Thursday, October 7, 2021

Some Sengoku action...

The other day, having several idle moments to string together, I thought have a look at another Sengoku battle, using the Portable Wargames set of rules.  While I was about it, I dug out my Shogun (Milton Bradley) board game.  

First, the battle.  This was based loosely on the battle of Kawanakujima, 1564.  This was the moment that Takeda's flanking force had just crossed the Chikuma River into the right flank of Uesugi's army.  This was played on the Memoir '44 game board.  The choice of colours in this action was quite arbitrary: instead of Purple Takeda ought to have been more or less Red; and instead of orange, Uesugi more or less Purple.  Never mind.  

One small feature I added into this action: Uesugi's command tent, wherein he sat.  To this immobile element I gave 4 Strength Points against attack, and Elite status.  A reading of the battle indicates that Takeda Shingen also brought his command pavilion to the field, wherein he was personally attacked until his bodyguard came in to help.  So really he ought to have been so represented on the edge of the board in rear of his main line.

The Armies comprised:

Uesugi Clan:

Leader and Commander: Uesugi Kenshin, Command pavilion, = 4SP (strength points), Elite
2 Mounted samurai units @ 3SP = 6SP, Elite
2 Bow armed Foot Samurai @ 4SP = 8SP, Elite
1 Sword-armed Samurai = 4SP, Average (they might have been Ronin!)
3 Ashigaru Yari, @ 3SP = 9SP, Average

9 Units, Mean point 5*.
31SP, Exhaustion point -11SP.
* Note: I used my 'standard' activation system as being simpler and straightforward than that 'per book'..

Takeda Clan:

Main body:
Leader and Commander: Takeda Shingen, Mounted samurai, 3SP, Elite
1 Bow-armed Foot Samurai = 4SP, Elite
1 Sword-armed Foot samurai = 4SP, Average
2 Ashigaru Tepo @ 2SP = 4SP, Average
2 Ashigaru Yari @ 3SP = 6SP, Average

Flanking force:
Leader (adds +1 to combat die): Sword Armed Foot Samurai = 4SP, Average
1 Bow armed Foot Samurai = 4SP, Elite
2 Ashigaru Yari @ 3SP = 6SP, Average.

11 Units, Mean point 6.
35SP, Exhaustion point -12SP

The action opened with Clan Uesugi charging the flanks of the Takeda main line, hoping to do some damage before the flanking body got close. For their part, the flanking ashigaru reached the Uesugi first, whose right wing mounted and foot samurai, even after chasing off some hund gunners, found themselves sandwiched between strong enemy forces.
Practically surrounded as they were, the Uesugi people gave as good as they were getting. A band of ashigaru, struck in the rear, amazingly stood off a force of bow-armed samurai, before themselves being forced back into line by swordsmen.  Otherwise, the Uesugi line was too engaged with enemies to their front to think of turning to deal with the incursion into their rear.  
The right flank mounted samurai having drawn especial attention from the Takeda people, were soon overcome.  The whole right flank was soon practically surrounded.  But a knot of Uesugi samurai were not to go under without a fight. After throwing back a weak force of arquebusiers, they sought an escape.  Selecting a part of the enemy line where they seemed thinnest - a somewhat reduced force of ashigaru - they charged... 

...and broke through!

At the same time, Clan Uesugi was doing spectacularly well against the Takeda right. There, too, the Takeda ashigaru, yari and tepo, were being forced back, and chopped to pieces. Although taking heavy losses in the centre, that part of the Uesugi line was still holding... just!   

That could not last. Regathering their strength, the flanking force fell upon the rear of the Uesugi line, and swallowed up the ashigaru remnants. Meanwhile the samurai that had broken through the Takeda left found their escape still cut off, and turned to face their pursuers. Although victorious on their left, it was clear the game was up for the surrounded samurai...

At this point a count revealed that having lost 12 strength points, Clan Uesugi had reached their exhaustion point. The still intact left flank began to withdraw. For their part Clan Takeda knew they had been in a fight: 10SP having fallen. A victory for Takeda, then, but one that left Uesugi still with an army in being.

Off and on playing through this battle, I set up an ongoing game of Shogun.  This was begun some 20 years ago with my daughter, Ursula, but we really got in only one game turn.. Noting down the situation, we intended to resume another time.  We never did.

Cardinal points are the corners, the top right being North.
Top edge, then, is northwest.

Ursula had the Red and Orange factions; I had the Blue and the Green.  The picture shows where we had left off.  Here, Red had established quite a compact empire on the island of Shikoku and in the southeastern corner of the mainland, Honshu, where they established a castle stronghold at Kii - an important nexus of sea lanes.  The small enclave in the east (bottom right) is connected to the main Red strength by a sea way.

Orange never did establish a particularly coherent realm.  The two armies in the centre protect a tiny region sandwiched between Green and Blue.  The third Orange Army is isolated and alone on the northwest coast. The offshore islands off the northwest coast had no real communication with the scattered holdings on the mainland.

Blue is nominally the poorest of the four factions at the moment, having enough provinces to bring in just 4 koku to spend on developing their strength.  Orange, Red and Green may garner 5, 6, and 7 koku respectively. But Blue is nice and compact, and about to engulf the isolated Orange army in the middle of its bloc.  Those armies are in close contact, and once they start getting seriously experienced, will form a formidable combined force.

Green is the richest of the four factions, and has a fine bloc, separated from the northeast coast by a smattering of weak enclaves of the other factions.  But Green's situation was complicated from the start by having a strong enclave also on the far distant island of Kyushu.  Two of Green's armies have been placed in the main area of strength, with a castle built on the important strategic province of Shinano.

The third army has been placed close by the western tip of Honshu, with some notion of preserving some of the enclave in that part of the world. It might have been better placed on Kyushu, specifically at Bungo, where a Red army is preparing to make a seaborne landing.

The flagged figure represent armies, which are kept separate on special army boards, with the numbers being made up of a Diamyo (with the name heading the board), up to 4 Samurai (who may be bow, or sword armed), and up to 10 ashigaru, who may be armed with spear or handgun.  Although the Diamyo is not a mounted figure, he represents the slender cavalry arm that was a feature of Sengoku armies.  

Armies begin with Diamyo, 1 bow, 1 sword and 2 shot.  Extra troops may be obtained by expenditure of koku, or by incorporating garrison troops.  In the above picture, three of the six armies have their original complement.  One Orange army has picked up a couple of spearmen; one Red army recruited a bowman (at the cost of a whole koku - very expensive these fellows) and lost a gunner conquering some province or other (Izumi).  Oda's army seems to have found stiff opposition winning its battle: not a lot left of his army.  But he stands where the Clan has built its first stronghold.

Green and Blue have been more thorough with their recruitment drives, and added considerably to their strength.  In Blue's case, that may have come at the expense of early territorial expansion.
I decided to play out a turn.  One begins by planning one's expenditure.  There are a number of things one might buy
  1. Take swords.  The swords are marked with a number stars, one to five, to determine order of purchases, recruitment and placement of troops, movement, battles and so on.  Perhaps it represents the extra pay for extra service from one's troops.  Normally these are selected at random, but you can buy the sword of your choice.  Usually it will be the first, but on one occasion years ago, I deliberately bought the 5-star sword one, in order to purchase the 1-star the following turn.  Great way, however expensive, of stealing a march!  On this occasion, there is no reason to buy a sword.
  2. Build castles ... or fortify an existing castle.  It costs 2 koku to build a castle, and another 2 - in a subsequent turn - to fortify it.  A fortified castle is very strong, especially if it has a fair sized garrison (which need not be an army).  Quite a number of castles were fortified during this turn.
  3. Levy units.  The prices vary according to type.  One koku will buy you 1 bowman; or 2 swordsmen or gunners or one of each; or 3 spearmen.  Now, only one such figure my be recruited to any given province.  If you buy a bowman for the army, you can not add further troops to a non-army garrison in the same province. However, by placing them in nearby provinces, they might gradually be picked up as the army moves through during the movement phase.  All factions bought troops during this turn.
  4. Hire  Ronin.  These cost the same as Samurai swordsmen and are as effective.  But their hire is temporary only: one turn (but you get them for the whole turn).  Usually you'll hire Ronin to reinforce an army about to attack - or defend against - a strong enemy.  There was no occasion in this turn to hire Ronin.
  5. Hire Ninja. There is but one ninja, and he goes to the highest bidder, for one whole turn. This singular chappy may be used as a spy ('May I indulge in a quick shufti at your planning tray, old chap?  You know, before I make my own plans...?) or an assassin. The assassin can strike at any time - any time! - wipe out one diamyo, and that can be a very serious blow.  The diamyo gone, the army is left immobile for the remainder of the turn (though the army can still defend itself if attacked), and when a successor is appointed, all the previous experience gained has been lost.  Having said that, there is always a chance that if the assassin fails (one chance in three), he'll come back to slice and dice one of the hirer's diamyos.  If seen that happen <grin!>.  No one had any real reason to hire a ninja this turn.
The swords were chosen at random, and went:
* - Blue
** - Red
*** - Orange
**** - Green

After recruiting extra troops for his armies, and fortifying the castle in Tamba, two armies were directed to attack the Orange Army in Tajima.  The blue arrow counters commit one to attacks - or at least the first attacks - by the armies. As it turned out, the attack from Tango could have done the job on its own, but called off the attack with the only the Orange daimyo remaining.  The Army attacking from Inaba finished the job.  

This was a serious blow to Orange, who at once lost all influence in the western peninsula of Honshu.  Blue was able to consolidate a considerable bloc 
The yellow counters represent the ashigaru I took 
from the board for the above battle game...

His programme was simple and easy to determine: from its enclaves in the southern corner of Honshu, and the Island of Shikoku, to begin an assault upon Kyushu and the small, but strategic, island of Awaji in the Inland Sea. Given that the Red armies were not large, it was anticipated that the opposed landing at Bungo would be touch and go, but it was effected at less cost than was feared.

Reduced to two armies, and they cut off from its scattered enclaves, it was not easy to determine a decent plan for them.  In the end they seized some provinces from Green.  It might have been an idea to have reinforced its hold upon the strategically very important province of Ise - a long slender region that links the centre of Honshu, to Kii at the southern corner.  

Though having lost 4 provinces in this turn already (2 to Red and 2 to Orange), Green position was quite strong.  They were able at once to get back two provinces from Orange, and one from Red.  At the same time, aware of the two Orange armies close to its castle stronghold at Shinano (another strategically significant region), Green chose to fortify the place.  Looking at the armies, its successful defence might have been touch and go had Orange decided to chance his arm this turn!

The third Army was placed in the western corner of Honshu where it was hoped to carve out a route to Kyushu if it could, or merely to maintain some kind of consolidated enclave at the far end of the island from its main area of influence.  

During the course of this turn, every army but one got to advance along the 'experience' track, the exception being the Blue army that called off its attack on the brink of victory.  Blue, Red and Green all have reason to be reasonably satisfied with their position; Orange not so much.  Orange has lost an army, and lost more territory than it gained.  Nor is its strategic position such as to delight its nominee for Shogun... 

(Will this narrative ever be continued?  Who knows?)


  1. Archduke Piccolo,

    It looks to me as if you have an ideal campaign map to hand, and a set of rules for resolving any battles. A win-win situation if ever there was one!

    All the best,


    1. Hi Bob -
      The thought had crossed my mind. I have a box full of counters that could replace the spearman garrisons, and the armies could simply be written down. Otherwise I could simply ignore the board game altogether and plant the factions where it seems right. There are some good maps of where the main factions had their domains.

      No doubt I'll think of something!
      Archduke Piccolo

  2. Now I want to break out my copy and play a game! It has been so long since I've been able to...

    1. PatrickW -
      It's hard to arrange an appropriate number of like-minded gentry to play the game. However, as Bob suggested, the whole thing might be turned into a campaign. To free up the figures for the actual battles, I have plenty of different coloured counters to place on the map...