Rules for the Sengoku Jidai: Revamped

Regular readers of my blog may know that some time ago I wrote about my experimentation with creating my own ruleset for warfare in Feudal Japan. I had a fairly solid set of rules that seemed to work reasonably well, yet as time passed I felt uninspired to go back to them and to actually start putting together armies. This spoke of a problem to me in that they mustn’t have been quite right.

Fast forward to the last few months and I had an urge to explore some other rule writing experiments, as well as having read and played a number of other rulesets since then. A few months ago I started tinkering with a skirmish based ruleset for the Trojan War. I’ve got a pretty solid set of rules to handle it and similar conflicts now and will post on them in due course. The core of these revolved around a 2d6 mechanic. This came about mostly through my discovery that while I dislike throwing a single dice over and over in a game, two dice give just the right amount of satisfaction without the added clutter that comes with larger handfuls of dice. The probability distribution with 2d6 also allows for some interesting outcomes given the mix of common and extreme results.

The other thing that happened was becoming disheartened with rulesets for the Crusades. I had failed to experience the flavour and fun that I craved for the period. So I resolved to tackle writing my own. I started pulling elements from the Feudal Japan rules and combining them with some ideas I had floating around my head to come up with a 2d6 based big battle system that suited my play style.

My main goals were to create something that flowed well, moved at a reasonable pace and didn’t require constant references to results tables or stat lines but still provided the flavour of different unit types and strengths. A key element was to make the commanders and loyalty an important element of the game, as befitting a feudal system.

After experimenting with a few ideas I felt I was happy with the process. There was a bit of overlap given the feudal nature of Medieval warfare and Feudal Japan, so I began to synthesise down a set of rules between them so they share a set of core mechanics, but with the ability to bake in plenty of flavour and variety for the specific periods.

Since I already had parts of the Feudal Japan rules substantially worked out I decided to focus on reworking those with this new system as a test of the core rules, then once happy continue to develop the Crusades rules from the underlying system.

I thought I’d lay out a brief description of the rules here to mark my progress with them. I also have a test battle played and written up. The battle generally worked well though I have realised that the units are a bit too resilient so will make a few small tweaks off the back of that so games don’t drag too long.

Rules Summary

Battles consist of (usually) two sides, each comprising a number of divisions. These are led by the Army General (the highest ranking Daimyo in this context) with his trusted Commanders (lesser Daimyo) leading the other divisions. A division can vary in size and make up as the armies of the period were mostly made up of whatever troops could be drawn up and which retainers answered the call to arms.

At the start of each turn a token for each command and one for an end of turn are collected. I use coloured dice in a bag for this. A dice is drawn from the bag and the player the colour matches chooses to activate a command. They roll the dice and add the commander’s Authority value to come up with their Command Points for this activation.

These points can be used to perform a number of actions or bolster various tests. Once activated any units with a fatigue value over a certain threshold have to take a loyalty test. Failure in this test will result in a reduction in loyalty or even a rout.

Fatigue is a key element to the game and something that is a recent rework from an earlier system. The idea is that units performing a lot of actions, particularly difficult actions or are under enemy fire will become weary and stressed. This is represented through the accumulation of Fatigue.

This test requires rolling 2d6 and applying modifiers. A result of 2 or less routs, 6 or less reduces loyalty, 7 or more passes and 12 or more increases loyalty. Regardless of the outcome all accumulated Fatigue is removed.

Once tested every unit in the command may make a move. Units will get their first move free but any additional moves will generally require the expenditure of Command Points or the accumulation of Fatigue. Some units will have various formations available to allow them to focus on melee attacks, ranged attacks or movement.

A movement into combat requires a charge test, which is a single dice roll with a few modifiers, requiring 4+ to pass and 6+ giving them a bonus in combat.

Once movement is complete any units able to fire on an enemy may pick their targets and place Fatigue markers against the enemy based in their firing ability and conditions.

Finally close combat is resolved, with both participants rolling 2d6 and applying modifiers. The highest scorer moves onto the Shock Phase where they roll a single modified d6 with a 4+ reducing enemy loyalty and a 6+ routing the unit entirely. When a unit routs all other units in its command gain a number of fatigue points dependant on the size of the unit routed.

This makes close combat particularly risky.

Once completed the next dice will be drawn from the bag and so on until the end of turn dice is drawn. If the end of turn is drawn as the first of the turn them a special event will occur, otherwise the turn will end and all unused Command Points will be discarded and the dice returned to the bag.

That pretty much covers the core of the rules. There’s a lot more nuances around who can do what and how much, as well as plenty of period flavour, but at it’s core I wanted it to be a fairly straightforward process to follow. Activate, move, pick your targets and fight close combat.

I still have a bit of testing and tweaks to do. For instance, I’ve added a duel option that needs tested out, as well as a seppuku ability and increasing the difficulty to pass loyalty tests. I still have a few considerations around division destruction and commander authority. I’m leaning towards Authority drops at half and three quarter losses as well as Fatigue added to units in a division when a unit is lost. I need to rework the messenger system for the new mechanics too which I have some ideas for as well as for the use of banners as special abilities. I also have some draft ideas around expanding the rules to periods of Japanese history outside the Sengoku Jidai, which will feed nicely into my crusades rules given the horse archery elements.

Overall though I’m pretty positive as the test game felt like a battle from the period would (as I imagine it) and makes for some tense moments and careful consideration of options. The resource management of the command points and the fatigue mechanic for well with what I’d been hoping to achieve. Battle report and more in depth posts may well be on the horizon. I also hope to put together some posts on the skirmish rules in the future as well.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew

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