Battle Report – Genpei War Skirmish

I have a few units painted up from my early Feudal Japanese project around the Genpei War, enough for a small command each so thought I’d get them on the table and take my rules out for another spin. Since I last played I’ve developed some more rules around the deployment and set up and while they’re better suited for multiple commands per army, it was good to try them out.

The following scenario is a Taira general and his retinue coming upon a clan allied with their bitter enemies, the Minamoto.

The battlefield, a shallow river flows from north to south. Steep hills in the north east give way to light forests below while the dense forest to the north west is overlooked by a low hill to the south.
The Minamoto allies emerge from the lighter terrain of the south but the Taira, not wishing to get caught between a rock and a dense place surge forward to take a defensive line along the river.
The two forces stare each other down against the delightful backdrop of trees.
The Taira are quick to spread out along the river and unleash their arrows at the enemy.
Largely undaunted by the arrows, the samurai surge forward in an attempt to charge across the river and take many heads for the glory and rewards from their Minamoto masters.
While they drive the enemy back on their right flank, the Taira struggle in the centre and are driven back themselves on their left. Meanwhile, the enemy general and a contingent of samurai sneak through the light forest on the flank.
The battle rages across the river with the Taira driving off some of their impulsive enemies, while the Taira general moves to intercept the flanking action.
The enemy commander emerges from the forest, though soon realises his forces are suffering heavily at the river.
The Taira overrun the last of the enemy at the river. Worse still, they seize the enemy leader’s personal battle standard!

At this point the battle would realistically be over. However, as I realised I’d not tried out the duelling rules I’d reworked I decided to ignore the command breaking rules (which would result in the remaining units having to take heavily penalised morale tests every turn) and imagine they had been instilled with a mad battle frenzy from the god of battle, Hachiman himself. Thus they fight on.

The Taira forces close in on remaining enemy commander and samurai.
The leaders face each other down across the river. With the Taira closing in on multiple sides, the only hope is a reckless charge to take the Taira general’s head.
The enemy commander and his personal bodyguard surge into the much larger retinue of the Taira general, the two forces swirling round in a melee before both pulling back for a breath.
Pressing on, the desperate leader charges the Taira retinue once again. The horsemen surge through the lines bursting through to come face to face with the Taira general. “I am Tada no Yoshamori” he roars as he kicks his horse towards the general. “Taira no Seika!” screams the general, notching an arrow and letting it fly at his challenger. The arrow deflects off his armour just as he too let’s fly his own arrow, which embeds itself in the chest of the general’s charging horse. The horse bucks in pain sending Seika to the ground. He pulls himself up and grabs a polearm proffered by one of the warriors who are gathered to watch this mighty clash. Yoshamori, smelling blood, is charging at his fallen foe, ready to deliver the death arrow from close range when Seika thrusts forward with his polearm and Yoshamori’s horse crumples beneath him. Yoshamori’s arrow finds its mark in Seika’s leg just before he himself was dehorsed. Yoshamori rolls free of tangle of collapsing horse flesh and draws his sword as he rises. Both men stand, bloodied and breathing heavily, staring the other down.
Yoshamori charges forward but is forced back by Seika with his longer reach as the two thrust and swing and parry relentlessly. Finally with a clash of steel, Yoshamori deflects the head of Seika’s polearm and charges down its length, driving his sword deep into Seika’s shoulder, forcing his enemy to the ground. As he raises his sword to strike down for the final blow, Seika painfully draws his dagger and thrusts up deep into Yoshamori’s guts as the death stroke descends. Yoshamori watches the life go from his enemy’s eyes before falling to the ground himself, clutching his stomach as blood pours from under his armour and pain racks his body. He looks pleadingly at one of his nearby retainers who shakes off his shock and steps forward delivering a swift chop with his blade, removing his lord’s head and ending his pain. Both leaders lie dead, though the Taira army is largely unscathed whole their enemies are scattered to the winds.

This was a fun wee fight. The rules are generally aimed at larger conflicts of multiple divisions so some aspects of it maybe weren’t ideally suited to a single division a side. However, it worked out reasonably enough. Ranged combat was mostly ineffective as you’d expect in this early period (though one unit did get routed from it) while close combat was brutal and fast.

I realised I should have had the two units flanking through the trees change into Loose formation as then they could have moved much more freely rather than consuming a lot of resources to move through. Something to bear in mind for future play.

The duelling mechanics worked out well enough. It did result in a draw but I don’t think that’s necessarily unrealistic given the tendency for Japanese personal combat to favour attack over defence.

A few of the new rules/traits need a little tweaking and clarification but nothing too drastic. Probably the biggest question I’m still turning over is the use and effect of Authority.

Authority is a representative of how powerful a particular leader is. General’s would typically have a rating of 2 while commanders a rating of 1, but particularly powerful lords may have a rating of 3. When losing over half your troops or your personal standard then you lose that Authority. This means you no longer get a bonus to various tests and rolls and loyalty tests that your underlings take are penalised more heavily.

However, I think there needs to be the option to give less effective leaders lower ratings, e.g. 0, -1 and -2. This can become confusing then as that would indicate they have No Authority, but actually that’s a different state entirely.

I wonder perhaps if a change of terminology is in order, perhaps a more generic “Command Rating” over “Authority”. That way the rating would apply where applicable and “No Authority” would be a separate state. But then it would need to be in some way worse than a -2 rating. This is something I need to think a bit more in as well as how the Authority bonus is applied. At the moment it gives a +/- to the Orders roll (a sort of command points system to carry out additional actions and boost certain tests) as well as influencing the size of the command radius and providing a bonus to tests when it’s the General. I’m reasonably happy with the first two, but the last one may prove a bit much and I wonder if perhaps a simple +1 if general has positive authority rather than +/- authority would be cleaner.

In the game there the Taira (red) general had an authority of 2 which given there was only a single division and all in his command radius, provided a +2 to most tests. This proved pretty powerful as it meant if they won the melee they would gain +2 in the shock round, which given they were already mostly getting a positive bonus from being bushi meant they were pretty much guaranteed to rout the enemy unit on anything but a natural 1. One possibility would be to make the instant rout provision only happen on natural 6s rather than modified 6s (it’s a single d6 roll) but then I’d need to re-evaluate other tests in light of that as I don’t want inconsistent application of such rules. Alternatively, a simple +1 would still provide a bonus but not be as infliencial as a +/- Authority. Higher authority values are still beneficial though as they increase the range over which that +1 is applied.

Will have to give this some more thought and try a few more games.

Thanks for reading,


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