Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Ronin Samurai Skirmish Battle Report

At last, the moment a wargamer awaits with anticipation. The blooding of his latest figures against a worthy and equally enthusiastic opponent.
All the research, assembling, prepping, painting, basing and countless hours of retina-punishing peering at figures comes together on the wargames table and 'Voila!' the little men magically come to life. No longer are they a mere creation of lead, glue, flock and plastic...before your eyes they are transformed into 'my troops'. You identify with them on a personal level in a way that only a wargamer would understand and if you are a gamer that doesn't relate to this then I would politely suggest that chess or train spotting is more your game.
Believe me, I have witnessed many a quivering bottom lip as a doting gamer witnesses the destruction of his favourite Zouve unit or lavishly painted Hussars...occasionally even in gamers other than yours truly!

All that aside lets get cracking on this battle report eh.

Our game was a straight forward encounter skirmish using 200 point armies from the Bushi, Swords for Hire list.
My force, led by the fire-breathing old warhose, Hikaru Nagasawa, consisted of:

Hatamoto Hikaru Nagasawa
 1 x Rank 4 Hatamoto 
2 x rank 3 Samurai
1 x Ashigaru banner man
1 x Ashigaru archer
3 x Yari armed Ashigaru

I chose the Powerful attribute and Naginjitsu skill for my Hatamoto and mounted him on a war horse making him quite a handful for his foes.
I kept the missile troops to the bare minimum and favoured melee troops as I planned on a swift and aggressive attack.

My opponent, Dave Houston, alias Nobua Murayama, no slug on the battlefield either, opted for a force comprising a large number of the new fangled, highly dishonourable and cowardly Teppo (Arquebus) troops... obviously scared of getting too close to real warriors no doubt.

Hatamoto Nobua Murayama (Far left) wearing his natty Horu or arrow catcher
Daves Teppo armed Ashigaru

His force comprised:
1 x Rank 4 Hatamoto also with Powerful and Naginjitsu attributes
3 x Rank 3 Samurai
4 x Teppo armed Ashigaru**
2 x Yari armed Ashigaru

** Strictly speaking this is against the rules as only 25% of your force should be armed with the Teppo but as Dave had made such a lovely job of painting them I didn't have the heart to make a fuss, see what a nice guy I am. Actually I figured his preponderance of Teppo troops would make his Buntai a bit weak in melee which would suit my cunning plan... mwah ha ha.

The layout
The battlefield was randomly arrayed with a number of peasant dwellings, a wooded knoll, a small forest and several fields. The table was neatly bisected by a road running north to south and borderd by an irrigation ditch.

Turn 1
The game opened with both forces entering the table from opposite ends. The bulk of my force, the Ashigaru, advanced rapidly up the road, banner valiantly unfurled, whilst my solitary archer moved into the forest to seek out a good field of fire. I despatched one of my trusted Samurai to provide protection.

My Ashigaru advance

My opponent split his teppo troops  to take up firing positions on either flank whilst the rest of his force advanced to meet me.

Turn 2
My archer reaches the edge of the wood and begins scanning the field for likely targets. The enemy teppo troops draw a bead on my Hatamoto, who has gamely exposed himself spurring his troops on, (somehow that doesn't sound quite right if you know what I mean) and loose off a volley. Fortunately the innacuracy of the teppo at this extreme range makes this a futile gesture as the bullets whizz past like angry bees without touching him. (I've always wanted to use that line)

Turn 3
My Hatamoto spies two of the enemy Samurai advancing on the wood and takes the opportunity to mount a bold ride-by attack on the nearest one. With clods of earth flying from his mount's hooves and his Naginata leveled squarely at his foes chest he thunders past and deftly strikes the Samurai a beautifully executed back hand blow. Luckily for the enemy Samurai he manages to parry the strike but still suffers a slight wound. The momentum of the attack carries my Hatamoto a further 9 inches toward one of the enemy Teppo men.
My Archer takes aim at the other Samurai but misjudges the range and the arrow flies harmlessly overhead. In keeping with my aggressive strategy the Samurai in the wood burst from cover and meet the enemy Samurai head on with the assistance of one of the Ashigaru from the road. A furious melee ensued with blows being landed in equal measure but alas my samurai is no match for the enemy swordsman who unleashes a vicious overhead blow splitting his skull and killing him outright. No mean feat on the part of the enemy as he entered the fight with a slight wound from the encounter with my Hatamoto. My Ashigauru wisely beats a hasty retreat to the safety of the main body of friendly Ashigaru.


First blood to Muruyama's Samurai

On the other side of the table the enemy teppo men begin frantically reloading while his Samurai and Ashigaru continued their cautious advance. This draw the attention of the bulk of my Ashigaru and they take up the challenge, moving as fast as possible to meet them.

Turn 4
Angered by the sight of the enemies cowardly teppo men with their smelly fire sticks my Hatamoto spurs his mount towards the nearest helpless and virtually undefended teppo man and effortlessly cleaves his chest open with a powerful lunge from his naganata while his trusty war horse tramples the enemies lifeless body under his flailing hooves.

The other, now reloaded, enemy teppo Ashigaru endeavours to avenge his comrade by taking out my Hatamoto with a close range shot. Clearly the sight of a fully armoured Samurai astride an enraged warhorse bearing down on him has distracted his aim somewhat but he still manages to bounce a shot off the Hatamoto's helmet stunning him.

One of the enemy samurai from the previous melee opts to take out my pesky archer and makes a run move towards him whilst his heroic mate pursues my fleeing Ashigaru.

At this point the enemies Samurai over on the other side of the table, led by none other than the mighty Nobua Muruyama and his yari armed ashigaru, bravely face off against a headlong charge by my Ashigaru and their Samurai leader, Kioshi Nakagawa. Muruyama opts to leave his 2 teppo men, on his side of the table,  out of the action so they can concentrate on trying to pick off the enemy from a safe distance.

In a complex melee such as this quite a bit of thought goes into the pairing off combats. Thoughtful selection of combat tokens to allow enhanement of attacks or defence rolls and to gain the initiative and the all important first strike plays a big part in the combat phase. Because any wounds inflicted on an enemy take effect immediately the defender is at quite a disadvantage if he suffers any sort of wound as this affects his ability to strike back. Also the sequence of multiple attacks on a single figure must be diced for as it is quite feasible to fight off up to three assailants and again the all important initiative can be vital to evening the odds.
This round of combat is particularly savage with yaris and katanas slashing and parrying and a number of wounds being inflicted on both parties though no one gains the upper hand.

Turn 5
The brawl in the centre continues with first my Hatamoto joining the fray then another enemy samurai who was pursuing my fleeing ashigaru adding his considerable swordsmanship to the combat
The remaining three enemy teppo men draw a careful bead on my hatamoto as he gallops past them and manage to inflict another stun marker on him.
Whilst the teppo can be deadly at close quarters its slow rate of fire and its innacuracy at anything over 12 inches seems to prevent it from being a game changer.

My archer has been contacted by the enemy samurai and, though he does a sterling job of holding his assaillant off, its only a matter of time before he sucumbs to a sucession of telling wounds and goes down fighting to the end. One more head for Lord Muruyama.

My archer about to get a spear in his eye.

Sadly at this point 11.30pm, time was against us as we had work the next day and the game still had another hours fighting left in it and allowing for packing up and the obligatory post game debreifing over an ale it was decided to call it a draw. Neither side had a clear advantage but probably another round of combat would have seen a victor emerge from the combat in the centre. Might be worth recreating that scenario at another stage methinks?

Situation at end of turn 5
There's no doubt that once we are fully up to speed with the rules, bearing in mind Dave had not even seen the rules prior to the game, we could knock a game of this size out in much quicker time. Both Dave and I thoroughly enjoyed the game and felt the rules worked perfectly for actions of this scale. The combats are tense and exciting and you have to make quick decisions about selection of combat dice and when to enhance your throws and weighing up the odds as to  whether an attack will be successful prior to committing yourself.

A special thanks to my good mate Rodger Wood of Rebel Barracks fame for the use of his wonderful peasant dwellings.


  1. Fantastic write up, beautiful photos and sounds like a great game. I've recently been thinking about investing in the rules and I have to say I think I'm sold now.

  2. Very, very nice looking game! Thanks for taking the time to post the AAR - I will be perusing it in detail. Best, Dean

  3. Thanks guys. I think you'll be suitably impressed with the Ronin rules but they do require a bit of reading. I found the the best way to get to grips with them is to line up a couple of figures and play through the various mechansims of the rules till you get the hang of them. Hopefully I'll have the pleasure of reading some of your Batreps in the future.

  4. Great action packed report, and wonderful pics ... though I was a little bemused by the follow carryying what looks like a large 'space hopper' on his back?

  5. Ah yes the horu or arrow catcher. From what I've read this was a cloth that was draped over a wooden frame to create an air barrier to trap or block arrows preventing the wearer from being shot in the back. Actually it's highly doubtful a foot Samurai would wear this as they were mainly worn by mounted couriers and it would be far too restricting to allow freedom of movement in combat. It does make it easy to spot your leader on the wargames table though I guess.

    1. Fascinating! I'd never come across that before, despite what I thought was a fair knowledge of the period.

  6. I really enjoy skirmish games and this period looks well suited. A great introduction and battle report, along with fantastic looking figures and terrain.