At this point, it’s pretty hard to have a conversation about the modern board game industry without mentioning Scythe. For many game groups, this is the game that keeps on giving. The base design provides infinite possibilities, and each game always ends up feeling a little different despite the game’s static map. Scythe is, without a doubt, a model of impeccable game design, which is why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you’re looking for more.
While there are some who argue that Scythe could be endlessly replayed over and over in its base form, there are a few different expansions and add-ons available, and it can be perplexing deciding which one is best for your group.
Is one expansion better than the other? Do they all work in harmony with each other? Do they make the game hopelessly more complex? These are all good questions, and we’ve got the answers. Here is our ranked list of the Scythe expansions:
3 – Scythe: Invaders From Afar
Invaders From Afar was Scythe’s first expansion, and it remains today as the simplest one. The purpose of Invaders should be fairly obvious for anyone who has the base game of Scythe — it fills those two empty player spots on the board with new factions. The implications of this are two-fold — it means that the total player count increases from five to seven, and it gives you two new factions to experiment with. True to the other teams, these new factions have their own color with unique mechs, powers, and characters.What It Includes:
- Two new player factions — with corresponding player mats, miniatures, and tokens
Two new player mats
Why It’s In Third Place
It may seem like a sting being in “last place,” on our expansion list, but with only three options to choose from, and each one being pretty great, this ranking is less a statement about the quality of Invaders, and more of a testament to how good the other ones are.
But the reason why Invaders takes third place here is because it doesn’t have a whole lot to offer that you don’t already have in the base game. It offers two new factions which have unique abilities relative to the others, and it does increase the max player count, but there are no new mechanics or changes that expand the game for everyone involved.
As far as the two new factions go, they’re pretty interesting, and you won’t find yourself playing them like the other teams. Their most notable quirk is that they each have their own set of tokens which can be left on the board, which bestow certain effects. The purple team can lay traps on the board, and the green guys can double the value of hexes that they control. This means that both new factions are designed around area control tactics, albeit in their own different ways.
There are also some other differences — the new factions aren’t locked in by rivers at the beginning of the game and they don’t have the extra movement mech ability that’s standard to every other faction in the base game. If you feel like you’ve mastered each base game faction, be prepared to unlearn what you have learned when you play Invaders From Afar.
The viability of Invaders From Afar depends on the needs of your game group For example, if you desperately want to be able to accommodate more players, this is arguably the best expansion. But when it comes down to it, every Scythe expansion is a worthwhile purchase, no matter which order you get them in!
2 – Scythe: The Wind Gambit
The Wind Gambit is Scythe’s second expansion, and, accordingly, takes second place on our list. As if Scythe’s pseudo-WW1 industrial theme wasn’t unique enough, The Wind Gambit ups the ante with airships — these not only include cool, imposing miniatures which add some stylish flair to your board, they also have new components which will shake up your games, among some other interesting additions to Scythe’s star-based victory system.What It Includes:
- Airship miniatures for every faction (including the ones in Invaders From Afar)
- Airship tiles (which add special rules)
- 8 Resolution cards (which change the way the game ends)
Why It’s Second Place
The Wind Gambit offers more game-changing additions than Invaders, but it also doesn’t quite pack the punch that Rise of Fenris does (more on that below), making it a solid second place on our list.
While airships appear to be the undeniable draw of Wind Gambit, our favorite feature is actually the resolution system, which changes the way that the game is won. There are eight resolution cards, and if you decide to play with one, the game no longer ends via the traditional six-star method. In some games, the factory might explode after a set point, ending the game and affecting the board. In others, two new objectives may be added from the deck which all players can pursue, giving everyone more paths to victory. We love this system, and it can really make the game feel new.The Airships
But you’re probably wondering about those airships, so let’s talk about them. The airships are pretty cool, though they might not have as much of an impact as you think. On their own, they’re basically just transports. They can move units across the board, while also being able to float over rivers and lakes. More than anything, airships exist to expand your movement options. They’re also available from the start of the game, which changes the nature of the first several turns, since people are no longer scrambling to break past the river.
While adding a flying bus doesn’t sound that impactful, it can actually change the game quite a bit, and experienced players will find all kinds of ways to use this new movement to their advantage. However, airships get much more interesting when you take their variable powers into account, which are different across every game.
In each game, two airship tiles are revealed, which add an aggressive ability and a passive ability to all the airships in play. Every player has the same abilities, but they ensure that every game is unique. Some cards buff your combat abilities if your airship is nearby, while others give you new abilities or even more movement options.
The Wind Gambit truly changes the nature of Scythe, but not in a way where it feels like the fundamental design has been betrayed. The changes also aren’t needlessly complex, so it’s pretty easy for any player to learn the new rules. Overall, it’s a solid expansion that is worth your money.
1 – Scythe: Rise of Fenris
We’ve saved the best for last. While every Scythe expansion adds great value to your game, none of them are stuffed with as much content as Rise of Fenris. Just opening the weighty box alone, it feels like you’re unboxing a brand new game. Fenris is our favorite expansion, because instead of making just one or two major additions, it gives you a veritable smorgasbord of new ways to add variability to your Scythe games.What It Includes:
- A fully resettable, narrative-based campaign
- A new co-operative mode
- 11 modular additions, including:
- New optional win conditions
- New powers and abilities for all players
- Alliance and rivalry mechanics
- New map elements
Why It’s Our Top Choice
Fenris is tricky to write about, because the full scope of the expansion is designed to be unveiled throughout the campaign. It is the intent of the game for these things to be kept secret until they’re discovered, so out of respect for the game’s designers, I will only discuss those things in a spoiler-marked section.
But here’s Fenris in a nutshell: the expansion provides 11 modular additions, which can be implemented into any game of Scythe at your will. Ignore the campaign for a moment — each addition is designed to be compatible with any typical Scythe game, so even if you have zero interest in a Legacy-like adventure, Fenris still delivers as a straight expansion.Without spoiling the specifics, we’ll mention some of the broad strokes that you get from these expansions (if you want concrete details, skip to the drop-down below). Among the many modules, you’ll find plenty of new powers and abilities that players can use, which can differ from game to game. You’ll find ways to adjust the victory parameters, such as making the game more peace- or war-oriented. You’ll find ways to increase interaction with other players (whether friendly or aggressive), and there are one or two creative new additions to the map which are totally new and unique.
All of these can be mixed and matched as you please, which means you can play with all of them together for a super deluxe Scythe experience, or you might just pick one or two to add some small differences.
If you want to read more about the specific components that Fenris adds, feel free to open up the drop-down below. We won’t be discussing campaign spoilers, only the new modules that can be added to any game.
What About the Campaign?
If you ARE interested in the campaign, you’ll find a lot to love in Fenris. The campaign is similar to a Legacy game in nature, in that it covers a larger narrative that plays out over eight sessions, with certain actions in each game having ramifications in future playthroughs. The main difference is that there are no permanent consequences, such as ripping up cards or marking the board. This makes the campaign fully resettable and replayable, which may come as a joy to certain game groups, since the whole journey can play out in different ways.
The campaign functions as a narrative adventure, and as a slow-burn tutorial to all the new mechanics that Fenris adds. While these aren’t difficult to learn on their own, each new game in the campaign introduces something new, until you reach the point where all the new modules have seamlessly blended together.
We’ll refrain from posting campaign spoilers in this article, but it suffices to say that it’s a fun ride, and as far as storytelling quality goes, it’s about what you’d expect from a game like this. It didn’t totally blow us away, but it was a far cry from being a bore.
It’s hard to pick a clear favorite among these expansions, since every single one is well-designed in its own right. While Fenris is the clear winner from the sheer amount of value that’s in the box, it’s also the priciest option, and some players might have different priorities, such as maxing out the player count with Invaders From Afar. But regardless of whether you buy all of the expansions or just one of them, the good news is that you can’t really go wrong. Like the parent game, each one is well-designed and thoroughly enjoyable.
What do you think the best expansion is? Feel free to sound off in the comments!