Learn more about the gameplay of the new samurai skirmish game – and download a free copy of the rules!
Rules author Graham Davey to gives us an overview of the game…
Recruiting a Force
In Test of Honour your force is based around a single samurai hero – a young noble from one of the powerful Japanese clans. This warrior will be your most accomplished swordsman, capable of cutting down multiple opponents, all the while learning and utilising new skills or perhaps being tempted by the path of dishonour. Your ongoing battles will form the legend of your samurai hero, and as such I recommend giving him (or her) a suitable Japanese name!
The rest of your force is largely made up of ashigaru clan soldiers. These warriors are armed with spears, bows or muskets, and can be fielded singly or in groups of three (placed in the round multi-bases supplied in the game). They can be boosted by having a sergeant, banner bearer or musician in your force too.
You can also have up to two more samurai – loyal retainers or family members. They are not as powerful as your main hero, but still considerably stronger than the ashigaru.
Each warrior (or group of three) has a card with its cost to recruit and its ability scores used during the game. So once you have chosen your force up to the maximum allowed cost for the scenario, you lay out your cards in front of you to refer to during battle.
A turn of the game involves drawing tokens out of a bag or other container. Bolt Action and Antares players may be thinking this sounds familiar, but the similarity ends there…
Tokens are not tied to the two opposing forces – rather they represent either samurai or commoners.
Players take turns to draw. If they pull out a Samurai token, then they must use it to act with one of their samurai models. If they draw a Commoner token, they must act with one of their soldier models. However if you’ve run out of the relevant type of model, then your opponent gets to act instead!
Samurai contribute extra tokens and can make two or three actions each turn (making them suitably awesome!), while commoners can only act once.
There are also three ‘Fate tokens’ in the bag, and when the final one is drawn the turn ends. This means it’s possible that not every warrior will get to act during a turn, so be wary of leaving an important move to the last minute or you may just lose it altogether!
Both shooting and melee attacks use basically the same system, which is fast and brutal!
The attacker rolls to see if his strike or shot is accurate. (All rolls use the special dice with the sword blades indicating success.)
The target of the attack must attempt to avoid the attack if they can – parrying or dodging out of the way. However, if they have already used all their actions for this turn then they are left defenceless, their attention occupied elsewhere!
If the target fails to avoid the attack (or wasn’t able to try), then he has been struck. The attacker rolls to see the extent of the damage – a heavy wound means the warrior is out of the game, dead or unable to carry on – a light wound means the warrior is given a Blood Drop, which makes it more likely he’ll suffer a heavy wound next time.
In effect, you’ll find that warriors die very easily, and even samurai can be cut down by a single lucky spear-thrust. It’s easy to fall into the trap of sending your hero off on his own, because he’s fast and very dangerous. In my experience this tends to go horribly wrong!
Get a particularly good roll during combat and you trigger a special bonus that depends on what the warrior is armed with. So a spear strike becomes more likely to cause a heavy wound, while a bow shot becomes harder to dodge. Other weapons can inflict more Blood Drops or knock enemies to the ground.
Most importantly, getting a great result on the Damage roll of an attack not only cuts down your enemy but allows you to launch an entirely new attack. This can result in a stunning string of awesomeness where your samurai rampages across the battlefield cutting down his foes like wheat!
Remember those three Fate tokens, the last of which ends the turn? Well drawing either of the previous two allows you to take a Skill card and give it to one of your samurai.
Skill cards are mainly extra abilities such as Commanding Presence or Deflect Arrow, but also include a few items such as Master-Forged Weapon and Exceptional Armour.
At the end of the game each player chooses one of their skills to ‘lock in’ and retain for the next battle, meaning that your samurai grow more powerful and specialised as you play. This creates a very easy campaign system – no need for experience points and roster sheets, just keep those retained cards separate from the rest!
Each turn your samurai hero has the option of using dishonourable methods to gain an advantage during an attack. This gives you a bonus to the attack roll but a penalty to the next Test of Honour (to avoid retreating) made by any warrior in your force.
This creates a tempting dilemma as some players grab every bonus they can, hoping they can swing a victory before their troops get too disheartened, while other players dutifully stick to the path of honour. Others just use Dishonour for especially important rolls.
By the way, I find it adds to the fun if you tell your opponent the specific dishonourable method your samurai has used – perhaps tripping his opponent, using a hidden blade, questioning his heritage or some other shameful ploy! It seems to make the dice behave better!
Scenarios and Beyond
The boxed game includes a Battle Guide that walks you through your first game using just a handful of models on each side. This then becomes the start of a series of six linked scenarios telling a tale of bitter clan rivalry, betrayal and revenge, adding more troops, extra rules and knock-on effects for the winner and loser of each battle.
Following this you can easily come up with your own adventures to continue the story. There are also Quest cards included across the various expansion sets that present challenges to complete over the course of a few games, such as winning battles without using any Dishonour or gaining a certain combination of skills.
We are previewing the main rules booklet as a FREE PDF download available in the webstore! Note that the rules for skills, dishonour and various other things are found in the Battle Guide booklet, which we are holding back for now – the scenarios form a linked story that we don’t want to spoil for people!
If you get a game in this weekend let us know what you think!
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