Scythe is one of my favorite games ever; so much so that I feel like I criminally underrated the game when I originally reviewed it and only gave it a 9/10. The Rise of Fenris expansion is not only the final expansion that will be released for the game, but it’s one of the finest pieces of board game content ever released. The following review is going to be as spoiler-free as I can possibly make it while still getting my point across. Normally I don’t worry about making that clear, as spoilers don’t generally factor into board game reviews, especially board game expansion reviews, but Scythe: The Rise of Fenris isn’t your typical board game expansion. When played as intended, The Rise of Fenris deliberately introduces each element, called Modules, to you over the course of an 8 game campaign, and it does so in a way that is flavorful, exciting, memorable and, most importantly, extremely fun.
Almost every new component in The Rise of Fenris is hidden from view in one way or another. When you first open the box you see that most of the components are themselves hidden inside of other, smaller boxes. This isn’t a legacy-style game, although it feels like one. If you wanted to you could simply open every box and read about how to use the different Modules, but this expansion is designed to be played first as an 8 game persistent campaign. As you play through the campaign, you are introduced to the various new elements deliberately. While it can be hard to delay your gratification and take a peak inside to see all of the new goodies, it is infinitely more rewarding to discover the new bits via the story that unfolds as you play through the campaign’s story line. At the end of the campaign one player will be crowned the overall “winner” but that’s only a minor bonus compared to all of the “oohs” and “aahs” and “WHAT THE HELL!-s” that you will collectively experience with the people you play with.
As you play through the campaign, you get a good feel for the Modules and so, by the end of the campaign, you and the people you play with will know which are your favorites, which you simply like, and which you probably won’t play with regularly. The Rise of Fenris doesn’t succeed because every Module is mind-blowing, nor is every Module that is introduced better than the last. Instead, it succeeds because of the way that it introduces and teaches the content that it contains, and that content, once unlocked (or opened straight away if you can’t wait), exponentially increases the replayability of Scythe in wildly different ways.
My group won’t play with every Module every time, there are some Modules that we will only use when we are playing at certain player counts, there are others that we will absolutely use every time, and yet others that change certain aspects of the game in such a way that we rotate through using them from game to game to keep us on our toes. There is so much content in the box that it would be worthwhile even if you chose not to play the campaign (which has a branching path by the way so it too is re-playable) and the game also lays out a way to use the Automa with multiple players AND it includes a fully cooperative mode. When you add in the content from The Wind Gambit, especially the Resolution Tiles, you get a mind-boggling amount of variation that will keep Scythe on gaming tables for years to come.
The bottom line:
Scythe: The Rise of Fenris has set a new standard for board game expansions. Not only does it exponentially expand the replayability of Scythe by adding 11 individual modules that you can mix and match, but it is designed to be played over an 8-game, persistent campaign that gradually teaches you everything you need to know about each module while simultaneously telling a compelling story. The campaign itself offers some divergent paths, so even it offers replayability once you’ve played through it and revealed everything that Rise of Fenris has to offer. The Modules are great, but when combined with the campaign, played as intended, The Rise of Fenris is a box of delights, revealing more and more of its hidden treasures with each passing game while teaching you how to use each of the modules organically in an exciting, memorable fashion. Superb.
The copy of Scythe: The Rise of Fenris used for this review was purchased by the author directly from the publisher. You can pick your own copy up here.
Scythe: The Rise of Fenris is an absolute triumph. Every component is high quality, the campaign is deep, interesting, and memorable, and the Modules it contains expand the game in just about every direction. If you like Scythe, even a little bit, then this truly is a must-have expansion. Scythe is already a modern classic, and The Rise of Fenris just makes it better.