Notes on Oath

Last year I bought the game Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile.

It’s a complicated (and interesting) game for 1-6 players. The starting position of each game is determined by the territories owned by the winner of the previous game.

The board is divided into three regions. The Cradle, Provinces and the Hinterlands. It’s cheaper to move within a region. The sites are cards that are dealt within a region. These will shift between games.

Sites can have items to be collected, may have relics to be recovered and can have special effects (for example you need to discard a card, of you have one, to move out of The Slums)

This is a Euro game (although can be a long one). The game will end at the completion of the 8th round, although the Empire gets a chance to roll a die to finish early from the 5th round. They can only do this if the Empire owns the Oathkeeper marker. Exiles can win earlier if they manage to hold the Userper token at the start of their turn or satisfy a Vision at the start of their turn.

Each player has a character card that holds the warbands that travel with their pawn, a supply track and has space for three advisors (some of these may be face down). It’s a three card hand limit!

There are multiple Victory conditions and they are all based upon actions in the game – there are no abstract victory points. The Chancellor (who rules the Empire) is trying to achieve one of the four Oaths that were determined by the winner of the previous game.

The options are:

– Control more sites than anyone else

– Own the Banner of the People’s Favour

– Own the Banner of the Darkest Secret

– Own more relics and banners than anyone else.

The Exile players need to either achieve that victory condition and hold it at the start of two consecutive turns or they can find a Vision card that allows a different victory condition to be applied.

The Chancellor can also make an offer of Citizenship to an Exile. Citizens can win of the empire wins but they satisfy the secondary victory condition.

In each player’s turn they get to spend Supply on a number of actions. The more warbands you control the less supply is available (as you need to pay your warbands).

Actions that cost supply include:

– Searching for new cards (Either from the World Deck or your current regions discard pile). You take three cards and discard the two (or three) that you don’t want to play. When searching from the World Deck the search stops when a vision is drawn. The cost of drawing from the World Deck increases with each Vision card found.

– Moving around the board (the cost varies)

– Mustering warbands (from a denizen at your current location).

– Reclaiming Relics or Banners

– Trading Favours or Secrets (Give away one get more of other)

– Campaigning, which is to attack a site or another player.

There are also actions that don’t require supply:

– Playing a face down advisor (either to your card or to the site you are at.)

– Use a power of a denizen or advisor that you control or are at the site of.

If you need to discard a card it will go to the next region along the board (which wraps around).

A site can only have warbands belonging to a single player at a time (or it belongs to the local warbands). Of you own a site you can take advantage of all of the denizens that reside there.

The Banners initially seem to be only useful for Victory so we mostly ignored them in the first game. They do have useful features.

The Banner of The People’s Favour assists in the placement of Denizens. You can remove a denizen from the region that you are in and place them at another site within the same region. This can help offset the increasing Favour cost (you need to feed it favour at the start of your turn).

The Banner of the Darkest Secret keeps the search cost down (which normally increases as the number of visions has been revealed).

The Chancellor can also exile Citizens but it costs Favour.

Denizens each have one of the six associated suits. The suits each have a banks of Favour. When trading Favour from a denizen you can only take from the Bank. When you place a Denizen you can one Favour from the general supply. The Favour banks form an interesting economic model – you need to have as many denizens of a given suit to boost the payout from trading Secrets/Favours. The downside is that this can quickly exhaust the banks.

Secrets put on a Denizen will come back to you at the end of your turn. Favours go the matching bank.

The game is mostly about the balance of power and trying to stop whoever is about to win. The deck of Denizens gets biased towards the majority of the advisors that belong to the winner. This can mean that over time some suits will become more common.

There are about 200 Denizens, each with unique abilities (and beautiful artwork). It can be hard to work out which to keep and which to discard.

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