Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Thoughts on Test of Honour

I mention Test of Honour briefly in my Progress Review and figured I should probably go into a more in-depth review of the game. The game was just recently release in the last 3 or 4 weeks and has gain immense popularity locally. I think this is due to the theme, interesting gameplay and it being incredibly cheap for a war game. The base set has a MSRP of $50 and comes with 35 models that has a wide range of choices of how to put them together. This is more than enough for a player to build a force to their liking and even two players can mostly play what they want with just this box as well. For many other war games $50 would be a good start but only 15 to 30% of what you need to a play a full game. The expansion sets come with an unique metal hero and a small band of troops that are duplicates of what comes in the base set. The one exception to this is the Mounted Samurai expansion in which everything in it is new and doesn't come in the base set. Most of the other expansion do come with unique heads so you can customize your force a little more. This makes the expansions useful to have but are not required in any way (unless you want to play with cavalry, then the Mounted Samurai expansion is required to get your horses).

Let me go into how the game is played. There are two types of units in the game. Commoners and Samurai. Commoners have one action per Game Turn. Samurai have 2 or 3 actions per Game Turn. A community bag is filled with action tokens equal to the available actions both players have. If one player has a single samurai with 3 actions a turn, and the other player is using 2 samurai with 3 and 2 actions each, 8 samurai tokens is put into the community bag and the same is done with commoners. When it's a player's turn to act (which is different from the Game Turn) they blindly draw one token from the community bag and an unit matching that token takes one action. Once that action is resolve, play passes to their opponent whom then also draws one token from the community bag. If you draw a token that you can not used because all of your units of that type is out of actions, then you give that token to your opponent whom then activates a matching unit and after that unit has been resolve, your opponent also get the next draw from the community bag. In addition to the action tokens, 3 fate tokens are also put into the community bag. Drawing the third fate token immediately ends the Game Turn. All action and fate tokens are place bag into the community bag and play continues starting with the player who drew the third fate token. Drawing the first or second fate token is a miss activation and play continues with the opponent.

The game is based around tests which involves rolling a number special d6s equal to an unit's corresponding stat. The dice have 4 sides to them: blank, X, a single sword and double swords. If a test result has 3 or more swords, then the test succeeds. Less than 3 swords or having more Xs than swords is a failure. Combat has 3 steps. Striking, which involves an unit rolling dice equal to their Aim stat. If hit, then the target gets to avoid if they still have an action available. Remove the defender's action token from the community bag. The target test with agility. If the avoid test succeeds then the attack misses, otherwise the attacker rolls damage using their strength stat. If the damage roll succeeds then the target is "dead" or "cut down" which is the term the game uses. If the damage roll fails, then the target gets a minor wound. Minor wounds give bonus die to future damage rolls against the target. On Strike, Avoid and Damage tests, results of 5 or more swords is consider a critical success. Critical successes does extra stuff based on what weapon was being used. On the flip side, getting more Xs than swords on these three test is a fumble! Fumbling on striking risk injuring yourself, an avoid fumbling means falling down and fumbling on the damage roll means no damage was done. There are other tests in the game like testing wits or honor. Critical success or fumbles do not apply to those tests.

Skill cards is another twist the game have. Skill cards are techniques, items or other abilities that enhances the samurai's abilities. Before the game both players are dealt a "Fate deck". This deck is a number of skill cards equal to the actions the samurai in the force have. The Fate deck is face down and players are not allow to look at them. When the first or second fate token is drawn, the player loses the ability to activate an unit, but they can draw the top card of their fate deck and give it to one of their samurai. If your fate deck is empty or all your samurai has already been defeated, then drawing the fate token does nothing for you.

And that is how the game is played. There are more rules to the game, but what I just wrote is what you need to know to understand how the game works. It is pretty simple to understand which is probably another reason for its surge of popularity. There are no factions in the game. Everybody have access to the same options. It is a point based game and everybody starts with a Samurai Hero who cost 5 points. The expansion have other characters you can used to replace the default Samurai Hero at an increase in cost. From there you can add up to 2 more samurais if you want. These samurai are not as powerful as the hero but they are still strong. Lastly you fill out the rest of your points with commoners, which have to be at least a third of your points anyways. Warlord Games seems to want 24 points to be the standard game in Test of Honour. I have not played at 24 points yet though I am looking forward to it.

In my nearly 10 games of it, I can say Test of Honour is a great game once you know the rules. My biggest gripe about the game is that the rules are not written well. The flow of the game is easy to grasp, but there are a few details the rule book is horrible at explaining. In fact, Tracy's rule book was missing a paragraph which explain an important mechanic of the system. Fortunately the downloadable version of the rule book seems to be complete. Despite the trainwreck that is the rule book, the game play is fast and entertaining, and the models are nice and detailed. I hate putting them together but the sheer depth of options more than makes up for that. And that's why it been very easy to get multiple other people to buy into the game.

Sadly I don't own the base set. They are currently hard to come by. Another example of a maker completely underestimating the demand for their product. The expansions are more readily available. I have three expansions - Pauper Soldiers, Mounted Samurai and the Samurai Warband. The Samurai Warband gives me half of what's in the base set, model wise and the Mounted Samurai gave me the cavalry I wanted. I actually didn't need the Pauper Soldiers. I thought the archer units in it was significantly different from the bowmen in the base set. They were not. One unit had a slight change to its stats compare to the base set version. Not worth it when I wanted special archers. On the flip side the Pauper Soldiers came with bamboo hat heads which I love using so in the end it was worth it.

So what is next for me? I mention I was planning on going to a Team Yankee tournament next month. As it turns out, that tournament is going to be at a Warlord Games convention and a Test of Honour tournament is going to happen as well. I've decided to scraped my plans for the Team Yankee tournament because it will take more than I'm willing to invest at the moment to get my West German playable (about 3 times what I've spent on Test of Honour). Instead I'm going to work on finishing a Test of Honour force to play at the tournament. In addition we have enough players locally to do both a campaign and league. Some ideas have already been thrown around so I will try my hand at coming up with a playable rule set for either a campaign or league or both. But that will be after I finish assembling my tournament list. Model count, I'm over half way done. I actually got plans to make 2 armies. I'm constantly remind of the video game series Samurai Warriors when I play Test of Honour. I love the Samurai Warriors series and its what help me learn about Japanese history. The first army I'm working on is based on how I want to play the game. The second army I want to build will be inspired by how Nobunaga Oda is portrayed in the Samurai Warrior series. There are a couple of things in Test of Honour that I want to see in action that would also fit my image of an Oda Army. Once I'm finish my tournament list, I will post pictures of it here, talk about how it works and compare it to the Oda Army idea. Until then, thank you for reading.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Topic of the Week - Your Best Convention Memory

Earlier this (last) week Vince ask us to talk about our personal best convention memory. The idea is for people whom never been to a convention to hear stories from people whom have and maybe get inspired to attend a convention of their own. I completely agree with this settlement. I've only been to one small gaming convention but I've lost count of the number of anime conventions I've attended (I think the number is around 13). I haven't been to many conventions in recent years but I hope to be able to start regularly going to various types of conventions again. Being at a convention was some of the most exciting and unique moments of my life and I would suggest if you have the opportunity to go to a convention in subject you enjoy, you should put in every possible effort to attend. It is truly an experience like no other. Now there is no way I can single out one memory as my best convention story. I just have too many wonderful memories to pick one. What I can do is write about 3 particular stories that are currently on my mind. They are not rated in any way. These just so happen to be the first ones I thought of when I heard the topic.

I'll start with the preparation of going to my very first convention. After hearing about cons I decided I would put in the effort to go to one. I did the research to find a mid to large size convention that was in driving distance. I talked friends into going and I even did the paperwork to get funding from our university as a club activity. Only one of my friends had ever been to a convention before and the one he went to was fairly small so this was a new experience for most of us. The convention was during the first week of June. That put it just after college finals. Didn't think much about it at the time but two week before the trip one of my friends whom I was planning on going with us moved. Moving after spring finals was quite common for people whom lives on campus. Even if you plan on staying in the same dorm, if you wasn't quick enough your room could be taken and you would be force to move down the hall. The thing to remember is that this was a time most of us didn't have cell phones and we rarely contacted each other online. Landlines was how we talk to each other so with my friend moving, I had no way to contact him. I hope he would try to contact me but he never did. Everyone else was not happy about this. If my friend didn't go, that would mean everyone else would have to pay more for the hotel room, which was sizeable. Most of us had been budgeting for this trip for months so a last minute expense was infuriating. Not a good way to start our first convention trip. So the big day came and I still had not heard from my friend. I got the call that people were on their way to pick me up. It almost felt like an action movie with my time running out. Even at that point I was still trying to think of a way to find him. Then I suddenly got an idea but I had to wait until the Office of Housing opened. That ate up 15 minutes I didn't have. When they were open, I call Housing and asked if my friend still lived on campus. They told me he did and I was nearly overwhelm with relief. So I asked for his number and they refused to give it to me, putting me right back into despair. Before I hung up in anger (or maybe I did hung up and called back) I thought of another idea. I asked if they could transfer me to him and they said yes and I started hearing the phone ring. It felt like there was a 10 minute pause between each ring but eventually I heard my friend's voice. It took a lot of self control not to shout. I asked him if he was still interested in going to the convention. He told me yes and I was like great, tell me where you are at, we will be there in 15 minutes! Then he panic and hung up after giving me his address. He probably thought the convention was next week or just simply lost track of time. In either case, I'm sure when he woke up that morning he wasn't planning on leaving for a 5-day trip! Everyone else was ecstatic that he had been found. It was like we all won an extra 50 bucks. It was funny. The two weeks before the trip was a nightmare and yet once we were on the road everybody was in high spirits. Once the convention started, said friend whom almost got left behind disappeared that Friday morning and the rest of the group practically never saw him until the convention was over Sunday afternoon. Which is completely fine because each of us enjoyed the convention in different ways.

My next story deals with the same convention about 2 or 3 years later. It was at a different hotel so it took a little time getting used to the difference. Since the first time we went to that convention, my group had taken a liking to eating at Jack in the Box. Its fast food with a wide range of choices and there are no location where we live. It became our ritual to eat at Jack in the Box on our way home and sometime when we first arrive in the city. The hotel during that particular year had a Jack in the Box right next door, within walking distance. That made us really happy! It also probably dawn on the manager that they could make a lot of money if they cater to the 10,000 anime fans next door. Either that or they got tired of Con-goers standing in their drive-in waiting to order. Jack in the Box's lobby normally closes at 10 pm but very quickly they had a sign saying if you showed them your convention badge they would let you dine in until 4 am. I certainly took advantage of their offer. The convention ended Sunday afternoon but I like just relaxing in the hotel Sunday night and leave on Monday. On our trip home we visit that Jack in the Box one last time. The first person in line found out Jack was out of what they wanted, as well as their second and third choice. Normally people would be upset with a resturant being under-stocked. We just laughed it off, considering it another part of the convention experiences. In the end, we had to ask them what they DID have to make ordering take any reasonable amount of time.

My last story also deals with food. Last year was the first time I've gone to a war gaming convention. It was a small, one day convention and I had no idea what to expect from it. I was looking for a people to play Team Yankee with and found a friendly and very inviting community of players. After a morning of playing games and trading Team Yankee strategy, Tracy and myself had lunch with half the group running the Team Yankee event. Twenty minutes into eating, laughing and trading hobby stories with each other, somehow the topic of my old podcast with Tracy came up, which we were still doing at the time. Its hard to tell how many was actually listening to it but it was worth a try to hawk it to people we knew were interested in the subject matter. Their response was something I never could have imagine. One of them said "I thought I recognize your guys voices!". They were already listening to our podcast and enjoyed the content we created. It brought a smile to my face but it was also humbling knowing my work was being appreciated. We return to the convention hall after lunch and had another 8 or so hours of gaming fun. I had a lot of great memories that day but the one that sticks with me is the thought a podcast duo can eat lunch with their fans and neither side knows the other identity!

You might be wondering why none of my convention stories were technically at the convention. The reason for this is that the convention experience includes far more than just your time at the convention. The road trip, time at the hotel(if you stay at one), or just eating with friends or other con-goers all contribute to what makes conventions so special. I have many more convention stories I could tell and will probably write about them in a future series. But that's all I have for now. Thank you for reading.

Vince's Topic of the Week - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPVWVl13C8Y&t=324s

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Progress Review #2

This was another month that I was disappointed in the amount of progress that didn't happen and at the same time happy any progress was actually made. I didn't get to Relic Knights or the Plague Monks. I did do a lot more priming than what I will be showing. For one reason or another that stuff needs another coat and isn't ready to paint. Here's what I did get done by the end of the month:

I'm still mostly just got Team Yankee stuff done. Might as well start with the non Team Yankee stuff I got done.

Not much to say here. Both of my BattleTech models were assembled, primed and are now ready to be painted. I had to re-glue a limb on the Warhammer because of a nasty fall from me bumping the table. It might need a touch up with a little priming but otherwise it should be ready to paint. I just need to come up with my BattleTech paint scheme.

I still haven't got the replacement part for the 5th Soviet tank so I only have 4 T-72s to work with. I manage to get paint on 2 more tanks but all 4 has a long way to go. The red needs a quick touch up and then I will need to put on the green camo. I'm in a quander about what to do with the others. I'm not sure whether to still do red camo, just have 4 red dots or leave them a solid green. In any case they still need a few more coats before I have to decide.

On the West German side, the only thing I got done on my Leopard 2 was get a little paint on the tracks. I spent most of my time with the T-72s instead. The Gepards were easy to assemble. I was priming several things at once so I included the Gepards. There was no trouble with the bodies but the turrets had issues which cause me to stop. I have since fix those issues but still need to finish priming them. I have since started painting their bodies however.

My plans for the rest of the month is quite a bit different from my previous month's goals. I still hope to get started on Relic Knights but I'm putting the T-72s and Plague Monks on the back burner for the next two months. I recently learn that a Team Yankee tournament that I can get to is coming up. I'm not a fan of a 85 point game but I can reach that with my West Germans by finishing what I already have, proxing in my American M109s as West German M109s and three new purchases. Not that much all things considering. So the West Germans is where I will be putting the bulk of my efforts into. In addition, Tracy has talk me into trying a new game, Test of Honour. For a war game it is relatively cheap. It is a 28 mm samurai warfare game which puts it in a similar scale as Warhammer. I plan to pickup a box and put the handful of models together by the end of the month.