Empires have risen and fallen in the aftermath of the Great War, and Europa stands on the precipice of a new era. The economy is robust, morale is high, and defenses are strong. There are reports from the countryside of strange soldiers with glowing eyes, but they seem distant and harmless. Scythe: The Rise of Fenris, the conclusion to the Scythe expansion trilogy, enables two different options for any player count (1-5 if you have Scythe; 1-7 players if you have Invaders from Afar):
- Campaign (8 games): The story of Scythe continues and concludes with an 8-episode campaign. While the campaign includes surprises, unlocks, and persistent elements, it is fully resettable and replayable.
- Modular (11 modules): Instead of—or after—the campaign, the new modules in The Rise of Fenris can be used in various combinations to cater to player preferences. These modules are compatible with all Scythe expansions, and they include a fully cooperative module that isn’t part of the competitive campaign.
While the exact nature of the episodes and modules will remain a mystery (most of these components are in 5 secret tuckboxes and on 6 punchboards), the components in this expansion include a detailed episodic guidebook, 13 plastic miniatures, 62 wooden tokens, 2 custom dice, 25 tiles, 100+ cardboard tokens, a campaign log, and 1 achievement sheet.
This is not a standalone game. Scythe: The Rise of Fenris requires the core game Scythe to play. Additionally, extra play features can be added using any of the other two Scythe expansions, Invaders from Afar and The Wind Gambit.
Warning: this review contains very minor spoilers for Scythe: The Rise of Fenris. To remain completely spoiler free, skip to the second half of the review.
Part 1: Rise of Fenris campaign diary
Game 1 – Friday, 29th March 2019
-Hey, that was pretty cool
Game 2 - Monday, 6th May 2019
-What happened...I usually rock this faction
Game 3 - Friday, 31st May 2019
- Ha ha, that's more like it. Talk to the mechs, losers
Game 4 - Friday, July 5th 2019
- Oh no, why did I do that last game? I could have...
Game 5 - Saturday, August 31st 2019
-Oh. My. Goodness.
Game 6 - Friday, September 20th 2019
-Hey, wait! I need to do that again! What do you mean 'no take backs?' It was only two months ago.
Game 7 - Friday, October 25th 2019
- When can we play again? When? Tell me, when?
Scythe: The Rise of Fenris post campaign review
Friday 15th November 2019
Eight games and eight months after we began, the dust finally settles on our Scythe: The Rise of Fenris campaign.
Each game building on previous instalments while providing a unique twist of its own; Rise of Fenris takes players on a journey through its alternate reality setting to place that is still recognisably Scythe. Just unlike Scythe as we had known it before.
Clearly, I can’t say too much about how the story unfolds or the individual games within the campaign. However, some of the practicalities, I can discuss.
More, More, More
The components are up to the usual Stonemaier games standard and are abundant. Many of them secreted away in boxes that are only opened at specific points in the game’s story.
However, being a campaign rather than a legacy style game means that no components are destroyed. The campaign elements of Fenris can be reused in future, non-campaign, games using a modular 'mix and match' approach.
This ensures a tremendous amount of replayability. It's possible to replay the entire Fenris campaign with the same players using new factions, to make different choices with the same faction, to play with new players or to add just one element that you particularly enjoyed to an otherwise standard Scythe game.
The modularity of the campaign is such that there is no need to play the campaign at all. You can “skip to the end”, so to speak. Choosing to do that, however, would mean you miss out on the story elements. While not exactly great literature, these do provide an entertaining framework for Scythe just begging to be read aloud in a deep, husky, movie trailer voice for the amusement of friends.
And the shared journey through The Rise Of Fenris campaign has been one of my most memorable experiences in board gaming. A monthly serial thriller as close to ‘edge of seat’ as a board game is likely to get.
War Against the Machine
The solo player is thoroughly spoiled by Scythe: The Rise of Fenris. So much so that I began to play the campaign solo before we finished the multiplayer.
The original Automa, one of the best solo ‘bots’ available, morphs over time, developing and adapting over the course of the campaign, providing a challenging opponent throughout. Also included are the popular, yet still ‘semi-official’, rules for playing against multiple Automa simultaneously.
Ever wanted to run a multi-faction Scythe game with yourself as the only human player? Well, now you can. Sadly, additional Automa decks are not provided. However, to paraphrase an old advert, there is a fan made app for that.
Are there any downsides to Scythe: The Rise of Fenris? Yes, there are.
Easily the most significant is the increased set up and take down time. By the end of the campaign there are simply so many things to put away. As lovely as the new components are and as exciting as it feels to open the boxes, tidying up post game is a pain.
Unsurprisingly, a degree of dedication with a regular group is required to fully enjoy the multiplayer campaign. While it's possible early during the very early stages (with some friendly house rules and accommodating companions), adding and removing players once the campaign is fully underway is not easy.
For the Fans
Rise of Fenris is Scythe plus. A fan’s daydream of possibilities made reality. This is more stuff, more variety, more choices, however, it is still Scythe. Wonderful, if you enjoy Scythe. However, if you don’t like Scythe, nothing here will change your mind. Any complaint you may have had with the base game is almost certainly not fixed here.
However, for fans of Scythe, be they devoted long time die hard's or more recent converts like me, Rise of Fenris is everything you could have hoped for and much, much more.
Whether taken as a shared journey with friends, a war of attrition against a cardboard counterpart, a pick and mix of your favourite mechanisms or a combination of all the above, Scythe: Rise of Fenris is, quite simply, stunning.