The club that I normally attend is having a bit of a summer break. It seems that everybody is busy at the same time this year. So rather than go to the club, I hosted a game in my newly tidied games room AKA the garage, with Andy Callan as my opponent. When Andy organises a game at his place, he usually comes up with a well thought out scenario, usually based on an actual historical battle, so I thought that I better put some preparation into our game. The plan was to play Test of Honour and as we have fought our way through the scenarios in the book, it was time to think of something new.
As it was, I went for a variant of the Spy scenario, so not too original, but it did present some extra challenges and once again, this simple game provided a very enjoyable evenings play. The scenario was as follows. A samurai and four retainers were defending a shrine from marauding war bands. This small band of fighters were unsure as to where their allegiance lay and could be persuaded to join one of the warbands and fight on their side to protect their property. All a player had to do to recruit the defending warriors to his band would be for the Hero Samurai to persuade them that they were the force for good!
The Set up was quite simple. The ‘neutral defending’ Samurai and his warriors were set up on a mid line, in cover, exactly between the two players forces who were allowed to deploy anywhere along their base lines up to 6 inches into the table. The cards and tokens for the ND force were placed to one side of the table. Apart from blocking line of sight, they would not be part of the game unless ‘recruited’ by one side or the other. This process was quite simple. To recruit a neutral warrior, the hero samurai from either side would have to make base contact with the warrior. On the next activation, he would then take a test of wits. If passed, the warrior would be successfully recruited to his warband and the neutral warriors card and token would be moved to the successful warriors side of the table. On the next turn, the token (or tokens, in the case of the samurai) would be placed in the bag and he would be activated as normal and fight for his new master.
The neutral warriors were deliberately spaced across the table to allow both attacking warbands the chance of recruiting extra men. Obviously, the prize was the neutral Samurai. However, the game would only be won if one of the hero Samurai were slain or one of the opposing forces were driven back to their side of the table and the shrine secured. We set the turn time for 6 moves but if there was no clear outcome, we were happy to keep going. As it was 6 turns was enough! We were using 21 points for each opposing warband.
So how did it play out? To start with, both of the hero Samurai charged towards the shrine in an attempt to recruit the neutral Samurai. However, once it became clear that I was going to win that race, Andy decided to draw back and concentrate on moving up his war band in support of his Samurai. I had chosen bowmen as my ‘fire support’. Andy was using musketmen. I was dubious as to how effective that musketmen would be in groups – I was about to find out! I quickly persuaded the neutral Samurai to join my band and leaving him and the wise Samurai to defend the temple, the Hero moved off to attempt to recruit more reinforcements.
This turned out to be a big mistake! My two samurai were now unsupported as Andy’s warband closed the gap on them. To make matters worse, my warband was lagging behind as I used any activations to allow my bowmen to shoot rather than moving up troops. My archers were somewhat ineffective as they were shooting at long range. The opposite was the case for Andy’s musket troops. When used in a group of three, they benefit from having four dice to hit, and then four dice to kill, all at 20 inches. So musket fire combined with Andy’s Samurai both charging in meant that I lost my newly recruited Samurai and my wise Samurai in one blood thirsty turn!
My hero Samurai had managed to recruit an extra bowman but this was small consolation. In my rush to gain recruits I had split my warband and my Hero Samurai out of position and isolated. Even worse, Andy’s musket men were now working extremely well as a team, one group firing, the other reloading and causing damage with every shot.
My archers continued to be ineffective even as the range closed. Despite their best attempts to keep Andy’s Samurai at bay, they closed in on my hero.
With his spearmen drawing my archers fire, my own Hero under musket fire, his Hero and wise Samurai closed for the kill and cut down my hero Samurai to win the game. The moral of the story being never listen to a man who wants to be your friend if he is holding someone else’s head….
Once again, Test of Honour had delivered an excellent evenings entertainment and this apparently straight forward rules set has enough depth to keep you coming back for more. Maybe I need some more musket men….
Incidentally, once we had finished that game we moved onto a game using mounted Samurai. I know from the feedback on facebook there is a feeling that these are over pointed in the current rules. I certainly feel that this is the case, so we made some minor changes to their rules. First up, we allow charge at 9 inch range – it seems daft not to. We allow a 6 inch move and fire for mounted archers. We also allow an extra dice for avoid when targeted by missile fire. It all worked very well but to be fair, we both had mounted Samurai. It will be interesting to try these amendments when one player has a warband on foot only and see if the game is still balanced.
If you haven’t had a go with Test of Honour and would like to try it, we have all the sets currently available as well as the superb Sarissa scenery in my shop here: