Monday, 6 April 2015

Song of Spear and Shield Beta test Medieval Samurai

Beta test Song of Sword and Shield Medieval Japanese

Let me walk you through the trial version of the rules, particularly the ones we overlooked during our chariots trials.

The force builder is already up, so you can play with that.

I'm hoping your already used to the Ganesha way of doing things? This, of course, is evolving.

Three SOP's may be different than your used to:

Activation a unit or individual self-activates rather than as a group-activation by a leader. Each unit is presumed to have an officer.

Reaction. If you've played Battlesworn or OGAM (recommended!) you'll be used to reactions. Each unit and single figure uses up to 3 dice per activation. Any failed dice can be used by the other side as reaction per one unit (who has not already reacted). Using the 2 fails as reaction then activating same unit as the start of your turn can be very powerful, and a good use of a tactical reserve.

In the Beta rules reaction isn't used but there are free actions in certain circumstances as you will have seen in our chariots games. One we didn't use is that instead of contacting-without-combat (as with most of the rest) the attacker stops 1short away, at the units zone of control, at that time missile armed troops can attempt to shoot them.

Combat result. Each combat is 1:1 rather than the abstract method used in OGAM, but a defeat of 1 over armour and its out. That means that an unarmoured or lightly armoured unit can melt away under longbows or against double handed weapons (that can do a+2 strike for 2 activations).

The rules are designed to pit diverse units against each other, the good old “What If” that so many other rules seem to despise. Watch out for those Airfix type plastic soldiers, each can supply a side (or 2) don't worry about force balance, because the rules don't.

The M figure is morale, see below. Ignore for now.

Side 1
Armoured “Abbot” (single figure) Q3 C3, Armoured 3, Leader, Sword @ 84 (M*8+6=14)
up to 18 warrior monks with naginata's** C4, C2, impetus, 2 handed weapon @ 30 (M3)
up 16 peasants with bamboo spears Q5, C1 (untrained civilians with some enthusiasm)
Q5, C1, spear @ 8 (M1)
(Impetus gives a +1Q in first bound only)

Side 2 I want a more sedate, armoured side as a strong contrast. I can choose from:
Leader, Q3 C3, mounted regular horse, longbow, expert horse archer, sword @ 120 (M12+8=20)
Cavalry Q3 C3, mounted regular horse, longbow, expert horse archer, sword @ 90 (M9)
(I have dismounts identified by same letter bead, painting, available with sword or bow)
Standard bearer Q4 C2 armour 2, sword, standard @47 (M4+3=7)***
8 Samurai archers Q3 C2,armour 3 longbow, good shot, @66 (M6)
8 Samurai sword Q3 C2 armour 3 2 hand weapon, @48 (M5)
8 follower bow Q4 C2 armour 2, longbow, sword @39 (M4)
8 follower naginata. Q4 C2 armour 2, 2 handed weapon @32 (M3)

This makes the Samurai marginally better controlled and equipped than their lesser cousins.
(these forces are mostly from Eurika Miniatures and come in 8 infantry/4 cavalry)

Unit size is maximum of 1/3 of figure count.

Regular Leader(s) have an effect of +1 Q at long. If they are lost the force becomes shaken and a Q roll is required, loss will route the unit****.

Irregular Leader(s) lead from the front***** and the +1Q is only effective if the leader is as close to the enemy as his troops. Loss of a leader is a big M loss, but no Q roll required.

Side 1 option 1 (Game 1)
Armoured Abbot Q3 C3, Armoured 3, Leader, Sword @ 84
Warrior monks with naginata's Q4, C2, impetus, 2 handed weapon 14 @ 30 =420
Peasants with bamboo spears Q5, C1, spear 16 @ 8 = 128
Total 632 (Morale 14+42+16= 62. Shaken at 20, broken at 31)
31 figures gives a maximum of 10, 2 units of 7 monks, 2 units of 8 peasants, 1 individual.

Side 1 option 2 (Game 2 ) we can bump up the monks but lose the impetus
Armoured Abbot Q3 C3, Armoured 3, Leader, Sword @ 84
Monks Q4 C2 armour 2, 2 handed weapon 17 @ 32 = 544
Total 628 (Morale 14+51=65 shaken at 22, broken at 32)
18 figures = units of 6, so that's 3 units of 6, one including the Abbot.

Side 2 option 1 (Game 2)
Leader, single figure, Q3 C3, mounted regular horse, longbow, expert horse archer, sword @ 120
Cavalry Q3 C3, mounted regular horse, longbow, expert horse archer, sword 3 @ 90 = 270
Standard bearer Q4 C2 armour 2, sword, standard @ 47*
Samurai sword Q3 C2 armour 3, 2 hand weapon, 2 @ 48 = 96
Follower naginata. Q4 C2 armour 2, 2 handed weapon 3 @ 32 = 96
Total 629 (Morale 20+27+7+10+9= 73, shaken 24, broken 36)
10 figures in total, so 3 units of 3 (Samurai and Standard) and 1 individual figure.

Side 2 option 2 (Game 1) if we lose the cavalry we can have:
Leader, single figure, Q3 C3, mounted regular horse, longbow, expert horse archer, sword @ 120
Samurai archers Q3 C2,armour 3 longbow, good shot, 4 @ 66 = 264
Standard bearer Q4 C2 armour 2, sword, standard @ 47*
Samurai sword Q3 C2 armour 3, 2 hand weapon, 2 @ 48 = 96
Follower naginata. Q4 C2 armour 2, 2 handed weapon 3 @ 32 = 96
Total 623 (Morale 20+24+7+10+9= 70, shaken 23, broken 35)
(if force 1 option1 loses a peasant, 624) 13 figures, = units of 4, so the units above stand.

Morale* Calculating Morale Value
To calculate a model’s morale value, do the following:
1) take its point value, divide it by ten, round up;
2) add +3 if the figure is a subcommander or standard bearer;
3) add +6 if the figure is the overall Leader, or a personality
4) subtract -1 if the figure is Stubborn and/or Light Infantry;
5) halve the total if the figure is part of a open order unit;
ignore all of the above and use a value of zero if the figure is Expendable.

When a side passes its Shaken limit, it opponent gets +1 Q over the next full bound. Doesn't sound much but if you're already losing it can be a hammer blow.

If your going to play a lot it's worth doing a spreadsheet that will work out your force and you print n play. Or you can make a quick reference sheet like this one to keep track of losses.


There were several vicious fights between monks and samurai, often in built up areas. An open area with buildings around the fringe stops the Samurai from simply keeping their distance and shooting the monks to bits. Inspiration came from the superb illustration of Yoshizaki Gobo in Osprey's Japanese Fortified Temples and Monasteries. I could add a bridge, barricades and pavices (well no, I haven't got them, more for the “todo” list) or consider ambush. In this game the terrain is selected by the forces, not the other way around. It evolved in the planning as a 650 points game (we use a 27” table & 15mm, roughly the same points value as one of our larger chariot games). The points maximum per size of table depends on type. The more Long moves/shooting you have, the bigger the area needed. Despite the small size of the Samurai force the cavalry are hemmed in and longbows are almost instantly in range. I was after a courtyard type encounter so this felt like what I wanted to achieve.

Having whittled down the possibilities, the rules now provide some character to each force.

From the National Rules selection, these are from amongst the “less sexy” ones.

Favourable Omens for the Monks
Once per game, the player may reroll any one die on a Combat, Quality or Morale roll. The result of
the reroll is final. This rule may not be used in combination with any other rerolls. 
Tony used this once, and got a 1 both times.  Fickle things, the gods of small dice.

Efficient for the Samurai
The player of an Efficient force may ignore one turnover once per game. The failed activation rolls
are still lost, but do not cause a turnover and the player may go on activating his other
figures. Use this ability once per game, during your bound, right after rolling a turnover.

Note also this rule, which in a previous game I used to defeat Achilles.

Redress the Lines
Once per game, the highest ranking leader in the force may order his troops to redress the lines.
This may be attempted ONLY during the player’s bound.

Any units attempting to Redress the Lines make a Morale roll on one to three dice (player's choice) versus a Quality of 2, regardless of the actual Quality of the figures. Per every success rolled, all the models get to perform one movement action away from the enemy and towards the friendly baseline.

No contact or ranged attack may be performed during this withdrawal. If the player rolls more failures than successes on the morale roll, then the movement turns into a rout and the unit is removed from the game.
To use this order, at least one leader must be on the tabletop.
A Shaken force may use a Redress the Line order.

Give this rule to a standard bearer. If a standard is part of a close order unit, one model in that unit
may reroll one melee die per bound. The result of the reroll is final, even if worse than the previous
result. During a Redress the Lines order, units may gather around the standard as if it were a leader.

Two handed Weapon***
This generic category includes most two handed mauls, large swords, including naginata and polearms excluding thrusting pikes and spears. Such weapons require two hands to use (the model may not use a shield). Models with two-handed weapons may spend TWO actions on a power attack, having a total of +2 on the attack.

This may seem a lot of bother, but you can see that I have a variety of units “on the shelf” that can be dusted off at need. Preparation pays, we find we can spend all of 10 minutes agreeing and assembling a game. We often play scenarios with little regard to points.

The Games. Tony chose the 1st Monk option and I took the second Samurai. I was attacker and got the initiative.

Starting positions
My first round was boring, but Tony's impetus and uber-dice rolls saw him leap towards my throat! Round 2 resulted in one movement-. I got a good round of shooting in that knocked off some peasants. My (sword) Samurai got good results so I sent them against Tony's right peasants, locking the 2 units. Tony got good, risking moving his Abbott up to “pull” his troops forward, (making max use of his +1****) sending his monks into my Samurai which killed 2, leaving 1 to face all of his spearmen. Now his other monks chased my general and piled into the flank of my archers. One loss put me into Shaken.

Now it was my turn to gamble. My General (Isimo) rode out to within a long of Tony's and wooosh, one dead leader. Tony's left wing collapsed and routed. Now do these troops count towards morale? If so, he was broken. We counted both as shaken and ignored the +1. Tony didn't need it, his spear got 3 activations and moved down to threaten my archers rear while the monks moved to the front of my archers, taking the pain of reaction shots, killing 3. 

I got my followers into his spear. Nasty attacking spear and I traded 1:1, which was a loss and that was my turn. Tony attempted to launch his monks at my archers – and total failure. That one dice roll won me the game, sort of!
Errors 1 + 2. The monks with initiative should cost 36, not 32 – I think what I did originally was no armour, which would have made 30.

Loss of (all) leaders means individual rather than group activations, so game one would have ended sooner with the same result.


Game 2 This time the Samurai (me) was defender. I placed one impenetrable wood. I also gained initiative.

I had a plan that nearly worked. I started by spreading my deployment too wide, the idea was to try and get local equality in one place while using my archers to tear apart another unit.

Moving my cav to my left, I forced Tony to pivot. I had hoped to break his force up, but it didn't happen, he got good rolls and kept all his units within the leaders influence throughout the game. 
 When you have Samurai there is only one thing you can do with them. I sent them against the front of Tony's leader, the idea was to back them up with my followers on the flank so that I'd have equal numbers but the slight edge in quality. Didn't happen, so my chaps died when his other unit pivots into it. My followers finally get into the fight and kill two.
On the other flank my archers took a heavy toll, killing one unit. I'm on the brink of being shaken and Tony is steeling himself up engage my Samurai. Now we had a Japanese stand off. If I bring my archers in close, they are going to get chased. If I stand off, I risk Tony's leader coming up on my flank.
 But now we are both shaken but Tony's leader's unit is down to half. He fails an activation and I decide to take a gamble, withdrawing my Samurai and sending my General Isimo into combat against Tony's leader. Then my archers take on his infantry, only killing one in 6, and the General held his own. Then 7 and he rolled two fails. That was the break Tony needed and he killed the General! He sent his monks screaming at my Samurai, who broke except one brave hero who got cut to pieces. 

Error 3. I should have played my “efficient” here to ignore the failure and used the one initiative and free disengage for cavalry to get out of dodge. I might have been able to shoot Tony to a break, or he might have been able to charge me and slice up the horses.

So I got the result I expected, except I lost-. Quality can win over quantity sometimes. Not always!