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Dive into the Mystery! Oathsworn: Into the Deepwood - is this the ultimate cooperative experience?

Updated: Feb 3


Oathsworne Into the Deepwood - Setup Example

Players: 1 - 4 Ages 14+ Game time: 30-90 minutes per session


Summary

Oathsworn: Into the Deepwood is an artisanal cooperative board game experience for 1-4 players. Join in the world’s first twisting tales game; a unique merging of gamified story, mystery unlocks, beautiful interactive maps and miniature combat side by side like never before. This game is the first of its kind and scale for the team at DOALG and we are honoured to be reviewing this for Shadowborne Games (www.shadowborne-games.com).


Oathsworn is a legacy game where the monsters are the “Legacy”, with many mystery boxes and envelopes to reveal along with 21 completely unique chapters. With cinematic encounters to explore, this is a tabletop board game on acid. The table presence alone is enough to put off a beginner by purely how many components are on the table BUT will completely satiate a seasoned gamer. We are taking a deeper delve into the Deepwood.

Before we get more into this, we would like you to know that we WERE NOT given this game (we wouldn't ask of a game of this scale), but we backed it on Gamefound (we were gifted the scenery pack).

We warn you now that we may spoil some intro game elements so take heed adventurer SPOILERS may be incoming...

Gameplay

Step right up, brave souls, for I'm about to spill the beans on the legendary escapades of our epic gaming group in the fantastical world of Oathsworn! Picture this: tales so grand that bards will need extra ink to write them down, and minstrels will be doing interpretive dances to capture the essence of our shenanigans.


Now, hold onto your dice bags, my friends, because Oathsworn doesn't mess around with stickers or card-tearing shenanigans. No sir, that goes against our moral fibre (and possibly our therapist's advice). The world in this game is like a chameleon on a roller coaster – it changes and evolves based on your actions, but fear not, you can hit the reset button more times than your grandma trying to figure out the TV remote – IF NEEDED, of course!

But wait, there's more! Oathsworn isn't your run-of-the-mill card-driven system. The brilliant minds behind it give you the power to choose between good ol' dice-rolling or slick, modern card-drawing. It's like a buffet of randomness – pick your poison. Personally, I lean towards the card system; it's like predicting the weather, but with more epic battles and fewer rain dances...


Your character in this game is like a jazz musician, playing a card solo each turn. Abilities fuelled by Animus (fancy amber-coloured gems) make things spicy, and each card needs a breather with a cooldown value. Enter the Battleflow system, where you strategically place cards around your character board, playing a game of musical chairs with cooldowns. It's confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's like doing a Sudoku puzzle in a hot tub – challenging but strangely satisfying.


Now, buckle up for the real kicker! Oathsworn isn't just a skirmish with a side of story like some other games. No siree! Each chapter has a double feature – "Story" time, where you make life-altering decisions and try not to trip over your own feet, followed by the "Encounter" phase, aka the hack-and-slash extravaganza. It's like a two-part play, and you don't even need to binge-watch it in one go. So, grab your popcorn, or better yet, a health potion, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!


Our opening scenario was very much a gentle introduction to the game, the use of the app (voiced by James Cosmo - yeah that's right Angus Macleod from Highlander) makes the game a lot lighter on the palette and brain power, but its pace allows you to the follow the story guidebook nicely:

Green mud sucks at your boots, every stride a challenge as you trudge through the rain. Your hands grip the thick iron cable of the Wire Road, pulled taut through rings sunken into the trunks of hideous trees. For days now, it has been the only evidence of humanity's existence in the Deepwood.
Clinging to this lifeline has not worked for everyone though. You are one less than when you left Verum. It was nothing any of you saw. Just a thrum on the wire behind you and then a scream disappearing into the dark. The memory is fresh in your mind, but this is not the time to mourn... not here.
As you travel, vines and black tree trunks spattered with sickly pink cysts block your view ahead. Things slither away and rustle through the undergrowth, but they are of little concern. One cannot afford to jump at every noise in this place or else you'd go mad. It is only when the sounds slither towards you that you need to worry.
Relief from walking through this overgrown hell is promised as the huddled profile of the fortress town of Bastone looms in the distance. They are the ones that sent for you. People have been dying here, though not of hunger or of the Deepwood. Those don't leave much of a man when they're done. Something else is happening here. Something that is leaving plenty of bodies. The crumbling city walls tower before you. As you approach them, you spot something laying at their base.

(Extract from the opening story)


This opening leads and introduces you to the Story Mode of the game, after which you are thrust into the throes of glorious combat to overcome the threat you face, of course depending on the choices you make as a team!


In our introduction round, we were introduced to the world and fortress town of Batone and within its walls we were given options and decisions to make in the story mode until we were primed with our very first monster interaction, in which we fought against an enormous Rat Monster and her spawn.


This monster is clearly primed and designed for your first encounter BUT it wasn't easy, we were only JUST successful. With an ear-splitting shriek we sent the screeching rats back to whence they came. None of us opted for dice rolling in our first experience of Oathsworn, and instead used the combat cards, which with the use of the battle system (our humble opinion the better choice), we plan to re-attempt with the dice system just for comparison.


So how does the 'Battleflow system work'?

So, simply, when you play a combat ability card, you put it in the corresponding slot around your character sheet (depending on the cost value of the card - 0, 1, 2, 3), forcing all cards in that slot to move counterclockwise to a lower position (0 - Zero). Then during the refresh phase, they come back to your hand. You pay for these ability cards using Animus. Any unspent Animus Gems stay in the active section of the board so you can 'save' some for next turn (very useful, we are glad they don't clear). During the refresh phase, you regenerate X Animus depending on your regeneration value of your character (also upgradeable), which moves X gems from reserve back into the active section.


There are lots of things that allow you manipulate the flow of cards in your Battleflow, including item cards, ability cards text, as well as standard triggers. Whilst managing special rules and battle-flow tokens can be a little overwhelming and confusing at first, once you settle in it’s a neat system; it gets you thinking hard about the smartest combinations to vanquish your foes and huge beasties.


The finite balance between story mode and co-operative battle with these (wanna say) boss monsters that hack and slash combat makes a very enjoyable experience.


We were all in agreeance that the initial impact of Oathsworn was one of sheer utter joy. It was a pleasure to read the rules and experience this game firsthand with a group of like-minded board game enthusiasts. We are already planning to revisit Batone for our next exciting chapter of Oathsworn - Into The Deepwood.




Production

Oathsworne Into the Deepwood - Free Company Oathstone Tracker miniature
Free Company Oathstone Tracker

The production of Oathsworne - Into the Deepwood is probably the best production I've seen to date. Everything is quality, even down to the sculpted marker for the Free Company.


The attention to detail far surpasses the story and the adventure that has been meticulously weaved into this game. I am absolutely dumbfounded and flabbergasted by this game at its sheer tenacity to make me salivate at the thought of just how luxurious this game actually is. This is a game for keeps; NEVER part with this game!


This game spoils me, I am a board game nerd who has been totally excited by this game,

and when it arrived it had me drooling and chomping at the proverbial bit. I have managed to NOT open all the miniatures so as to not spoil the campaign, BUT I can say this - OMG the game is stunning, and the quality is unsurpassed. I wish I had gone ALL IN on my pledge... just to get the additional parts. Love love love it!



All Oathsworne Into The Deepwood components laid out
Photo courtesy of Shadowborne Games

Conclusion

​So, let's break it down for you in our key areas:


  • Production Value - All the elements of this game are excellent there is NOT a sign of tacky linen finish on ANY of the cards (can you tell I hate linen finish).Whilst the card stock is excellent throughout, I WILL be investing in the sleeves for the game (available from the Shadowborne website - www.shadowborne-games.com/pages/shop), purely because I wish to protect the game! This is for sure an investment.

  • Rules - The book is well written and easy to follow, even if it appears a little daunting (take your time, trust us it will ALL make sense). The start guide gets you all set up ready to play, I wouldn't recommend setting up and playing immediately, setup and then play the following day. Purely because of the time taken (pic below of Mr Sam and I preparing)! You will not regret waiting. The digital app / guide is brilliant and fantastic to play as you read along. I really recommend it! Download it at www.shadowborne-games.com/pages/oathapp


Mr Chris and Samwise sat at a dining table with a game of Oathsworn prepared
  • Complexity - Fairly complex, BUT a game of this scale will have a degree of complexity since it has legacy elements with the monsters and story.

  • Replayabiltiy - It IS replayable (you may know story outcome but with different players and skills it can be tougher) and will vary with the difficulty you choose to play it in!

  • Uniqueness - I genuinely haven't played a game like it. It is brilliant, BUT there are other big monster games out there (I just haven't played that many).

  • Value - It is expensive BUT considering how many hours of gameplay you'll get before you start the game again, it's great value.

A d6 die face with six pips, each pip the head of the Diary of a Lincoln Geek mascot Ink the imp
So this is probably the coolest and best game I own to date...

down to the miniatures, story, campaign EVERYTHING about this game screams adventure and excitement. Yes, I totally get that the price bracket WILL put some people off the game, but to you I say this... how much would you pay for drinks on a night out? £60?? For a good one you'll need a taxi home, so roughly £80 maybe. Go out four times and you might have a good time, but the next day you'll have a hangover... Oathsworn will not give you a hangover and will give you 20 / 24 nights of AMAZING gaming fun, so reverse some mathematics and it works out at less than £20 per night for an evening's entertainment for yourself and three friends, if you did the math the other way and went out 24 times that's over £1900. So in the grand scheme it's AMAZING value because once you start playing this game YOU WILL WANT TO COME BACK AGAIN AND AGAIN... it's THAT good!


The only real thing I will say that goes against it is that it does take time to setup and pack away BUT this is the only real issue. The designer Jamie Jolly has quite frankly created something so special; we can't thank him enough!


All it comes down to now is the thoughts and perspective of rules article writer Mr Sam...


The Founder Mr Chris



Additional thoughts (Mr Sam)

This is a game that brings so much to the table (both literally and figuratively). It is the holy love child of board games and tabletop RPGs and is clearly a passion project for the Shadowborne team. I feel confident that board gamers looking for a big box challenge will love the scale of Oathsworn, whereas tabletop role players will enjoy a no prep DM/GM-less adventure. No-one can fail to be impressed by the quality of this game from the physical components and mechanics to the story and supporting app, everything has been made with a craftsman's (craftsperson's) careful attention to detail.


I do, however, have a couple of very minor items/mechanics that I miss from other game systems. For example, story mode character strengths and weaknesses. In combat, each character has a unique way of fighting and manipulating the scenario. However, when faced with a skill check in story mode it is simply a case of how many cards or dice you wish to use. Thus, a ranger, priest, knight, etc all have the same odds of spotting a pickpocket or overcoming another situation. This also leads me to my next point, character customisation and progression. So, in Oathsworn, after each milestone, characters will get stronger by levelling up. However, whilst i appreciate the limitations of the boardgame format, and that it's not reasonable to expect huge lists and tables of abilities available to learn, it would be nice to have some choices to make. For example, your ranger levels up - do you take the level two knife skill or the level two bow skill? I think these two minor modifications would further immerse players into the game and feel more connected to their characters.


That being said, these are minor detractors and do not in my mind alter the score given by Mr Chris. My only point to raise is to highlight that this game is a huge investment of time (and costs a good chunk of change in one go). Each chapter is estimated to take about three hours. You can, however, split this between story and encounter, but regardless you are looking at over 60 hours of game play for one playthrough. Good value for money to be sure, but a lot to fit in to your schedule, so do bare that in mind.

Samwise



Want to discover more why not check out the unboxing video done by Mr Chris?



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