Due to very popular demand, I’ve been asked to do a Tactics article. So the how to get the best from your force sort of thing. You’ll know from the force ideas I did (Part 1,2) that I probably scratched the surface on what you can create with the options we currently have. Hopefully in this article I’ll explain how they could be used to get the best out of them.
This is without a doubt the units that will be doing the most killing in the game. They have 2-3 actions plus the chance to gain Fate cards to ensure that they can become even more devastating.
But Samurai have to be careful, running off on their own means they can get shot at by enemy bowmen, losing actions to evade and then counter attacked by less worthy opponents and even commoners. Sensible use of cautious movement should help and don’t be scared to hide behind terrain to stay safe whilst support moves up. No one unit is a killer in Test of Honour.
Weapon choice is a thing of personal choice when it comes to playing a Samurai. The bow is the only weapon you pay extra for and is a good weapon of choice if you have the points you want to spend. I like to have at least one Samurai with a Heavy Sword. Now my reason for this is that it’s a shock weapon, if you get a critical on the attack and your enemy doesn’t evade it the critical kicks in Deep cut can add even more blood drops to a model. But Fearsome Blow that can be amazing all enemy warriors within 6” have to make a loss of Nerve roll including the person you just attacked. Now if that person has blood drops on them they are going to lose dice from that roll and will more than likely run.
With multiple actions, the Samurai needs to be dealing with threats to objectives or his own commoners. Using units to tire others he can then attack when they can’t properly defend themselves. A mounted Samurai in this guise can be devastating. A longer threat area can see them charge units the enemy has held back for whatever reason. They can also be used for late game grabbing of objectives or finally running down those pesky commoners.
Fate Cards could be what defines the role of your Samurai in a long term campaign. The moment you give them a card you’re setting the direction you want them to go. Be that someone who can dodge a shot as they run in. Someone designed to knock people down so they can be beaten by others and so on or the stone cold killer gripped by the God of War Hachiman. When picking a second skill make sure it works with the first one. Pointless to have a skill that keeps you with the main body of your force if the other skill gives you a bonus when charging. You need to find a working compromise.
Now in the rules, it doesn’t say that you can swap or even abandon skills you don’t want anymore. In my group we’ve agreed that people can, but only one skill per game. For us it shows a Samurai learning new ideas and dropping bad habits. Or a resource running out or no longer being trustworthy.
Now, Bowmen, I see as a must take unit. It’s not that they are devastating and turn the enemy into pincushions it’s because they are such a utility unit. With your bowmen as long as you have the range to hit something fire, don’t worry about it being a small chance it’s better than wasting a shot that could help another unit. Bowmen if they hit will force a unit that’s not activated yet to have to use its action to dodge. In the case of a commoner unit that means they aren’t going anywhere this turn. In the case of a Samurai that could mean they can’t reach you or another unit or they run out of activations too. Just in the right spot where they can be run down by another unit or Samurai.
Bowmen are also good for weakening big units, okay you may not be lucky enough to kill someone but those extra blood points make it easier for someone else. A bowmen unit paired with a Sgt of Archery and a Samurai armed with a Bow can be a horrid thing to face. The bowmen first strip the action from a unit and then the Samurai starts picking off the members. I’ve seen this sort of thing wipe out a unit of spearmen in one turn due to some Fate blessed dice rolls.
Now different Bowmen units are going to give you a different way of using them. Mounted Archers are a lot more mobile so can get into spots that others can’t as quickly. They can also retreat and draw the enemy into the threat range of other units. Some may feel that they can’t move and fire far enough but for me it’s fine. It’s a lightly armoured guy on a light horse. Often historically these would be scouts and messengers.
Standard foot bowmen come in 3 flavours Loyal/Experienced/Pauper the bow they use is exactly the same, what changes them ever so slightly is their stats. The Pauper has +1 Agility so should be more resistant to damage. Loyal have the boost to Honour and Experienced the boost to Wits.
Because of the flow of the battlefield I find that Experienced are my go to unit for bowmen. The higher Wits means that I have a better chance of being able to target something else. The closest unit may not be your biggest threat and you should think on what you need to shut down first.
Bowmen are susceptible to being counter shot at so I try to use them as soon as the first commoner token comes up. Yes there may be a battle going on, but I need to stop my enemy shutting me down first.
Also don’t forget that bowmen are more than capable of fighting in combat. Yes they have a bow, but they are as good in combat as they are at shooting. If it looks a bit rough then move, perhaps fire and be ready to assist a charge next turn.
This is a unit that I’m really undecided about. They have a slightly reduced range compared to the bowmen, but the strength of the attack doesn’t go down when you fire over half range. This means they can be used in much the same way as the bowmen. Sadly what lets them down and makes me think about using them is the fact that they can’t fire every turn, they need to reload which is the only thing they can do that turn.
So this makes Musket troops a maybe I use them which is a shame. When I do I often task them with holding an area and have them just move towards it. I’ve found that people don’t like to get too close to a unit of Muskets that are yet to fire. So a great deterrent and like the bowmen they are more than capable of beating a man senseless in combat.
But before you despair remember that the game has so many little extras that if you don’t keep your eye open you’ll miss it. Samurai can also pick up things like Inspiring Speech and The Side of Right which can also give additional actions to Commoner units. They can sometimes help with the Musket Troops.
So thats it for Part 1 of this, Part 2 will be along shortly.