Oathsworn: Into The Deepwood Review

18 November 2022
If you go into the woods today, you better bring lots of weapons

The shadow of Gloomhaven stretches far across the tabletop. There is no RPG-in-a-box campaign game that can resist comparison with Isaac Childres’ self-published mega-hit these days. Especially if it ditches dice for cards and comes in a bloody big box. With that in mind, say hello to Jamie Jolly’s Oathsworn: Into the Deepwood, a self-published RPG-lite campaign game set in an original dark-fantasy world that has an innovative card combat system and comes in a box so hefty and girthy your Kallax will shudder. (And that’s just the standee version, whose nasty monstrous foes reside in “mystery envelopes”; if you’re considering the miniatures version, it comes with an entire second box filled with sculpted plastic beasties.) There is no game which more obviously invites Gloomhaven comparisons. And you know what? It measures up amazingly.

The first thing to note is there are no stickers and card-tearing in Oathsworn. The world-state changes and develops based on your actions, but you’ll be able to reset and restart as many times as you like. Secondly, it’s not strictly a card-driven system. In an impressively thoughtful twist, Jolly has crafted his combat mechanisms in such a way that they handle either good old-fashioned dice-rolling or slick, modern card-drawing. It’s your choice. Whatever you prefer. You can even mix up the two methods if you want. (For the record, we prefer the card system as you can better anticipate the outcomes based on previous draws; it’s just that little bit less random.)

Your character’s actions, meanwhile, are determined by a single card play each turn. Abilities are fuelled by “Animus” (represented by amber-coloured gems), which is spent to activate them, and each card has a cooldown value. According to Jolly’s “Battleflow” system, you place the used card in a “0”, “1”, “2” or “3” position around your character board, where “0” is the closest to your hand. The only way to return it to play is to play other cards which will shunt it anti-clockwise around the board, one position at a time, and eventually back into your hand. It’s a little confusing at first, but once you settle in it’s a neat little system, which gets you thinking hard about the smartest combos and when best to time those more flashy and exhausting manoeuvres.

Unlike Gloomhaven, whose scenarios are a little bit of story and a lotta bit of skirmish, each chapter of Oathsworn is, pleasingly, split into two distinct segments, which don’t even have to be played in the same session. First you play the “Story”, which involves reading narrative (or, optionally, listening to it being orated by Scottish actor James Cosmo via the free companion app), making decisions that have real consequence, and trying to stock up on as much useful info and gear as possible before you run out of time and the “Encounter” phase kicks off. This is where the hack-and-slashing happens, in what is essentially a massive boss fight. A really fun, often very challenging massive boss fight.

There are some small wrinkles. The enemy and character Might cards are too easy to mix up; the Encounter board’s dense artwork makes it a little tricky to set everything up in the right place; there’s quite a lot of tidying to do after each game. But we have no huge complaints. Mainly just sheer admiration at Jolly for creating such a fantastically immersive and mechanically creative adventure.




Anyone who appreciates a balance of storytelling and battle-mongering in their campaign games really should seek out Oathsworn. The Deepwood beckons.


Like we’d compare it with any other game after what we’ve just said above.

Read the full review here

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Buy your copy here


Designer: Jamie Jolly

Publisher: Shadowborne Games

Time: 2-3 Hours

Players: 1-4

Ages: 14+

Price: £80

What’s in the box?

  • (Standee Version)
  • Encounter rule book
  • Story rule book
  • Encounter book
  • 2 Story books
  • Journal
  • 8 City maps (in mystery envelopes)
  • 31 Mystery envelopes
  • Game board
  • 12 Player boards
  • 22 Special rules boards
  • 19 Encounter boards
  • 12 Time tracks
  • Free Company sheets pad
  • Character sheets pad
  • 17 Effect tiles
  • 11 Obstacle tiles
  • 339 Cardboard tokens
  • 44 Animus gems (plastic)
  • 44 Might cubes
  • 49 Dice
  • 1,367 Cards
  • 27 Card separators
  • 25 Miniatures
  • 12 Civilian standees
  • 22 Plastic stands

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