On Monday Dave, Mark and Jez had the chance to visit Graham and Andy at Warlord Games. Beyond the fact that it is was great to meet with companies and talk to them, we were also being given the chance to play the new game Test of Honour. It’s not often companies give you this sort of an opportunity and when they happen you take them. So with the game all setup Dave and Jez went for glory or dishonour on the field of battle.
The object of this game was control of three buildings spaced around the centre of the board. With only five turns in this game, speed would be the key to this. I wanted to contest all of the buildings so looked to go after the ones that were the furthest away. I wasn’t going to give Jez time to build his forces up as he had reserves coming on. Figures are activated via counters pulled from a bag, so each unit or figure on your force will have a counter for each action that they can take. Your lord has three actions, heroes have two and commoners only one. One of the main concepts of the game is the evade aspect. If any of your figures are attacked they have to use an action to try and evade. This will use up an action, so the use of them has a more tactical twist, so not only does attacking a figure gives you a chance to remove the figure it also will use up one of its actions, but that’s only if you hit. It’s fine to run in all gun ho and use up all the actions but they you will lose the chance to evade any into blows. I had two single archers that took up a position on the hill in my deployment zone and could fire into the village. To my far left was a spear unit, and behind the hill that the archers were on I placed both of my heroes, ready to charge the village. To the right, I was hoping to scoot around the building to enter the village from the right. My lord was mounted on a horse (not part of the main set) so could cover the ground quite well.
This was going to be a fun start to the game for me. Although I was sat in the middle of the board very close to all the objective buildings I wasn’t starting with all my force. This scenario uses the reinforcements rule so I had to pick 15 points worth of troops and the rest would start off board. When a Commoner or Samurai token was picked I could make a Wits roll and try and bring them on. I had to keep doing this till they arrived. My only advantage is when they did arrive they could come on anywhere apart from Dave’s entry point. Force wise Dave had a bit of a long range shooting advantage over me. His Unit of Ashigaru with Teppo (Guns), plus two separate archers against my one stand of Bowmen meant that I was going to have to get stuck in and avoid being shot at (Something that a Samurai missed the point of later on). I was also worried because of the way the evade system works that the extra firepower Dave had could suppress my commoners and make it hard for me to fight.
The first counter pulled from the bag for me were samurai so it made sense to push on. My mounted lord pushed round to the right of the house out of view, next came a couple of counters for the commoners so I was able to fire down some arrows from the hill, the hero by the hill moved forwards into the village by the hill. The next to activate were the musket troops that unleashed a volley at Jez’s hero on the right. Sadly by this time all three fate tokens had come out and the spear man on the left missed out.
So with Dave off on a run with his Samurai when the first commoner token popped up for me I thought I need to get my reserves on as quick as possible or else I could get swamped. So rolling for my bowmen I was chuffed that they came on straight away and I moved them in between a building and the hill. My plan was to get them into the main part of the village so they could support easyly. In fact I managed to get all my reserves in the first turn after some nifty dice rolling. After some peer pressure from Andy and Graham when my so-called Wise Samurai entered the board he did at full pelt and ran into Daves mounted Samurai Lord. We both just bounced off each other combat wise and even when Dave had a stab at him with an activation nothing happened. So it was a handbags at dawn sort of a fight. I did feel that Dave’s lord needed to fall off his horse so I sent my lord over as well. As I’d pulled two of the fate cards I had some abilities to add to my force, one of the Cards Loyal retainers meant that if Dave had three dishonour cards I could give one of my commoner units an additional dice once per round. As he’d already started collecting them trying to put my wise Samurai out it looked like it was a certainty.
With Jez getting all of his reserves on the table in turn 1 it was time to take the fight to him. My lord on horseback would be the best bet and with a movement of 9 inches and three activation’s I could get through a lot in a turn. He moved forward and engaged the hero in front in combat. It’s at this point that the dishonour cards started to build up for him, they give you an extra die in combat but do have a down side. The fact this will come back to bite me will be explained later. The archers again fired off from the hill and didn’t really cause much damage. But the fight in the middle got messy. One of the first things you learn with this game is that it is brutal in combat, there is no saves, no lives, nothing, three or more swords on the wound roll and the figure is gone. So with that tone you can guess that I lost my first hero in this battle. I think by pushing my hero to far he didn’t have the actions to defend himself when the blows started raining in on him. The other actions allowed my muskets to reload, this took the whole action and the spears to move off the hill and towards a building.
So time to get moving and get my guys in combat. For me, this round was far more brutal my Ashigaru Gunso (Sargeant) had a cracking skill that he could move then motivate a nearby Spearmen unit for free. It was meaning that I could get two actions with them, it’s like having another Samurai on the board. Not as powerful, but it’s worth it, I used this to great effect attacking the head strong Samurai that had come running down the hill into my loyal spearmen. I’d managed to wound one and then fight the other to a standstill when he ran in as well. Now whilst it may seem that commoners are good against Samurai often they just end up as mini road blocks. The fight between my wise Samurai and Dave’s lord wasn’t going well as we just kept bouncing off of each other and after once bounce too many his Ashigaru with teppo had shot and killed him, so he wasn’t so wise after all. He had received a Head wound from my lord, but this just made him run off and start having a go at any unit that stood still. To try and chase him down I brought in the support of my one Mounted Samurai, with some hope to force him to use his actions to evade and then someone could come in for the kill.
My Loyal Spearmen managed to kill off one of the Samurai during there action and the village was looking good, okay I didn’t hold any objectives but I wasn’t that worried as I was pushing the enemy away and I had troops that could move in and hold elements.
By now it was clear I was behind, so my mounted lord we hell for leather and tried to cause as much damage as he could, the head wound he took last turn meant he went a bit nuts and I think he took a lump out of almost everyone. With a range of 9 inch it did mean he could get to quite a few figures, but using up his actions would mean he’d be quite open to attack. As we were play testing the rules I wanted to see if the odds of trying to take out as many troops as you can were better then having no actions left and not being able to defend yourself. So as the counters came out it was all out attack, the mounted lord did try his best and was caught between a rock and a hard place. Keeping him alive was to key for this turn but sadly and even thou he had an amour card that could of saved him he fell on this turn. Also of note was the demise of all my samurai this turn, this forced my spear man to run back up the hill and manly due to the fact he was dishonourable in the last couple of combats they decided to leg it again. It was at this point that we decided that with who and what I had left, they probably would hit the road after seeing all my hero’s and lord fall in combat.
For Dave, this is a round where it all went a bit wobbly for him. After my Bowmen fired at him he decided to charge them, nothing happened but he was using actions up. Another charge by my mounted Samurai saw another nothing happen and with his last action, Dave decided to move lord out of being between two units. Being sandwiched in ToH is not good, you start collecting extra blood points and that just leads to death. In the main part of the village, my Gunso used his order again and I speared Dave’s second Samurai after he decided that grabbing an objective seemed like the right idea. Now because of his death, his nearby Spearmen unit that had wandered off the hill got a tad upset and retreated slightly. Which then meant I had to send my guys up the hill to have a fight. It didn’t end well and Dave lost a spearmen.
Due to the fact that my lord hadn’t activated, I used my turn when the tokens came up to wander across to Daves lord. Dice were rolled and as Dave couldn’t avoid the injury we went straight to the wound roll after it was confirmed I’d hit. My result was enough to kill him, but Dave had picked up an armour card and as long as he made a roll he’d be fine. He’d survived this long, the gods were surely on his side, no. Your right they’d popped out to the bar for a sake or three and he rolled zip. No successes, so his Samurai lords head was removed and his body left by his horse. As Dave had lost all three of his samurai to my one loss it was going to make him doing anything pretty hard. So we decided that his commoners bereft of orders would probably do a runner.
I wanted to play all the rules, so tried using dishonour in the game, I also wanted to see how hard the heroes were with out any actions and so on. I also role-played it a bit with the Lord going nuts after the head wound, just to see how the game fared when you really pushed the samurai as hard as you can. One thing that I should of picked up on was Andy telling me that the samurai can get away from your other troops due to the extra actions, and in the game I found this happened unless they had ranged weapons. Ranged troops can support the samurai from a far, as the ranges in the game are quite long. Also the only penalty for moving and shooting is reduced movement down to 3 inch. This allows them to move and still be effective, so it’s always worth taking that three inch move if you need to.
The game played out very well and while feeling cinematic, there wasn’t anything that make it feel unrealistic. Looking at the rules before hand, it seemed quite basic but small things like evade and critical hits, made the game more tactical. The use of multi bases is a good way to keep units in order and as the figures are removed a good way of showing casualties as they happen, as multi bases are used for. Also it opens the door for making more of a diorama for the bases and also making blanks that can fill in the gaps of falling troopers.
I my view the game is solid, plays out very well and had a high level of tactics that matched the tension of the game. The figures that come with the game gives you a lot of options out of the box and will be enough to easily do both sides to start with. There are expansion boxes for more figures and each comes with the rules to run those figures. In the box is also all the counters, cards and card 2d buildings and walls you need to play. It’s hoped that the community will help with expanding rules for campaign’s and so on, but as it stands this is a very solid game, which as long as is supported well should run for a good while.
It’s no small fact that when I saw the game I like the look of it. You only have to see the amount of posts I have made to date on the FB group to see that. But I was still a bit confused about the game, having the rules often means we make assumptions on how a game works and the rules are the tip of the Yari. The cards (Model/Fate) and other elements really can change how the game plays. The game is simple and yet very complex as well. The huge thing about it though, the thing that may appeal to some its this is just a core set of ideas. With this you could do whatever you wanted to do. No rules for fighting in buildings, easily added. terrain rules, simple add on. Want to do something insane like leap from a building onto someone ,do it, make an agility roll and if you don’t fail it works. Its that easy to expand.
I also think that the very quick rise of the community and the buzz has caught Warlord off guard a little bit, I really don’t think they were expecting it to be what it is. For me thats great as it means they will really throw some heavy resources at expanding it and as a player that is what I want.
If this is you first look at Test of Honour check out Mark’s article here on his initial thoughts and if you have no idea about what samurai look like or the era then check out Jez’s whole host of stuff here.