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  • Artwork
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You Might Like

  • Push your luck combat

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  • Setup can be fiddly

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Raiders Of Scythia Solo Review


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

You might like

  • Push your luck combat

Might not like

  • Setup can be fiddly

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