1703 – In Edo (now Tokyo),

46 of the Forty-seven Ronin commit seppuku (ritual suicide) as recompense for avenging their master’s death.

Seems appropriate we honor thier honor by sharing one of Merric Blackman’s great AARs from the GMT GBoH series related to Japanese Feudal times. This ties in with our Sekigahara and upcoming RAN series of plays.

A few years ago, when I first acquired Samurai, already a veteran of SPQR, I became very, very confused by the rulebook. The activation rules were arcane, and what was with the samurai challenges? So, after looking at the maps and scenarios, I put it away and wandered off to play some Tyrant scenarios. And then some other games.

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up the rules to Samurai again and went through them. And they weren’t difficult at all. A few years of seasoning had exposed me to a number of new mechanics, and now the way that everything worked seemed quite logical and clear.

So, popping out a few counters and unfolding the map, I settled on playing through the scenario of Mikata-ga-hara, when Tokugawa Ieyasu found himself outnumbered by the great army of Takeda Shingen. The battle is one which has Tokugawa Ieyasu very much on the defensive: his goal is to inflict enough damage to make three clans of his opponent run away, then escape himself without losing three clans of his own. As it goes, it’s quite an atypical battle for the Samurai system, with no Rout Points used as in the other five battles. However, I hoped it would give me some feeling for the system.

Takeda Shingen’s Army to the top of the picture, Tokugawa Ieyasu’s to the bottom.

The initial set up showed how difficult it was going to be for Tokugawa: a great mass of troops were massed against him. I decided to not use the optional rules for the red Oda troops (who, historically, didn’t actually want to be there and mostly didn’t fight). So, Tokugawa could use the Oda troops as if they were actually loyal.

Not knowing that much about how the Samurai fought, I moved Shingen’s men up into the cover of the trees, and Tokugawa’s troops moved up to engage them. Interestingly, the hexside tree barriers offered no protection to either side and only gave a movement penalty.

After a couple of turns of manoeuvring, the battle was finally joined… and quick it was as well, with Ishkawa and Honda (Tokugawa) meeting the superior forces of Yamagata on the left. It wasn’t pretty, with Yamagata moving to flank Ishkawa, routing his units, and in the final step (with both disrupted) they decided to leave the battlefield. Honda’s troop were slightly more successful, if outnumbered.

Things were going a bit better on the right for Tokugawa, with Shingen sending in the clans of Naitoh and Obata. There they met the small clans of Sakai and Takigwa, where all of Naitoh’s samurai became disrupted and the clan then withdrew from the battlefield.

Better military commanders than I am will have noticed a basic flaw in Tokugawa’s strategy: he’s meant to be fighting a defensive battle (and retreating his troops), but instead he’s sending small clans up to be slaughtered. This is indeed a big problem in the strategy I was employing. And so, the battle rumbled on to its predictable result.

I did have a few Samurai enter the battlefield and engage opposing commanders just to see how the rules worked, but with no rout points being awarded in this battle, they were inconsequential to the actual battle.

Honda’s clan (Tokugawa) became disrupted and I retreated them away towards the town, hoping to rally them: alas, when the die was rolled at end of turn, they withdrew from the battle altogether. Obata (Shingen) was likewise having trouble. His initial charge disrupted Sakai’s troops, which were out of position, but he left himself open for the Oda troops to respond, which Takigawa did, which slew Obata! However, Takigawa had one of his units disrupt in the battle, which would shortly have implications.

Oyamada (Tokugawa) also found his troops routing as the engagement continued, and as the turn ended, it was time to see if the disrupted clans wanted to stay on the battlefield.

And, it seemed, that with only one troop disrupted, Takigawa wanted no more part of this battle, and withdrew his troops. With Honda’s troop also gone, that was the three clans fleeing from the battle that Takeda needed for victory. To rub things in, Oyamada’s troops, despite their routed status, remained on the battlefield, “brave” to the last, as did the remaining unit of Obata’s!

So, at battle’s end, Tokugawa Ieyasu was defeated: three clans routed, and having only routed two clans of Takeda Shingen.

It wasn’t a particularly long battle, as you can see: three turns in all, including one turn that was just manoeuvre. If I played it again, Tokugawa Ieyasu would be far more defensive in his deployments – moving his troops back and hoping to attack the advance units of Takeda Shingen’s army en masse – especially if they advanced too far in front of their fellows.

Now I’ve actually played the game, it no longer seems so scary; at some point in the near future I’ll return to Samurai and try one of the larger battles.

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