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The Iron Oath beginner’s guide, tips, and tricks

Strengthen your company of mercenaries and find vengeance

A dragon surrounded by green fire emerges out of a stormy sky to attack a castle Image: Curious Panda Games/Humble Games

The Iron Oath is a lot like other tactical turn-based RPGs, but you're also going to managing everything from saving the world from demons to negotiating employment contracts to buying a round of drinks at the bar so your employees don't quit. It’s a game that spans the macro to the micro and everything in between, and all those layers means it’s a lot to keep track of.

In this The Iron Oath beginner’s guide, we’ll give you the tips and tricks we wish we knew starting out. We’ll give you advice on covering payroll, when and where to upgrade your gear, how to train new recruits, and the best Abilities to upgrade early.

Keep way more money on hand than you think you need

In The Iron Oath, you’re running a company of mercenaries, and mercenaries need money. Everyone in your employ has a contract — to the point where, when you recruit new characters, you pick out a one-year or multi-year contract for them with signing bonuses and everything. As your characters level up, they’ll even renegotiate their contracts.

The Iron Oath screenshot showing a popup with details about a contract negotiation
As players gain experience, they’ll renegotiate their contracts for more money.
Image: Curious Panda Games/Humble Games via Polygon

What that means is that you’ll need to keep a lot of money on hand to pay them — like, a lot more. Right at the beginning of your game, your company will start to get nervous about paychecks as soon as you dip below 500 gold or so.

Save buying new weapons, armor, and other gear until you’ve got a good reserve of cash.

Besides …

Check your team’s gear before buying anything new

You’re not going to need to — and you shouldn’t — buy better equipment right away. Your first four mercs come equipped with stuff that’s slightly better than beginner’s gear already, so you don’t actually need to spend any money for a bit.

When you do decide it’s time to upgrade (or you have to outfit new recruits), make sure you look over what your people already have. Click on the wagon icon in the lower left of the screen (or just hit G on your keyboard) to pull up your current roster, pick a character, and then click on gear.

There are four gear slots: Artifact, Weapon, Armor, and Off Hand. Hover over each piece to see its stats. When you’re in a city’s Marketplace, you won’t be able to compare it to what your various mercs currently have equipped, but you’ll have a general idea. Also, pay attention to the description of each weapon before you buy it — each class has specific weapons they can use.

And before you spend any of your hard-earned money on only slightly better gear …

Every city is different and has different gear

You’re going to do a lot of traveling in The Iron Oath. You’ll be moving between cities and kingdoms and regions pretty much constantly. There’s a few things to keep in mind while you’re doing this.

The Iron Oath map with a city in the center. The city has a small bandit icon to the left indicating there’s increased bandit activity in the area.
Look for these modifier icons next to cities.
Image: Curious Panda Games/Humble Games via Polygon

Pay attention to the circular icons floating to the left each city on the map. These indicate the current conditions there — things like bandit activity, increased trade, bad weather, or threatening wildlife all might appear. These affect things like random roadside encounters or the price you’ll pay for goods.

The Iron Oath’s Marketplace screen with items to purchase on the left and items to sell on the right.
Check the Average Selling Price against the Sell Price before you decide to offload any items.
Image: Curious Panda Games/Humble Games via Polygon

Different cities have different economies. In a city’s marketplace, you’ll be able to sell some of the stuff you’ve picked up while adventuring. Hovering over your items, you’ll see that item’s average selling price (think of this as a base rate), followed by the sell price (what you’ll actually get). While you might sell some wood in one city for half of it’s average price, you’ll get more than it’s worth somewhere that’s running low. Consider hanging onto resources until the price benefits you.

Each city will also have different gear for sale. Aside from saving money so you can cover payroll, it makes sense to save up money for gear that dramatically improves your stats, rather than just minor increases.

Prioritize your best (highest level) characters first when handing out that equipment, because …

Take at least one veteran character on every run

It won’t take long into your game of The Iron Oath before it’ll make sense to expand your ranks. Characters will get tired or hurt (or killed), or they might just ask for some time off. Later in the game, they’ll retire as they age out. You’re going to need to have backups.

But it doesn’t make sense to send an entire squad of newbies out on their own and hope for the best. Instead, mix the greenhorns with your veterans. That way, the veterans can help cover the inexperience (by which we mean literally lower XP and weaker attacks) of the new hires, while the new hires will still get the experience of fighting.

Having fresh blood in your troops is important, but don’t go overboard on hiring …

Don’t hire too many people

Like we mentioned above, everyone you hire in The Iron Oath gets a contract, and that contract means you need to keep even more money on hand to cover wages. Hiring a bunch of low-level mercs and training them up is great for keeping a steady reserve of rested fighters, but it’s too much of a strain on your purse.

For the early game, only worry about hiring and training up four replacements for your four starters. This will bring your company’s number to eight. That’s going to be plenty to get your through the early game’s challenges. (In fact, a few hours in, you’ll get an objective to expand your company to 10, so that’s a good gauge of how fast you should be growing.)

Use Abilities to create advantage in combat

We’ve talked a lot about the management side of The Iron Oath, but we haven’t mentioned combat yet. Every time you engage in the turn-based combat, you’ll be moving four of your mercs around a battlefield and choosing their attacks as they battle wildlife, bandits, and demons.

Combat in The Iron Oath is all about creating advantages for your characters. That advantage could be using hazards (like traps or pits) to deal extra damage, making sure the enemy is flanked to increase your chance to hit and the damage you’ll deal when you do, hitting multiple enemies at once, or giving your characters some extra movement in a turn.

You’ll get better chances at creating those advantages with Abilities.

The Iron Oath character level up screen for a Guardian with attributes on the left, Abilities in the middle, and stats on the right.
Hover over abilities in the Level Up screen to see what they do.
Image: Curious Panda Games/Humble Games via Polygon

Each class of character gets a set of special moves called Abilities. As each character levels up, you’ll unlock new Abilities and strengthen the ones they have. Early on, focus on the Abilities that hit multiple targets or grant extra movement (either to your character or by moving the enemy it hits).

Pay attention to turn order

When combat starts, the portraits of your characters and every enemy will populate across the top of the screen. This is the turn order for the round.

The Iron Oath combat screen with player characters and enemies fighting in a cavern. Across the top are small portraits indicating the turn order for the round.
The turn order at the top of the screen shows which character or enemy will act next.
Image: Curious Panda Games/Humble Games via Polygon

Your characters will have a blue icon below their portrait, and the baddies will have a red icon. This gives you a good sense of who goes when at a glance. For more detail, you can hover over the portraits along the left and right sides of the screen.

Before you go rushing into any given battle, take a second to look over how the round will play out. There’s nothing more frustrating than setting up an attack or starting to flank, only to have the enemies all move before you get to deliver on it.

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