OHW Samurai Rules

 Samurai 1550-1615 OHW Wargame Rules

These rules are a variant of Neil Thomas’ One-Hour Wargame (OHW) Pike and Shot rules. Unit types are geared towards the latter part of the Sengoku period (1467-1615) when Japan was in a state of near-constant civil war and saw the widespread introduction of the arquebus into the armies.

Unit Types

These rules use four tactical unit types (Sonae) which will need to be consistently based.

Foot Samurai. These units were the main heavy infantry used to perform shock tactics. They were well armoured and wielded a variety of weapons such as swords, polearms and spears. Often Samurai would arrive on horse and fight dismounted due to the terrain in Japan.

Mounted Samurai. These units performed as medium cavalry and were used to harass and flank enemy units, and pursue retreating units. During the 1500’s most Samurai had moved from using bows to being mainly armed with spears of various lengths.

Ashigaru. These units formed the backbone of samurai armies during this period. They wear lighter armour than Samurai and are armed with spears (yari) and the arquebus (teppo); these various arms worked together as units.

Skirmishers. While arquebuses (teppo) had quickly replaced the bow (yumi), a combination of yumi and teppo could be used by skirmishers. The yumi were used to keep the enemy’s heads down while the teppo reloaded. They would also use standing shields to provide added protection from missiles.

General (Daimyo). Samurai armies still remained quite feudal and their Generals (Daimyo) would be attended by his personal bodyguard of samurai (Hatamoto). A general must be attached to either a foot or mounted samurai unit.

When constructing and organising a force at least fifty percent of the units must be Ashigaru units representing mixed units of spears and arquebuses typical of the Sengoku period.

Sequence of play

Players take turns to activate all or some of their units using the following sequence during their turn:

  1. Move (and charge)

  2. Shoot

  3. Hand to hand combat

  4. Elimination

The game ends after 15 turns.


Movement Allowances. Units may move up to the distances listed below during their turn:


  • Ashigaru - 6”

  • Skirmishers - 9”

  • Foot Samurai - 9”

  • Mounted Samurai - 12”

Turning. Units turn by pivoting on their central point. They may do so at the start and/or end of their move.

Terrain. Units are affected by terrain as follows:

  1. Woods. Only Skirmishers and foot Samurai may enter.

  2. Difficult terrain. Only foot units may enter. Reduce movement by 3”.

  3. Towns. Mounted Samurai may not end their moves in a town.

  4. Marshland and lakes. These are impassable to all units

  5. Rivers - These may only be crossed via bridges and fords

  6. Roads - Units moving by road increase their movement distance by 3” if their entire move is spent on the road. This bonus may not be received if charging.

  7. Hills - These are impassable to Mounted Samurai.

Moving and Shooting. Only skirmish units may shoot at the end of their move provided they have line of sight of the target prior to starting their movement.

Interpenetration. Only Skirmishers may pass through other units (and vice versa).

Charge Moves. Charges are resolved by moving the attacking unit into contact with its target. They are subject to the following restrictions:

  1. Ammunition. Ashigaru may only charge if they are out of ammunition.

  2. Turning. A charging unit may turn once, at the start of its move. This evolution may not exceed 45 degrees.

  3. Limited Engagement. Only one attacking unit may contact each face of the target (these being Front, Left Flank, Right Flank, and Rear).

  4. Fighting. Combat is resolved during the Hand-to-Hand Combat phase.


Only Skirmishers and Ashigaru may shoot, the procedure for which is as follows:

Adjudge Field of Fire. Units may only shoot at a single target within 45 degrees of their frontal facing.

Measure Range. Skirmishers and Ashigaru (Arquebus) have a range of 12”.

Assess Casualties. Ashigaru units roll a D6 and Skirmishers roll a D3. The final score gives the number of hits the target acquires, which is modified as follows:


  1. Cover. Units in woods or towns only suffer half the registered number of hits (any fractions are rounded in favour of the unit shooting).

  2. Check Ammunition. Ashigaru (not skirmishers) who have rolled a 5 or 6 prior to modifications for shooting have run out of ammunition, and may not fire for the remainder of the game unless resupplied.

Hand-to-Hand Combat

The procedure for Hand-to-Hand Combat is as follows:

One sided combat. Units only inflict casualties during their own player turn.

Assess Casualties. Units roll a D6. Ashigaru and mounted Samurai use the unmodified score, foot Samurai add 2 to the result, and skirmishers subtract 2. The final score gives the number of hits the target acquires, which is modified as follows:

  1. Mounted Samurai. These units only inflict half the number of registered hits if attacking Ashigaru (rounding any fractions in favour of the attacking unit).

  2. Foot Samurai. These units only inflict half the number of hits if attacking Mounted Samurai (rounding any fractions in favour of the attacking unit).

  3. Terrain Advantage. Defenders in woods, towns, on a hill, or defending a river crossing, only suffer half the indicated number of hits (rounding any fractions in favour of the attacking unit).

  4. Flank of Rear Attacks. Units engaging the enemy flank or rear inflict double the registered number of hits.

Movement Within Combat. Units may turn to face an attack upon their flank or rear if they are not simultaneously being frontally engaged. All units may disengage from combat involving a single enemy unit.

Eliminating Units

Units are eliminated upon the acquisition of 15 or more hits.

General (Daimyo)

A general is assigned to a samurai unit, foot or mounted, at the start of the game and must remain attached for the duration of the game. This unit represents their personal bodyguard of samurai (Hatamoto). The unit can re-roll any D6 combat score for their unit, but must accept the second score. 

If using chance cards in the game and the the general’s assigned unit is eliminated, any beneficial chance cards drawn are treated as no effect cards.

Defences (Field Fortifications)

Tate - wooden shields (like pavises) were used throughout the samurai period. They were planted in the ground and provided protection against missile attacks. Treat these as immobile and remove from play if the unit moves. All missile attacks are halved.

Bamboo Palisades (Babō-saku) - Loosely constructed bamboo palisades protect against melee but not missiles. Treat these as immobile and remove from play if the unit moves. All hand-to-hand attacks are halved.


Rain - Ashigaru units are out of ammunition on a 4+


A very useful website https://gunbai-militaryhistory.blogspot.com

Samurai Warfare, Dr Stephen Turnbull

Samurai Armies 1550-1615, Osprey Men-at-Arms Series, S.R.Turnbull

Samurai, Osprey Warrior Series, A.J. Bryant and A. McBride

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