Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile – A print and play adventure

Current events being what they are, it happens that I am far away from my favorite board games and likely wont have them in hand for a number of months. Seems like a good opportunity to dip ones toes in to print and play board gaming. Leder Games has graciously made available a play-test package for Cole’s Werhle’s new game, Oath, and this has been the subject of my own first ‘pnp’ experiment.

I love Kyle Ferrin’s art for this game (he also did Root and others from Leder’s catalog)

Oath is a game about the ways that power shifts and changes hands in the rise fall of political regimes. In order to represent the ways this legacy transforms, the games ‘remembers’ how previous games concluded and each game’s win conditions as well as its central ‘world’ deck change to reflect the changes the world has undergone. It’s an engrossing and ambitious concept for a game and one that I have been very eager try out ever since Cole started to post design diaries last October.

The heart of the game are its cards. For these, a color printer with some card-stock did the trick.

3 types of wood for three players–Maple, Black-walnut, and Cherry

In addition to the bits you can run off printer, Oath requires a good number of pawns and other counters its player pieces, war bands, and currencies. We probably have enough odds and ends around the house to pull something together, but tis the season to hunker down and make crafts. To make pieces for three players we used three different colored woods (Maybe these will be useful in future game design experiments too).

We’ve played two games so far to admittedly mixed results. The biggest challenge was just learning rules and our first game (as we realized later) was hampered by some pretty serious misunderstandings. For the second game we didn’t bother triggering any legacy mechanisms and just started again with a clean slate; it was generally a smoother experience.

On this map, each of the three regions represent relative distances–a very clever idea!

Replying to a comment on one of his diaries, Cole said that Oath is his most thematic game he has made to date, and our rocky start aside, this has already come through. Every rule in the game belongs to the larger story of which that play session tells but a piece. In just one example, if you want to raise an army in Oath, first you have ‘search’ among your site’s inhabitants (by drawing cards from the world deck) for the ‘denizens’ and institutions who occupy the region. The war bands you raise are recruited from these people groups (cards placed at your site). However, before a player can turn to denizen’s for support they must first curry favor (by paying favor tokens to that card’s faction), and to do this well should gather sympathetic advisers in their inner circle (alternately, you can enter a region already wealthy and pay off the denizens right away). Even in this prototype stage, this is the most thematically rich and compelling games I’ve ever played.

I look forward to seeing how the game develops as its release date draws near and really appreciate Cole’s decision to be so transparent about their development process.

Note: the morning after our first game Cole released the second edition of the print and play kit with some substantial rules changes. We’ll probably just continue to play ‘version A’ for the time being, but the games on-going development continues to excite me.

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