It’s Friday again! Wesley Tay’s got a new game review which is perfect for fans of Social Deduction games!
So everyone is playing Among Us, that trending online game where you eject imposters (or friends) into space if you suspect them of killing your friends.
Why not play a higher level Social Deduction game where you can do that AND earn power and resources?
In a nutshell: Game of Thrones: Oathbreaker is everything you love in a Social Deduction game with added resource management. So not only do you have fun scheming with fellow conspirators or fighting for the King/Queen, you do have to worry about resources at the end of the day. You also don’t get ‘ejected’ from the game if you’re a conspirator so play can continue right till the end!
Game of Thrones: Oathbreaker
What it’s About
“There is one conspirator among us.”
Social Deduction games have found a digital resurgence recently, in the form of Among Us. Taking notes from games like Werewolf/Mafia, Saboteur and Avalon: Resistance, these games provide a socially acceptable reason to lie to friends and gaslight the trust away out of the airlock.
That said, Game of Thrones: Oathbreaker is a 5-8 player Social Deduction game that uses the backdrop of kingship and blends the genre with aspects of resource management. Completing missions increases the Order in the kingdom and provides resources but failing to do so results in the kingdom falling deeper into Chaos. This gives players reasons to work with each other, even if they are a dirty, dirty imposter.
How it Plays
Each player represents Nobles from the great houses of Westeros. The exception to this is the King (or Queen), who is randomly selected and must immediately reveal this information. Nobles are given Loyalty cards depicting their allegiance to the crown; Loyalists, as the name implies, are loyal to the King/Queen and only win if there is more Order than Chaos. Conspirators, however, seek to betray the King/Queen, finding ways when Chaos is higher than Order to dethrone the King/Queen.
Alongside this are Ambition cards, which Nobles will need to complete while balancing Chaos and Order. These are objectives cards that need the players to collect resource cubes (representing Coin, Honour and Power) and each Noble only wins if they have these resources at the end of the game. This gives the Conspirators reasons to work with the other Nobles aside from purely gaining other players’ trusts.
Oathbreaker alternates between mission rounds, where Nobles work together to complete several missions, and decree rounds, where the King/Queen can play decree cards on Nobles. These are repeated until the end of the round track.
Decree cards can work in three different ways: favour and suspicion cards provide benefits and penalties respectively and are supposed to be played on Loyalists and Conspiracists for extra Order at the end of the game. Decree cards function like actual decrees, hinting at other players who the King/Queen suspects or trusts. However, playing a decree card on a player early might not be something the King/Queen would like to do, so proclamation cards provide a one-time effect to the board and gives the option to stall for time.
Missions are revealed during mission rounds, requiring Nobles to anonymously play two (or more) cards that meet its demands. Cards either contain a mixture of crowns, ravens and swords, or black skulls that depict sabotage attempts. The mission only passes if there are more required icons than black skulls and fails when there is a tie or less icons than black skulls.
Resources and Order are rewarded if the mission passes, which is crucial for every noble to complete their Ambitions. Conspirators must make the difficult choice whether to allow a mission to succeed for the resources but allow Loyalists closer to victory or sabotage it in order to increase the Chaos levels.
At the end of the round track, the King/Queen must make one last guess on all players on whether they are Loyalists or Conspirators, giving one last attempt to increase Order for every correct guess (and increase Chaos for every wrong guess).
Social Deduction with Resource Management
Despite being a tv-series tie-in, Game of Thrones: Oathbreaker manages to set itself apart from other social deception games by adding a touch of resource management. By adding in Ambition cards, it provides Loyalists a goal to work towards and gives Conspirators incentives to work towards Order. It would have been more interesting to have mission failures provide resources as well, although that might make it confusing for new players to keep track of.
The King/Queen play a very different game compared to the Nobles; their job lies in unravelling the other players’ intentions and loyalties through observing them. While it can be a mentally taxing role to fill, the game does provide enough methods to gain information and winning as the King/Queen can be incredibly satisfying to pull off. Through proper use of decree cards, the King/Queen can apply pressure on certain players and change the flow of the game.
Things that Could Be Better
The only gripe would be the mission cards; some mission cards have additional text and effects that change how the mission is approached, such as requiring every player to play at least one card on the mission or deal out an additional mission card. Personally, the mission cards just barely missed the mark and requires a bit more tweaking, though it does fit well with the rest of the game and encourages people to speak up and contribute information.
Having said that, playing as a Noble (both Loyalists and Conspirators) does not feel as powerless as playing a “villager” in other Social Deduction games. Nobles come equipped with a unique abilities that helps influence results at the cost of resource cubes. This is a good way to use resources that a player did not need to win with, while giving more agency to the players.
Overall, the game provides a solid alternative to socially acceptable lying and gives players a chance to become masterminds. If your friends are tired of sending people out of the airlock, perhaps you can start a revolution against the King/Queen in with Game of Thrones: Oathbreaker.
For 5-8 Players, 30-45 Minutes Playing Time, Age 14+
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