The Turanian Scourge versus the Noble Knights of Aquilonia!
If you’ve been following along on this blog you know that Oathmark has been a big activity for me to pass time during COVID. I’ve collected an Orc Army, an Undead (Oathbreaker) Army, and I’m building a Dwarf Army. The problem is that since I’ve had nobody to play with and nowhere to go with it, my sole playing opportunity has been solo, which isn’t nearly as much fun, nor does it give you a good understanding of the nuances of a game. Well, that changed yesterday, when the Scrum Club had it’s first in person event since we all bunkered down about a year ago and some change. Safety protocols were observed, and all players had had both injections and waited beyond the two week period to build up immunity. Steve Braun, who is a fellow Robert E. Howard geek, set up a scenario at Joe’s place that was an excellent introduction to the Oathmark rules system using the Hyperborian world setting of Conan (and Robert E. Howard). Steve put pretty good effort in and soon we were sitting at a table with roughly a 3000 point engagement in front of us.
This event takes place late in Conan’s career as the King of Aquilonia, when he was (to quote Steve) “Not in his heyday, older, greyer and his knees hurt”. I commanded one excellent cavalry unit on the left flank (Conan and his black guard), plus a ragtag of Archers (definitely a good unit, though) and some Cimmerian mercenary infantry and Muster troops. Everybody in the line saw combat. John to my right of the Aquilonian line had another Cav unit, some muster troops, two archers and the Gunderland pikes, who were steady.
Turan is described as “the other great superpower of this phase of the Hyborian Age” (from REH’s The Hyborian Age, his fictionalized history of the Conan story settings). They faced me on the left (run by Joe) with a decent heavily armored cavalry unit, and some decent archers, a wizard and light infantry. John Sears was to my right and facing Steve Braun with a cavalry force, some horse archers, and heavy infantry.
As mentioned, Steve conceived of the scenario and being the only other guy in the Scrum Club with a heavy investment in Oathmark, I heartily approved. You don’t necessarily have to have dedicated fantasy figures for mass fantasy campaign battles– and Steve was clever finding some of pretty decent historical substitutes for Turanians and Aquilonians, with a plethora of historical periods to choose from. The scale was great; 28mm on roughly a 5×8 table gave each guy working a flank about four or five Oathmark units to play with.
John did some back and forth on the right flank. His cavalry tried to do a rollup maneuver, getting behind Steve’s line, but Steve managed to intercept him. Steve’s deadliest unit was the Horse Archers, which could move like cavalry, fight well and shoot like archers. They ravaged John’s front lines a bit. Initially Steve had some trouble coordinating movements a bit but he got the hang of it and set into John’s section of the line. Due to the unique bouncing boomerang notion of how units react to colliding with each other, the center of the battle was a bit of a confused mess, and we took some casualties. That was our biggest risk, our center line was not holding well.
Joe’s best unit was his heavy horse, which was represented by Cataphract cavalry figures. They had a thick skin (Defensive rating) and could Charge. I wanted to dominate the ridge before him but it was closer so he took it first– which meant my side was in for some casualties. I sent Conan and company up the hill to fight them. This resulted in a melee where I lost two and he lost four.
And that’s pretty much where we left. it. Victor undetermined, but likely the Conan Black Dragons were going to roll up Joe’s line and not much could be done about it. Guessing what was “likely to happen” is just that– guesswork, and sometimes the dice just aren’t on your side. So we called it a draw.
Impressions: I really liked it.
Oathmark isn’t perfect. It’s mostly a maneuver by inches kind of game, with a few rules that cause boomerang effects that seem somewhat gamey but have some justification. Like when a unit retreats into another unit and causes that unit to also retreat– every time. We had an elaborate see-saw going on in the center causes by multiple “boomerangs”. Combat is very luck dependent and hard to predict. Magic, I think anyway– is somewhat anemic. Maybe my recent experience with Chainmail had me wishing for a magician who could toss fireballs all day, I don’t’ know. My Battle Wizard dude was mostly there to remove disordered (red) tokens and give people a courage bonus– and he failed every time. Again, that’s luck dependent. We did find that we were making up house rules here or there where something wasn’t spelled out entirely. I’m trying to remember where we were applying the fixes and I’m drawing a blank, but I’m sure it seemed important at the time. With all of that, Oathmark is still a real gem. It did feel like we were on a medieval battlefield, with all the attendant chaos and horror as the situation went from victory to pear-shaped and back again. If a rule system can replicate real battle chaos, it’s doing something right. I think Oathmark will be a worthy addition to our gaming repertoire.