Battlesworn First Impressions | Oathmark: Battles Of The Lost Age

November 10, 2020 by brennon

Last week we looked at the newest expansion for Oathmark: Battles Of The Lost Age called Oathbreakers which introduced the Undead and Legendary Heroes into your mass battle Fantasy wargames. This week we're looking at Osprey Games and Joseph A. McCullough's first expansion, Battlesworn.


Learn More About Oathbreaker: Battles Of The Lost Age

Battlesworn was the first book which continued the narrative elements that were woven into the core rulebook for Oathmark and if you're interested in a summary of that original game, make sure to check it out HERE. In this article, however, we're going to be exploring what Battlesworn offers from heroic units through to seaworthy battles and more.

Awarding Battle Honours

The focus of Battlesworn during previews was the addition of new units which could be awarded Battle Honours. This takes a standard unit from the game and turns it into a regiment of renown, a band of warriors from legends and sagas who fight for their kingdom and are well known amongst the villages of the land.

battle honours

When it comes to gifting a unit Battle Honours there are a few key rules to consider. The first is that the unit must have participated in a large and significant battle. This is mostly up to the interpretations of the players but a good rule of thumb from the book is any battle which is over 1500 points in size. Additionally, and fairly obviously, the unit must have at least survived the battle and had at least one miniature remaining when the fighting ceases.

The unit cannot be Unthinking or under Spellcaster Control so forget about making that unit of elite Skeletons (buy some Revenants instead!). It also cannot have the keywords of Militia or Slave and must have done something to aid in the victory conditions of the battle. For example, maybe they held the line on an objective and secured you points there, or routed and killed an enemy unit.

Using Battle Honours

There are a few more minutia for you to consider but in general, this gives you a good inkling of the kind of units you might be thinking of that could receive Battle Honours. But, what do Battle Honours do?

orc art

Well, it's quite simple. Battle Honours on a unit allow them to reroll an activation, morale test, combat, or shooting action roll. You cannot use them to reroll the Champion die but apart from that they simply allow you to change the fates if things aren't going your way. Only one Battle Honour may be used per roll but there is no limit to how many Battle Honours may be used throughout an activation. From the rulebook...

"For example, if our unit of elf spearmen with Battle Honours (3) activates, it could reroll a die from its activation roll, its combat roll, and its morale test, all in the same turn. Alternatively, it could reroll a die from its activation roll on three consecutive turns."

This might not seem like much but it enables a unit to get out of a sticky situation and perhaps make it so that that integral charge gets through, or that unit you've been warring with gets routed just in time. It's simple and effective, if not exceptionally deep.

Units With History

Of course, units with rerolls are a pretty good investment and so when it comes to bringing these characterful units into your force you will need to spend a few extra points to add them into your army throughout the campaign. As they survive and gain more Battle Honours they will raise in points cost but it should mean that they grow with your collection and therefore enter bigger and bigger battles.

dwarf art

Your units can die and be lost to time, however. If a unit with Battle Honours is ever completely wiped out then they must roll on a chart to see if they are destroyed or managed to escape with just minor casualties. If a unit does die then their banner may be hoisted in your kingdom's capital for all to remember or perhaps worked into an Oathmark for you to use in-game. Maybe it will even inspire you to make your next Battle Honours unit one that seeks revenge for fallen comrades?

Regardless of what happens with your unit, it enables you to spend a bit more time invested in the hobby side of things. As with many skirmish games, wargamers spend plenty of time trying to personalise their characters as they go through their trials and tribulations. The same can now be said of those with Battle Honours. Do you model your unit with accessories and trinkets taken from important battles? Do you make them a brand new standard which is a rich tapestry of their victories and defeats? However you choose to bring character to your army, there is now a fun excuse to play around in your bitz box!

I mentioned before that you might also want to erect Oathmarks. Oathmarks aren't a massive new option for Battlesworn but they do continue to add character to your armies. They can be built to add buffs to your army as they fight around them but beware! If the enemy gets to them it might cause mass panic amongst your army!

Engineers & Riverine Craft

The next big introduction to Oathmark through Battlesworn came through the inclusion of rules for Engineers and Riverine Craft (boats) in your games. We'll start with Engineers which can be picked for all of the main races be they Orcs, Dwarves, Elves, Goblins or Humans.


Engineers allow you to build small fortifications on the battlefield and therefore protect your units from attack. Maybe you've been focusing on holding a particular objective out in the open? Well, you can bring in your Engineers to erect barricades to shelter them from arrows and the charges of your enemies. Equally, Engineers can also destroy fortifications and this is where I see the real fun in using them!

I love the idea of introducing more siege scenarios into Oathmark with this book and using Engineers to smash down walls of forts and castles so the main brunt of your force can battle their way through the breach. It makes for dynamic battlefields and scenarios, something we're always considering when it comes to playing anything on the tabletop here at OnTableTop.

Engineers can also be used to ford rivers and provide bridges for your units to cross. With fast-flowing rivers and dangerous rapids crossing the landscape it might do well to bring Engineers so that your units of heavily armoured troops don't get swept away!

Oathmark Armies Set Sail!

This then leads quite nicely onto the addition of boats into your games. Riverine Craft (boats) can be used in river, lake and sea adventures within your armies and can be brought like normal units within your kingdom.

watercraft art

Each boat comes with a crew of warriors which keep your boat steady and in terms of size, they can either be small or large. A small boat can hold one unit whilst a large boat can hold two and they can either be represented by an actual boat or just the outline of one if you don't have access to a miniature.

There are comprehensive rules within this section of the book for dealing with how Riverine Craft work in-game, facing the challenges of the currents as well as shooting and fighting from atop them. This means that you can now fight our island-hopping battles, raids from the coastline, riverboat firefights and of course full on sea-based battles where there is no land in sight!

The options for boats in your games really opens up the kind of scenarios you can play in Oathmark. The main focus of Oathmark as a game has always seemed to be playing mass battle wargames with more spirit and the options here for boats and engineers constantly have my synapses firing as I consider the kind of games I could play if I set my mind to it. This isn't to say other games don't allow for this, or couldn't be modified to allow for it, but McCullough has done a good job of making it simple and effective.

New Military Expeditions & More

We finish with a nod towards the three additional Military Expeditions included in the back of the book. Much like with Oathbreakers offerings, these are linked narrative scenarios you can play through with a small army and there is a real focus on the new mechanics presented in Battlesworn.

military expedition

The Abandoned Temple, All For A Flower and The Great Falls each add unique and interesting mechanics which utilises Engineers and Riverine Craft throughout and I think they're going to be a joy to play through, especially if it's just you and a friend battling it out as a duo during your campaigns.

As with Oathbreakers, these Military Expeditions all offer unique Terrain which can be added into your kingdom and fought over in the future plus you'll also find options for playing around with new monsters like Lake Beasts and Water Elementals. As I said, there is a real focus on water being the star player! If you'd like to learn more about Military Expeditions then make sure to check out my review of Oathbreakers HERE.

A Handy Expansion

Battlesworn is one of those key expansions to Oathmark that I think most people will end up picking up. The simple but effective rules for Battle Honours mean that you now have more ways to customise your army than before and track their progress, building on the narrative behind your campaign games.

battle art

Similarly, the new Riverine Craft and Engineer rules help focus your attention on scenario building and trying out something new. Again, the rules are simple but effective and should be easily woven into an ongoing campaign with friends.

With Battlesworn and Oathbreakers already adding a lot to the Oathmark experience we've got to hope new miniatures are also around the corner. I can't wait until the armies for each race are more fleshed out and perhaps we'll see McCullough working on a new expansion next year. We shall have to wait and see!

If you have further questions about what's in Battlesworn don't hesitate to ask in the comments below!

"This takes a standard unit from the game and turns it into a regiment of renown, a band of warriors from legends and sagas who fight for their kingdom and are well known amongst the villages of the land..."

"The simple but effective rules for Battle Honours mean that you now have more ways to customise your army than before and track their progress..."

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