Over the past week I have been cleaning up some old samurai MiniFigs and Dixon samurai miniatures that I painted way back in the 1980’s. This cleaning up got me wanting to get my existing Samurai collection of miniatures onto the tabletop for a game. I opted to play the Battle of Sekigahara, 1600, using the scenario from the Junior General website, the game pits Ishida Mitsunari's seven-unit Western army against Tokugawa Ieyasu's six-unit Eastern army. One of the Western unit’s loyalty is suspect and could potentially switch sides during the game and join the Eastern forces.
|The Sekigahara game set up. Red units representing the eastern army and Blue for the Western army.|
I typically use a variation of One-Hour Wargaming's pike and musket rules when playing Samurai games, but I decided against using them for this battle due to its large scale, and how the armies involved were organisated around the self-contained units called Sonae. Where each Sonae is led by a clan Daimyo and contains a mix of troop types, including bowmen, arquebuses, Ashigaru spearmen, and samurai warriors.
|A close up showing the mix of miniatures.|
So what to do with the rules when you have only 6 units which are essentially identical with a combination of arquebuses, Ashigaru spearmen, and samurai?
The game as the potential to be very boring with no unit differentiation and units operating in the same manner. Well I turned to a rather unexpected set of rules for inspiration - Ganesha Games “Samurai Robots Battle Royale” rules.
|Ganesha Games Rules|
At this point you may be asking have I lost my marbles? But there are similarities between how a robot and a unit (Sonae) operate. Both have missile capabilities (Sonae have bow and arquebus) and combat capabilities (Sonae have Ashigaru spear and samurai).
For this game, a typical Sonae would consist of 3 missile bases combining 1 bow base and 2 arquebuses, 3 Ashigaru bases, and 2 Samurai bases. The overall commander would be added to one of the Sonae, bringing its samurai count to three.
|On the left a Sonae with 8 bases: 2 samurai, 3 Ashigaru spears, 2 arquebuses, and 1 bow. On the right a Sonae with an additional commander and so fields an additional samurai unit.|
Despite the similarity of Sonae on both sides, Ganesha Games' activation system adds a layer of choice and risk taking to the gameplay. On your turn, you can activate a Sonae by rolling one, two, or three dice. Each dice score that equals or exceeds the model's Quality score allows you to execute an action for that unit. However, for each failed activation roll, the other player gets an opportunity to react immediately. This back-and-forth between activation and reaction keeps the game both interesting and unpredictable. If you happen fail two or more dice then your turn is over and it’s the other player’s turn.
In most cases a Sonae’s quality score is 3+ and reflects how loyal a Daimyo is to the lord they are aligned to, but this can be set at 4+ where a Daimyo’s loyalty is questionable. When rolling for reactions a 4+ is required and no unit can react more than once in a turn.
The possible actions a unit can take are:
- Shooting: Place any missile bases in the front row. If the target is within 12 inches, roll 1D6 and add the number of available arquebus bases in the front row. The target rolls 1D6 and adds the number of bow bases*. If the attacker's total score is higher, the defender removes one base of their choice from the front row. (Costs 1 action)
- Aimed Shooting: Same as shooting, but the attacker chooses the base to be removed from the front row. (Costs 2 actions)
- Assault: Place any combat bases (Ashigaru or Samurai) in the front row. Move 6 inches into contact with the target Sonae and roll 1D6, adding the number of combat bases in the front row (1 for each Ashigaru base and 2 for each Samurai base). If the attacker's total score is higher, the defender removes one base of their choice from the front row. (Costs 1 action)
- Targeted Assault: Same as assault, but the attacker chooses the base to be removed from the front row. (Costs 2 actions)
- Move: Move 6 inches, or 3 inches across difficult terrain (e.g., rivers). (Costs 1 action)
During a player's turn, they can rearrange the bases within a Sonae once following a successful activation. However, each Sonae must always maintain three bases in its front line. Replace any front line gaps immediately with another base.
A Sonae is considered eliminated when either it is reduced to fewer than three bases or it has no remaining Samurai bases.
Flank and rear attacks are always directed against the second and third rows of a Sonae. When defending against a flank or rear attack the defending player must select three bases, if possible, to counter the attack. If a Sonae only has a front row, it cannot be attacked by either shooting or assault. It is all to confused for an attacker to be effective.
To disengage from a melee, a Sonae can move away from the opponent, but this action prohibits any shooting or assault attacks by it during the player’s turn.
The game report…
|The tabletop setup. Hideaki’s Sonae will appear on the far flank once their loyalty is determined. Until then both armies will have to be wary of committing too much on that flank.|
|In response to the Eastern army's initial advance, Sonae of the Western army launches a series of counter attacks. Their Sonae charge forward, seeking to break through the Eastern lines and disrupt their formations.|
|In a bold move the Western army shifts an additional Sonae to their left flank, aiming to bolster their counter attacks against the Eastern army's initial advance|
|In a dramatic shift of momentum, Kobayakawa Hideaki's forces, having declared their allegiance to the Eastern army, descend from Mount Matsuo and enter the battle.|
|The arrival of Hideaki on the battlefield marks a turning point, as they charge forward into the Western army's flank. This unexpected move forces the Western forces to redeploy and threatens to overwhelm their right flank.|
|The Western army's right flank finally succumbs to superior numbers.|