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Scythe – The Rise of Fenris: Episode One

The following writing is part of a series detailing the individual episodes of the Scythe expansion The Rise of Fenris.  Please note, there will be SPOILERS.  If you have not played this expansion and want it to be a fresh experience when you do, please stop reading now.  

Scythe is one of my favorite games and because of that, I’ve wanted to do either a write-up or a video on it since I started this website, but what to do?  There is already so much content produced about this game, what would differentiate mine from the others?  To answer this question, I’ve looked to the expansion, The Rise of Fenris.  As this expansion is campaign based, I will be detailing each of my episodic playthroughs and discussing some of the happenings within the game as well as my thoughts on each episode’s contents.  

I’m playing through this whole expansion between myself and two Automa characters, so look for added commentary on how this experience is working.  Please note that, when possible, I am using the Android app, Scythekick, created by Timothy Cherna, to control the Automa characters.  While the Android version does not have support for the Rise of Fenris expansion, it can still help with handling a lot of the movement rules and the multiple Automa decks.  If needed, I am referring to the official rules on Automa movement and combat. 


“As the nineteenth century drew to a close, the Industrial Revolution was in full swing with engineers and scientists testing the limits of power generated from steam, coal, and oil…

“In the midst of this technological race, a scientist named Nikola Tesla brazenly squandered his life’s savings – and the money of many investors – to build a town-sized “Factory” in the heart of Transylvania.  Shortly after its construction, rumors began to flow from the Factory regarding the creation of wild experiments and fanciful machines, all of no discernable value…

“In 1910, the tsar of the Rusviet Union narrowly survived an assassination attempt.  Europa had reached a tipping point.  Just a few months after the attempted assassination of the Rusviet tsar, the Great War had begun.  It had seemed so glamourous during the early skirmishes of the Great War, but no one was prepared for war on an industrial scale…

“From the outset, Tesla had known that his machines had the potential for death and destruction.  But in his eagerness to test his inventions, and to finally profit on their potential after so many years of ridicule and financial losses, he never truly considered the devastating potential of his designs…

“Eventually, Tesla had to see for himself, and he left his work and his Factory and toured the countryside.  He saw bodies everywhere.  Soldiers, horses, farmers, families, children.  He reeled.  Some say he went mad.  Whatever the case, he retreated to the Factory, ceasing all manufacturing and dismissing his workers.  He took his daughter, closed the Factory doors, and together they disappeared.” 1

Above is excerpts from the spiral-bound notebook that comes with the Fenris expansion.  It comes from a Backstory section that sets the stage for the story that will be told throughout the eight episodes found within the Fenris box.    Once I familiarized myself with the story, it was time to choose the factions and my player mat.  I let the Scythekick app handle randomly choosing the factions and I ended up with:

  • Myself: Polania faction with the Patriotic player mat.  The Republic of Polania is led by Anna and the bear Wojtek, and happens to be the faction that was accused (by Grigori Rasputin) of the assassination attempt on the Rusviet tsar, referenced in the introduction.
  • Automa 1: Crimea faction led by Zebra and the hawk, Kar.
  • Automa 2: Saxony faction led by Gunter and the twin wolves, Nacht and Tag.

With the factions chosen, the story set, and the board taking up a huge swath of my table, I turned the pages in the spiral-notebook to begin the first episode.

Scythe Rise of Fenris Episode 1 Banner

Episode One: A New Era (March 1921)

The nations of Europa clung to a fragile peace in the aftermath of the Great War…

“The Factory city-state remained closed, though much of it was still accessible.  It seemed Tesla had retreated quickly, as the Factory still contained many wonders that the curious person could access with only a little ingenuity – as several had done over the past few years.  Yet, there is a large inner hold that remains locked tight, and no one has yet penetrated it…

“No one wants to be responsible for reigniting the war, so most skirmishes remain isolated affairs, quickly hushed up.  There are reports from the countryside of strange soldiers with glowing eyes, but these are largely disregarded as the tall tales of peasants stirring up trouble or seeking attention…

“Europa stands on the precipice of a new era, but its ultimate fate remains undecided.” 1

Setup and Rules

Scythe Rise of Fenris Episode 1 A - The three Factions and their Leaders, readying for battle
The three Factions and their Leaders, readying for battle

As you start a new episode in The Rise of Fenris, the notebook will explain any changes made to the normal setup as well as special rules that apply.  For anyone hoping that Fenris will start out with a definitive bang, changing the whole game up, you will probably be sorely disappointed as the first episode is played almost identically to a normal game of Scythe.

Personally, I enjoy this touch as it let me re-familiarize myself with the game (as I hadn’t played it in a few months when starting this series) and would also allow a new player to take part in the campaign, using this first episode as a training ground for the rest of the episodes.

However, there are two slight changes to the setup and rules.  First, a random Objective card is placed next to the Triumph Track.  This acts as an additional Objective that all players can attempt to complete, to place one of their Star tokens on.  If you are unfamiliar with Scythe, completing actions and placing Stars on the Triumph Track is both a large source of end-game points as well as the trigger for the game itself to end.  Once a player (or Automa) has placed its sixth star on the Triumph Track, the game ends.

The second change was also in relation to the Triumph Track.  I was instructed to take the new Influence Tokens and place one on each spot on the Triumph Track as well as the Objective card mentioned above.  The rules stated that as myself, or my Automa enemies, placed Stars that we were to also pick up the Influence Token found on that spot, though the reason for these tokens was not explained pre-game.  

Lastly, before playing the first episode, players can choose one of the Perks listed on their Campaign Log to activate for free.  Typically, these perks will cost $15 to activate each game, and players will pay out of their Victory-Points-turned-Money that accrues from episode to episode.  For this episode, I chose the Perk for +2 on the Popularity Track, which got me slightly closer to a Popularity of ten, where both of the Automa characters started (and would stay the whole game.)


As the nation of Polania, Encounter Cards become very important so that you can maximize the Faction’s special ability.  When the Polania character miniature reaches an unclaimed Encounter space, they are allowed to pick two of the three choices on the card.  With this in mind, I wanted to get Anna to the one reachable Encounter space outside of my base quickly.  My other goal was to get a Mine built sooner rather than later.  The reason this was a priority is that there is no natural way for a Polania player to access the Metal resource that is needed to build Mechs.  But with a Mine, I could move workers across the nearby river and start generating Metal.

It was my good luck that my Encounter Card allowed me to choose an option to build a structure for free.  Obviously, I chose the Mine therefore skipping the need to sit around multiple turns to generate the Wood needed to build structures.  With the Mine built, I sent some workers out to generate the Metal with my eyes set on launching my Mech that would unlock my first Character/Mech ability, called Submerge.  This ability is one of my favorites as it allows Polania to not only move onto Lake hexagons, but also move from one Lake to another, much like the Mountain regions.  But first thing is first, I needed to get enough Metal to deploy the Mech.

Scythe The Rise of Fenris Episode 1 B, My troops stayed close to my base while I built up my structures and population of workers.
My troops stayed close to my base while I built up my structures and population of workers.

While I was working on this, my Automa opponents were busy getting on the scoreboard.  Crimea was the first to gain a Star through the Automa Star Chart.  Quickly after, the Crimean Khanate was also the first opponent to reach the Factory space, thus taking one of the three limited Factory cards.  Saxony was not going to stand idly by, so they took to the offensive, and attacked Crimea right outside their base.  While Saxony won that skirmish, Crimea engaged elsewhere on the map, and took a victory over Saxony there thus allowing each to earn a Star on the Triumph Track.

Though I was not expanding too far outside my starting area or placing Stars for combat like my opponents, I was busy expanding my forces.  I was able to place two Stars on the Triumph Track for building all four structures as well as getting all eight workers on the board.  During this time, Saxony had found a way to reach the Factory, leaving me with only one choice of a Factory Card, but it didn’t matter as I had different plans.

One of the two Objective Cards I got at the beginning of the game, required that I control two adjacent territories to the Factory but have zero Factory Cards.  With a few Mechs built up at this point, I attacked a Saxony territory with both a Mech and my Character and came out victorious.  At the end of this turn, I was able to claim a Star for winning the combat as well as placing another for meeting my Objective.  

Scythe The Rise of Fenris Episode 1 C, Although I never made it to the Factory, holding these two adjacent territories allowed me to complete my objective.
Although I never made it to the Factory, holding these two adjacent territories allowed me to complete my objective.

At this point, I had realized that even though I had a ton of workers, I had not spread my forces very far and both Crimea and Saxony were holding a ton of territories, which was going to hurt me at scoring time.  Knowing that the Automa characters could never reach the top section of the Popularity Track, I poured all I had into getting to the upper ranks, hoping this would offset the other areas where I was lacking.  

Saxony ended up getting their sixth Star on the board, and like that, Episode One came to a close.

Scythe The Rise of Fenris Episode 1 D, End-game state. Hopefully my 17 on the Population Track is enough to propel me past my opponents.
End-game state. Hopefully my 17 on the Population Track is enough to propel me past my opponents.

Conclusion & Rewards

When scoring was over, my Polania Faction had come out on top, but not by much.  I ended with a score of 74, while Saxony scored 71 and Crimea came up third with 65 points.  Honestly, I only ended up winning because of my push to get to that upper rank of the Popularity Track.  I really squandered some chances to get my workers moved around the board to take up large amounts of territory but a win is a win.

I converted my 74 points to $74 on my Campaign Log, eager to see how I would use that in the future.  Subsequently, I filled out a log for each of my opponents and recorded their points.  I also filled out the Triumph Track portion of the log, where you attempt to fill up rows or columns based on the Triumphs you completed during each game.  At the end of the entire campaign, each completed row or column will add a whopping $25 to your total score so it definitely helps to diversify your Triumphs.

The special reward for the Episode was to use the Influence Tokens, gained through the Triumph Track, to vote on what scenario was going to be used in Episode Two.  The Automas vote on whether or not they have an even or odd amount of tokens.  After the votes were cast, the War scenario won over the Peace scenario for Episode Two.

My thoughts on Episode One is that I understand why it is structured so closely to a normal game of Scythe but… I can definitely see some people feeling let down by the outcome.  The reward to be able to influence the vote for the second episode is nicely interactive but at the same time, the box is full of neat punchboards and secret boxes.  After completing Episode One, 12.5% of the campaign is over and they don’t even tease you with anything special to make you immediately set up Episode Two and take a crack at it.  I think this was a slight miss but knowing that the Campaign was created by very capable hands at Stonemaier Games, I will trust the process and am excited for Episode Two.

1The Rise of Fenris campaign notebook created by Jamey Stegmaier and based on the characters and world created by Jakub Rozalski

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