As I was going through my notes from a game of Test of Honour this past weekend, I realized that it was our first full game. We’ve messed around with my Dojo Assault stuff and we ran through some of the previous edition’s opening scenarios but none of those brought it all together as the complete and likely intended game.

As if to remind me that I still have a bit of work preparing for our next Frostgrave game, we decided to throw down a full (24 point) game of Test of Honour on the frozen ruins of an oddly-themed mapped. Fitting enough though, our minis were all various stages of grey (for now).

We were running the Duel scenario which pitted hero versus hero, a “kill em’ all” scenario where the victor would be the one who had the last hero or companion alive. I never really got into the plastic sprue kits of the core set so my force consisted of a mix of ninja and bandits.

The Ninja Master hero was accompanied by the dreaded Ninja Assassin and Bandit Lieutenant (mainly there to make sure the various bandits on loan would stick around).

The board was set and I drew deployment first. Colton was fielding his recently put together core set figures- a force consisting of a standard Armored Samurai Hero, a Battleworn Samurai, and a Loyal Samurai. To aid them in this blood feud were two groups of Ashigaru spearmen and two groups of Ashigaru archers, with a leftover lone spearman to round out the force to an even 24 points.

We built our own Fate decks centered around our forces then cutting them down to the requisite 10 cards. We eschewed quest cards as it was getting on in the evening and we didn’t remember exactly how to construct and execute them.

As the game began, we both started working our forces into the center, using terrain as cover. We were a little rusty on the rules and forget some of the penalties that apply to range until we were in the game a few rounds. I don’t remember it causing a big deal as my ranged bandits proved to be completely inept at shooting anything all game.

Luckily, my ninja were able to pick up the ranged slack, chucking various pointy objects at hapless foes. Here, my powerhouse Ninja Master snuck around the left flank of the board and rushed in at a Loyal Samurai, who was trying to take in some cover behind a collapsed wall. I negated the penalty of the wall by striking at him dishonorably. He was not prepared and ninjas, doing what they do, took advantage with aplomb.

Doing so well with my attack, I got to move up as I try to deal a killer blow and get lucky, striking the hapless samurai dead. I forgot that the ninja have quick fire so I could have gone nuts and charged another enemy but I ended up staying put.

In the next round, the samurai did not like seeing their comrade fall so they came after me with their hero. I use the opportunity to strike at the silly stick-wielding fool.

After a series of shuriken strikes, I rush in to cut him down. He was basically spent by the time my Ninja Master arrived so after getting stabbed a little in the rush, my attack strikes home and I grievously injure him. He was made of sterner stuff than I anticipated and is able to shake it off and continue with the fight.

At this point, another injury will end him and it will be a simpler matter of my three heroes hunting down and killing the last samurai to win the game. Both my Ninja Master and the Samurai Hero are spent for the round so I’ll have to wait another round before I finish my target and move on.

The Battleworn Samurai has other plans though and galvanizes his injured hero and urges him forward (through the use of a cunning skill card). This does not look good as my master can’t avoid the incoming attack.

It goes from bad to worse as the samurai charges with his poker, easily injures the Ninja Master, then does well enough to follow-up and charge in again. In two brutal attacks, my Ninja Master falls. A heavy and unexpected blow to team dishonor.

Playing true to form, I’ve been having my team play dishonorably any chance they get. For one reason, I thought it thematic, and for another I had a skill card that would play into it. The advantage of getting an extra die to attack with is also nice. The dishonor deck, however, held some nasty surprises like when I pulled a card that forced every one on my team to test against routing. I was lucky enough that only those that failed could do so and still stay on the board but it was good to note that that type of card was available if I was to ride this way of villainy throughout the game.

With Colton’s samurai consolidated to the center and my heroes spread out and scattered, he decided to take the center and advance forward with his newfound momentum.

After leaping across a wall to engage my ninja group, the Battleworn Samurai starts to lose the fight and gets cut to shreds. Amazingly, I can’t seem to get through his armor so most of his damage is because I keep getting good avoid rolls, getting a quick jab in or him failing to retreat due to terrain and getting bruised the force back.

My Bandit Lieutenant sees and opening and is able to dodge around terrain and friendly warriors only to trip on a loose stone, and cut himself up on the way in. All he had to do is hit because the Battleworn Samurai couldn’t defend himself (so I took an extra die and tried to attack him dishonorably even) but nothing but blood (on my side). Dark is the fruit born of ill gains.

At the top of the next round, blood is littering the field. The Battleworn Samurai is clearly here to stay and no death-from-a-thousand-cuts will stop him. I start the round and pull a samurai token. I’ll activate my Bandit Lieutenant to see if I can do any better this time. I decide that I’ll be better off charging the Samurai Hero as the bleeding mess of a man before me will go down to my teammates quickly. If I can take out the big hero first, that will really solidify my position.

I test wits to be able to charge the Samurai Hero and succeed. Feet don’t fail me now! I charge in hoping for a passable strike this time and barely succeed. Now some who know this game will wonder why I’m so excited. My target hasn’t activated yet so will have plenty of tokens to burn defending himself but I have a trick. Before Colton can make his avoid roll, I reveal my dirty trick skill card, which negates the Samurai’s ability to defend himself.

I kick snow in the samurai’s face and roll for damage. With the blood already dripping from his previous wound, I’m rolling six dice. Not only will this be enough to end this fool but should put me in good odds to do a critical and allow me to follow-up, running back to cutdown the remaining samurai.

It was all too perfect. Instead, Bandit Lieutenant can’t get even three swords to come up on six dice. Gutted, I can’t help but wonder how it all went wrong. Colton shows me explicitly by drawing his samurai token and easily cuts me down (after I fail the avoid roll). Oof! I went from thinking things would be sewn up in one nice little round to reeling back on my heals wondering how I could get out of this.

After multiple attempts and a few unlucky rolls by Colton, I’m able to finally break through the Battleworn Samurai’s armor and deal a mortal wound. That guy had to be MVP as he had six blood tokens on him and just couldn’t drop him round after round.

The Samurai Hero is still up and is forced to come in at the Ninja Group instead of my remaining hero, the Ninja Assassin. His charge fails and puts him in the center of the hornet’s nest.

With so many heroes gone, the rest of the forces come into play and the samurai is being steadily reinforced by spearmen and archers, both of whom try to take down my forces but only get a few of the group down. The samurai himself has some bad luck failing to charge my ninja and starts to rack up blood tokens like the Battleworn Samurai previously.

Bloodied but not out, the Samurai Hero persists. I pull a samurai token and decide to risk getting up to the wall to remove the obstacle from my shot (and getting me dangerously close to all the Ashigaru coming in). I know that if I can just get a strike in, it’ll burn the samurai’s last dangerous activation and leave me with one left to either defend against the coming rush of Ashigaru or get lucky and strike back at the samurai one last time.

The strike rings true but the samurai’s armor holds up and avoids the damage, but losing his last activation for the round. It then becomes Colton’s pull from the activation bag and we’re both thinking it’ll be a commoner token and he’ll have a shot at both attacking my hero and block some of my other warriors from finishing of his samurai.

He pulls the other samurai token! He has no free samurai so I get it and strike (dishonorably I might add). My shuriken flies true and buries itself into the heart of an open wound, laying the samurai low. Ninja victory! (screw those stupid bandits, they sucked!)

Of course, I couldn’t have done it without all my black-card friends. A whopping eight dishonor cards to ruin people’s day (usually my own).

I thought it would be a quick-ish game but it turned out to be a bit long at around 3 hours. It was also pretty wild with large swings in fate. Colton felt it goes a little too long to be so beer-and-pretzely but still likes the game and wants to hit it again. I had some absolutely atrocious luck still found the game fun, tactical, and engaging. Since we bounce around from game system to game system so much, we shouldn’t be surprised that it went long (I always forget how much we tend to consult the rules to try to make sure we’re getting things right).

Even though the bandits sucked in their die rolls, I am excited to get the set of them painted up. Actually that was probably what happened. They were consciously ducking their rolls due to the unfairness and completely one-sided painting love the ninjas received. Okay bandits, I hear you. I’ll move you up in the painting queue.