Comment: Leder Games’ oath is one of the best board games of the year

Psychic boards are fun to play because they encourage common illusions. If I did not move the disc, and you did not move it, then it must be a soul trying to speak to us.Have a similar illusion The Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile, The latest from Leder Games.Everyone at the table is convinced that they are playing a traditional strategy game risk or Axis powers and allies. But like that old mental board, oath Only the promoter of greater things.

oath It’s not a strategy game at all. This is a complex, almost puzzling engine for generating stories. Playing with the same group of people on a regular basis is more than just a contest of will. This is a well-made role-playing game, dressed in a complicated strategy game. And this is only part of what makes it one of the best desktop experiences of the year.

At the end of each game oath, The winner makes one of four different promises. Then, at the start of the next game, they become the ruling prime minister and most likely also the guardians of the oath. This oath completely changed the victory conditions for the next game.

For example, the supreme guardian of the oath wins by force and influence. Oath-breaking games can sometimes feel very much like traditional zone control games. However, the Protector Oath wins by collecting and grabbing the most loot. A game that violates this oath feels more like an adventure game, with heroes roaming this land, one step ahead of the mighty tyrant.

The art of depicting player characters, shared in Twitter.
Image: Kyle Ferrin / Leather Games

Consecrated vows who trade information must master the darkest secrets. This is an abstract concept that represents the most powerful knowledge in your world.Just play oath It became a game of court conspiracy and deception. Finally, the guardian of the people’s oath must always be the shepherd of the game non-player character (NPC). The overthrow of the sworn-in prime minister feels like leading a revolution.

While these vows are being developed and tested, other players have a completely different way of winning. The visual card represents the underlying state of the game—a somewhat challenging way of shooting the moon—even the least powerful player can snatch victory. They are not more difficult to achieve than the comprehensive, multi-round activities required to maintain or violate the above vows, but they require concealment, timing, and sometimes even an almost extraordinary understanding of the hidden information scattered around the table.

A woman with a hoe was reading the sign language given by a sneaky man.

Some residents’ art comes from oath, Shared on Twitter.
Image: Kyle Ferrin / Leather Games

Real magic oathBut-and what makes it different from other high-concept strategy games-is its NPC. These Denizen cards are located in the World Deck, which is also the location of the game vision. Each of these NPCs is unique, both in terms of their art and their power. Some can be placed in your sideboard, where they act as advisors. Some have to be played on the map and they live in a specific area. But they all have their own personalities, and everyone is organized into a theme suit.

The card with the fireplace suit represents the power of love, community and kindness, while the beast suit is full of powerful animal creatures. Order is characterized by military units and totalitarianism, while disorder is full of strange new quirks and restrictions. The Nomad suit is also destructive and features new characters outside the game-evil twins, magical horses, hostile warlords and more. Finally, the arcane suit represents the magic and miracles in your world.

It is through the interaction of all these NPCs and the unique goals of each player that the story begins to unfold. Once the rules themselves are internalized by the player, the elaborate storyline begins to appear organically, rising from the table like a fog.

A masked humanoid creature holding a scepter, wearing a huge robe, otherwise hiding its true form.

Principal, passed Twitter.
Image: Kyle Ferrin / Leather Games

I will never forget that in the second game we played together, a friend formed a huge army with the help of a powerful werewolf and his cute animal playmates. In the same game, a wizarding school replaced a group of rangers, turning a powerful offensive area for rallying soldiers into a mysterious enclave for secret trade. It is as if the NPC itself has a certain role in determining the direction of the story. The game mechanics actually reinforce this through an ingenious influence system that transfers power to the game board itself.Bright and evocative art Kyle Ferrin, Who helped create the world Root: Woodland Power GameTo enhance the entire experience.

At the same time, the ground on which the player stands-the material of the game world itself-is constantly changing and changing.For example, in three regions oath Named the cradle, province and hinterland. Players can use the large placards in the box to shuffle and reshuffle the content of these areas from game to game. The result is a world that feels amorphous, almost dreamlike.

Interestingly, the cost of crossing these three areas is always the same. No matter what kind of land there is, moving between the cradle areas is always cheap, while moving in the hinterland is expensive.The same goes for moving back and forth between These areas. In this way, the geographic center of power is transferred between different games, even if political power is also shifting.

A series of chess pieces from Oath, including wooden ministers. The art on the cards and game mats is bright and cheerful, and fantasy creatures and woodland creatures are mixed together.

Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

As regions, NPCs, and conflicting player goals change and mutate on the desktop, its character lineup has also changed. The winner can remove the residents of their choice from the game, permanently pushing the world towards order, disorder and other cards. At the same time, the players themselves have developed a rich shared history. One betrayal leads to another betrayal, leading to deep-rooted competition and mistrust. At the same time, idle peace treaties and temporary alliances can grow and consolidate into bonds that can last for generations in the game. As designer Cole Wehrle told Polygon in an interview earlier this year, WHO Victory in every game is not that important how They won.

If I don’t say it, I’m dereliction of duty oathProduction value. I have already mentioned Ferrin’s art, but the materials used to make this game are top-notch. It starts with the game board itself, which is actually much thicker and well-made than some luxury mouse pads I have had over the years. The packaging is also perfect. It not only provides a place to store the tokens used during the game, but also provides a way to safely save the game world after playing the game. All this helps to help get the game in and out of the table as quickly as possible.

In my opinion, the only limiting factor of this game is the manual. It’s very boring, and it reads more like an exotic jet’s pre-flight checklist than a traditional consumer-level game. Fans of crunchy strategy games like GMT and Phalanx shouldn’t be intimidated at all, but almost everyone else needs to do some research before, during, and after their first game.this include Oath Handbook There is a complete annotated first-round game walkthrough, but even this is incomplete for new players. For better or worse, your best bet is to find plenty of tutorials made by fans on YouTube.

Despite these limitations, I am still completely in love The Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile. Its complexity and narrative intensity create a virtuous circle that makes it more and more interesting every time you relive the game. I think it represents the pinnacle of modern board game design and has won a place in Polygon’s collection in the next few years.

The Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile The audit was conducted using a physical copy provided by Leder Games. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These will not affect editorial content, but Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links.You can find View additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.