12 October 2020

Review: Oathmark - Battlesworn

 Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy of Battlesworn by Osprey Publishing. 

The first expansion for Oathmark, has been out for awhile now. And the next one is already visible on the horizon. Recently Joseph mcCullough visited us at Bloodbeard's Garage hobby Discord, you can listen to the podcast version here

For Oathmark we learned that:

  • the first three expansions were written at the same time. Battlesworn, Oathbreakers and Bane of Kings.
  • the release order was messed up by Covid19, Oathbreakers should have been first.
From the text on the back of the book, this expansion should contain:
  1. elite units, unit progression from battle to battle
  2. rivers and boats
  3. mini campaigns
In this review, I'll be getting a look at the three things promised. When I first flipped through the book, I turned on the camera. So you can see that here, before reading the actual review below. 

Setup, editing, artwork
We're not going to spend a lot of time on this bit. The book is well edited, the table of contents shows everything in it and where to look. Super easy and done in the same style as the core rulebook. 

There's a few new art pieces in this expansion, they look good. Same artist as the core book, so it's all familiar. Nice and old school looking stuff. Check the video above for a good look at it all.

Everything has been slowed down from Covid. North Star has multiple new plastic kits planned, metal miniatures for specialist units and monsters. There's a lot of Oathmark stuff coming. I think it'll be interesting to see future supplements containing photos of it all. Frostgrave 2nd edition has so many different photos and art work - collected over the years. 

And this will be good for Oathmark as well, as the photos and art doesn't bring a lot of new stuff in this expansion. Goes to show the timeline for releases on these books. There's not a single shot of dwarf heavy infantry or elf light infantry in the book, and those kits have been out for some time now. 

Anyway. .. if you want more words on layout and such, go check out the core book review. Same good work in this expansion. 

1. Battle Honours
This is the part I was most excited about with this expansion. I had a very clear idea and expectation of what this should be like. Classic skirmish style XP, levels, skill gains and injuries - like in so many skirmish games. Play long enough and you'll hit a point going 'this dude has so many cool skills, but he's missing an eye, a toe and is shell shocked - do I keep him?' 

This is what I expected from the text. This is not what we got. 

Battle honours are a set of pretty simple rules. Standard units (not monsters, slaves or militia) can receive battle honors. At the end of each battle you fight, you can chose to award one surviving unit battle honours. Consider this unit an option for future battles (you don't have to include it in your army - it's just part of your kingdom). 

This unit will have a single re-roll on a morale or activation test during the game, and the unit cost goes up 10%. I've not played Oathmark enough, but it seems pretty expensive for one reroll, especially if it's already an expensive linebreaker unit. 

If the unit ever dies in battle, you roll to see if they lose the battle honours or can still be recruited. After each battle you can award a new unit battle honours or give even more rerolls to a veteran unit. You can only bring one battle honoured unit to the table, so consider having multiple units tools in your kingdom tool box. 

I asked Joseph about this rule - and he said it's simple on purpose. Use it or don't, it won't break the game and add a ton of record keeping. And the 'normal character progression' thing I was hoping for, will be in Oathbreakers for heroes. 

2a. Engineers
These are not mentioned on the back of the book. But all armies can now bring engineers onto the table. Engineers are small units, that can make or break battlefield cover during the game. Fairly simple. I'm not sure how it's gonna work, with moving around and activation. But for attacker / defender scenarios it might be fun, adding a few barricades during the game. 

Perhaps engineers will get a bigger role in a future (crossing my fingers) siege expansion. But for now, they seem... not that useful. But they play a part in the mini campaign included, and it's a good reason to convert some cool miniatures. 

2b. Rivers and Boats
Of all the things that could be brought out first, this seems a bit weird (again, give me siege rules) - but Joseph writes the rules he has ideas for and the release order was messed up. 

The game Oathmark takes place in The Marches, so it makes sense that there's a lot of water around. In the book are simple rules for small and large boats. I like that the rules are simple. Boats themselves are free, but you must pay a cost for some crew. Players are encouraged to agree upon using boats, when setting up a scenario with enough water. 

The rules are super simple and that's good. River move the boats automatically because the river has a current. Then a boat can move as normal with activation. Archers can shoot from and at boats, which provides cover. If boats ram each other the units in the boats have to fight. A small boat can have 1 unit and a large boat can have 2. No model count, no need to place then on the boat. One or two units - done. That keeps things simple. 

The rules for boats and rivers are nice to have, to spice up a scenario. And should be considered as such, another tool for the sandbox of Oathmark. 

There's new water based spells for each army as well. 

3. Military Expeditions
This part is really what makes the book worth getting. Just like I've come to expect from Frostgrave expansions. In Oathbreakers you get three small mini campaign military expeditions to play out. Connected scenarios, that carries small consequence from one game to the next. 

So there's 10 new scenario in the book (four, two and four). And they're all centered around the rules for engineers and boats. All the military expeditions have the possibility of adding new special territories (in the outer ring) to you kingdom. Unique ones being an abandoned temple, island of flowers or gold mine.

For me at least, that's a lot of extra gameplay for a few buck. And the scenarios can probably be played fine as one offs as well.

Should you get the book - is it worth it?
Battlesworn is a neat little expansion and it's not that expensive. Is it a must have for Oathmark? No - it isn't. Battlesworn is a small expansion of the sandbox. If you're in a group and want to build cool ships - then get yourself battlesworn. Make a hobby project to all build some ships for the campaign. 

The battle honours thing might be fun for some, it adds options. Nothing game breaking or must have. I would still have liked more comprehensive 'battle honours' and tracking of progress for units. Never mind the extra bookkeeping if you're not playing competitive gaming. It could have added a lot to the story of an army.

But nothing that fundamentally change the core rules or gameplay. I like that about an expansion. It doesn't break the core game, it doesn't add anything in terms of unfair advantage. 

Any last words ... punk?! 
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  1. Nice little review! I was a bit disappointed because of the re-used artwork (new artwork is a lot of work, but why not to use at least some new photos instead?), and the simplicity of the battle honors. But I really like the engineers (for a couple of points new tactical options), the boats (simplicity comes here really good), the scenarios and the water elemental.
    A siege expansion is a great idea!

    1. Thanks for your input, seems we agree on this expansion. Yes, keeping the boat rules simple is the best things in this.

    2. I cant stop thinking about possible siege rules. I would like to write a post about it on my blog. But because it was Your idea, and maybe You are also planning to write something about it. But i dont want to take the priority from you. So would it bother, if I would do so?

    3. Not a all BZ. go ahead. Sorry for the lack of replies. ... blogger has bugged somehow for me. And I no longer get notifications when people post comments. It's annoying.

    4. Ok, thanks! Im already working on it, I will notify You when its ready.

    5. So, at the end, I finished it... Its a bit chaotic, but I hope you will like it, maybe it will inspire You (as your post did it to me):

    6. I've just found a way to browse comments on the blog! Perfect... Then I won't miss stuff like this. Will give it a read and double check your blog is added to my RSS feed.

  2. Great review thanks. I personally like all aspects of this expansion...though like you I'm really hoping for Siege rules at some point.

    1. We need to keep bringing it up, so Osprey sees it. I really want an excuse to buy a castle!