Oros Board Game Review
Updated: May 12
WBG Score: 8.5
Player Count: 1-4
You’ll like this if you like: Azul, Labyrinth
Published by: Aesc Games
Designed by: Brandt Brinkerhoff
Oros successfully funded on Kickstarter, raising close to $300k from just shy of five thousand backers. It is the perfect Kickstarter click bait. It looks great. Offers intriguing mechanisms, and was priced very reasonably at 50 bucks for the base game. But, does it live up to the hype? Let's get it to the table and find out.
First lay out the board. It is double sided, suited for different size games and player counts. Then, using the easy-to-copy guides in the rule book, lay out your starting tiles and volcano pieces. There are various options to give you different flavours of game. Then, give each person a player mat, and all the pieces in their colour. Place your wisdom caps on the bottom line, with three followers on the spaces on the left side of the board, three off the board ready to be used, and the final two on the journey and build spots. Next to your board, place your nine sacred sites tiles and foresight tokens. Finally, lay out all the tiles, arranged into their numbered groups, along with the volcano pieces.
If you are playing with two people or solo, you will need to set up the automa mat. Simply take one of the unused god boards, flip it over, and set up the automa cards, shuffled on the top face down, along with the wisdom pieces (minus two) and the followers laid at the bottom of the board. The automa works after all human players have had their turn, and works very simply. Turn the top card over and carry out the instructions top to bottom. The top action will usually be to send a follower to a built site, or to study, add a mountain tile, build a sacred site, or return your followers from study. The middle action sees you move a row or column or remove a tile. The bottom action will score the automa points.
How To Play
Starting with the first player, players will now take it in turns to carry out three actions. Your first action must be to place one of your followers onto any single island tiles. The tiles will be made up of pieces worth one to four. The islands are one tiles, and have a small amount of land, surrounded by water. You know, like islands! Your next two actions can be whatever you choose from the six available at the bottom of your board. To carry out an action, move a follower onto the chosen space and then carry it out. You cannot move a follower onto a space that already has an existing one there. Planning ahead and deciding which follower to move to carry out an action is as important as choosing what actions to do. You need to ensure you free up the spaces you want to do that turn. You can also carry out the same action more than once in a turn. So you could could move a follower onto journey for example, and carry out that action, then move that same follower off Journey onto another spot, carry that action, and then move any other follower back onto the now freed up follower spot to carry our follow for a second time. All on the same turn. Planning is key.
Your plans will all be based around being on the right spot on the board at the right time, in order to maximise your points. A big part of this comes from building your sacred sites. There are three levels to each site. An "L" shaped bottom Monolith piece A two-spaced middle Shine piece. And a single-spaced top Temple piece. You can only ever build on mountains, and only once per mountain. In order to complete all three sacred sites on the same mountain, three separate players will need to build once each. This is why you need a third dummy player for a two-player game.
Each player is working alone, and the person with the most points at the end wins. But for the sacred sites, you are in a way working together. Although, you will often take a spot and build where another player wanted too, you need to all at some point in the game have been on the same land tile if you want to build a second or third level sacred site.
Building these sites is important as they will allow you to score points, gain wisdom (we will come to that soon) and gain more spaces for your followers to study.
The six actions are as follows:
Shift. This allows you to move entire rows or columns one, two, or three spaces.
Move. This allows you to move one, two, or three tiles as a group one space in either direction. If tiles moved in this way collide with another tile, then new land is formed. This will seem complicated at first but quickly makes sense. A One value land tile hitting a Two value land tile will make a three. Two tiles with a value of Two will make a Four. And two Fours makes a mountain. Later in the game you can unlock a power to make a Three and a Four tile make a mountain.
Erupt. During set up, and at other parts of the game such as when the first player gets to the Five or Ten space of the Ascension track, new Volcanoes are formed. You can also build new volcanoes using this action, or erupt existing ones. This is another way to form new land and like the Move action, will come together in your mind very quickly. If a Volcano with a value of Two were to erupt on a land tile with a value of One, then you would simply remove the volcano and tile from the board and replace them with a new land tile with a value of Three. The rule books suggests you look at the volcano's as "pent up land waiting to spill out." if the volcano fills up the land and still have some unused power left over, new land tiles will be formed in any orthogonal space you choose. The only rule is the new line of land tiles must all be in a straight line, until you unlock the power to do otherwise of course!
Send or Return from Study. At the end of the game, any follower in study will score you points based on how far you managed to get all your wisdom trackers. Returning them from study during the game is one way to raise your wisdom. When you have unlocked the power to do so, sending followers to study on new sacred sites you have built is also the only way to get new followers onto the board.
Journey. This is how you will move your followers when they are on the main board. You can only move to land that is connected, and that shares an edge where land is present on both tiles. Followers can move through spaces where other followers are, but cannot end there, unless there is a sacred site to hold them.
Build. This is how you build your sacred sites. You need to be on a mountain space, with a follower present, and have the required sacred site tile. For example, if the base "L" shaped Monolith had been built, you need to two-spaced Shrine tile available by your player board. After you build the site, you will place your worker on that tile onto the site. So, if you want to subsequently move that follower off the tile, they first need to move down from the site. Moving from the top Temple spot will take one action to go down to the Shrine, another to get down to the Monolith, and then a final movement to climb down to the tile itself. It is worth keeping Followers on the shrines though, as when other players build sites on a tile where you have a follower studying you will gain a Wisdom. Benefiting from another players turn.
When the first player reaches the top of the Ascension track, each players who have not done so, will complete their final turn in that round, and the final scores are tallied. There is a convenient score pad for this, which is incredibly useful. Players will score for four main areas. First, their final position on the Ascension track. Second, you can unlock points on the Shift, Move, Erupt, and Study spaces on the player board, up to seven for each one. Third, for each follower studying at the end of the game will score you points based on which horizon line you reached. You will see on the board, where the three extra workers were paced during set up, three yellow arrows. If you can get the first five wisdom trackers to this level, you will unlock an extra follower, and then score one, two, or three points for each follower in study. Finally, you will score zero to seven points for each Temple, Shrine, and Monolith you built based on how high your wisdom in each area rose during the game.
Moving wisdom up the tracks is crucial to your end game score as you can now see. But they help during the game as well. When you move wisdom trackers up you will unlock new abilities. Winning Oros is largely focused around building sacred sites but how you score from this will vary game to game, based on your strategy with your growth in wisdom. Do you want to get as many followers into study positions and grow your wisdom in the first five tracks to forth level to gain points that way? Would you rather focus on building just one or two type of sites and grow your wisdom on those tracks? Or perhaps, you would like to grow your wisdom in a few of the first five tracks to gain points there?
Is It Fun?
There are a few elements of Oros that feel interestingly unique. As such, it took me a few games to fully understand the strategy required to do well in this game. My first three games I scored largely the same points. But as I started to understand the movement of the tiles more, I was able to manipulate the board to suit my needs and become more efficient with my turns. But games of Oros move quick, so you either need to learn quick, or play it a few times. You only need one person to get to fifteen on the Ascension track to end the game. When you build a sacred site you will ascend twice. And you cannot ever be on the same spot on the Ascension board as another player. So, if you were to move two spaces from 12 to 14 for example, but someone else was on the 14th spaces, you will instead move to 15 and end the game. As players tend to build at similar times in the game, I found that the score markers will move up together and often benefit from this rule two to four times each game. Meaning you only need to build four or five sites out of the nine you have to end a game.
I also mention this as when you first play Oros, I would wager you will think to yourself, "How will I ever score a point?" Everything seems so far away in terms of geography on the board and the amount of actions you will need to get to any point scoring opportunities. But it all changes very quickly, and the game will race away. If you are not efficient with your turns, you will fall behind, and lose. And there is minimal learning time in a solo or two player game, as the Automa knows what it is doing from turn one!
I lost my first two games to the Automa. This could discourage people from wanting to play this. Learning how the tiles move can also do that. It initially looks complicated and limited. Players can find themselves adrift in terms of strategy and points, but also in terms of being too far away from the other players to be able to build on the mountains they are building on. However, when you learn all the clever ways you can manipulate the board, you will start to see the genius of Oros and enjoy the process a lot more.