have four pairs.) In reverse turn-order, (so the last player, first) have players pick one of these paired Hero and Crew member.
Heroes have asymmetrical player powers, which might sway your decision. Crew cards have Strength ranging 0-4 (needed for raids), a hire cost, as well as unique abilities/actions. These cards drive your strategy in a multitude of directions. After claiming them, sit your Hero on the left-most spot on your player mat. Place the Crew card next to it, the other side of the standard.
Return the unclaimed Hero to the box. The unclaimed Crew card becomes a discard pile for the Crew deck. Deal each player five Crew cards. Everyone picks three to keep to form their starting hand, discarding two. Keep this hand secret. Now you’re ready to play!
Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
On your turn, you’ll either visit the Scythian Village at the top of the board, or you’ll go raiding. You need to prep your Crew in the village before you raid. For the first few turns, players focus on these village spots in a merry-go-round nature.
For set-up, you placed default blue workers in the Town Centre, the Meeting Tent, and the Market. Those locations aren’t vacant, so you can't send your worker there right now. Only one worker can sit per location. That leaves five of the eight locations as empty for your first action. The two left-most locations – the Stables and the Chief’s Tent – require a grey/red worker for it to function. You start the game with a blue worker. Grey and red workers unlock as the game progresses, via raiding.
If you’re the Start Player, you have three options, then. You can send your blue worker to either the Barracks, the Silversmith, or the Farm, taking the action there. Next, you retrieve a worker from the Scythian Village. This entails picking up one of the blue workers at either the Town Centre, the Meeting Tent, or the Market. What do these locations provide?
Visit the Farm with a blue/grey worker to earn two Provisions. Come here with a red worker instead, and you can take either three Provisions or a Wagon. (Take a Wagon from the Plunder supply, not off a Raid Space.) Note your player mat reminds you that you can’t hoard more than eight of any resource. Visit the Silversmith with a blue worker and you earn three Silver. Come here with a grey/red worker and earn two Silver.
The Barracks has two options, regardless of worker colour. You hire Crew members from your hand here. Pay the stated Silver (on the Crew card) to the supply, then sit the Crew member onto your player mat. You can have at most five Crew members, plus your Hero. Each Crew has text on the bottom of their card. The left-hand text is a permanent passive action or bonus. The right-hand text is not applicable, per se, unless triggered using an eagle. (More about eagles, later!)
Once you place this Crew member onto your mat, you cannot move it. (This is to do with horses and eagles… Again, I promise I’ll explain!) You can discard placed cards on a later turn to make room for a different Crew card if you want. The alternative option at the Barracks? Pay one Kumis – a kind of ‘healing’ milk – to remove two Wound markers from your Crew. You’ll gain Wounds when raiding. If your Crew take on too many Wounds, they’ll die.
At the Meeting Tent, you can either gain two Crew cards into your hand or gain one card and two Kumis. At the Market, you can discard cards from your hand to earn goods. Discard one card to earn two silver. Alternatively, discard two cards to earn either a Wagon or Equipment. At the Town Centre, you can perform one action. You can either discard a Crew card from your hand, triggering its action as a one-off (its bottom-right text) or you can activate your Hero’s ability. There’s also the option to take an eagle ability here… But first, let’s learn how to raid!
Time To Earn The Spoils Of War
You’ve spent a few turns stocking up. Nobody said the spoils of war within those Settlements come cheap! The easiest to overcome are those in Cimmeria. Raiding gets ever-harder the further down the board: Assyria, Persia and Greece. But with it, the points on offer become greater, too. Beneath each Settlement on the board, you can see the requirements to take them down.
To go raiding, send your worker to a vacant space below the Settlement you wish to raid. This needs to match a specific colour type. (In Cimmeria, for example, this is blue/grey.) The number in the red box in front of the swords is the required number of Crew cards you need on your mat. (Your Hero does not contribute to this number.) There are also required Provisions you have to spend to raid here. Tougher Settlements demand Provisions and Wagons. If you don’t meet these requirements, you cannot raid here right now.
Dicing With Death
In Raiders Of Scythia, each country provides raiding dice. These are both good and bad! Cimmeria, for example, has one red die. Greece, meanwhile, has two red and two white. Some die faces range in numbers, which contribute towards your Strength total. This is good! Some die faces range in blood droplets, signifying injuries – how many Wound tokens your Crew take when fighting. This is bad. The range of die faces is visible at the bottom of the board.
Does gold Plunder sit on one/two of the Raid Spaces in this Settlement? Then add one/two gold dice into the roll. Roll the stated dice, and add up the Strength total. Add this to the Strength stated on your Crew. (You might also add Eagle/Horse Strength too, if applicable.) Does this Strength total meet or exceed the Strength requirements stated beneath the Settlement? If yes, you earn the corresponding points. Hooray! Your Score Marker progresses along the points track. But take note of how many Wounds you rolled, too…
Add the Wounds total to your Crew. The amount of Wounds a Crew member can take equals their Strength. If they take one more than this total, they die. Mourn, and remove the card from your mat. If you don’t meet the minimal Strength number, you take extra wounds, as well (but no points). It’s still a successful raid – just a clumsy, inept one. You’d rather earn points for raiding, right?
Now you know the stakes, let’s talk Kumis. Before you roll, you can opt to spend Kumis to gain one temporary extra Strength, per Kumis spent. Gamble and hope the dice roll high Strength? Or spend your Kumis to increase your odds? Remember, you can spend Kumis at the Barracks to heal Wounds on a later turn, too. How best to spend them? That’s up to you.
Now you take all Plunder from one of the Raid Spaces within that Settlement. Then, flip the Quest Tile so it’s face-up. Last of all, you retrieve the worker sitting above the Raid Space. It’ll be either red or grey. It’s like a village action: you placed one worker, you retrieved one worker. Of course, Raid Spaces get raided just the once. They don’t replenish with Plunder. As a result, the worker you sent to raid in the first place remains there for the rest of the game. Remember, one of the end-game conditions is whenever there are only two Settlements remaining left to raid.
Hoovering Up Leftover Quests Like A Scythian Dyson
Once the first player goes raiding, they’ll pick up a grey/red worker (depending on where they raided). This opens up possibilities for them to now visit the Stables and the Chief’s Tent within the village. Remember they had to place either a red/grey worker there to activate those spaces? This also means that another player might retrieve this worker, later on in their turn. This is how different-coloured workers enter the game.
The Chief’s Tent has two options. One is to trade one Livestock for two Provisions and one Kumis. The more appealing option is to complete a Quest. You placed two random Quests face-up during set-up. Plus, every time someone raids, they reveal the Quest tile in that spot. Got the stated Plunder requirements on the Quest? (A combination of Silver, Livestock, Equipment, Wagons, Gold?) Pay them in and claim the tile. Each is worth varying points, which you score at the end.
When you see face-up Quests, these might dictate which Raid Spaces appeal to you. (Ones with matching Plunder, am I right?!) But you might prefer to spend your Plunder on horses (Equipment) or to go raiding again (Wagons). Oh, the decisions! Other Quests involve you discarding Crew cards of a stated Strength total from your hand. You need a bit of everything for Quests.
The Stables is where you go to get one of the three face-up animal cards. Each card has both a type of eagle at the top and horse at the bottom. You have two options. You can pay one Equipment to get a horse. Pick one of the three cards and slot it under the bottom of your player mat, so only the horse shows. The horse now sits beneath one of your five Crew members. Horses have either 1, 2, or 3 Strength, and/or are worth 1 or 2 end-game points. (The sum of Strength + points always = 3.) You can have, at most, five horses and five eagles.
At last! It’s eagle time. The other option at the Stables is to pay two Silver to get an eagle. Pick an animal card and slot it under the top half of your player mat, so only the eagle shows. This eagle now sits above one of your five Crew members. Eagles either provide 1 Strength and 1 end-game point. Or, they provide a x2 benefit (symbolised on the left). If this eagle gets equipped to a Crew member, it doubles that Crew card’s permanent ability. (The text on the left-hand side.)
Other eagles have a blue flag symbol on their right. If this eagle gets equipped to a Crew member, it allows you to use the action stated on the right-hand side of that Crew card. You’ll see it matches the action icon visible on your Hero, and at the Town Centre. Now if you visit the Town Centre, you can trigger your Hero’s ability or the ability provided by this Crew card.
You don’t have to place the animal under a Crew member – it could be under a vacant spot. You might plan to play a Crew card (in your hand) there later on. But if you go raiding, an animal's Strength (if it has any) only gets applied if they’re controlled by a Crew member. So, do you want the horses’ extra Strength to batter the Settlements? Or will you build a powerful tableau using the eagles? One thing’s for sure. This engine-building facet means that no two games of Raiders of Scythia ever play the same…
Now you know how to play Raiders of Scythia, why not check out more great games by designer Shem Phillips?