Oath | Designer Diary 14: Suit Spotlight (Order and Beasts)

Designer/Developer Diary, Oath -

Oath | Designer Diary 14: Suit Spotlight (Order and Beasts)

Earlier this week I wrote a little about the rules that inform the game's card list. Today I'm going to chat a bit about some cards in the context of those rules.

Let's start with Order. Cards in the order suit are meant to capture discipline, military prowess, and the ability to quickly raise warbands. Overall, they have a higher overall proportion of battle plans and fewer minor actions and almost no “when played” effects.

However, describing a suit in proportion to it's abilities can be really misleading. For instance, there's a lot of variety when it comes to designing battle plans. This variety is a byproduct of Oath's combat system. While I was working on the system, I had to fight hard to keep these options open. My usual instinct would be to design something as simple as Root's combat. But, with the card list being what it is, I knew I would want ample space to work, and by the time I got to design specific battle plans and fill out the card list, I was happy I did.

Battle plans fall into three rough categories: conditional advantages, persistent advantages, and special powers. Then, within each of those categories there are variations of scope and cost. So, while it's true that Order cards have more battle plans than your average suit, such a statement says very little about the nature of the suit. With that in mind, let me try again: the Order suit has lots of battle plans and most order plans offer cheap/free conditional advantages that are narrow but strong. Here are two in the starting deck:

Cards from Oath the board game, Longbows and Wrestlers; art by Kyle Ferrin


Longbows provides advantages against Nomad cards. Wrestlers offers that same advantage against Hearth cards. Neither has any cost associated with it. Keen-eyed observers will note that the reduction of cost on these cards is different from previous images of these cards that we've shared. This reflects some changes over the past month of development. I'll be saying quite a bit more about the game's development next week when we release the print-and-play and TTS.

Order cards also offer nice persistent advantages as well, such as the Keep and, on of my favorite cards, Pressgangs, which allows players to muster as a free action.

Cards from Oath the board game: Pressgangs and Keep; art by Kyle Ferrin


What minor actions they do have usually related to raising troop, such as the card Pressgangs, which allows you to pay favor to take a “free” muster action.

I think the Beast suit provides a nice counterpoint to Order. The key theme of the suit is affinity. Thematically, I wanted the Beast cards to represent the edges of society, the woods in both the literal and the metaphorical sense.

So, you can get cards like Errand Boy and Forest Paths, which are both space-collapsing. Errand Boy allows you to draw from discard piles not associated with your current region. Forest Paths offers a free travel action to any other site with a Beast card.

Cards from Oath the board game: Forest Paths, Errand Boy and Wolves; art by Kyle Ferrin


Of course, Beast cards have their combat advantages too. Players might, for instance, enlist the help of Wolves. Like the Order cards we talked about earlier, there is no cost associated with Wolves. If a player rules the card and wants to activate it during a Campaign Action they simply can. This card also as the advantage of two separate triggers: it works if the enemy has at least one Arcane card or at least one Hearth card.

With two triggers and no cost, it seems like Wolves is certainly more useful than the average Order battle plan, but, there is an important complication. While the Order card always gave an advantage of 2 to it's users, the Wolf card as a variable advantage modifier. I haven't talked much about this game's icons, but I should say here that we've tried to keep the number of icons in the game very, very low. This says nothing against icons, of course. Pamir is full of them! But, because the game has so many special powers, we were either going to need to devise a very clever and complicated syntax...or just use English (which is clever and complex enough as is). That said there are a few icons we use quite a lot (like favor and magic), and just a couple places were we needed to devise a unique dense icon.

The combat advantage of Beast cards is one of those places. Here's how you should read this icon. The advantage the Wolf card offers in a campaign is equal to the number of sites that have at least 1 Beast card on them. So, if every site in the game has a beast card on it, this card is very, very powerful. If only one site has a Beast card, it's considerably more muted.

This means that the power of the Beast cards is essentially shared by all of the players. No player can have an absolute monopoly on it.

Well, I hope that gives you some idea of the variance in suits. Next time I'll be taking a break from cards and writing a little about how we organize our development and testing for Oath in preparation for the release of the public print-and-play.

 

- Cole Wehrle

 

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