Monday, May 15, 2017

Bows Vs Muskets: Test of Honour

I've probably played between 20 and 30 games of Test of Honour so far and in the vast majority of those games I used bows over muskets. I did play one game with muskets and I quickly saw the advantages and disadvantages of them. If you are interested in getting into Test of Honour but are unsure which range unit to make, I will give you my recommended base on what role you want your range guys to fill.

Before I can start my comparison, I need to go into the odds of success for 2 dice pools. I don't like it when people try to break down tabletop games like its a math problem to be solved. But in this case I think knowing the odds is a must to understand the trade offs between bows and muskets. Especially since the game uses unique dices. Again to succeed at any test in the game you need to roll 3 swords. The game uses 6 sided die which has a single sword on 2 sides and 2 swords on a third side. With a pool of 3 dice you have a 33% or a 1 in 3 chance of succeeding. With a 4 dice pool your chance of succeeding is 52%. Assuming my calculations is correct.

The first thing I want to say in my comparison is that I'm not including other units that can affect the efficiency of range units such as the Sergeant of Archery and the Oda Nobunaga special character. The stats of commoners are quite similar. In fact the stats of single non commander commoners are exactly the same. There is a little difference between commoner groups but for the purpose of this discussion I'm going to consider them the same. So with the men having the same stats, the difference between the two range units is in the stats of bow and muskets themselves. The bow has a range of 24 inches and 3 dice for damage up to 12 inches away, 2 dice more than 12 inches. Muskets has a range of 20 inches and 4 dice for damage. Muskets also need a turn to reload after every shot.

The way I see it, range units can be used in two ways: suppression and sniping. Suppression is used when targeting units that has not acted yet. This will (assuming you hit) force the enemy to lose actions by dodging. Sniping is when you target units that has already acted with the purpose of taking them out. Between the two I prefer using range units for suppression. With commoner groups being exceptionally hard to take out and samurais having multiple actions and good chances at dodging, trying to reduce your opponent's actions comes up more often and therefore is more useful than trying to snipe an unit. If suppression the goal, then bows are superior to muskets in achieving that goal. The reason for this is because you want to hit as often as possible. Bows longer range and ability to be use every turns makes them ideal for this. Muskets only advantage over bows is better damage. Single commoners have 3 dice to hit their target. That means Musketman only has a 1 in 3 chance to hit something every other turn. That is a really bad ratio for trying to deny your opponent actions and too unreliable to count on musket's damage as a backup. Granted bows has the same lousy hit chance with bowman but they has the benefit of being every turn. Commoner groups has 4 dices to hit, making them much more likely to land shots. With commoner groups, musket's higher damage has some worth. Bows do not have the power to reliable to take out units unless the target has a few light wounds. Still, for the reasons given above I prefer bows, in particular bowmen groups. And its the reason why both Tracy and myself have almost exclusively played with bows.

As I've said, suppression is one of two ways I can see using range unit. While suppression seems like the better option to me and fits my play style more, I haven't played enough to know if one style is truly better. If your goal is to snipe, then muskets are the better option. With 4 dices, muskets has a better than a coin flip chance at taking units out. It is almost laughable the number of times I've seen someone hit with an arrow and survive. If you want to use muskets then I would suggest trying to pack as many commoners into your list. Increasing the total number of commoner actions in the game will raise the chance your musketmen will a reload turn. You also need to play around targeting issues and get as many clear shots as possible. Range units can not shot if a friendly model is hindering (in the way) their view. A tactic I was thinking about involves using melee units to charge in and remove actions so the muskets can finish the target. Samurais would be ideal as they would have the extra actions to then move out of the way in the same turn. I don't know how viable this will be but in my mind to proper use muskets would require some aspect of this.

It is almost becoming a standard that as I write these articles on tactics, I think of something new to add that never occurred to me when I started. I came to this topic thinking it was an either/or choice. When making a list in Test of Honour, I figure you would either have bows or muskets for your range options. And if someone took more than one range unit, I just assume would be the same type. It now occurred to me that you could take both, bows to remove enemy actions and muskets to finish them off. I would caution against investing in too many points in range if you decided to get both. Melee units are useful because melee weapon's critical success abilities are stronger than range ones and they can quickly change the flow of battle. Having a mix of both range and melee units will give a list the flexibility to deal with whatever the opponent has to offer. Of course everyone play style is different so to truly find out what is for you is to test out the various options yourself. I am sure I will revisit this topic as there are many things I still want to try in the game, I want to play against a wider range of play styles and there is new expansions on the way. For now I hope I was able to offer something of value to you. Thanks for reading and see ya next time.

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