The Emerald Musketeers

The Emerald Musketeers

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Sengoku Jidai Imagi-Nations

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:- 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”.

Also, if you haven't already, please check out our sister blogs The Wargame Addict and especially The Game Cupboard where you can sign up for a superb FREE quarterly e-zine, sent in pdf format directly to your inbox via email.

Many thanks for visiting and as ever, your comments, queries and suggestions are most welcome.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Attack On Trewes Castle

Nicholas Taylor, commander-in-chief of the Kenborough forces, convened a Council of Warre at the Kenborough civic hall. He had been forced to accept that the Royalist garrison at Trewes Castle would continue to be a thorn in his side with continual harrasment to his lines of supply and sporadic attacks against his patrols unless the castle was attacked and the “nest of vipers driven out”.

 His senior officers pointed out that the recent loss of a supply trayne carrying powder and shot from Derby (to yet another Cavalier raid) would leave the garrison pitifully short of ammunition if the proposed attack became a protracted affair, and suggested requesting the assistance of Sir John Gell and his garrison in Derby, “in the hope of delivering a swift victory and control of this strategically important fort”.

Sir John Gell was duly consulted, and not only agreed to the undertaking, but also persuaded Colonel Thomas Grantham, who was taking his regiment to join the investment of the Royalist held city of Lichfield, to detour and join him on the march eastwards through the Erewash valley.


On the morning of the attack, Taylor established his field headquarters between the Trewes road and the river Erewash, where both troops of the Kenborough Horse (Taylor's and Bing's), Jessop's, Wagstaff's and Hampden's regiments of foot and Hill's dragoons formed up and prepared to “march on”.


Seeing this activity, the Royalist garrison, made up of Sedgewick's and Harrison's horse, the Trewes Trayned Band, Blake's and Broughton's regiments of foot, sallied out from the castle and took up a defencive line on the hill, intending to cary the fight to the enemy.


With no sign yet of the trayne of artillery or Sir John Gell, the Kenborough men advanced in good order and deployed into line of battle.


Hill's Dragoons formed a firing line on the far right of the Parliamentarion line, but this exposed position saw them immediately come under attack from the Royalist cavalry facing them.


However it was at this moment that a loud cheering erupted from the Parliamentary line. Sir John Gell had arrived on the field via the Chertney Mill road!

The dragoons had been driven off by the cavaliers, but Colonel Bing's troopers had swiftly moved into position to oppose the Royalist horse, thereby preventing any outflanking manouver they might have attempted against the line of pike and shot. Lord Sedgewick in the meantime had held his nerve when hearing of the roundhead reinforcements arrival and had despatched his own troop of horse to delay the enemy at the bridge while he instigated an orderly retirement back to the castle gates.



Gell's horse managed to fight their way over the bridge, attempting to clear the road for the foot regiments to advance and prevent the Royalists reaching the safety of Trewes Castle.


It was a close run thing, but as the Parliamenarian forces closed the net around the beleaguered Royalists, all of the foot and the remains of the horse managed to return to the castle and the gates were closed.

With the castle surrounded, Sir John Gell (as the senior officer present) arranged a parley with the defenders, during which he explained that the trayne of artillery would be arriving within the hour and was expected to be deployed and in action against the fortification before the evening set in.

In the interests of avoiding uneccessary bloodshed, Lord Sedgewick was offered the terms of marching out “with colours and personal arms”, but NOT “bag and baggage” (ensuring that as much of the recently plundered powder and shot remained in the castle armoury as possible!)

This battle evolved as part of the ongoing campaign and provided the perfect excuse to make further inroads to my “projects list” as we continue to endure Covid19 lockdown - with no real sign of a return to work for our branch of the entertainment industry for some time to come!

So, I set about painting up 2mm scale duplicates of my existing 28mm ECW units (and added Gell's and Grantham's regiments of foot, which will have their 28mm counterparts added to the collection in due course) and made myself a DIY 'Travel Battle' board from an offcut of plywood and grass mat which fits rather neatly inside an old Monopoly game box. Modular roads and river sections were cut from grass mat and felt, but looking at the photo's I think the roads need replacing, ah well, just add another project to the list – along with “Trewes Hill” which was made by sticking grass mat to a carved piece of foam core........ which warped when the glue dried!

Many thanks for visiting the blog, it's been a while since the last post here thanks for Tempus doing its Fugit thing.

2mm really is at its best when used for BIG battles, but I hope I've demonstrated here that it's just as usefull for fighting same sized engagements we would normally employ 28mm miniatures for, but on a TINY compact, portable “table”. Your thoughts and comments are as ever, most welcome!






Sunday, 7 June 2020

All At Sea

Following their hard (Br)exit from Urop after a desperate forced march (see here: Retreat From Corona), the Emperor Mordred believed the troublesome Britorcs had been taught that they were no match for the glorious Ferach Grande Armee,, and despite the elves disastrous defeat at the battle of Trafalgore, the remnants of the Ferach navy had been tasked with enforcing the Emperor's “Continental System” – the trade war designed to bring the “Nation of Shoplifters” to their knees.
So it was that Emmanuel Jean-Michel Macaron, commander of the frigate L'Espadon was sailing towards the Isles of Wights, a collection of rocky islands which screened the Britorcan port of Portsmuff.
Once past Castle Rock, Macaron would head due north towards the Albion coast before turning again, north west and hope to pick off any blockade runners.
The Ferach captain was just contemplating the fact that he'd be "In Irons" (sailing directly into the north Westerly wind) once he began patrolling along the coastline, when his thoughts were disrupted by a cry from up in the crows nest - "Sail Ho!"
The Britorc flagship HMS Hammer of Albion, under command of Admiral Barkly had left Portsmuf ahead of a fleet of loaded transport ships bound for Algarvey and was now rounding the Isles of Wights.

Initial set up with the wind blowing from the top left corner (NW)
The following encounter uses "Galleys & Galleons" rules by Ganesha Games, and models from Games Workshop's "Dreadfleet".
L'Espadon is Quality 3 and Combat 4. She's galleon rigged has the razée trait (so she's fast and maneuverable), trained gun crews and drilled soldiers making up her boarding party.

HMS Hammer of Albion is Q4 and C6. Galleon rigged with high castles and reinforced hull. As well as trained gun crews and drilled soldiers, her crew includes veteran NCO's, a master gunner and a pilot, as befits her Captain General's flagship status. (So she should be capable of out-fighting her opponent, but is slower and less maneuverable)

The Hammer of Albion had the initiative, but Barkly could only bring her about onto a southerly facing (only passed one activation!) while L'Espadon approached and swung into the wind, which had now moved two points to blow from due north.
(Macaron passed two activations and added the razée bonus move. However, he rolled a "double" which results in a wind shift, and now the elves are 'In Irons' facing the wind while the orcs have the advantage of the wind behind them)
The Britorc crew apparently recovered from the surprise of meeting an elven ship this close to home (they passed two activations - which also produced a "double"), with the wind shifted back to the north west, Barkley allowed the Hammer to sail forward and delivered a broadside towards the elven ship.

Apart from raising some impressive plumes of spray and ripping a few holes in her sheets, L'Espadon was unaffected by the broadside. However, Macaron only managed to bring the frigate about to take advantage of the new wind direction and make a razée move as he aimed to cut between the enemy galleon and Castle Rock

(At this point, both ships failed activation and so were limited to making a turn. L'Espadon was already on her most favourable facing, so it was only Barkly who brought his bow around to starboard by a few degrees)

The imposing bulk of HMS Hammer of Albion slid forwards while the elves held their breath in anticipation of the broadside - which came thundering in moments later!
The frigate took heavy damage and a fire broke out midships - the order "All hands to the pumps!" rang out across her decks.
(The Ferach ship would now have to spend three consecutive successful activations to extinguish the fire)
Macaron realised that he was in trouble, and though he was tempted to return a broadside before taking evasive action while his crew fought the fire, he decided to make a run for it.
(He attempted two activations, failed both with a "double" which shifted the wind to due west. This was in his favour thanks to his current heading, but he could only make a razée move)

Barkly (failed to activate) brought his flagship about, while L'Espadon moved slowly past Castle Rock with her deck alive with activity as the crew fought the fire. (Macaron passed two activations which he used to fight the fire, the movement was thanks to his razée bonus)

 With HMS Hammer of Albion hot on her heels,the crew of L'Espadon manage to extinguish the fire.

(Passing two activations plus razée allows her to out-distance the orc flagship.)
A timely victory since the transport ships were now approaching the Isles of Wight, and would now have a clear run to Algarvey. Barkley would shadow the army, but doubted the enemy frigate would return to trouble them.
The orcs are returning to the Peninsular under the command of Wheeling-Turn!

I've been wanting to give these rules a try for quite a while, and "lock down" has provided the opportunity to get the ships built and painted in faux Napoleonic livery, and allow me to neatly slot this game into my "Napoleonique" campaign which will now be appearing here on The Emerald Musketeers - I really need to read some O'Brian books so I can try and use the correct period nautical jargon in future!
If you've found any points of interest from this little seaborne skirmish, I'd love to hear from you, and I hope you'll be following The Duke of Wheeling-Turn's fortunes as he attempts to liberate Al Garvey and Catalucia from the grip of The Emperor Mordred's tyranny!

Saturday, 16 May 2020

For Parliament or For King

“For Parliament or For King” is a set of wargame rules written by one 'Stephen Gilbert' of this parish. It was also the question posed to Percival Bennet of Cherington village just prior to his arrest.

Percival answered “The one true King, King Jesus!” and was placed under arrest as a Roundhead sympathiser, to be taken to Trewes Castle to stand trial. The arresting party (joined by the Cherington 'clubmen' who were keen to see justice done) set off via Lansby Vale, intending to take the road over Mickle Hill.

Ensign Ambrose Hale was in charge of a company of musketeers returning to Kenborough garrison after an unsuccessful foraging expedition, hoping to perhaps at least bag some wild game as they made their way through Lansby Wood.
Ambrose recounts: The companie was traversing the woods in two sections, each with great care and stealth, keeping sharp lookout for any woodland game that might be taken. We heard the Trewes partie who were most noisesome in theyre approach, and we took up our positions in ambuscade.... thinking that we would engage the enemie or let him go by if his numbers were too great.

Quite aptly then, the following encounter was resolved using Stevies excellent rules, which are scaled at 1 figure represents approximatley 25 men (or 1 leader or “character”), and 1 inch equates to 20 paces.
Herebert Asheton leads a company from the Trewes garrison and has been joined by Samuel Gascoigne, in charge of the Cherington clubmen.
Ambrose Hale commands the right wing of the Parliamentarian muskets, and his second in command Godfrey Glover is on the left.
The Royalists start at the table centre line, and the Parliamentarian ambuscade deploys within ten inches of their own table edge.

Here then is the rest of Ambrose's account of the action: 
The enemie, for we knew them as such from their colours. advance towards us along the track which runs threw Lansby Wood. The head of the collum in good order, but what sounded more like a linch mobbe at the rear.
As they reached the clearing we gave fire, and the collum was halted by the surprise and our hail of shotte.
The enemie, in some confusion, turn'd to face us and we gave them another volley as at this same time, the unruly companie began to advanse from the rear.

Our continued fire held the enemie, and was beginning to take its tolle. But meanwhile the clubmen, impeaded by the wood, continued a slow advanse for many of their number were slow'd by the brambles amongst the trees.

The enemie before long began to return our fire with volleys of shotte of theyr own,
and soon after we were charged by the clubmen, whereby we did fight them with the butts of our pieces.
(The dice in the photo below were typical of the rolls made throughout the ensuing melee - the clubmen must have marched out under a ladder when they left Cherington!)

The fight went on with the clubmen, and tho' we had the better of them they held theyr ground for a long time. During our fight we could hear that ensign Hale and his men were now also engaging the enemie, with a fight that did continue untill we had seen off our foe.
Steeling ourselfs, we then advanced upon the enemie who were firing theyr pieces at ensign Hales men.

This bodie of men turn'd and met us hand to hand in the clearing.
(I'd been throwing a D3 each time a rank containing a "character" received a casualty, and on this occasion the officer took the fatal blow)

T'was during this desperate fight that the enemie captain was struck down, upon which, the Royalist soldiers took to theyr heels.
Upon our advance, we discovered the enemie had been taking a prisoner, mister Percival Bennet of Cherington and a supporter of The Cause. 
Having won the day we returned to Kenborough. Without any hoped for game birds but a feather in our cap non the less!

Godfrey Glover, a talented artist, painted “The Kings Men Retreat” in oils as a memento of his first engagement of the Great Rebellion - it hangs to this day in Kenborough Town Hall.

The rules worked very well indeed and gave a nice period feel to the game. I especially liked the fact that once a firefight starts, it's the difficult to stop, which was historically the case. Also worthy of note was the morale rules, which have a cumulative effect on a unit, but require NO record keeping.
Definitely added to my arsenal for future use!!

Many thanks for visiting, and please accept my apologies for my rendition of 17th century English - but that was how it was written in this (fictitious) part of the Erewash Valley!
If you are in "lock down" I hope you're coping well, and if you are out working I hope you're staying safe, and as always your comments or queries are most welcome.