Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Sengoku - 'Thought Points'

When I set up the scenario for the battle described in my previous posting ('Sengoku - A Diversion'), I was inclined to think the balance was in favour of 'Clan Oda'. So the result was unexpected, and even now I think the Ikko-Ikki victory was due largely to a run of luck in the latter stages. Mind you, it is also likely that the rather leisurely early handling of Clan Oda's relief column didn't help their cause!

A few days after this fight, I could not help but set up a straightforward, head-on battle featuring the same armies.

Clan Oda: 

'Red' Army.

Ikko-Ikki:

'Every colour but Red' Army. 

The observant reader might guess that, apart from the 2-figure command element of daimyo and standard bearer,  the figures represent the strength (points) within each unit. Loss of SP means the loss of a figure, in much the same manner as losses accrue in the Memoir '44 game systems.  
Army board for the RED faction in  Shogun
(Milton Bradley) now called Ikusa. As I was 
using the figure with the hexagonal base, Clan Oda 
the army was.


Shortly after the loss of Castle Dajji, the head of Clan Oda summoned one of his nephews to command a punitive expedition to take and burn the Jodo Shinshu temple that lay in one of the innumerable little valleys on the fringes of Oda lands.  So generally popular was the sect, that such a project could not possibly be kept secret, and so it was that, as Nephew Oda advanced up the valley, he encountered a considerable force of warrior monks, armed peasants and disaffected Ronin stretched right across the valley floor and blocking the way to the temple.

通ることならず 
'You shall not pass!'

Now, I really expected that the qualitative superiority of the red army to bash their way through the barrier - or at least, that it had that capability. However, rather than wait around to be hit, the Ikko-Ikki took the fight to their opponents, the first clashes at about the red line on the map. The narrative may be quickly told in the picture captions that follow.

As Clan Oda push forward their flanks to clear the woods,
nothing can restrain the Ikko-Ikki lead lines from
surging forward.

First clash - a unit of ashigaru yari give as 
good as they get against the Diamyo's bodyguard

The first clashes have driven back the Ikko-Ikki with 
loss, except for a determined band of Ronin, in 
close quarter action on their left (grey figures
partially obscured in the distance).
The Daimyo's leads another mounted attack against
Ikko-Ikki spearmen.  Again, it seems, religious fervour 
makes up for differentials in martial skill: both 
sides achieve hits...


... and those hits result in 'kills'. 
What happens to the Daimyo? 
That 'six' tells the story!

Now leaderless, the Clan loses much of its 
coordination...

Ikko-Ikki insurgents continue to press,
though losses are heavy.  In the distance, that ferocious 
band of Ronin, with some ashigaru support  are about to 
break through the Clan's line.



Having reached its exhaustion point, Clan Oda 
begins slowly to withdraw; covered by units 
still in contact with the enemy.



Clan Oda's fighting withdrawal finally discourages  
further pursuit. They break clear, the mission a failure. 


Though a victory for the Ikko-Ikki, it was a costly one - a pyrrhic success, withal. Both sides reached their exhaustion points, some 14SPs lost to Clan Oda, 20SP to Ikko-Ikki. Clan Oda reached its E.P. a few turns sooner that Ikko-Ikki, but, the units  remaining in contact with the enemy (as permitted by the rules) were able to inhibit pursuit and to inflict losses, whilst the rest of the army withdrew. Then those units were able themselves to break off the action and put some distance between themselves and the enemy.

Now to the 'Thought Points'

1.  Commanders.
So far, the Portable Wargames systems have assigned an arbitrary 6SP to commander units.  Having no fighting capacity in themselves, they go to augmenting other units', and to sustaining their army's morale, the loss of the commander taking an army a long way towards its 'exhaustion point'.

This Sengoku rule set assigns 0SP to the commander, his loss diminishing the army's coordination and control, rather than bringing it closer to exhaustion.  I'll come to this further in the section on Unit Activation.  

Although not explicitly stated, there seems to be a suggestion that one might have more than one commander in a given army.  I have used the idea of sub-commanders in many of my past PW actions, of course, assigning 2,3, or 4 SPs to them depending upon the command levels within the armies overall.  These, however were pretty big armies by PW standards!

Sengoku is a little different: the generals very much going towards command and control, rather than 'army morale'. 

2. Unit Activation.
The system used in this rule set is a deal more elaborate than used in most of the other PW rule sets. Now, the initiative roll is the same as that I have used consistently over the last several years. But the unit activation system developed for this rule set is something new - more elaborate. I'll go through it here as it has several features I wish to discuss.

Method:
  1. Sum the army's units still in action [I have so far assumed including the general(s) as unit(s) but this might be mistaken].  
  2. Divide by 6 and 'round down' by which I think is meant 'truncate' - take the integer part only of the quotient.  This is the base line number of D6 to be rolled
  3. Add 1 D6 for an extant (sic) general. Now, I am supposing this means 'for each', given the existence of more than one general (e.g. sub-commanders), but stand to be corrected on this.
  4. Roll these D6s, then halve the sum of the pip scores.  Ignore fractions again.
Let us take take the respective armies above:
  1.  Including the commander, Ikko-Ikki comprised 19 units, Clan Oda, 12 units.  
  2.  Divide by 6 and 'round down: Ikko-Ikki -> 3; Clan Oda -> 2
  3.  Add generals: Ikko-Ikki -> 4; Clan Oda -> 3
  4.  Statistical expectation of units activated (halved dice rolls): Ikko-Ikki -> 14/2 -> 7; Clan Oda -> 10.5/2 -> 5
In both cases, most of the time less than half the units will be activated.  In Clan Oda's case, even the loss of just one unit will seriously decrease its overall control: 11/6 -> 1D6; then 7/2 -> 3 - a statistical expectation that just 3 units may be activated out of 11.  

Aside from possibly misinterpreting some aspects, I have a feeling that such a constraint upon control of the army, although going towards 'chance' perhaps, might tend to frustratingly piecemeal battles. If using this system I would suggest (without yet going so far as to recommend):
  1. Ignore generals in the unit count
  2. Round fractions - exact halves being rounded up.  [Or even go 1D6 per 6 units or part thereof might be worth a look].
  3. Loss of units and general(s) still may affect command and control.
How, then, would this look? As it happens, given the armies featured in this article, it would make no difference at all to begin with, but it would mitigate against very early subtractions in command and control as losses mount. Even then, though, I find it hard to get my head around the relative unlikelihood of activating more than half the army at any time; and the huge advantage likely to accrue when it does happen!

3.  Missilery Ranges.
These are very short under this rule set, so short, withal, that close combats simply have to be 'voluntary'. Bow-armed samurai can shoot to 1 grid area range; arquebusiers and cannon to 2 and 3 grid areas, with 1 area being 'short' range. By the way, I notice that the game system assumes a square grid, but I see no reason so far to suppose it to be unsuited to a hex gridded battlefield.

The effect of this is, that units in contact with enemy have to be activated to engage in shooting or hand-to-hand combat. One might conduct a 'holding attack' by marching up to the enemy and standing in front of them, the only combats taking place in one's opponent's turn.  Meanwhile reinforcements are coming up, or one develops some other, potentially decisive, attack. One has to bear in mind that the enemy is under the same constraint. I believe attackers would have to accept heavy losses until the main attack develops decisively.

An interesting effect of the game system is this particular Close Combat D6 modifier: "+2 for Mounted Samurai attacking a Tepo unit." This must be in the Samurai own turn. What happens in the Tepo turn? They are not going to be so silly as to engage in close combat, are they? - even though the Samurai +2 modifier won't apply. The Tepo will shoot, with the Samurai unable to respond until their own turn. For their part the Samurai could choose in their turn to shoot; a fire fight would still be a winning proposition, but the close combat would be a 'winninger' one.  

I have been tempted to add 1 to all the missilery ranges, but before so doing, I guess one has to examine the potential of the existing game mechanics. Methinks there will be a couple more Clan Oda vs Ikko-Ikki actions before the jury comes in.

This is looking like a game set that requires a deal of action in order to get the best out of them, and thence to come at a fair assessment.  Tricky!

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