Oath: New Foundations | Clockwork Design Diary 1: The Queen is Dead, Long Live the Queen

Designer/Developer Diary, Oath -

Oath: New Foundations | Clockwork Design Diary 1: The Queen is Dead, Long Live the Queen

It won’t seem like it during this campaign, but Richard Wilkins (aka Ricky Royal) and I have been working on Oath in one way or another for almost a year. I first got a text from Cole in late June 2023, just as summer school was winding down, asking if I would like to work with Ricky to co-design a new solo/co-op mode for Oath. I am fairly certain my response was “Hell yeah!”

We were given full freedom to create anything we wanted for Oath, and what we wanted was to stay within the world and rules that Cole had created while also shaping an experience that would be truly satisfying for players like us. The result of our early work together was the Queen of Shadows.

The Queen of Shadows, or QoS, originated from a real co-op scenario deep within Oath’s lore. Cole was heavily inspired by Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain novels, which follow the adventures of Taran, a young boy who comes of age and learns to be a hero during a difficult time. Ricky and I both ended up reading and loving the entire series! (And if you liked The Black Cauldron, you will adore the source material.)

Humans definitely fight with each other throughout the books, but they must also collectively do battle with Arawn Death-Lord, a thief of life, freedom, and innovation. Our Queen of Shadows similarly brought darkness to the world of Oath. In our initial solo/co-op mode, players raced against QoS to collect Shadow Relics, which were necessary to win the game but placed heavy burdens on the players who carried them. To find these relics, players had to place overlays over normal Sites on the board to access “Shadow Sites,” interact with shady Shadow Denizens, and make exchanges at dark altars. Once Shadow Relics were found, players needed to cooperate, sharing the burden of keeping hold of them on their road to victory. Visions transformed from individual victory conditions to conditions that players helped each other meet in order to overthrow QoS. And after encountering the world of shadows, players would hear its echoes even in future multiplayer games. Shadow Relics and Shadow Denizens crept into the world box as a reminder of dark times that had come before, bringing new ways for competitive players to mess with each other after collectively handling a threat.

An image of four “Shadow Sites” created for the Queen of Shadows mode, complete with Shadow Relics and Shadow Altars.

An image of four “Shadow Sites” created for the Queen of Shadows mode, complete with Shadow Relics and Shadow Altars.


As part of the current Kickstarter campaign for New Foundations and Clockwork Adversaries, Ricky and I are releasing a sample deck called the “Servant.” This deck is a reworked version of our original QoS deck, and is meant to fit into a normal game of Oath. The Servant you can meet now is an early sketch, and she will continue to evolve along with the rest of the Oath expansion project, but you should be able to get a sense of what we want an automated opponent to feel like. As she stands, the Servant is quick and straightforward to manage, while also putting up a good fight (we’re still working on that part). Ultimately we want her to be responsive without too much overhead, which is why she is fashioned as an overlay that can be placed over either a Chancellor or Exile player board. In addition to the usual actions a player can take in Oath, the Servant is equipped with Reap, Moon, and Star actions to give her a bit of extra zing as well as the potential to develop different playstyles and personalities within the same basic system.


(A side-by-side comparison of two cards, one from the QoS deck and the other from the Servant deck. The red “R” was originally a symbol that sent QoS in search of Shadow Relics.)
A side-by-side comparison of two cards, one from the QoS deck and the other from the Servant deck. The red “R” was originally a symbol that sent QoS in search of Shadow Relics.
Of particular interest are the Servant’s Moon actions and Mood cards. The Mood cards give the Servant special boosted actions, change in response to the current conditions of the game, and encourage the Servant to interfere with her opponents’ goals. The Moon actions work in conjunction with the Mood cards to shift what the Servant actually does as Visions are revealed and Usurpers rise.

Our ultimate goal is for the Servant to glide seamlessly into competitive Oath games of any size, and for her to be able to play any role. For now, the Servant can fill in for a Chancellor or an Exile, but we are also asking ourselves what types of “personalities” we can develop for the Servant, and what it might be like for an automated Citizen deck to negotiate an uneasy alliance with a human Chancellor—or for a human player to make a devil’s bargain with a non-human ruler.

In addition to getting the Servant deck to behave naturally and competitively, Ricky and I are confident it will provide a solution to a specific problem in Oath—the relative weakness of two-player games. In her final form, the Servant will be able to take the place of a third player (or even a fourth one) to make it possible for two players to have a more vibrant experience.

But there are always further problems to solve. For one-player games, inserting the Servant as a second player simply recreates the two-player problem. There are a few paths forward. We might power up the Servant so that she can pack double the punch. It may also be possible to use the same Servant deck to power two automated opponents, although we would rather players spend more time playing and less time managing the Servant. Ultimately, we may introduce new victory conditions that are better suited to solo play.

If I had to guess, I’d say our conversations about this are ultimately leading us back to where we began. Ricky and I are true believers in a great solo/co-op mode for Oath that plays with the goals of the game and offers a different experience while still remaining within the boundaries of its existing ruleset. While the Servant will be out there as a sample of what we are thinking about as an add-in deck for competitive games, we are both set on a more intensive experience for true solo players, as well as for those interested in cooperative scenarios. This time we’ll be developing our new mode alongside the rest of New Foundations. That way, we can take a lot of what we learned and what we loved about the Queen of Shadows and create common enemies that fit the overall vision for Oath itself, for New Foundations, and for potential future expansions.

As Cole has mentioned, the entire Oath project is in development, and that is very much the case for Clockwork Adversaries. However, the echoes of QoS that resound through the Servant are exciting, and Ricky and I can’t wait to show you our new ideas, as well as develop those that are lurking in the shadows.

TL;DR: Ricky and I are currently developing an automated opponent that can be inserted into competitive games. There will be more, but we cannot guarantee what it will look like just yet. As development of the New Foundations side of the expansion continues, we will work alongside that development to create a solo experience that has the potential to scale into a cooperative one.


Read more about Oath: New Foundations on Board Game Geek!
Find out about the Oath: New Foundations Kickstarter campaign here.

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