Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Play test 1 of From the Sky We Came

Notes from my first play test of the Samurai era wargame rules I recently posted.. I didn't have my camera with me, so no photos yet.

After organizing my Feudal Japanese figures last night, I set out a few to represent some Clans of two different armies, and I went through the clan activation part of the game.  Some observations-

First, having markers on Clan Leaders showing their Command value is a huge time saver. Same with Bushi.

Second, if a unit is less than half strength and loses a morale test, it should disperse - otherwise small units might be littering the table forever.

Third, ninjas. I have some ninjas in my collection, and I need to include ninjas.  Just a few, like garlic on pizza, should go a long way.

Melee combat - I'm not sure I am crazy about having melee resolved after one dice toss.  I might change to a system with pushback and Bushi tests.

Not sure about the need for formations. I included rules for a column (to move through a village, mountain pass, or bamboo forest) but otherwise, just in a battle formation.

Basing.  I am torn between a square base method and a regular linear WRG type method, but I plan to rebase the collection.

Here is a scene from a TV drama showing a dramatization of the cavalry charge during the battle of Nagashino (1575), against the first recorded use of volley fire in Japan.  Interesting, but great images of armor and horse equipment.

And, for further research, the movies of Kurosawa are always welcome. This is a clip from Ran, showing a unit of Ashigaru firing from under cover and disrupting a cavalry charge. Great imagery of Sashimono, but the representation of units is very fluid compared to how wargamers typically represent bodies of troops.  Kurosawa might not be strictly historical, but it is very inspirational imagery.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

From the Sky we Came - Samurai Period Miniature Rules

I wanted to come up with a set of miniature rules for playing out 15mm battles between armies representing the Samurai Clans struggling for position with each other during the period of the 16th century (the Sengoku period, which is typically from the mid 15th century, through the end of the 16th), roughly ending with the battle of Sekigahara (Oct 21, 1600).  

Detail from the Battle of Sekigahara
 The name of the rules ("From the Sky we Came") comes from a line in a death poem written by Hôjô Ujimasa.  Ujimasa died (was forced to commit suicide, along with his brother) in 1590, after losing Odowara castle to Toyetomi Hideyoshi.  Ujimasa had been the head of the Hôjô clan, so upon losing his clan's castle to his clan's enemy, he was forced to commit sepuku.  Before doing so, he wrote the following death poem:
Autumn wind of eve,
blow away the clouds that mass
over the moon's pure light
and the mists that cloud our mind,
do thou sweep away as well.
Now we disappear,
well, what must we think of it?
From the sky we came.
Now we may go back again.
That's at least one point of view.
- Hôjô Ujimasa
Odawara Castle

Below are the rules. Keep in mind these are a playtest level prototype, and there might be some interesting combinations resulting from using these. They do seem to be pretty playable. Pictures of the playtest are coming.

From the Sky we Came

Units and organization
Units are roughly of two types, Cavalry (3-4 stands per unit) and Infantry (6-8 stands per unit).  On the table top, Cavalry is always represented either in column (one stand wide, for movement purposes), or in a single line (one stand deep, 3 or 4 stands in width).  Infantry is also either in column (one stand wide), or in line (two stands deep, either 3 or 4 stands in width).

Units are organized by clan (roughly), with a Clan leader being in charge of from 3 to 8 units per clan.  Each clan will have a Clan Leader, as a separate piece, distinct from the units.  Each side,  will have an overall commander, or Army General.

Unit Types
Units are split between mounted and infantry.

Mounted units may be either:
  • Mounted Warrior Monks
  • Mounted Samurai
 Infantry may be either:
  • Warrior Monks
  • Samurai
  • Ashigaru
  • Peasants
Cavalry are considered to be armed with a mixture of pole arms (spear, lance), and swords.

Infantry must be marked as being armed with hand weapons (katana, nodachi), pole arms (yari, naginata, etc), arquebus, or bow.

Samurai infantry units may have two categories of weapons - such as hand weapons (swords) and bow.

Command and Bushi
Each command stand (either Clan leader or General) has a Command rating.  This is a rating of that leader's ability to command troops in battle.  It will be an 8 for a Clan Leader, and a 9 for the General, but could be modified by a scenario or based on a historical battle.

Command is used by the command stand to (1) activate moves, (2) rally routing troops, (3) reform disordered troops.

Each unit has a Bushi rating.  This is a measure of the unit's general martial spirit and willingness to fight.  In the game, it is used for a test to see if the unit will (1) close to contact in a charge, (2) stand up to a charge from the enemy, and (3) charge lesser units if ordered to do so.  The first two tests (charge, and stand) are made against a unit's Bushi rating whenever a charge is ordered.

The third test must be made by a Samurai unit that is ordered either to stand, or to charge another unit, when an enemy Samurai unit is within charge distance.  If the this test is made against bushi when the Samurai unit is activated to move, and the unit Passes the test, rather than do what is ordered, it will instead move (at charge speed) towards an enemy Samurai unit within charge distance.

Unit Bushi Rating
Samurai - 9
Warrior Monks - 8
Ashigaru - 7
Peasants - 6

When a unit is required to take its first Bushi Test, roll 1d6.  If the result is a 1, then the unit has its Bushi modified down by one point, and if it is a 6, then it is modified up by one point.  Keep track of this, as the unit will have the same basic Bushi value throughout the battle.

Bushi and Command values will modify up and down during the game, they are best handled by having a chit with the value attached to the Leader figure or the Unit in question.

Turn Sequence
At the beginning of a turn, the two Generals will each roll 2d6 plus the number of Clans they still have under their control.  The high roller will then activate his first clan.

Activating a clan is done by rolling against the Command target of the Clan Leader for that clan.  If successful (by rolling equal to, or less than the Command number of that Clan Leader), then the player rolls two d6, and chooses the highest of the two dice.  That is the number of actions he has for the units in his clan.

If a player misses the roll against his Clan Leader's Command number, then that Clan may not activate this turn.  It is now his opponent's opportunity to nominate a Clan Leader to roll for.  This alternates back and forth, as long as both sides still have Clans to activate.  Once only one side has Clans left to activate, he may (one at a time) seek to roll for them, but the Command number for those Clan Leaders is treated as one lower than normal (representing that it is harder to coordinate a larger army).

Once per turn, when a player is seeking to activate a Clan Leader by passing a Command dice roll, if that player misses their opportunity, then the General may make the attempt.  If the General passes, then the Clan may activate as normal.  If the General fails, then all the activation is still lost, PLUS the General may attempt no other actions in the rest of the turn (such as Rallying troops).

If the Clan Leader is attached to a unit, then its Command score is reduced by 1.

If the Clan Leader has suffered Injury in combat (see Clan Leader Injury, below), then it has its Command score reduced by 1 for each injury.

For a General to make this attempt, it is necessary that the General's stand have a clear line of sight to the Clan Leader that failed their attempt.  There is no range distance, as this is handled through signal fans and banners.

Finally, after all Clan Leaders from both sides have activated, there is a Morale phase.  Routed units may be (attempted to) recalled, and Disordered units may be (attempted to) reorder.

Clan Activation
Once a Clan is activated, and the number of actions is determined, then three things must happen.

First, any unrallied Routing units are moved one full move to the rear.  If they reach the table edge, they are removed from the game.

Second, if there any Samurai units within the Clan that are within charging distance of enemy Samurai units, the player will have to assign an Action to that Samurai unit to charge the enemy Samurai.  If not, or if the player wishes the Samurai unit to do something else, then the player must make a Bushi test for the Samurai - if the Samurai fail, then they do what the player wished them to do (either stand and hold, for no activation cost, or perform some other move or charge, for 1 activation cost).  But if the Samurai pass their Bushi test, then their martial spirit drives them to override command.  They charge the nearest enemy Samurai unit (for NO activation cost), but they are disordered.

Third, once all Samurai units are handled, then any remaining units may have Activation points spent on them.  These are spent in the following ways:

Activation Point Costs
Move or Charge - 1 activation point
Cross Wall or Obstacle - 1 activation point (in addition to movement)
Reload Arquebus - 1 activation point
Fire Arquebus or Bow - 0 activation points
Fight Melee - 0 activation points

Each unit, when it is activated, will do their actions in this order:
1. Move, Shoot, Reload - in any order, but if firing Arquebus, no movement is allowed
2. Fight Melee if charge occurred.

Perform all actions for one unit at a time, and fight any resulting shots or melees that result.

A unit may only expend for each type of action, once.  This applies to 0 cost actions (example: a unit might Fire an Arquebus, for 0 points, reload the Arquebus for 1 point, and that is all - it may not fire a second time).

If a move results in a contact, then the enemy unit may take a defensive shot if (1) they are armed with bows, or (2) they are armed with Arquebus and are loaded.

A unit may pre-measure to see if they are within charge distance before ordering a charge.

Movement Rates
Foot Troops - 6" (plus 4" charge bonus)
Mounted Troops - 10" (plus 6" charge bonus)
Leader Stands - 16"

Arquebus or Bow armed infantry units may be equipped with Pavis (the Japanese equivalent), but will move at 2" slower.  If they ever Charge or Route, they lose the Pavis.  While they have them, they are considered to be "under cover" whenever fired at.

Firing Procedure
When a unit fires, bows or arquebus, it checks the range (it may not pre-measure range when declaring fire).  If out of range, there is no effect, but mark the Arquebus unit with cotton balls, to indicate they have fired, and must reload.

Weapon Ranges
Foot Bow - 16"
Mtd Bow - 12"
Arquebus - 20"

If in range then the firing unit rolls dice.  A mounted bow unit may fire in any direction, and rolls 2d6 per stand in the unit.  A foot bow or arquebus unit may only fire to the front (within 45 degrees to either side of straight ahead).  It rolls 2d6 per stand in the front rank (remember infantry is always deployed in two ranks).

A disordered unit only rolls half as many dice (i.e. - 1d6 per stand).

The target numbers, to score a hit, are as follows:
Samurai - 6
Armored Ashigaru or Monk - 5+
Unarmored - 4+

Each dice that makes the target number scores a hit.

If a unit is under cover (either behind Pavis, or in a building or on a castle wall) then only half the hits against that unit count.

Every three hits removes a stand from the enemy unit.  Mark any remaining hits.

If a stand is lost, then the enemy unit is automatically disordered.

If the target unit had an attached Clan Leader, then check for a Clan Leader Injury (see below).

If a unit has lost a stand, and is now at half strength (in terms of stands) of it's initial size, or less, then it must pass a Route test (see Route and Rally below).

Charge and Bushi Test
 If a unit has charged an enemy, it must pass a Bushi test to see if it will contact the enemy.  This is done after the target unit may perform any defensive fire.  If the unit passes its Bushi test, then it will charge the unit.

If the charging unit fails its Bushi test, then it only moves half the Charge distance, and is disordered.  If the unit was already disordered (either from defensive fire that turn, or from some other cause) and it fails its Bushi test, then it must also make a Route test.

The charged unit (the target of the charge) must make a Bushi test if it is charged by a unit that is not Disordered.  It does not need to test against a Disordered unit.  If it passes the test, then it will stand, and there will be a melee fought.

If the unit has an attached Clan Leader, then the Bushi test to either Charge, or stand against a Charge is made with a -2 on the dice.

Once a unit has contacted an enemy unit, then a melee is fought to determine the winner.

Melee Adjudication
The procedure is this - each side will roll a total number of dice, against a target number.  Then hits will be determined.  The side receiving the most hits will then withdraw from the combat.  If either side took hits, and had a Clan Leader attached, the leader must test for injury.  The side that has withdrawn from the combat will have to make a Route test (see Route and Rally, below).  The winning side may occupy the space the withdrawn unit was previously occupying, including if this means crossing over a defended wall (thus breaching a castle or other defense).

The number of dice thrown, per stand, are based on unit type and situation:
Samurai - 3d6
Warrior Monks - 3d6
Ashigaru - 2d6
Peasants - 1d6

Mounted units roll 1 additional d6 per stand.

Charging units roll 1 additional d6 per stand.

A second rank of infantry with polearms will be able to also add 1d6 to the stand in front of them.

A disordered unit only rolls half of the total number of dice they should roll.

An attached Clan Leader stand fights as if it were a Samurai stand.

Example: A mounted Samurai unit charges a unit of enemy Ashigaru.  The Ashigaru are able to disorder the Samurai during the charge (by defensive fire), but both sides pass their Bushi test and a melee occurs.  The Samurai, with 3x mounted stands, are to roll 3d6, plus 1d6 for being mounted, plus 1d6 for charging, per stand, at a total of 5x3=12d6.  Since they are disordered, they only roll half, or 6d6.

Once the total number of dice to be thrown is known, then the target number is determined, based on the enemy unit's type.  This is the same target number, as shooting targets.

The target numbers, to score a hit, are as follows:
Samurai - 6
Armored Ashigaru or Monk - 5+
Unarmored Monk or Peasant- 4+

Every three hits removes a stand from the unit.  Mark any remaining hits.

If a stand is lost, then the unit is automatically disordered (this applies to either the victor or the loser).

If either unit had an attached Clan Leader, then check for Clan Leader Injury (see below).

The unit which has suffered the most hits withdraws from combat, by moving to the rear a full move (but still facing the enemy).  The victorious unit may occupy the position.

If a victorious unit has a Clan Leader attached, then the Clan Leader has accumulated Honor with the victory, and his Command score goes up by one.

The withdrawn unit must now pass a Route test.

Clan Leader Injury
Anytime a unit has taken hits from either shooting or melee, and lost a stand, it must check for Clan Leader Injury - if there is an attached Clan Leader.

The Clan Leader rolls a single d6.  If it is a 1, then the Clan Leader has received an injury, and his Command Value is reduced by 1 permanently.

Route and Rally
Once a unit has taken hits, either from shooting or melee, and is under half strength (in terms of stands) compared to its starting strength, then it must take a Route test.

If a unit loses combat, and has withdrawn from a melee, then it must take a Route test.

If both conditions are true at the same time, then the unit must only pass one Route test.

The Route test is passed against the Unit's Bushi score.  If it passes (the dice are equal to or less than the unit's Bushi), then the unit is fine.  If it fails, then the unit will move 1 full move to the rear, facing away from the enemy, and is marked as Routing.  For the Route test, the unit has a +1 to the dice for each stand it has lost.

The unit may Rally during the Morale phase the end of the turn (after all Clan Activations).

The Morale Phase
During the Morale Phase, Routed units may attempt to be rallied, and Disordered units may attempt to be re-ordered.

To attempt to Rally, the Clan Leader of the Unit's Clan must attempt to make a Command roll.  If it is successful, the unit turns around in place, and is no longer Routed.  It is Disordered, however.

A Disordered unit may also attempt to be re-ordered.  Again, the Unit's Clan Leader will make a Command roll.  If it the dice (2d6) are equal to or less than the Clan Leader's Command score, then the unit is no longer Disordered.

If a Clan Leader misses the Command roll to either rally or re-order a unit, then the General may also make the attempt, unless the General earlier made an Activation attempt.  However, if a Clan Leader fails a roll, and the General makes the attempt. then the Clan Leader is dishonored, and has suffered a -1 to his Command score.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Minimal Wargames terrain

So, at the recent Fall In convention, Chris and I hosted a game of The Sword and The Flame.  The problem was that I didn't have much terrain with me.

I had brought my standard green drop cloth for the table (actually, I brought the two smaller ones, which are approx 6x6 each, as my larger one was on the Wargames table at home with a 28mm Balkanian battle on it).

I had my red pumice rocks (picked up outside a Hardee's restaurant in 1997 and still doing great duty).

I also had four bags of scrubby desert lichen.

I had also brought my home made African village huts.

At the convention I had purchased 8 feet of rail fencing.

With all that (which isn't much) I was able to put together a table that represented a decent tactical challenge for the players.

The fence was a movement obstacle for both sides.

The scrub (clumps of lichen) was a movement problem for the Anglo-Egyptian forces.  It also provided cover for all troops. The Dervishes could move through unimpeded.

The rocks marked six scrub areas as potential ambush areas for some hidden natives.

Finally, the village represented the focal point of the scenario.

The Table.  Coffee is a bonus.

It wasn't elegant, but it didn't have to be - it still produced a terrific game, and it all fit in half a duffel bag along with three cases of troops.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Gaming at Fall In

So, although the weekend was very busy with me attending to online business with my Graduate Students, in the evening on Friday and Saturday I got to participate in some fine wargames.

First, on Friday, I got to play in Patrick Berkebile's most excellent game of Regimental Fire & Fury.  The scenario was the battle of the Wheatfield, during Gettysburg. 

I got to participate on the Union side, commanding the divisions of Zook and Cross.  It was great fun, and the battle looked fantastic.

Gettysburg: Into the Wheatfield (painting by Bradley Schmehl)

A portion of Zook's division, encountering some Confederates, coming through the rough between the fields
Patrick has been painting up the forces himself (in usual excellent manner) in 6mm.  The battlefield was done as a battle mat (that Patrick made, painting the features on canvas, and then adding flocking and details), over a contour layer of styrofoam for hills and rises.  Finally, all was pinned down for stability, and the trees were also pinned through the canvas into the styrofoam hills and foam layer under the map.
Bigelow's Artillery - also under my command

Gil Bates - Confederate Commander

Ralph Krebs, Confederate Commander (and far left, Mac, my ally)

Zook's infantry, out of command and disordered

Fighting in the wheatfields, and in the rough in between

Assault up the hill!

Other players included Gil Bates and Ralph Krebs on the Confederate side, and others.  Patrick knew the rules (and the scenario) very well (a must if you are going to run a convention game), and it was a completely enjoyable experience, that Patrick kept moving along very nicely.

Then, on Saturday, the ODMS lads played a great old game of The Sword and the Flame!  It was a Sudan scenario, with 14 units (and a gun) on the Dervish side, and 6 units (and a nordenfeldt) on the Anglo-Egyptian side.  There is a great write up (with lots of pictures) over at the Old Dominion Military Society blog.

ODMS Lads engaging in fine shenanigans!

Lots of cool games, and I did make some minor purchases (I got Rebellion! - the American Revolutionary War supplement for Black Powder, as well as some terrain building items).  A great convention - some extra pictures below.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Heading to Fall In

Heading to Fall In this weekend.

Looking forward to seeing lots of new stuff.

Planning on playing (at least) some Hordes of the Things, and also hosting a game of The Sword and the Flame.
An older game of TSATF

I hope to see some SAGA, Lion Rampant and maybe some Tomahawk and Musket.
6 player HOTT from 2009

Shopping for rules, and maybe some terrain bits.  Probably no new figures.  Probably.

Look forward to pictures this weekend.