Murray Fish
Australia
Canberra
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They explained everything in detail and at great length. After they finished I sat, despondent, contemplating a bleak and empty future. "I’m glad you’re depressed" said one. "It means you’ve understood the situation.”
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I was the opponent for this and what started as a pretty promising game ended up as an odyssey of tedium. More or less what happened was that we each had two samurai and three groups of three ashigaru (one bow, one arquebus/teppo and one with spear).

My Samurai with their extra activations outdistanced the help by a fair bit. My boss fellow engaged one lot of enemy ashigaru and 'bounced' in the meantime my bow managed a fumble by rolling more xes than swords and shot themselves (gaining one blood drop - is this right?) my boss also manged to fumble a couple of times hurting himself and falling over.

On the other flank the enemy leader made short work of my other samurai (hit, missed the avoid roll and the strength roll as a success so a kill (again, is this right?).

In the middle desultorily skirmishing between the two groups of ashigaru pretty much went nowhere. Finally my boss was overwhelmed after killing the enemy samurai offsider and we expected my remaining ashigaru to be chopped down in short order but instead the combat dragged. Enemy samurai would 'bounce' from the three ashigaru using up their one potential action with a compulsory avoid from a hit but getting a kill was long, tedious work of just rolling a bunch of dice again and again with no real tactical decision making.

We finally gave it away when my last bowman was finally killed and just din't the appetite for another 45 minuets to play out the slow defeat of the spearmen.

We had plenty of questions about this, especially considering this is a pretty highly regarded game being awarded the Wargames Illustrated 'Game of the Year':

* Is this a typical playing experience or have we again managed to 'break' a ruleset?

* What is the advantage to fielding a single ashigaru over a group of three? The points cost is one less but getting three guys (and their advantages when at full strength) seems to pretty heavily outweigh the slight disadvantage of an increased frontage for movement and firing.

* Are fumbles too common or were we just unlucky?

In any event, we plan to give ToH another go and would really appreciate any pointers where we got it wrong.
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Oblivion Doll
New Zealand
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muzfish4 wrote:
* Is this a typical playing experience or have we again managed to 'break' a ruleset?

* Are fumbles too common or were we just unlucky?


It sounds like a few things went wrong with your understanding of fumbles. Just to clarify everything that MIGHT have gone wrong:

-Only fumbles on the strike roll (to hit) can inflict self-harm on your units. If you fumble the damage roll (to wound), fumbles simply fail to inflict even a light wound. Normal failure would inflict a light wound, while success is a kill. This was played out perfectly in the enemy hero vs. your non-hero samurai example.

-Fumbles on the strike roll don't AUTOMATICALLY inflict self-harm. You have to roll a single die for a damage check, and if it doesn't roll any swords, you don't get hurt. With 3 faces of the D6 having swords on them, and 3 without, that's a 50/50 chance even after fumbling in the first place.

-The rule is "if there are more X's than swords". There are 2 ways to take this wrong. If you have 3 dice, and one shows up as a double sword result, the roll can't possibly be a fumble, because that's 2 swords, and there are only 2 dice on which you could roll X. Double/X/X might be incorrectly counted as a fumble if you either read "more than" as "equal to or more than", but that isn't how the rules treat it. Similarly, if you were to treat the double sword result as a single roll of a sword, you could also mistakenly treat this as a fumble when it isn't.

-Each die has only a single X on it. They have one face with double swords, and two with single swords. This means you're typically going to see 4x as many swords as X's in any given roll. Also, because there are 3 faces with swords, compared with only the 1 X, you have 3x as much chance of rolling a sword on any given die. The odds of a fumble are low, so even with the above possibilities, if you saw a lot, that was probably in large part due to bad luck.

muzfish4 wrote:
* What is the advantage to fielding a single ashigaru over a group of three? The points cost is one less but getting three guys (and their advantages when at full strength) seems to pretty heavily outweigh the slight disadvantage of an increased frontage for movement and firing.


When you consider that groups of spearmen only cost 2 points, that "one less" can just as easily be stated as "half the point cost" or "double the cost" in the other direction. For bow/musket the gap is smaller (2/3 or 1.5x), but a single ranged attack per turn is much more likely to have an impact than a single melee unit.

Individual models act independently. This is a valid strength, since it means more activations. You can adapt to things more easily, since you get more chances to act, and can be in more places at once. In melee, your lone models can coordinate (with each other or groups) to trap enemies with no retreat, and get free extra blood drops to make future attacks even stronger. Ranged units simply get more firepower and flexibility when you split them up.

The group base does have to be killed 3 times before it counts as dead, which is pretty strong. It also resets all blood drops after losing each "life", and doesn't trigger loss of nerve until the final death. In addition, they get a couple of bonus attribute points, which compensates for the fact that 3 soldiers on the field still only get one attack/action per turn.

On balance, the advantages mean you will want to use SOME groups, but ONLY bringing groups will limit your options.

In your example battle, each player had 3 groups of commoner units. Keeping the spearmen group intact, you could have brought 2 muskets and a bowman. This would give you the ability to fire the more lethal muskets every turn, by firing one while reloading the other. Your bow could still be used every turn as well, allowing you to strip actions and make the muskets more reliable on hit, while potentially getting its own kills. This effectively multiplies your ranged damage output, which weakens the enemy's melee line. This, in turn, gives your melee forces an edge, which you can use to limit the amount of enemy attacks that can be directed at your (more fragile) ranged units.

Alternatively, you could use one of each ranged model, and bring 2 extra spearmen (or another group), directly reinforcing the front line at the cost of some accuracy with your ranged units. You could also only cut down one of your ranged units (I'd go with the archer since it's more a "support" weapon) and only add one spearman. or split the spearmen up for 3 individuals. Having 2 or 3 commoner units for melee means you're less likely to be losing all your activations to enemy fire, and can keep moving forward more consistently. In combat, the extra units could be used to surround/flank the enemies, and position yourself to cut off retreat and force extra blood drops onto the enemy.

Another benefit is that by having more commoner units, there's a better chance of your opponent running out of commoners and drawing a commoner token which has to default to you - giving you effectively 3 turns in a row.
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Nathan Hook
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The game does drag if you try to play a whole battle. It's designed for objective play. The example first scenario is 'take down the enemy samurai' which would have fixed this.
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