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.

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