Raiders of Scythia

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Raiders of Scythia is a reimplementation of an older game: Raiders of the North Sea. Once again it’s designed by Shem Phillips and published by Garphill Games. Raiders of Scythia doesn’t have artwork by Mihajlo Dimitrievski (AKA The Mico), though. Instead, it’s by Sam Phillips, Shem’s brother! Also here you get asymmetrical starting heroes, which drive your early strategy. H…
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  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Push your luck combat

Might Not Like

  • Setup can be fiddly
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Raiders of Scythia is a reimplementation of an older game: Raiders of the North Sea. Once again it’s designed by Shem Phillips and published by Garphill Games. Raiders of Scythia doesn’t have artwork by Mihajlo Dimitrievski (AKA The Mico), though. Instead, it’s by Sam Phillips, Shem’s brother! Also here you get asymmetrical starting heroes, which drive your early strategy. Horses and eagles also help you in battle…

Some elements of the expansions from Raiders of the North Sea sit within Scythia’s base game. It’s a bit like a Raiders v1.5, or a Raiders-Plus! This is a worker placement, mid-weight Euro-style game where 2-4 players compete to raid settlements. (It also plays solo.) On your turn you can visit the Scythian village, where there’s eight possible actions. You can send your worker to a vacant location and take the associated action there. Then you retrieve a different worker within the village and take their action. You can gain coins to hire a crew. You can gain provisions needed to raid. You could stock up on kumis (healing milk that also provides strength in battle)!

Once you’re strong enough to raid, you visit one of the countries to the south: Cimmeria, Assyria, Persia or Greece. It’s gets ever-tougher to conquer said settlements. Potential battle wounds await via deadly dice rolls. But no guts, no glory! The rewards are ever-greater, providing plunder (for eet collection) and victory points. After raiding, you leave behind a quest that one of you might complete later on. Pay in the stated quota of plunder to achieve further points. The game ends once there’s only two quests remaining, or two settlements left to raid. Most points wins!

No two games of Raiders of Scythia are the same, thanks to the modular set-up. Not only this, but you build an ‘engine’ of up to five crew members, alongside as many as five horses and five eagles. Each crew member has actions that assist you, with eagles amplifying some of these traits. There’s a whole range of paths to victory in Raiders of Scythia…

Player Count: 2-4 Players
Time: 60-80 minutes
Age: 12+

The lands of the Greek, Persian, Assyrian empires were vast and plentiful. They had impressive fortifications and imposing armies. But rumours abounded that a formidable foe from lands above the Black Sea was spreading. Fierce & skilled warriors, both male and female, came on horseback brandishing sword, axe and bow. However, these were not mindless savages simply come to raid and plunder, but rather artisans that could craft detailed trinkets made out of gold. They still came to raid and plunder, however. They were known as the Raiders of Scythia.

Raiders of Scythia is a worker placement game where players will gather resources, assemble a crew and raid various settlements to gain resources and gold. Players can train animals such as horses and eagles, complete quests and gather provisions and wagons to aid them. A certain strength of crew is needed to perform a raid. Your raiding strength is based on your crew, horses, eagles and then a dice roll. Your total strength will determine how many victory points you receive and how many wounds you may or may not take. Each settlement is populated by a random set of cubes drawn from a bag at the beginning of the game, so the resource allocation will be different with each game.

Not your Worker

The hook in Raiders of Scythia is that the workers don’t belong to anyone in particular and you only have a single worker. On your turn, you place a worker and perform an action (all pretty standard stuff). However, you then pick up a worker and perform the action of the space the worker was on. Also, there are certain spots that only different coloured workers can go to and some spots that give you different rewards depending on the worker colour. A certain colour of worker may be needed to raid certain settlements.

Points are awarded for completed quests, animals, and gold. The player with the most points is the winner.

Raiders Of Scythia – Overall Thoughts

I love worker placement games, it is probably the most represented genre in my collection. But is there room for another one? Does Raiders of Scythia have enough twists to set it apart and earn its place in my collection? Well, read on to find out.

The rule set is very simple for this game. Place a worker, perform an action, pick up another worker and perform another action. This mechanism is, in a word, fantastic. It was originally seen (at least by me) in Raiders of the North Sea. Raiders of Scythia is effectively a re-implementation of North Sea with some of the expansion bits added in. The iconography is pretty clear and easy to understand.

Worker Placement with a Twist

As a worker placement fan, this simple twist on the standard mechanisms is refreshing. It can also make for some very interesting combinations and difficult choices. Not only do you need to think about where you are placing but where you are picking up. Add into the mix that there are different coloured workers that do different things and you have a very compelling, interesting and engaging game. You always need to be aware of what colour worker you are placing and what colour worker your opponent may need. Some of the coloured workers are needed for raiding the tougher settlements so you want to ensure you are not giving your opponents the opportunity to pick up these workers.

The game also has a nice ebb and flow. You will start off building up your crew and resources, then go and do some raiding. Then spend some time building up again and healing your crew to go raiding again and so on.

Assemble Your Crew

The crew you assemble have special abilities or bonuses as well as a power rating. The raids can add an element of push your luck, as the combat is based on your crew’s power plus any Kumis used and then a dice roll. So you can play the odds and hope that you get lucky with the roll or play it safe and take a stronger crew to guarantee you have enough power. The interesting thing is that you always win a raid, it will just depend on how bad or well you win. How many wounds you take or how many points you gain.

Raiders of Scythia also has a very good solo mode. It is simple to execute, doesn’t involve a lot of admin, various difficulty levels and emulates another player very well by raiding settlements and taking animal cards. It is so smooth and simple and works a treat.

There is a heck of a lot to like in Raiders of Scythia. The twist on the standard worker placement, the ebb and flow of gathering and raiding, the crew abilities, animals to gather and a great solo mode. To answer my original question, yes, this is a game that totally deserves a place on my shelf.

How To Play Raiders of Scythia

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…

Raiders of Scythia Greece Dice

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?

Village People

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!

Raiders of Scythia Animal cards

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.

Raiders of Scythia Mid Game

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.

Raiders Of Scythia Eagle Vision Or Horsepower?

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…

What Next?

Now you know how to play Raiders of Scythia, why not check out more great games by designer Shem Phillips?

Raiders of Scythia 8 heros

First came Raiders of the North Sea in 2015, from Shem Phillips and Garphill Games. Five years later in 2020 came Raiders of Scythia (incl. solo), a Raiders v1.5, of sorts. It wasn’t a mere fancy reskin of the older game with a new art style, though. It took the best parts from Raiders’ two expansions – Hall of Heroes, and Fields of Fame – and added them in, with effortless ease. It removed some tracks, while also included a fresh new angle in the form of horse and eagle companions.

But you already knew that, right? Besides, this blog isn’t about Raiders of Scythia as a regular board game review. Instead, I’m going to look at it from a pure solo gaming perspective. Is it enjoyable? Does it replicate the multiplayer experience? Does it scratch the itch? How much ‘admin’ is there, to make it work?

A Rapid Raiders Recap

But first! A rapid recap to what Raiders of Scythia is all about. It’s a worker placement game set centuries ago, where bands of Scythian raiders spilled into neighbouring Assyria, Greece and Persia. You control a Scythian hero, build up a tableau of warriors, and take them into battle to earn glory (AKA: victory points).

The worker placement here is simplistic in format, yet wonderful in execution. Players only have one worker meeple, but they get to take two actions on their turn. First, they place their worker in a vacant location, taking the corresponding action. Then, they retrieve a worker that sits at a different location, taking that action. That worker will then become theirs to place on their next turn. No space gets ‘blocked’, per se – because to visit a location you have an option to remove a worker or place one there. Many grand plans demand two-step actions though, taken in certain orders. And that’s where it starts to shine…

You’ll score points throughout the game by going raiding in locations, but to do so, you need provisions. You need a crew of a certain size. That crew needs increasing strength, to tackle the stout might of the Greeks and Persians. Raiders of Scythia is a delight at a 2-4 player-count, so how does it fare, as a solo experience?

Is Set-Up The Same? What’s New

When playing Raiders of Scythia solo, you set up the board as if playing a two-player game. Meaning, you won’t add any face-down Quest Tiles on the fifth and sixth spaces in Cimmeria, Assyria or Persia. You’ll only place the stated quotas of random Plunder tokens on the first four locations for the four countries.

Here you’re competing against a rival chieftain. There’s four to pick between, and each one increases in difficulty:

  •  The Trader has a Strength of 0, and starts with one Provision.
  • The Lookout’s Strength is 1, and she starts with two Provisions.
  • The Huntsman’s Strength is 1. They start with two Provisions, and they gain +1 Provisions throughout the game.
  • The Outrider’s Strength is 2. She starts with three Provisions, and also gains +1 Provisions throughout.

That won’t make sense right now, but I will explain it soon: promise! Meanwhile, you gain a Hero + Crew Card. Deal out two Heroes at random, and then assign one random Crew Card to each Hero. You’ll pick one of these pairs to start the game with. As per the multiplayer game, the Hero starts left of your banner on your Player Board. The Crew Card sits to the right. You’ll then start with a hand of five Crew, which you discard down to three, like a regular game.

You Versus The Schemin’ Chieftain

A shuffled AI Scheme deck of 14 cards in Raiders of Scythia solo, sits face-down near to the rival chieftain. You, the human player, go first, taking your turn as per usual. You place a worker, then remove a worker. On the AI opponent’s turn, they reveal the next AI Scheme Card. This consists of a series of steps to see if they can achieve a successful raid this turn.

You check to see whether the rival Chieftain can meet none/some/all prerequisites on the left-hand side of the card. You start at the top of the column. Can the AI player achieve this? If they can, then you move down to the next requirement. If they also meet that, then you check the next necessity, and so on. If the rival Chieftain meets all the demands of the card, then they go raiding – albeit, in their own way! If ever they reach a stage where they cannot complete the card, they get a reward to the right of the current prerequisite, instead.

The AI Scheme Cards all have an approximate formulaic structure to them. At the top of that left-hand column is one of the four locations – Cimmeria, Assyria, Persia, Greece. If there is still a Raid Space with loot on it remaining in that location, the first condition’s met. If there are none, then it has not met. In this circumstance, the AI Chieftain takes the action to the right of it. (This will either be: take a Quest, or take a Horse; it’s a 11/14 chance of it being a Quest.)

If the AI Player gets to take a Quest, they take an available Quest from the board. The one they take is in accordance to the direction of the arrows on the card. If they’re to take a Horse, then they claim one of the three face-up Horse/Eagle cards. The one they take (left, centre, right) is highlighted on the Scheme Card. The AI Player has no use for Eagles; they treat this card like a Horse, for now. In this case, the AI Player’s turn is over.

The Chieftain’s To-Do List For Today: Raid

But assuming the board state met the first set of circumstances, the AI Player would not get that first reward. Instead, you move down to the next requirement, which is: they have to pay a stated amount of Provisions. (This ranges from 1-5 Provisions, card-depending.) If they have the quota of Provisions, you move onto the next step. If they don’t, then the AI Player gets the reward stated to the right. (There’s a 12/14 chance that this reward is ‘Get 2x Provisions’. This means they’re in a stronger position to achieve this next time. It’s a 2/14 chance, meanwhile, of it being Claim A Quest.)

Have they also met the Provisions stipulation? If yes, next you check: does the AI Player have enough Strength? This amount is the strength on the Chieftain’s card itself, plus the sum of any Horses it has acquired. If it fails this, then they take a Horse (meaning next time they’re more likely to achieve this step). If they are strong enough, they move onto the next step, which is…

…They go raiding! In this circumstance, the AI Player has to pay the Provisions stated on the card. Then they discard any additional strength (in the form of Horses), in accordance to the strength stated on the card. You remove Horses in a way where the AI Player loses as few a Horse cards, if possible.

The actual location that they raid is in accordance to the four squares beneath the country at the top of the card. One of those four squares is yellow. They raid this location in that country (if possible). If it’s no longer available, then they raid the next Raid Space to the right, wrapping back around again to the left-most space. Then the rival Chieftain earns the stated number of victory points on the card. (Which is likely to be more than what the actual board says.)

Finally, there’s a worker placement spot, within the Scythian Village, stated in the bottom-right of the card. The bot blocks this space for you, on your next turn, regardless of whether there’s a worker there or not. Alas, there’s no marker provided for this, to remind you that it’s temporarily unavailable. I use one of the red Wound tokens for this – placing it on the location for the turn. That way I can tell at a glance what I can and cannot visit.

The game proceeds as per usual, with the AI Player earning points when it raids. It also earns the value of its Quests at the end of the game, plus any extra points its Horses (not Eagles) provide. The game-end trigger is the same as a multiplayer game. This is when there’s either only two Settlements left to raid, or two Quests face-up left on the board.

Behind Every Good Raid Sits Provisions And Prep

This Chieftain player mimics a real-life opponent in a decent manner. The nature of the requirements are as such that it’s tough for them to raid every turn – like it is for actual players. If you’ve played Raiders of Scythia before then you’ll know: you can’t raid every turn. You need to spend turns between your raids prepping for the next push. The AI Player has to do this, too.

It’s a relief when you realise that “Ha! They can’t raid this turn! You suck!” But then you see what they earn instead: extra Provisions. Or a strong Horse. Uh oh. Chances are they can raid next time, and you’re about to eat humble pie. If you’ve got your eyes on a particular Settlement, or Quest, you always have to move fast. This provides the same sense of urgency as playing with a human player. It’s super-satisfying in that regard.

This rival Chieftain takes the Horses you might want. (Which could in turn also be the Eagle you had your heart set on.) It hoovers up Quests, without having to pay for them. This can be frustrating, because usually you can predict when players might claim a Quest. There’s no hidden knowledge in regular Raiders with regards to Loot. (Cards, yes, but you always have to assume that a player with a hand of cards has enough Strength to claim a Quest in that manner.) Here, it’s impossible to foresee.

You can now appreciate the range of features of the four different Chieftain Cards. (The ones I bullet-point-listed, earlier.) Those with lesser Strength mean they rely more on gaining Horses. Meanwhile, the Outrider – with a starting Strength of 2 – leaps out of the gate. Plus, the Huntsman and the Outrider gaining +3 Provisions (instead of +2 for the Trader/Lookout)? That means they’ll accumulate those goods quicker. Which means they’ll raid faster, and on a more frequent basis. There’s a clear difficult curve here, which is great for those wanting to test their rival raiding skills.

Are The AI Scheme Cards Themselves Easy To Digest

It’s all about that deck of AI Scheme Cards, then. The rival Chieftain doesn’t roll dice. They have no need for Kumis, nor coins, nor Plunder. They don’t have a meeple that they place, nor one that they remove. They will, of course, remove meeples from locations when they raid. That meeple simply gets removed from the board, though (not into their hand). In this regard, you can try to plan a few moves ahead with regards to where you leave your meeples in the Village. (Because you know the AI Player won’t ever draft them.) This is particularly vital with regards to the grey and red meeples, which you need to Raid in the lucrative spots. (And for visiting the Stables/Chief’s Tent.)

The only thing the AI Player can do is ‘block’ the space for one turn, which could scupper your plans. If you wanted to card count (I can’t do this, but no doubt some folks can), this AI Scheme Deck is only 14 cards. So I’d guess that some folks could work out what the remaining card is in the latter stages of the deck… But I would consider this cheating! When the AI Player has taken 14 turns, you shuffle the Scheme Deck and make a new draw pile, and go again.

The Scheme Deck is, for the most part, iconography-driven. The name of the country sits on a red banner, matching the artwork of the board. You’ll recognise the Provisons, Strength, Horse and VP icons from the regular game, so they won’t alienate you. The blocked location sits on the bottom-right. The red cross through it is a universal symbol for ‘do not enter’. It’s all digestible.

The one thing that you will need to check is the intended Raid Space. (It’s highlighted in yellow beneath the country name). You’ll also need to check which Horse they take. (Again, highlighted as if pinpointing a specific slide to view in a social media carousel.) The ‘Take A Quest’ requirements are arrows, pointing in two directions. The vertical-pointed arrow means ‘start from the top/bottom’. The horizontal one means ‘start from the left/right’.

Final Thoughts: Raiders Of Scythia Solo Mode

Overall, the Raiders of Scythia solo mode is enjoyable due to how accurate it is, mimicking an apt human opponent. The range of difficulties are pleasant. The Trader is a gentle way to learn the solo mode, all the way up to the Outrider being a challenge. You don’t need to learn many, if any new rules at all, in comparison to the base game. As a result, it’s a quick experience, too. If you’re familiar with the game then you could finish this in under 45 minutes. There are a couple of ways to try and set yourself up for chained turns. But the unpredictable ‘blocked spaces’ mechanism means there’s zero guarantees your plan is a flawless one…

Fun, quick, satisfying, and mirrors playing versus a human opponent. The Raiders of Scythia solo mode ticks all the boxes!

Want to play Raiders Of Scythia at a multiplayer count? Click here to read my How To Play guide for the game at 2-4 players!

Zatu Score


  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

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