Having spent a fair bit of time lately writing up my rules for warfare in the Sengoku Jidai (see here and here for more information) I thought it was time to finally get a battle on the table rather than the pencil and paper affairs I’d done previously. As I’ve no figures for the period yet, I made up some counter that I printed (after several hours of battling with the printer) onto cardboard. The original plan was for Mori vs Oda, but as the printer refused to print anything red, I rebranded the Mori as Asai for the game. Oda in yellow, Asai in blue. I’ve reworked the morale system into a loyalty system instead, as well as added a few rule tweaks to different aspects of it. Lightning Bolts = Wavering, Broken Hearts = Disloyal, No Entry = Fatigued. Small yellow dice = Positive Authority, small black dice = Negative Authority. The pile of white counters are just pieces I used to track orders.
The battle field consists of a fordable river running down the centre, a series of scattered hills throughout and an impassible forest to the south. Both armies were evenly matched (though with slightly different stat distributions) so I ran this as a straight encounter battle, the two sides trying to destroy each other. Each army consists of three divisions and the overall general as their own separate division to themselves.
The rules use a random activation system for each command. In the game opening the Asai got the first few activations but were slow to make use of them, moving their troops up slowly. The Oda on the other hand rushed ahead, stretching out their forces to get to the defensive river first and ford it.
The Oda move up to the river rapidly and cross to take up position on the large hilltop overlooking the river valley, though doing so leaves their lines extended. The Asai third division, who had thusfar been holding back in reserve, sweep down off their hill and into the valley to meet the rapid Oda advance.
With the Oda gun teams taking up position on the hill the Asai attempt to dislodge them with their leading ashigaru detachments, but the concentrated gunfire throws them back.
The two forces enter firing range across the fronts with exchanges flowing back and forth, resulting in one of the Asai ashigaru units fleeing from the field. Bolstered by the success of their compatriots down the river, the gunners on the hilltop rally and blast away at another Asai ashigaru detachment, driving them from the field. However, from behind them comes a much larger sonae force which crashes into the gunner line, forcing them back towards the river.
As the main body of the Oda force come up behind the vanguard, the gunners on the hill press the fight, but one of them is forced to withdraw as their morale weakens. Two detachments of Oda ashigaru rush across the hilltop and crash into the Asai ashigaru detachment in an attempt to overwhelm them.
Meanwhile, down the river, the Asai gunners batter the Oda forces, holding them at bay until the Asai main body can come up and begin pushing the overextended Oda forces back across the river. The Asai forces press forwards, driving the Oda back until they both form their battlelines across the river. Oda himself decamps in order to get closer to the action and bolster his forces with his presence.
The battle on the hill rages on with troops piling in from all sides and the fight going back and forth, but eventually the weight of the Asai forces is too much for the Oda and they break, with their supports falling back towards the river. The Asai push ever forwards.
The battle over the river intensifies, the difficult terrain making it near impossible for one side to get the upper hand, but in the slow grind the Asai forces seem to be getting the better of their opponents. The Oda are slow to bring up their reserves, having rapidly pushed forward at the start of the battle, but when the rearguard division moves up it manages to temporarily break through the lines and attack the Asai at a weak point. This attack is eventually repelled though not without considerable damage to the Asai lines.
Nevertheless, the Asai push onwards, to the river, ever pushing the Oda forces back. The battle rages on, both sides wet, muddy and bloodied but neither breaking their resolve. As the larger sonae of the commanders on both sides bear down on each other, the final battle is joined.
The fighting is vicious and flows back and forth, neither side able to completely destroy the other. Oda himself rushes in to support his lines as he see’s it weakening, but too late.
Like a line of dominoes the Oda commands crumble all along the river banks and flee from the field.
Oda is left alone facing the the might of the Asai army. He promptly turns and flees.
All in all a good first run with the rules. The printed out counters worked well for the kitchen table sized game and the opening turns of the game flowed well. Movement felt natural and the order system seemed to work well. The opening engagements of ranged combat felt right too and the stats I’d assigned worked reasonably well. I’d a mix of different unit success with stats for detachments of mixed Ashigaru and gun armed units, as well as small clans, standard clan sonae and the larger commander sonae.
I ended up abandoning the idea of Opportunity Fire. Any time that it should have been used didn’t seem right, so I’ll need to rethink it, but with the activation system the way that it is, it may not be necessary to have it at all.
The new loyalty system worked well, even though it was only a minor modification of the morale system I’d initially worked out, it felt more natural and flavourful. The only bit I’m unsure on is whether a unit should be allowed multiple rally’s per turn. In theory you can issue as many Rally Orders as you have Orders available (provided the unit is out of range of the enemy) but felt a bit strange attempting to rally over and over on one turn.
Melee was a bit of grind at times. I introduced a new support mechanic which worked well (essentially they add half their stats to the unit they’re supporting) and made the battles on the hilltop a lot more dramatic, though they still did end up taking a few turns to resolve after I “nerfed” the shock system a bit. I still think I was right to weaken shock slightly, and the hilltop battles felt generally right as new supports moved in to bolster the lines but units weakened in each exchange. The support system with the detachments worked well and gave me some ideas on using the rules for smaller scale battles too. Would need a slight change in mechanics to allow for closer support at the smaller scale, perhaps the supporting unit can contribute all their Shock. Food for thought.
The main sticking point was the battles along the river. Because of the difficult terrain they really dragged on with a slow grind and no one really had a means of gaining a greater advantage. Part of me thinks this is right, after all battles over rivers generally were a grind as both sides slogged across the water and up and down river banks pushing each other back and forth. And the Oda rearguard division bursting through a gap very nearly turned the tide, though like so many of the Oda actions, they overextended and were cut off. So I probably would want to play another game on a more open battlefield before doing any major reworks to the melee system to see if it flows well there.
The command and control system as well as the messengers and the Generals all worked nicely, with the additional authority boost the messengers gave turning the tide at a few points and giving additional focus to a part of the battle field, giving meaningful decision making to their use. The only downside is what to do with additional orders when at the point of melee when there’s little to be done. Part of me is pondering whether any “leftover” orders can be used to bolster certain melee combats at the end of the activation. This may alleviate some of the issues I had with the melee grind and give the authority aspect more prominence in the later part of the game.
All in all though I’m pretty happy. The game gave me enough different situations to really shake out the rules and I’ll be able to go back and tighten up a few aspects of it as well as ponder a few additions and tweaks.
I’m sure I’ll have more updates in future on this, but for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed this and thanks for reading,
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