I can't believe that this is the first post here on The Emerald Musketeers since last September!
It isn't the sparsity of posts which is surprising (TEM was never intended to be a “weekly post” type of blog), but just how quickly time seems to be flying by at the moment.
Anyhow, let's get to it.
The Nippon Campaign has been bubbling away on “simmer” for quite a while, with isolated games played against a narrative backdrop which fell into place behind them (you can find brief summary of these here:-https://blogspotrpg.blogspot.com/2020/09/the-result-of-some-positive-focus.html which coincidentally was also posted last September!), and now it's time to bring it to the boil!
Let's start off with a bit of geography and take a look at the campaign setting, which shows the territories owned by the various Daimyo (Lords - pronounced “dime ee oh”).
I've used the real world map because I firmly believe that a huge character defining feature of feudal Japan was the fact that it is an island nation – something that the otherwise excellent mainstream fantasy settings like 'Rokugan' from Legend of the Five Rings, 'Kara Tur' from D&D and the alternative 'Japan' presented in the Shadows of Brimstone's “Forbidden Fortress” completely miss by placing the Warring States as part of a continental land mass.
Our story embarks on the island of Shikoku,
and follows the tale of Lord Hasokawa Toji (I'll be using the Japanese format of writing the “family name” first, followed by the “given name” throughout the campaign).
After the foiled ninja attack, Lord Toji set off to the remote mountain village of Tsukushi and sought out the oracle Kagawa Naritada who had warned him of the planned assassination attempt.
Toji began by saying “I owe you my life”, but was interupted by Naritada who said “Your life is your own Lord Hasokawa. You owe me nothing, it is entirely in my own interests that you stay alive. In fact I would like to save you again – by having you do 'nothing'!”
The puzzled look on Toji's face prompted Naritada to continue, “Your son is a 'guest' of Chosokobe Sakata and held in his castle to ensure that you honour your 'arrangement' with Sakata. I believe that the details of that 'arrangement' state that you will attend the Chosokobe on the field of battle with your own troops if called to do so?”
Lord Toji lowered his head and nodded his reply, to which Naritada, placing a reassuring hand on the Lord's shoulder said “When you attend the field of battle, you will have fulfilled the detail of your arrangement Lord. There is nothing, however much it might be implied, that binds your honour to actually fight. The Chosokobi forces will be weak at the castle when their lord requests you to join him – and I have 'friends' who will take this opportunity to escort your son to safety, while you do 'nothing?!”.
Chosokobe Sakata is an ambitious man, and intends to take control of the whole of Shikoku. The Mayoshi clan are weak and pre-occupied by the increased bakemono and Oni (goblin/orc and ogre) raids from the mountains, and while Hasokawa Toji had somehow thwarted the assassins he'd hired, he still held his son as hostage to keep him in check while the Komano were dealt with first.
The opening battle would be fought at the village of Otomura – taking the border village would also give him control of the nearby temple, and from here he would push northwards to the coast, splitting the island in half, before sending his forces west to conquer the rest of the Komano holdings.
For this opening battle I adapted Neil Thomas's “One Hour Wargames” rules, classing mounted samurai as 'Cavalry', samurai on foot as 'Swordsmen', ashigaru with yari (regular troops with long spears) as 'Infantry', and ashigaru with yumi / teppo (bow / arquebus) as 'Archers'.
From the same book , Scenario 4: Take the high ground was chosen by rolling a D6, but I swapped the wooded terrain in the book for the Otomura Temple complex (which blocks line-of-sight and is impassable terrain, just like a wood in the rules), and the village of Otomura replaced the hill.
The opposing armies were determined by rolling on the 'Armies with 6 units' table, resulting in Chosokobe attacking with 3 units of yari, 1 unit of yumi and 2 units of foot samurai. The Komano would defend with 3 units of yari, 1 unit of samurai and 2 units of mounted samurai. The Hasokawa force was chosen to represent their “famous” units, which after a quick roll of a D4, turned out to be 2 units of mounted samurai.
The defender was allowed to deploy 2 units in the village, with the rest of the army starting on the north table edge as a relief force. The attacker arrived on the southern table edge, with Lord Hasokawa Toji and his mounted samurai on the right flank.
The Chosokobe line advanced directly forwards, a unit of samurai warriors flanked on their left by ashigaru spears and on their right ashigaru bow. Spears formed the rest of the line with Chosokobe's own foot samurai in the centre rear. The Hasokawa moved out to the extreme right flank.
Once they advanced within charge range of the village, the Chosokobe samurai began shouting taunts and personal challenges at the defenders, hoping to draw them out but the common foot soldiers were understandably reluctant to leave their defencive positions and remained hunkered down in cover against the incoming arrows.
They didn't have to suffer the fire from the yumi long, since the mounted samurai of the Mayoshi relief force had spurred ahead of their foot companions, and were now drawing the attention of the archers.
It was the Komano cavalry who opened the battle. Their charge contacted the yari armed troops on the Chosokobe right flank.
Close up of the initial contact (not exactly “eye candy” in 6mm, but illustrates the use of tiny 6mm dice as casualty markers - not brilliant on the cheap Chinese "moss mat"!).
Within a few moments the whole line was engaged in a huge melee. The Chosokobe had charged the village defenders and Mayoshi's samurai had crashed into their opposite number, with the ashigaru taking on their bow armed counterparts.
Meanwhile, Lord Toji had dismounted and visited the temple – no doubt to consult the abbot and give prayers!
The battle was brief and bloody, resulting in a total defeat for the Chosokobe invaders without the extra numbers of Hasokawa's cavalry.
It should be noted at this point that in One Hour Wargames, when a unit is “destroyed” and removed from the table, this represents the fact that it is no longer a viable fighting force – NOT that it has been totally wiped out. Casualties are worked out after the battle to determine the numbers of dead, wounded or deserted are actually suffered by each unit in the campaign.
So there we have it. The campaign is underway and this first report is in the bag. Plenty more to come (and hopefully on a frequent basis), so please check back to follow the developments and find out more about the grimdark feudal Japan imagi-nation in the “Age of War”.
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Many thanks for visiting and as ever, your comments, queries and suggestions are most welcome.