Fourteen gamers from across the land arrived on a somewhat damp May morning at the Headquarters of Warlord Games in the heart of Nottingham to attend the first Warlord Test of Honour boot camp.
As the event hall normally used for these events was booked for a wedding reception, the day took place in the somewhat cosy surrounding of the Warlord shop and the area immediately outside. The area was a little cramped, but we all made the best of it during the day. Two of the tables were set up in the shop, which gave those players a little bit more room – by the end of the day I think we were all fighting over who would get to play on Tables 1 & 2.
Due to my now well-documented mishap with a broken wrist, I found myself without a painted warband for this event. This was originally going to be solved by me borrowing some figures from Rich Jones – unfortunately, Rich was laid low with a stomach virus just before the event and so could not attend, which left my own participation in jeopardy. However, Martin (the Warlord shop and events manager) very kindly agreed to loan me one of the shop warbands for the day – thanks Martin!
The format of the day was to fight five battles. Originally the plan was to fight all the battles from the Battle Book from the boxed game, though in the end the last battle became a multi-player free-for-all.
Game one was the First Clash scenario, with each of us taking an 11 point force. Graham Davey describes this as a quick, introductory 20 minute battle, just to get to know some of the mechanics. Simply put, the objective is to kill the opponents lone Samurai.
I was playing Kieran, who happens to be one of the presenters of the Combined Operations Podcast. Our game lasted more than 20 minutes…in fact, I think we were still going after over 45 minutes – you know it’s getting bad when everyone else is standing around the table willing for the battle to finish.
I think we both suffered from some fairly appalling dice-rolling, but somehow I eventually triumphed – it seemed like one of those duels where both protagonists essentially fought each other to a standstill, and then someone collapsed.
His task was to try and seize a village that I was defending in a limited amount of turns. Whilst I made what I thought was a fundamental error in not deploying my archers on the table, Alex seemed more concerned with moving stealthily around the board – perhaps not fully realising the time constraint he was under. Battle for any of the objectives was not really joined until turn 4. Alex’s forces managed to seize one objective and contest another by the end of turn 5, which meant the scenario ended in a draw.
Since a draw wasn’t allowed on the day, we ended the battle with a duel between the two heroes, which saw my Samurai lord cut down.
After lunch (a cold buffet provided as part of the event) it was time for game three. This time I faced Richard (Richard is someone else with internet presence – he presents the LeakyCheese channel on YouTube)
This was The Battlefield scenario from the book, and as soon as we read the scenario, we saw that it presented problems, as this scenario is all about seizing objectives – the first to seize three wins the game.
We agreed to place one objective in the middle of the table, and the others on our sides on the board – in hindsight, the battle would be much better with several objective countes in the middle of the board. As it was, the game simply became a race to see who could get to the middle of the board first – I drew out more ‘Samurai’ counters, and so I won the game in about 15 minutes.
Game four saw me facing Sam Catterall, who some of you may remember, as he is the co-author of the Empire of the Dead rules.
We fought what turned out to be our favourite battle of the day. This was The Spy scenario. This again was a scenario about finding an objective (the spy of the battle title) except that this time the winning player had to escort the spy off the board in order to win the game.
Sam and I set up the three objective markers, with one in the centre and the others close to either of our board edges. Much like the previous game, I arrived at an objective marker first, thanks to pulling out more activation tokens, and successfully identified the objective token as the spy I was after. We both discussed the possible pitfalls of the scenario design at this point, as I was only a couple of moves away from successfully escorting the spy from the board, but we both decided to play on and see what happened.
We were both glad that we did, as we saw one of the most fun and cinematic actions of the game as Sam’s Samurai hero charged across the board, catching up to my own hero before he could escape. He then leapt at a bowman that had thrown himself in the way of his charge – killing him with a critical strike which carried him into my own hero, who he dispatched with a single sword stroke. However, Sam’s triumph was short-lived, for even as he captured the spy, he was assaulted from behind by my other Samurai, who recaptured the spy and managed to drag him off the board – truly one of those games when the moral of the story is to never give up, and this provided an ending which was truly epic.
The final battles of the day saw multi-player free-for-alls as those honourable and dishonourable players fought to discover who would carry off those coveted titles.
Whilst the dishonourable battle saw a two-player face off, the battle for most-honourable Samurai lord saw two 5-player battles – in each battle the objective was to escort the Geisha from the table – with the twist that she would only accompany a Samurai. As you might expect, the battles turned into huge melees in the middle of the board.
After hard fought games, Tim proved to be triumphant for the Honourable Samurai, whilst Kieran proved to be the most Dishonourable Samurai of the day – thus both gained prizes
I think it can safely be said that we all had a great day – and huge thanks go to Martin and Conor from Warlord who went above and beyond to ensure we enjoyed ourselves – they finally kicked us out of Warlord HQ well after 7pm.
The day was a very good introduction to Test of Honour, though I think it ended up being more about having fun whilst playing rather than fully learning all the rules – looking back 24 hours later, and I can see certain areas (Loss of Nerve being the prime example) which I think were ignored or forgotten about by almost everyone – to be honest, it didn’t really seem to be that important in the end.
Overall, I spent the day getting a good appreciation of how to play Test of Honour with a great bunch of guys whilst having an awful lot of fun.
I’d call that a very positive result indeed.