Test of Honour is a feudal Japanese wargame. Graham Davey took control of the license under his new company Grey For Now Games and completely redesigned the system, keeping what made Test of Honour unique and interesting, while balancing, streamlining, and adding to it.
The core mechanics of Test of Honour are the activation and the dice test system. The activation system uses randomly drawn tokens from a communal pot. Samurai heroes get 3 activations and ashigaru spearmen get 1. This is the maximum amount of times they can be activated each turn. For each unit’s number of activations, tokens are added to a pot and players take turns to randomly draw from it. The token drawn is the unit you can activate, either hero or henchmen. If you don’t have a unit matching the drawn token with activations available, your opponent is handed the token.
There are also 3 fate tokens in the pot. When the first 2 of these are drawn, the player picked it draws a fate card from their deck that can be used to add a skill or ability to one of their heroes. When the third token is drawn, the round ends.
This means that rounds are fairly random in terms of which models activate. You might not draw any hero tokens before the third fate token is drawn, or your opponent could end up activating more units that you. It does mean that you really have to prioritize which units you activate when you draw your token, as it may be the only chance you get to activate them.
Thrown into this, is the defense activation. If your unit or hero is attacked and successfully hit, they have to draw a token out of the pot to defend if they have an action available. If they don’t have an action available, they don’t get to defend and take damage. This means that you can attack heroes with lesser enemies, using up their activations to defend and reducing their options for their own attacks and activations. It feels extremely thematic, as a samurai, surrounded by warriors, fending off attacks, won’t be thinking about running off to score an objective, or attack an archer threatening from high ground.
The dice testing mechanic is extremely simple. Each dice has a number of swords on them, either single or double swords and also crosses. To pass a test, 3 swords need to be rolled. The number of dice rolled is set by the number of the ability score on the stat card of the unit. If 5 swords are rolled across the dice, bonuses are given depending on the test and weapon and if more crosses than swords are rolled, the test has fumbled and a negative effect occurs.
All of this is carried across from the 1st Editon. ToH 2e has received an incredible art update, which really makes the cards stand out, there have also been several balancing tweaks, as well as our favorite new edition, the honor cards.
Previously, you could act dishonorably and get a dishonor card that could have an effect in ongoing games, now when choosing to attack an enemy that has no actions left to defend themselves, you can act normally, rolling your set amount of dice, or you can act honorably, rolling 1 fewer dice, or dishonorably, rolling 1 more. If you act honorably or dishonorably, you draw an honor or dishonor card, which can have an active effect in-game. If you already have an honor or dishonor card, drawing the opposite card turns your first card over, as well as the drawn card, canceling the effects, but still keeps the cards in play, which can still have an effect during the game, or in a campaign.
In the back of the rulebook, there are several different scenarios and guidance pages on running games, along with several optional rules. The first game to play is First Clash, which sets up both players with identical forces and then introduces a selection of rules. After that is the full force selection rules, game set up and scenario rules, which include the rules for darkness, being unaware of the enemy, carrying, searching and reinforcements. There are 5 linked battles that follow directly on from First Clash, along with 6 Standard Battles and 6 Further Battles.
The book also contains details on character progression for your heroes. This includes retaining honor and dishonor cards, retaining skill cards earned in battle and also an aftermath table that depends on if the battle was won or lost. Effects like Eager For Battle, which lets you return your hero’s first activation token to the pot after the action in the next battle, or permanent wound, which gives them a permanent reduction in one of their skills.
The final part of the rulebook is optional rules. Some of these add a high degree of variety to games but do make them very random, which is why Grey For Now Games opted to make them optional. The optional rules include fateful events, which occur as fate tokens are drawn, varying ability scores, which raises and lowers 2 ability scores of your heroes in order to make them different and unique, blank cards are available online for this option. There are also the rules for unexpected actions, which add a roleplaying element to games, rules for deck building to refine the fate deck, multiplayer games and also details for larger games, which take them beyond the 10-20 miniatures that Test of Honour was designed around.
Test of Honour 2e starts with the ToH Gaming Set, which includes the rulebook, 8 of the custom dice, a load of counters, and enough cards for 2 players to play their first few games. Each player should aim to have their own Gaming Set to build their own forces and fate decks. You also get an exclusive unarmored samurai figure.
Additional cards are available in the miniature packs that are also available and if you’re coming from 1e Test of Honour, there are 2 card packs available to purchase that let you convert the 1e miniature packs to 2e.
Also available via the Grey For Now Games website, is a whole host of free content, including additional cards, a printable quick reference sheet and the FAQ/Errata.
The Bottom Line:
Test of Honour 2e is a very polished version of the Test of Honour rules. Games are fun if a little random. The optional rules and addition of the honor cards add a great deal of variety to games. Those new to Test of Honour will find a very thematic skirmish wargame with some fantastic variety in terms of force creation. The rules are very straight-forward and extremely easy to teach and the linked campaign detailed in the rulebook is a blast to play through. You will have to buy additional miniatures ontop of the gaming set, but these can be from your own collection, from those available through the Grey For Now Games site, or from any other miniature manufacturer.
Get this game if:
You enjoyed ToH 1e.
You want an easy to learn skirmish game
You want to have epic samurai tabletop battles.
You want interesting and flexible force construction.
Avoid this game if:
You want a competitive skirmish game with very little random factors.
You don’t want a historical feudal Japanese game.
Have you played Test of Honour? What do you think of the new edition? Are you thinking of picking it up? Let us know in the comments below.
This copy of the Test of Honour Gaming Set used for this review was provided by Grey For Now Games. The miniatures used in our test games were from the Test of Honour 1e boxed set.