Oathsworn was one of my most eagerly awaited kickstarters of all time. It is a co-operative campaign storyline game which mixes a city map event phase with subsequent monster battles on a large board. The game can be played either as a standee version or full miniatures, and the boxes are well designed with individual storage boxes and spaces to split the various stages of the campaign into bite sized chunks.
Oathsworn is the story of the free company, a group of hardy characters who have taken it upon themselves to defend the last cities of humanity from the encroaching deepwood creatures. The game is one of the best looking campaigns around, with hero characters being slightly larger in scale than usual at 46mm and monsters that are often giants, towering over the game board. The board map is colourful and well drawn and all the components feel nice, the player board are thick, and the art is exceptional. Monsters remain as hidden components to reveal as you progress through the chapter, and opening a new miniatures box retains a sense of marvel and excitement throughout your journey.
In terms of options, Oathsworn offers you immense choice. Your free company will require four characters to be present, however if you have less players available, then every hero has a simplified version, called a companion, who has a more limited action list (although there is still a choice to make) plus his equipment, which means you can easily play multiples or even solo and not be overwhelmed. Your main full character gains additional options with a separate deck of seven ability cards initially, that upgrade over time.
The are two main phases to the game, a city map is explored first which uncovers a storyline and events, and set your characters up for a main boss battle encounter. The city phase certainly does not feel like a filler, it is engaging and progressive and you get to make choices around what type of hero group you are. This section also has a timer and the more efficient you are, the more bonus items you will take into the next encounter. The monster fights are amazing, and from what i have played so far the monster reactions and intelligence are well worked, thematic to the creature and challenging. Heroes will need to work together tactically to position themselves and attack at the right time.
The mechanics of using heroes combines the movement of energy crystals on your board, similar to the Conan game, plus you are playing ability or equipment cards as part of their turn, and these cards move around their hero board in a cool down format. Playing a card into an area allows you to move any existing cards there into the next cool down spot, until they return to your hand. Combat also has alternatives, as you can use a card draw, similar to Gloomhaven, or alternatively you can roll dice, and both come with a push your luck element. You will choose the anticipated strength of your attack, but if you get two blanks you will miss entirely. In addition some cards or dice will critical hit, giving you an extra draw or roll. Defence statistics are used as a divider to the overall damage rather than a deduction, and this really helps to offset the high swing issues faced by some games such as in Middara.
Oathsworn could be called a blend of many other games mechanics, and it ends up having the best of everything, from its miniatures on the board presence, an engaging card hand management, tactical play and with fun and relatively straightforward combat resolution. It also has a neat campaign storyline to work through, and many secrets to reveal to keep your interest high. Its closest comparisons are the likes of Kingdom Death and Gloomhaven, and ultimately for me it has pushed both of these into the background, becoming the best campaign hobby game i have owned.
There are expansions you can add to enhance the gameplay and visual appeal (my additions highlighted green = own, blue = part owned, red = not purchased) :
The game does come with a standee option or miniatures, which means that these can be considered an expansion. All monsters come in two large boxes and all are individually packed so you can reveal them at the right time as a surprise. The miniatures in this game are some of the best around and so they would be my highest recommendation.
This addition has some large gameplay elements for the battle board, with 5 trees, 2 cottage buildings and some walls. Now clearly these are simply for show and effect, but with giant monsters they really do add the extra dimension to the game visually and as such i would recommend them.
This is a box of optional arms and weapons to change to pose of your free company characters, and i can see they are fun to play around with and match up your current inventory. However as a modeller and a painter i see issues with painting especially, but also i personally prefer to glue models for added security. It just was not something that worked for me as a hobbyist and i am very happy with the base poses.
These are the usual mix of upgrades of the core items such a map pack, metal coins, and art book. The art in the game is really nice, but i did not see too much value in taking these and i am not missing them.