The Expansions of Scythe - Ranked

Richard Mathis | 17 February, 2021


          
            The Expansions of Scythe - Ranked

So many expansions

I’m a huge fan of Scythe, I’m also a huge sucker for game expansions, which consequentially has resulted in me acquiring… well everything that I thought would make a meaningful difference at the table...

Why expansions?

I love Scythe, why wouldn't I love more?

Some people aren't a fan of expansions, or they worry about game balance knowing that adding exponentially more rules is likely to introduce more opportunities for broking changes.  It's true, more rules means you're more likely to encounter unbalanced scenarios.

I don't care, I love expansions, so if you're here, hopefully you like expansions too, and while sometimes expansions fix a broken game, in this scenario, when the base game is so fantastic? We're looking for the expansions that contribute to the overall quality of the game.

TLDR? Here is my Quick list, with Amazon Buy links, if you have a FLGS, buy there, I don't have one!

What am I NOT covering?

I’m not going to cover the Rise of Fenris in too much detail.  Its a legacy style expansion to the base game.  Its a pretty cool concept, playable as either a campaign in the style of other legacy games, or a series of 11 modules that can be added to the game.  It isn’t “really” a legacy game, at least from the perspective that the game is resettable and can be played more than once, but it feels like a legacy game in that the first time you play should be a complete secret.    It isn’t for everyone, and quite a bit different from the base game, but its done at the same level of quality as everything else.  I’m a huge fan of Charterstone, another more traditional legacy game from Stonemaiier, and this is a very cool addition of a legacy campaign to the base game.

Should you get Rise of Fenris? YES!  11 “modules” that change up the game even more, I can’t say much more than that because it’s meant to be revealed as you play through the campaign, but YES, get it!

What didn't I buy?

I didn’t buy the metal mechs, the neoprene playmat,and I didn’t buy the Scythe Complete Rulebook.  I bought most everything else that was available, minus various exclusives that may not be available now or when I bought things, like certain Kickstarter items.  



Mechs are made of metal, Heroes aren't

Stonemaier's official policy is that they are not going to make the characters out of metal, because mechs are made out of metal, and people (and animals!) aren't.   This is fine by me, because the metal upgrades, while cool, don't do much to make the game that much more "wow" when the game already looks and feels amazing. Add to the fact that once you switch to the metal and now the minis aren't the right colors, requiring addons like colored plastic rings, and I'd just rather not.  

The reality is, that unless you paint or do something, the already expensive metal miniatures are only going to make the game "more" confusing, not less, so I'm against the metal  upgrades unless you really want to paint or upgrade your minis.  This isn't just Scythe actually, this is any game that uses colored figures that replaces them all with identically colored metal versions.

The Realistic Resource Pack

I didn't buy this.  I actually regret not buying this.  If it was available when I ordered the base game, I would have.  They look amazing, and honestly would help address some of the issues that new players have with not knowing what the resources are supposed to be.  Having said that, I don’t have them, and while I look longingly at the set, I can’t justify the expense.  My birthday is coming up, if someone wanted to get me a copy, my address is here

The Scythe Complete Rulebook

The Scythe Complete Rulebook, honestly, is probably a pretty good deal. I do absolutely love the Omega rules book for Cthulhu Wars which is a similar concept, so I’m thinking of buying it.  If you have it, and think it adds meaningfully to your game, by all means, comment so I know if I should grab it!

The Neoprene playmat

If this makes sense for you, get it, but otherwise, I have no use for it, and I love the base game.

The Expansions

The Board Extension - Maybe

There is a cool bonus feature to the core game, if you flip the board over, the same map exists, just with larger hexes, but part of the map is clipped off.  If you like the idea of an EVEN BIGGER map to play on, buy the board extension, it lets you play with an absolutely massive map.  I've played with it a time or two, but even on my 5x8 custom gaming table, its a bit much. 

The Kickstarter Promos - If you can

So I don’t have all of the promos, but I do have some that came with my edition of the core box set, namely the metal coins and the extra dials.  The metal coins are fantastic, and I’m a huge fan!  To me, there is something valuable in coinage that has weight, not just because they're fantastic and immersive, but because metal coins don't move as easily if you bump the table, which for me and my clumsy group, is a huge win!


Extra Dials - Pass

I have the 5 dials that came as bonuses with the kickstarter.  Honestly I don't think it makes sense to have more than 2.  The colors don't 100% make sense to my group, they don't get why some of them can have some and others can't, skip them.  Only 2 people fight at a time, you don't need more than that.

Sorry, if that wasn't clear, I'm not a fan of the dials, don't go out of your way to get extras.

The Modular Map - Pass

Do you have people complaining that different faction starting locations are giving them unfair advantages?  Or maybe you're just bored, the modular map can change things up!  Or just get new friends, I don't know...

We played with this once, it was probably the most frustrating game of Scythe we've played, and I wasn't a fan at all.  

The core issue, is that the game feels beautiful and sensible with how the base map is made.  It feels thematic, and you can get a sense how the Rusviets have so much population, then just take that beautiful sensible map, and shuffle it all up.   If you're "really" bored, or you don't care about the theme and just want to play with different balances, I guess this map might be for you, otherwise skip this expansion.

The Legendary Box - Strong Buy

I bought this box.  I have too many games, and too little space.  This box is for the people who really care about the artwork of the game and don't want to take away from the aesthetics by combining the games into one.

The Legendary Box succeeds on the aesthetics front.  However, in terms of organization...  it isn't really great.  The solution is to stuff everything into the 3 boxes inside, no organizers, just kinda randomly.  I have a bunch of these kinds of organizational mega-boxes, and this is both one of the most beautiful and the least useful.  Sorry, I don't regret buying it though, as I knew what I was getting into.

Scythe Encounters - Definite Buy

These encounters were designed by the players, refined and ultimately published by Stonemaier.  They are "very" different, take this example, it can function effectively like a factory card, appending to the list of player actions the player is capable of.  I actually wish there were more options for new options beyond the factory, because this played very cool in my game.

If you love encounters, and my group LOVES encounters, get this box, they are very very cool.

The Wind Gambit  - Definite Buy

This expansion, honestly, I haven’t played with more than a half dozen times.  The primary reason for that, is that for me, I typically have new players in most games of Scythe, and the game is overwhelming enough that I don’t want to make the game any more complex for new players than it already is.  However, if your group is ready for another layer of complexity? Then this expansion is amazing.

There are two modules included in this expansion, which is Scythe-speak for rule plugins that add or change core game functionality. Typically, you can play with any or all of these modules, and most players who use The Wind Gambit, will probably play with both modules.

The Aesthetics

The first module is the Airship module, which is what you’d expect with this expansion that primarily focuses on the airships.  The airships are big, heavy, and beautiful, but they don’t make me as happy as Invaders From Afar.  The airships are all identical, except for the colors of their ships, and while they have different abilities every game, every faction shares the same abilities.  I totally get it, its difficult to balance, and the game is already less than completely balanced as it is.  That doesn’t change the fact that Scythe is an asymmetric game, and expansions that provide the exact same advantage to everyone just doesn’t feel true to the spirit of the game.  Combine that with the fact that all of the ships have the same mold? Disappointing.  Do they look great? Yes they do, but do the ships look as unique to the factions? Not at all.

But what about the new rules?

Ok, but what about what the airship module does for the game mechanics? Honestly, its pretty cool.  Each game, you reveal one passive and one combat tile which affects what the airships do in the game.  These are pretty cool effects that can meaningfully change the nature of the game in some pretty cool ways.  If your group is experienced with Scythe, I recommend this module for sure, it makes the game more interesting and complex (in a good way).


So take this passive effect for example, your airship gains the ability to to build as if it were a worker.  I don't know in your group, but in mine, often it can be difficult to take advantage of the bonus build, or sometimes players can be frustrated with getting over a river, well in this game, "everyone" will have opportunities to build regardless of river.  This particular game could be "very" different than a normal game, and different is good!

This tile is an example of the effects on war that the airship can have, suddenly war can be "very" profitable, which again, will likely drive very different behavior than normal.  

The second module is the Resolution module, 8 new end game scenarios that replace the default game scenario of "Ending when the first player gains their sixth star".  Many of the new endgame scenarios are still related to the achievement of six stars, but often with a twist.  There is a bit of a problem with the six star endgame scenario in the core game. The game can suddenly end without people expecting it, which is, in my experience, always disappointing.  

Invaders From Afar - Definite Buy!

This is it, the Number One expansion that I think everyone should have. Two extra factions that are great, they help complete the map, and they allow you to play with up to 7 players.  One of the factions is a Japanese themed faction with the ability to lay traps and begins the game directly on the same continent as the Factory.  The other faction is Albion, a celtic inspired faction that is about acquiring additional territory and being able to defend it.

I'm not saying the expansion is perfect, but I don't play tournament Scythe, and my feelings aren't hurt if another player seems to have an unfair advantage, I just don't think the game should be played without this expansion, it feels incomplete without it.  Statistically, they may be slightly weaker than the core factions, notably Crimea and the Rusviets, but for normal gameplay, they’re fun and interesting, and I’ve managed to win with them regardless.

Akiko and her trusty monkey Jiro are the hero of the Togawa Shogunate and they have a couple traits that make them my favorite.   

 One, they get these trap tokens which make them dangerous to attack, if you've placed a trap there.  You can teleport to the traps with the right mech upgrade (shinobi), and you can also count the space as owned land if there is no other resources on top of the space.  All in all, its a super cool ability and often gives you a strong chance of laying claim to the factory, which in turn counts as three spaces. 

 Second, they don't begin on an island, they're free to immediately begin moving in, getting encounter cards and often getting first chance at the factory.   Their downside, is that they don't get a +1 movement mech ability, something which often really frustrates me during gameplay, but I still have fun with the faction regardless..

Connor & Max, of Clan Albion.  Wearing his kilt because when you're that tough, you don't care about the cold!

I actually haven't played this faction. We randomly assign factions and I just haven't played it, but they are a warfaring faction.  They have a similar token-based controlling mechanic like the Shogunate, they can use tunnels to cross rivers, and in general are mobile and like to gain points through warfare.  Honestly, I'm not partial to their play style, so I'm not sad I haven't played the.  However I've seen them win and I think they're interesting.