Reviews

Review: Scythe Encounters Promo Pack

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What is it?

Scythe Encounters is a promo pack released for Scythe. It contains 32 new Encounter cards that were designed by fans. The art seen on cards is seen other places throughout the game, however the art used has never before been used for Encounter cards. It retails at 20$ USD. It is not considered a full expansion, despite having more cards than the usual promo packs available for Scythe.

Pros:
  • Unique Card Options
  • Comparatively Cheaper than Other Scythe Promos
  • Can be Played Separately or Mixed into Prior Encounters
  • Humorous
  • Gave Fans Ownership of Scythe
  • It fits into the Legendary Box and Broken Token Organizer

There is a lot to be said for positives in the Scythe Encounters Promo Pack. The 32 cards that are included in the game stand out from the other cards. Many of the cards almost seem outlandish, and have never before seen options. The strategy that comes with implementing these cards efficiently provides a new challenge. Some of the cards are implemented immediately, while others players are actually able to hold onto and use when it would be most beneficial to them.

The new options overall seem to be more high risk, high reward than prior Encounter cards. Players are often paying popularity or doing actions that may make other players a little more aggressive than usual. Some actions also cost other resources like power or even using a turn itself as a resource. For instance one card allows players to skip their next turn to gain popularity. Another card allows players to pay 9 power (on the track or combat cards) to gain a combat star. While the cards are often situational, they do provide an interesting twist and adaptation of strategy into the game.

The cards are also similar to other Encounters and provide humorous looks into the world of 1920s+ as the players interact with the cards. I highly suggest taking a moment to read the cards aloud, as many are  hilarious. Some of my favorites include luring stolen livestock through the tunnels by placing all the food at one tunnel entrance, yodeling so loud a avalanche clears out a village and having a Wojtek help with the harvesting (for those of you who read my preview, yes I am STILL entertained by that mental image). I love the story aspect of the cards, and I really respect bringing some new ideas to the table.

Scythe Encounters also offered a way for some lucky Scythe fans to have a lasting, published impact on the game. Regardless of how people feel about the unique aspects of the cards, it is hard to deny that the opportunity to have such an impact is a rarity and it was an upstanding move on the part of Stonemaier Games to provide that chance to players. It demonstrates a respect for the fan base and a real connection with the community that is not always seen in games.

Many players I know were more concerned though about the logistical side of having 32 new promo cards. Players who had paid for the Legendary Box and Broken Token Organizer were concerned that 32 new promo cards may be difficult to fit into the organizer. I can say that they easily fit into my organizer, however I do not sleeve my cards. If players sleeve their Encounter Cards it may be more difficult to fit these new additions into an existing set up.

Additionally, I saw others concerned about a price point of 20$ for 32 new cards. While I can understand that some players would be concerned that it does not add more than cards to game play, I will say that I feel it was worth it to add it to my Scythe collection. I examined that from two points: did it add enough to game play? how does it compare to other promos?. I found that the cards add an entirely new play style to the prior Encounter Cards, so it was not like some of the prior promos which felt similar to those included in the base game. Those promos are priced at around 10$ for six cards from Meeple Source. Meaning if players are looking to add Encounter Cards, Scythe Encounters definitely is the biggest bang for your buck.

Players are also adding enough cards to the game that can be played individually or mixed into the larger deck. It would take at least 3 times of playing Scythe to see all the new cards. It is suggested that for the first few games, players do just play with these cards in order to fully experience them. After that, players may mix the cards into the original deck. Some players may not prefer to do that (as we will look at a little more below), but they do have the option to add them in. I have also seen other players creating play lists to help tailor the game to certain play styles, which adds even further replayability.

Cons:
  • Some Odd Interactions with Rise of Fenris
  • Some very powerful cards
  • Many Situational Cards

I won’t lie, these cards are not going to be for everyone. Players who are looking for very balanced, pre-calculated game play may be frustrated by some of the cards included in Scythe Encounters. This is partially because the cards can be much stronger or weaker given certain situations, and also because some cards just feel very powerful when given to the right character.

Often times with Scythe Encounters players will find that they are physically not able to do the majority of the options on any given card. Take for instance the card that allows players to pay 9 power to gain a combat star. It is rare, especially early on, for players to have that much power in waiting. One of the other options on the same card is for players to pay 6$ to gain a Factory Card. If a player were to draw this card on one of the first turns, it was seem pretty frustrating because they would likely only be able to complete the first action, which dealt with gaining combat cards. However, if a player drew this card later in the game it could be a very powerful card, so powerful in fact that it could trigger the end of the game very suddenly.

While players may see this some in the original Encounter Cards, I don’t think it was to the same degree as the new pack is. Many of the cards are very powerful in certain situations, and can really swing game play one way or another. Players who really enjoy Scythe may enjoy this as it really does bring new life into the game, but some players have commented that they do not think they could mix these cards into the original deck because of the differences in the level of risk/rewards compared to the original cards. Personally I do intend to mix the two decks eventually, but I can see the case for keeping them separate for use with more experienced Scythe players.

My only other concern with Scythe Encounters is it creates some very odd interactions with Rise of Fenris. Now, I am going to try to keep this as spoiler free as possible, but I need to go over general ideas to explain this. If you are trying to avoid all spoilers for Rise of Fenris, I suggest you stop reading here. There are certain card options that do not work with certain episodes in the Rise of Fenris. For example, in my preview I mentioned a card that allows players to take a Factory Card and then discard the remaining cards from that pile. Players who are familiar with Rise of Fenris will be aware of how that could cause problems in Episode 3 where the Factory Cards play an important role in game play. As someone who has played that portion of the campaign, I would just take that card out of the pile, however I could see it causing a debate or problem to those experiencing the campaign and the Scythe Encounters pack simultaneously.

A few of the other cards allow you to use a Faction Ability from another character. One of these cards means that you must use the ability before the turn is over. This is especially confusing for some of the expansion factions. There are many factions that using their faction ability at the end of any given turn would need further explanation.

As a player who is still finishing Rise of Fenris, I would love to see a guide if there are any cards that need to be removed for certain episodes of the campaign, or the entire campaign to make the game run smoother. There are definitely questions that arise from the Encounters that are up to player interpretation, especially if you are playing through the campaign of Rise of Fenris.

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