Review: Scythe—Invaders from Afar

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Length

Release Date
Scythe: Invaders from Afar box artDesigner: Jamey Stegmaier
Artist: Jakub Rozalski
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Category: Civilization, Economic, Fighting, Science Fiction, Territory Building
Players: 1-7
Price: $23.89 Amazon
Scythe: Invaders from Afar is the first of two expansions to 2016’s Scythe. Scythe was a giant success of a Kickstarter from Stonemaier Games, and designed by Jamey Stegmaier. You can read our review of the original here.
Stonemaier Games is a board game publisher, owned and operated by Jamey Stegmaier. Stonemaier has published Viticulture and Tuscany, Between Two Cities, Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia, and the upcoming legacy-style village building game, Charterstone. Though he has abandoned the model, Jamey is also a successful Kickstarter blogger. Kickstarter is only a part of his writing portfolio. You can find a slew of excellent tips on running a publishing company, designing games, and interacting with people in the board game industry here. Jamey has also published a book on crowdfunding.

 Scythe: Invaders from Afar game components

Content Guide

Scythe: Invaders from Afar features mech-on-mech combat, but like the original, is all through nondescript combat cards and movement on a board.
 Friends playing Scythe: Invaders from Afar at Origins board game convention

Review

Scythe: Invaders from Afar is the first expansion for Scythe, with the second (The Wind Gambit) releasing post-September.
The Togawa faction components in Scythe: Invaders from Afar

The Togawa faction.

Invaders from Afar introduces balance changes, higher player count games, new player mats, Automa updates, higher value coins, and two new factions: Albion and Togawa. These factions have heard the commotion from the conflict and traveled from far-off lands to pursue the factory and instill dominance over the region.
Clan Albion is a German-esque faction, led by Connor and Max, focusing on fast travel between points, combat, and dropping flag tokens. Flag tokens increase the territory value of a hex by 1. In other words, if you control a territory with a flag token, that hex counts as 2 instead of 1. Albion mechs also unlock abilities that allow for fast travel to spaces with flag tokens and mines, as well as various advantages in combat such as increasing your power or decreasing your foe’s power before combat.
The Togawa Shogunate faction is a Japan-esque faction, led by Akiko and Jiro, focusing on dropping horrific traps and unique water-based abilities. The Togawa player can drop trap tokens, which are undisclosed until another player’s unit moves onto that space. These nasty (and reoccurring) traps can decrease the trapped player’s popularity by 2, money by 4, power by 3, or combat cards by 2. Armed tokens will also count as controlled territories at game end. Togawa players can deploy mechs to gain advantage of combat cards when fighting in water and can move through any rivers. The Ronin ability grants 2 power when fighting with a single unit, and the Shinobi skill allows for immediate teleportation to an inactive trap, rearming it.
The Albion faction components in Scythe: Invaders from Afar

The Albion faction.

Other additions in the box include seven “50” value coins, and two updates or Crimea and Polania abilities, considering they become less powerful with 6-7 players. Innovative and Militant player mats are also included which add setup variability and other small changes to the bottom row of actions.
Component quality is exceptional as expected with the Scythe franchise. I have some bumps and missized workers in the Albion faction. I suspect this is not widespread, but rather, isolated to my copy as I’ve seen nothing about this on forums. Jamey has been excellent in the past about replacing screwy components. I had a snapped meeple in my copy of Viticulture, and he had a replacement shipped out within a few days time. The new mechs are cool to look at and I’ve enjoyed playing with the new player mats. It’s nice to have more colors on the table.
The jury is out on whether or not adding more people to Scythe games is worthwhile. I haven’t actually played at 6-7, though Scythe is intended for a maximum of 5 players. Jamey went to great lengths and many playtests to keep the game as fun as possible when adding more players, but the meat of Scythe will probably stick to lower player counts. This is why Polania and Crimea receive ability boosts for higher player counts to keep them relevant. I appreciate Jamey’s commitment to keeping Scythe alive, and these balance changes should be helpful.
Player mats in Scythe: Invaders from Afar

Player mats.

While I haven’t experienced 7 players at the table, I have played with both included factions.
These factions are awesome—both allow for extremely powerful fast travel across the board making mobility a cool feature for both. Togawa will teleport to traps, rearming them and annoying others at the table, while Albion will burrow around, getting in the way of others and establishing heavily-guarded outposts with flag tokens.
Both tokens these factions place are unique in how they are positioned and used. Togawa needs to enter high-traffic areas to drop traps. With no water in their way, the character unit can arrive ahead of time to set up. I’ve already touched on what the traps do, but they are quite brutal. Imagine arriving near the factory only to take a giant 3-power hit, completely negating the turn you spent bulking up power. Maybe you’ll get your popularity smashed instead. You could go around the trap, but it’s positioned in such a way that you’ll need to spend another valuable move action to get around it. Traps serve as an annoyance which curbs other player’s growth curves and makes you a silent stalker, full of tricks.
Faction mats in Scythe: Invaders from Afar

Faction mats.

Albion players need to expand from their borders to establish flag tokens. These tokens cannot be placed adjacent to their home base, so it’s a little frantic when you begin placing them. It’s wise to drop these tokens towards the end of the game when players are more focused on protecting their own territories. Placing them at the beginning of the game gives players time to develop long-term attack plans against you. Needing to defend fewer territories has advantages, while spreading them out can also be advantageous. The rally ability makes for extremely swift and viable mobility where you can move a unit to any worker or flag token. Outskirt flag tokens might be of use to your strategy if you can burrow under rivers to unused resource locations by inactive factions.
I love the new strategies these factions add to the game so even if you don’t care for more players, you’ll find plenty of new fun with these factions.
Scythe: Invaders from Afar game components

Albion facing off at the factory.

My biggest gripe with Invaders from Afar is the exclusion of power dials for the two new factions. As a Kickstarter backer of the original game, I did not realize the retail edition of Scythe only included two power dials, as I have one for each faction. You can purchase original game power dials online through Meeple Source and you can purchase power dials for Togawa and Albion hereI understand why these dials aren’t included, but I really want them and will likely pick them up at some point.
It’s always a pleasure to return to the world of Scythe, and Invaders from Afar gives you another reason to do so. I enjoyed coming back to this game and introducing new friends and factions to it. If you want more friends at the table, or you just want new factions to try, this is a worthwhile expansion and should tide you over until The Wind Gambit releases.
A review copy of Scythe: Invaders from Afar was provided by Stonemaier Games for a review.

Scythe: Invaders from Afar expansion components

The Bottom Line

 

Chris Hecox

Chris enjoys the simple things in life, like teaching his wife the newest review game, looking up Ketogenic recipes, and playing 10 hour long indie games on Steam. If he's not thinking about the oil drum components from Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, playing Player Unknown: Battlegrounds with his college buddies, or dwelling on the release of Daredevil Season Three, he's probably shooting or editing video, because that's what he does for a living.