I've been busily building MDF Japanese buildings and painting figures over the last few weeks in preparation for actually playing a game of Test of Honour, the Warlord games skirmish Samurai game. Finally this week I had a chance to get all the toys out on the table and try the rules. My previous ventures into all things Oriental have been using Osprey Games 'Ronin' rules which (although I haven't played them for ages) are excellent fun....how would ToH compare?
The rules themselves are pretty brief (they come in 2 small booklets) and seemed pretty straightforward. Forces are built to a set number of points for each scenario with some handy cards which contain all the stats for each troop type.
|The forces for our game...1 Samurai and assorted Ashigaru on each side|
Figures, or small groups, are activated by drawing tokens from a cup...either for Nobles (proper Samurai types) who get 2 actions, or Commoners (your average Ashigaru but also Sergeants, Banner Bearers , Musicians etc who all give specific bonuses) who just have the 1 action each.
One nice touch is that instead of individual figures you have the option to field groups of 3 figures which stay as a group and have bonuses as long as they all stick together. This makes a lot of sense for spearmen in a skirmish level game: a single pike/spearman never seems a sensible option in a 1 on 1 fight but when they all stick together they become much more threatening.
Each figure/group can take 1 of a selection of actions when activates such as move, move and shoot etc. Combat uses 'special' dice which seems to be the norm these days. I suppose it makes sense for companies who can then flog extra sets of dice to unsuspecting punters! ToH dice have sword symbols in 1's or 2's, blank faces and X's which indicate a fail. All tests require a score of 3 swords to success with 5 swords giving a critical success. Score more X's than swords however and you have fumbled (which happened a lot in our game!)
Combat is pretty straightforward...roll to hit, roll to save (if you haven't already activated this turn), roll for effect. Hits are either Heavy Wounds which remove a figure or Light Wounds which make it more likely to score a Heavy Wound next time.
The only extra rules apply to Nobles who are sometimes able to survive a Heavy Wound by taking an injury card instead and who can pick up special skill cards as the game progresses. Sneaky Nobles can also be Dishonourable and gain a bonus dice in a combat but this means troops are more likely to run away when they next take a morale (or Test of Honour) check as they are feeling very disappointed with their overlords behaviour.
And that's about it...nice and simple with scope to join scenarios together into a campaign. Some of the Skills and Wounds that are picked up as the game progresses can roll over into the next game. I think some of the boxed sets (eg the Ninja) introduce additional special rules but the basic game is nicely put together and very quick to pick up.
So onto our game...
I decided to use the 2nd of the 6 scenarios in the booklet. The initial one is a straight encounter and I fancied something a bit more involved so we moved to game 2. My forces are garrisoning a small outpost with a 3rd of my troops off table on patrol, when a rival Lord (Andrew) launches an underhand assault
|The peaceful village with a few peasants going about their business...|
My forces were split by the river although we decided this as fordable at a penalty
|The nobles fight a duel by the river|
My reinforcements failed to arrive for a couple of turns and we also found that dice-rolling on both sides was proving spectacularly poor. I managed to inflict a couple of light wounds on Andrew's Noble but most of the wounds that happened came about as a result of Fumbles and archers shooting themselves in the foot! I'd read reviews of the game that suggested it was very bloodthirsty...not in our case! I'm still not sure if this was a result of poor dice skills on our part or if that was a statistically accurate result.
Andrew's noble was joined by a group of spearmen, ganging up on my Lord so I decided to wade back across the river. Andrew's noble switched his attack to my group of spearmen which had appeared over the bridge and his own Spears charged into the river to take on my Samurai Lord
A unlucky fumble in his next attack caused the spearmen to stumble over the slippery rocks and lose their footing, plunging into the river to be nibbled by ornamental Carp. Once my Lord had stopped laughing he took the opportunity to begin butchering the Spearmen while they fumbled about in the water...not very heroic but it seemed to good an opportunity to miss!
Elsewhere the missile troops continued taking ineffective pot shots at each other. My archers successfully fought off an attack by more of Andrew's spearmen. His Samurai lord decided to start fighting dirty, using dishonour to gain extra dice (boo!) but this still didn't translate I to wounds and kills and Andrew was becoming increasingly frustrated at the bad dice throwing (from both of us). We had reached the turn limit for the scenario with 1 dead spearman on my side and 4 on Andrews. I still held the 3 objectives in the village.
I found the rules very entertaining and definitely full of Samurai flavour; I liked the touches such as Dishonour etc. Andrew was less convinced but we may revisit the scenario at some point using Ronin to see how it compares