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The other idea also involved a separate board, but this would be a 7 hex mat that represented interior of the Factory. One discussion we had about this separate board was whether it would be off to the side or an overlay on the main map. As an overlay it would keep the visual attention of the game on the center of the map where it belongs, but it would overwrite the six territories surrounding the Factory, and that created some complications for how players enter the Factory, and from where.
If it were placed off to the side, it risked being ignored or forgotten by some or all players, even though it would add more flexibility and create fewer rules problems for how to enter it. Plus, Scythe already has a lot of table presence, so there would be no place to put something like this so that all players could access it easily. As for what it would do, we considered a number of options.
This is one place where I considered my interest in players starting with some of their stars on the map. Remember that this episode is about searching for Vesna, so we needed some way to represent that mechanically in the game. I thought that having players place three of their stars on designated territories inside the Factory, and then requiring them to go recapture them all might be an interesting and Interactive way to represent the search. Jamey like that too, but we considered other things as well.
Workers would be able to occupy those territories and produce on them, but they would render things such as coins or power. At any rate, we eventually decided we had to just drop the separate board idea altogether. We liked it a lot, but it was just creating too many rules and interaction problems while not adding enough in terms of compelling gameplay to compensate for that. I actually like the final system we settled on for searching the factory quite a lot. It lacks some of the gameplay Innovation we may have been able to work into an alternate board, but it is clean and simple and creates a sense of tension around the search.
I like the tension created by wondering if the player at the factory is going to find Vesna or not, and I like the decision players are faced with about taking a factory card that might be suboptimal just to get more movement options. Jamey told me fairly early on in the design process that the Vesna faction was going to be included in the game. He had actually already done quite a lot of the design work for her as well. If Togawa and Albion are more intermediate level difficulty, then I consider Vesna to be an advanced faction, both to play as and to play against.
Thematically, I love how she works. As the daughter of Tesla, she has access to basically all the best technology from all of the factions at least from everything that existed before she and her father were captured. She is highly flexible and adaptable, but that can make her a little bit fragile as well. Vesna was designed to be a fast faction. In her first version, she only had a Riverwalk ability, and the other 3 Mech abilities were blank. In her random draw of abilities, she had three or four Speed tiles, so it was possible for her to be extremely fast, but at the expense of other types of mobility or combat abilities.
However, once again play testing revealed what should have been an obvious hole. The fact is that Scythe is not a game about combat, as we so often say, so skipping combat abilities for increased speed had very little negative effect. However, being extremely fast turned out to be very, very valuable. We eventually decided to give her a speed ability on her faction mat and take all of her speed bonuses out of her random draw. We replaced those with some of the new abilities in the Mech Mods.
During the design process, we were also thinking about how she would play in ordinary games and that is where the unique Mech abilities can really shine. Even if you are not playing with the Mech Mods, Vesna has access to some of those unique abilities, and I like that. That episode was also about searching for someone, although it had a pickup and deliver type of mechanism that was even more challenging than the search.
Fun Fact 2: It actually fit organically into the story. I almost left it out at first, before deciding it would be fun to just slip in there. The original Ep.
Scythe: The Rise of Fenris
The convention scenario is a much more interesting version of the old Ep. As you likely know, there is an Episode 2a War and 2b Peace. The War episode is a slightly streamlined, less brutal version of the old Ep.
Confused yet? We liked the idea of having two versions of an episode, to give players a little bit of choice in how the campaign plays out. For episode 2a, I was able to recycle a streamlined version of the old episode 1, for a highly combative experience. For episode 2b, I repurposed my original episode 2 and rethemed it from a race-to-rebuild episode to a peacefully focused episode.
By this time we already had the ideas for the different types of mods figured out, and it was a natural fit to introduce them after episode 2. This is what makes the choice at the end of episode 1 so impactful on the campaign. The direction you go determines which mods you have available for the majority of the campaign, with the other mods not becoming available until a few games later.
Naturally, that means players will usually have more of one type than the other, which can pretty dramatically affect how you play and your experience. When he shared that idea with me, I was very excited. I knew that players would love the opportunity to customize a non-campaign game with a different set of goals. Furthermore, this allowed us to increase the customization and theme for each version of this episode.
I often found myself awed by his simple ideas that really gave the expansion more depth, polish, and character without complicating things too much. I had written the story in such a way as to make these natural inclusions, but the design work from them largely came from him. Again, I really like how they fit in thematically with the narrative. In the story there is concern and doubt and fear between the different nations, and the idea that there may be rivals or allies amongst them makes sense.
From a design perspective, the rivals were relatively straightforward. This is also the first time in the campaign that players start with some of their stars outside of their playing area. This was an idea I introduced to Jamey early in the design process.
He liked it, and we experimented with it in a number of different ways. It also encourages much more player interaction. It further illustrates how important the blind play testing can be, because other players will find those types of oversights almost immediately. The Alliance module was a little trickier.
First there was the issue of a reward for alliances. This was nice because it was an obvious benefit to offer, and it would be unique for each faction without adding additional rules.
However, there was another issue with alliances that I think most players would probably see pretty quickly. Fair or not, some faction abilities are just preferred over others. Everyone wants to ally with Rusviet or Crimea or Polania.
I believe it was after the first wave of blind play testing that we realized we needed some other, scaled incentive. That is when Jamey thought of giving allies a coin bonus, roughly inversely proportional to the perceived value of the alliance ability. Both the Rivals module and the Alliances module can be played without the corresponding Triumph tracks, which is also kind of nice. I suspect these two modules are going to get overlooked in non-campaign games, but I think players who give them a chance will see some really interesting interactions emerge from them in ordinary games.
Here was the system: Divide the Triumph Track into two categories, War and Peace 2. Total up the stars for the Triumphs in each category War or Peace.
Proceed to the episode of the category with the most total stars winner breaks ties. In this way, players would go to an Ep. However, in addition to the two reasons I gave in the Ep. Now that many people have it and many have played part of all of it, I thought it would be a good time to do some full-spoiler design diaries.
I decided to organize them by Episode to make it as easy as possible for players to decide whether or not it is safe to read before finishing the campaign. Today, we have Episode 1!
I will outline the general timeline below. Base Scythe takes place Fenris begins The Wind Gambit Fenris ends. Because of this, players are directed not to use The Wind Gambit for a few games.
Some players have wondered why, so I thought I would share this little fact. Episode 1 probably underwent the biggest change from Wave 1 testing to the final product. The original episode 1 actually took place at the end of the Great War.
Thematically, players were playing out final battle of the war, and they began with a lot of units and buildings already deployed on the map. The most dramatic aspect of this, however, was the fact that mech combat losses were permanent in this game.
Characters would never die, but any mechs that were defeated in battle were removed from the game. This had a dramatic impact on the game play and the psychology of combat. Both Jamey and I enjoyed our private testing of the scenario, but a few issues came up during the first wave of blind play testing. While we had fun with it and enjoyed the tension quite a bit, testors found themselves very reluctant to engage in combat, knowing their losses would be permanent.
In addition to that dramatic change, this version of Episode 1 also included a fairly elaborate setup process which had the players basically beginning halfway through a game. Ultimately, we decided that these changes would set people up with the wrong expectations for the campaign as a whole.
On top of this, the second episode of the campaign was a relatively mundane affair by comparison. We both felt that it would be best if they were reversed, but it just did not make sense for the story. So for the time being, we scrapped the climactic battle of episode 1 and used a game similar to the original Episode 2 — something pretty close to the base Scythe game, in order to ease players into the campaign a little bit.
Staying true to the heart of Scythe was an important design principle for us. Players love the game for a reason, and it is a meticulously balanced and integrated game. Another design principle we wanted to follow was to introduce one or two new components or mechanisms every game. In Episode 1, we introduced the influence tokens, just to acclimate players to their presence. Originally we needed something to mark various things throughout the campaign, and the Influence tokens fit the bill.
Their specific uses evolved as we refined each episode of the campaign, and their ultimate use is something we developed a bit later in the design process. One positive side effect of easing players in a little more gently was that we were able to do something kind of fun at the end of the first game by presenting players with a small choice in how to proceed using Influence tokens to vote for the path forward.
While it may seem like a small choice it has substantial ramifications on the entire campaign. In fact, I think the impact of that choice is significant enough to warrant playing the campaign twice just to try the other path.
Some players might find the first game a little less disruptive than they had hoped, but that was kind of the point. First, we wanted newer players to be able to ease into all the new concepts in particular, the things on the Campaign Logs with only a few changes.
Secondly, my version would have largely negated the point of the Influence tokens. This way we introduce players to the notion of the Influence tokens early on, which will reduce things to process in future games when they are used again, but with more complicated rules.
That combined with the increased player agency made the final version the right choice. Our goal was to have at least one memorable moment in every episode of the campaign. I was reminded of this when I played Episode 3 with my group the other day.
More From QuantumO3
I just finished the Fenris campaign in solo mode tonight, and I want to share some thoughts in a pseudo-review, pseudo-design diary. It briefly crossed my mind to consider it early in the process, but I immediately realized that it would be cripplingly overwhelming to try and keep that in mind, so I just forgot about it.
I had nothing to do with the design process of the solo version. Their adaptations for the episode-specific rules are concise and clever.
As I mentioned before, Jamey and I tried to keep the rules overhead low, and I think Morten and team did the same.
One thing that I thought was very clever was how they had the automa grow in strength and efficiency. Although I won the campaign, there were several points where things felt tough and I suffered some pretty bad beat-downs in a few games!
Basically, there is a subtle way to adjust the difficulty on the fly, making it easier or harder based on how often you are winning. I still managed to win the campaign, but I think it added a little more tension along the way to have the self-adjusting difficulty. I honestly think this is a pretty unique solo experience.
Even so, I think this will fill a niche for a lot of solo gamers, and I look forward to hearing what more experienced solo gamers think especially those who HAVE played other solo campaign games. Overall, I am very pleased and honored to have this addition to the final product! Notes and tips: The Fenris rules are not especially complicated or extensive, but you really need to have the basic Automa rules down solidly to be successful.
If I play it solo again I might! There is more going on in this that standard Scythe, so that will be plenty to track. How will I ever beat it?? It was simple and slick. And with more than one Automa it could be fascinating. Interesting stuff. I wanted to, but there is so much going on already, and I have only had limited opportunities to use it so far solo or multiplayer , so I set it aside. I think some really interesting stuff could emerge.
July 6, Jamey: The Same, but Different. In the previous design diary post, Ryan talked about rules overhead. Yet, at the same time, we wanted to tell a persistent story over the 8-game campaign.
The solution we came up with was, as Ryan mentioned, to have some unique twists listed in the setup, gameplay, and end-game rules for each scenario.
Paired with that are a few ongoing special bonuses that players keep track of on their campaign logs. Some of those bonuses are explained before the campaign even begins, hence the image here. In addition to this balance we tried to maintain, we also never wanted the game to not feel like Scythe. Other pre-orders will ship after Gen Con, and the retail release is August I recently managed to finally get some friends together to begin the Rise of Fenris campaign.
Finally, two friends just took a day off of work, and with them a fellow teacher and I began the campaign. We played the first three episodes in a 5-hour stretch including a brief lunch break , and it was a lot of fun. Scythe is a fairly rules-dense game already. They are pretty intuitive rules, but there are a lot of them, so from the beginning we knew we wanted to keep to a minimum the number rules and exceptions players had to remember during the Fenris campaign. However, we wanted each game of the campaign to feel exciting and unique while still distinctly Scythe-like , which required at least a few tweaks to setup and rules.
With a game as carefully balanced as Scythe, even a small adjustment to the rules can completely change the dynamic of the game.
The Rise of Fenris is full of these types of changes. In many episodes, the most complicated exceptions happen during set up, where it is relatively easy to simply follow the steps, leaving little or nothing for the players to remember long term.
The specific rules for each scenario usually only rely on one or two changes to the regular game. However, these small changes can make fairly dramatic impacts on the way each game plays out.
In the marathon three-game session I played with my friends, all three games played out very differently, and our regular strategies were often challenged.
The most successful players identified the core goal of each episode and focused on that, but without forgetting the nature of Scythe.
When I recently played the sample scenario with some fans at a meetup in Seattle, I dominated the building goal. As I noted in my last design diary, the focus of this campaign is strong narrative and gameplay that emerges from that.
So what does this mean for the players? Everything you need to play the next episode in the campaign is self-contained in that episode. It has allowed us to do some fairly dramatically different things from game to game without overburdening players mentally. I enjoy games like Pandemic Legacy where the rules emerge and grow, but I think for Scythe in particular, where there already so many rules to track intuitive though they are that it was very important to keep things simple.
Several people have asked about the similarities between The Rise of Fenris and my fan-made campaign Lessons of the Past, so I thought I would address that today. For example, I wanted to emphasize different aspects of the game, such as the Objectives or building Structures. In short, I wanted to encourage and reward thinking about different aspects of Scythe, in the hopes that players would actually become better at the game as a result of playing my campaign. There were player aids and a campaign book, and that was all players needed to print.
Ultimately, the limitations of those self-imposed restrictions on what I wanted to make people print out are pretty clear in the final product, I think. I am more or less happy with where it ended up for what it is , but it could be improved with better testing and a little more willingness to have people print off tokens and such.
The second goal I had for LotP was to tell an interesting story. This was definitely secondary to the gameplay challenges, but I thought it needed something compelling to drive the action and keep players invested.
In short, the story of LotP is the story of the nigh-inevitable march toward World War II or not, if players played one game in a very specific way. Each episode represents roughly a year in my mind, so the total campaign spans about a decade, ending in either a new peace or a second war.
Very early in the design process for Fenris, I presented the aforementioned priorities to Jamey interesting gameplay challenges vs.
His response was that he wanted all of the gameplay to be driven by the story. Jakub had the bones of a specific story he wanted to tell, and Jamey wanted a focus on narrative to drive the story and any changes or additions to the gameplay. I had begun drafting for Fenris the same way I had for LotP, which was to try and sketch out a series of interesting scenarios, then add narrative to tie them all together.
So I took some time off and sat down and drafted the story for the entire campaign. Jamey and Jakub liked the story quite a bit — so much so that Jamey included nearly the entire thing in the final version with some edits here and there, for space or narrative. With a story in place, I returned to the episode designs and began editing, deleting, and adjusting to get them to fit the narrative.
The nine episodes fell to eight after I started matching them to the narrative. Two episodes were combined into one which was a good thing and a few others were replaced or modified to fit the story better.
The episode that had remained blank finally came together. It fit the narrative, and I finally found the missing elements of gameplay I had struggled to piece together. Sitting down and focusing on a story-driven approach really helped guide and accelerate the design process in this case. It provided me the framework and direction I needed to get over some hurdles that I was having when I tried to shoehorn the narrative into a gameplay-driven approach.
The narrative for Fenris is much more intimate. Fenris contains a rather personal story, following the writing convention of focusing on individuals, rather than the big picture, to make a story more relatable and engaging. Lessons of the Past was more about human nature and our historical tendency toward war , whereas The Rise of Fenris is more about specific human relationships.
What do you think of these two approaches? Is there one you prefer as a gamer or designer? In my last design diary post for The Rise of Fenris, I talked about something Ryan and I tried to design but ultimately decided not to create an encounter book. First, some context: Ryan and I read pretty much every comment on Facebook and BoardGameGeek about what people hoped would be in the final expansion.
The first is combat. I respect both sides. So we took a different approach with combat. Even though the combat rules remain the same, in several episodes and modules, there are twists to the game that impact combat.
A number of people asked for different faction mats for existing factions. Designing faction abilities is very difficult. Remember, these are persistent abilities that you have from turn one, so ideally they would be relevant throughout the game.
Also, thematically, I like that each faction has their own specific identity, and I was very hesitant to break from that. We did, however, address this desire with several of the modules. A distillation of the desire is that people want to continue to use the existing factions, yet with more variability. Ryan may remember and write about others in future design diaries. Is there anything you were specifically hoping The Rise of Fenris would include, add, or change to Scythe?
This is my first design diary entry for The Rise of Fenris, and I would like to start with a brief introduction. My full last name is Lopez DeVinaspre.
Because I like my full name and board gamers are comfortable with unusual designer names, I used my full name for this game. Originally, I wanted to do quite a bit of so-called flavor text around the campaign. It was an exciting prospect at first. Then I actually tried to accomplish it. The first hurdle was what form these narratives would take. Would they be a series of cards that could be randomly drawn? Would they be a sequential deck that required players to complete one part before moving on to the next?
Would they be in the form of a sequential series of events with mildly branching stories in a sort of storybook? Rather than trying to duplicate the long and arduous work through which he had created the Primarchs, the Emperor instead used the raw material developed during the Primarch project to forge the Legiones Astartes — the mighty warriors also known as the Space Marines. Many of these organs were made to interact with natural body tissues as they developed, enhancing muscle growth, stimulating mental processes, and transforming the recipient recipient into a superhuman warrior.
At this time, the Emperor had no idea where the Primarchs were or if they had even survived surv ived their ordeal. Only later, later, during the Great Crusade itself, was the Emperor able to recover the Primarchs, one by one.
By then they had grown to adulthood amongst whatever cultures existed on the worlds to which their incubation pods had been spirited. He was doomed, yet fate, it seemed, had other ideas. A few years later, the young wolf-child was discovered by a hunting party of Fenrisian tribesmen. In a vicious confrontation, confrontation, the wolf-mother was slain by their spears and arrows, along with many of her cubs. It was then that fate intervened once more.
One of the tribesmen at last recognised the Primarch for what he was — human, not wolf — and called for his fellow huntsmen to lower their weapons.
So did the WolfKing become a living legend throughout the many tribes of Fenris. It was only later that some had cause to regret their decision, but by then it was too late, for Horus had become corrupted in mind, body and soul. It was a time of legends. It was an age of war.
Even life Even in such baleful com compan panyy, Fenris is is amo amongst ngst the the very worst worst.. It is one of of the most inhosp inhospitabl itablee planets in the unive universe, rse, yet the folk of Fenris Fenris not not only only endu endure, re, but but thrive. Fenris follows an elliptical orbit around its pale sun. For much of each long year the world is remote from even this feeble star, and its surface remains incredibly cold. At the height of winter, a man can walk between the many isles upon which the Fenrisians dwell: indeed, it is said that Sigurd the Tall climbed from the girdle of the world to the peaks of Asaheim in the far north, and that this mighty deed earned him a place in the halls of the gods.
Towa owards rds the end of the year year,, as the planet sweeps close to the sun once more, a brief spring warms the surface. At its closest point to the sun, the sub-oceanic crust of Fenris breaks and twists, exposing its molten core to the icy waters. Islands created in the upheaval of preceding years are cast into turmoil. Some endure, but many are broken apart or swallowed by the sea, casting their inhabitants into the merciless deep.
But the mighty rock the tribesmen know as Asaheim stands fast, a single changeless land amongst a world of ruin and torment. Here there are many unique creatures not able to live elsewhere on Fenris. To a tribesman, it is truly the land of the gods.
It is not an easy life. Some of these aquatic behemoths are as large as islands and can even consume a longship with a single gulp.
Others are long and serpentine, with boiling ichor for blood and gargantuan shield-scales that glint in the sun like mirrors. Still others are too uncertain in form to describe, many-tentacled things with razored beaks and cold eyes like beacons that shine in the cold murk of the deep ocean.
It is against these creatures creatu res that the warriors of Fenris must match themselves, and those that emerge triumphant live forever in the folklore of their tribe. To survive in such a land the Fenrisians must be warriors from the cradle to the grave.
Yet their survival depends upon their wits and determination as much as their strength and skill at arms. No man knows how much the landscape will change at the turning of the year. At the end of every summer there are bloody wars between the local tribes, and a series of vicious land grabs in which only those who succeed in capturing and defending the newly formed islands will prevail.
So it is that the life of the Fenrisian is one of continual migration and of constant, bitter warfare.
Despite their hardships, the Fenrisians consider themselves blessed, for only warriors forged by such trials can win a place in the stories of those skalds and elders that keep the oral tradition of Fenris alive.
So it has ever been. So it will ever be. Many Many that that undertake undertake this trial perish. Once they have fought every challenger they pick the most worthy and take them away into the dark, never to be seen again.
If a young warrior shows the signs of greatness during battle, the strangers may approach him, to the awe of all who witness it. Even should the chosen be on the point of death, the strangers care not.Strybjorn shared their bitterness on that terrible voyage. I will outline the general timeline below. Spray ran down his face like tears. The clans would kill to own such a safe haven.
Scythe: The Rise of Fenris
Ulli let out a long howl followed by a belch. Leave empty for any user name. One outcome of that was that the campaign dropped from nine episodes down to just eight. The rest of you form up and prepare to storm in as soon as the door is blown.
There is more going on in this that standard Scythe, so that will be plenty to track.