I’ve been toying with the idea of a Samurai game for a long while now and even bought some Dixon figures over 20 years ago with this in mind, but they never saw a brush. When the Ronin rules arrived from Osprey I tried to resist (I do not need yet another period!), but then someone bought me 2 of the North Star factions for Christmas and we were away. This is not a bad path to go down as Dave Bickley, the author of one of my favourite sets of ACW rules, is working on a Samurai set which look like they are a lot of fun and don’t need that many figures – see his Tales from GHQ Blog . If I’m going to paint up Samurai I want to use them as much as possible 🙂
So, me being me and having to paint complicated Samurai to boot, we played with unfinished figures, pitting 2 small factions against each other – 4 Sohei monks against 5 Bushi. We played the Skirmish scenario where VP were awarded against the level of each figure killed. The secondary objective which we rolled up was for both of us to gain an extra 5 VP by killing more than 75% of the opposing side – so effectively we had to kill 4 figures each to get the extra VP – this meant Tom had to wipe me out to get this bonus, an objective he took to with glee 🙂
In the game, each side takes turns activating a model for movement and completes their move before the next player does the same. Figures move 6″ and run 9″, but the run move is not a charge move, as you can’t go within 1″ of an enemy model while doing it. The turn sequence is slightly unusual in that this move phase is followed by a close combat phase followed by an action phase – in the action phase a model can also shoot. Therefore a bow-armed figure can fire in the move phase (but not if running) and also in the shooting phase, so bows can fire twice in a turn (though at reduced effectiveness). Because arquebuses have to stand still that move to re-load in the action phase they would be lucky to get 2 or 3 shots in per game – as they ignore light or medium armour and penetrate heavy armour this is a good thing.
While my archer provided ineffective covering fire at long range, my monks rushed towards the building, reasoning that the safest place for them was in combat. One of them took a light wound from the arquebus on the way there, but the first combat resolution involved the lone Samurai & an Ashigaru with spear against a Monk with armed with a naginata. Combat starts by determining which order models strike (very D&D, which we like) and the Ashigaru got to go first due to his spear giving +2 initiative. My Monk’s naginata was longer than the Samurai’s katana so he went second – so far all was as expected. The clever bit of the combat system now came into play – each figure has a number of combat tokens (Monk & Samurai 3, Ashigaru 2) which they secretly put into a pool and allocate to attack or defence. The attacking figure has to play an attack counter to attack, but after the defender gets the chance to play a defence counter to augment his defence the attacker can play another attack counter (if he has one) to augment his attack. The augmentation is simply handled by rolling an extra dice and discarding the lowest (or the highest if you have a death wish!). Both the Ashigaru and my Monk choose to augment so he rolled 3 dice as the attacker to my 2 as the defender. The Ashigaru rolled 6,6 & 1 against my 3 & 3. To his total of 12 (he discarded the 1 – predictable) he added his fight value of 2 giving a combat total of 14. I had little choice rolling two 3’s, but with a 3 fight and plus 2 for medium armour this gave me a total of 8. There is a wound table to be consulted which gives the effect of the strike, but basically a difference of 6 or more means you’re dead – not a good start!
At that point everyone piled in to the space between the two buildings, though one Monk was exposed to arquebus fire at close range and suffered a grievous wound. He was then engaged in melee by the Samurai alone and lost the initiative. Despite augmenting his defence he suffered a light wound, which combined with his grievous wound finished him off. The 2 Ashigaru ganged up on the other lightly wounded Monk, who also augmented his defence. In a stunning turn of events, I rolled 1 & 1 for defence on 2 dice against the first attack while the Ashigaru rolled a 6 and a 5 – the difference was greater than 6 so that Monk also died. The Bushi had rolled two 11’s and a 12 in three combats – I never even got to roll an attack in close combat 😦
I had fared no better in the archery duel. First my Archer was lightly wounded then stunned by the Bushi archer – again a fistful if high rolls caused the damage. So it was a very quick and bloody game, though given that we were playing with minimal forces that was probably to be expected. I would have been better taking an arquebus over a bow if I was going to engage in long range sniping, and though we were probably too generous in the amount of time it took to re-load an arquebus it didn’t have a great effect on the game – I probably only gained an extra light wound because of it. Next time, by adding 2 figures to each side (one of them a Sohei Grand Master) the Monks should have a better chance. Most games I have seen on the internet seem to be around 150 – 200 points per side, which only equates to between 8 to 10 figures each and we’ll be at that level next time. I also think we need to add some scatter terrain such as barrels and crates as the board had long unbroken lines of sight and ranges are practically unlimited on a 3′ x 3′ board.
It’s a bit too early to give a verdict on the rules (due to the crazy combat rolls) but initial impressions are good enough to keep me painting and wanting more games over Easter (especially after I pick up some more of the brilliant 4Ground houses and fences at Salute).