Help arrives or is hoped for
The temples under threat
On the Samurai left, battle was cautiously joined with the Papuruji monks. Surprisingly this proved unnecessary as the mounted samurai of the Ashikaga clan, emerging from their victorious destruction of those unworthy peasants, came down from the central hill and swept into the lightly defended Papuruji temple, killing the temple leader, ransacking the temple and resulting in the rout of the entire
Papuruji monk army. The decision not to defend the temple but to advance and take on the samurai had been proven to be heroic but unwise. The Ashikaga and Honda clans were now free to move all of their strength against the Howaidoji monks and Akechi clan in the struggle on the central hill.
In the centre the Ito and Sumikiri foot, now joined by the Hachisuka were pressing on towards the Oushokuji temple. The line of monk archers, carefully set out in defence behind their tate, did some damage with their archery but proved unable to stop the onslaught and were soon dispatched to the rear. The advance lapped at the fortified walls of the temple but was initially repulsed. The fight between the mounted units on the central hill ebbed and flowed, but eventually turned in favour of the samurai, who advanced toward the only lightly defended Howaidoji temple and Akechi maku. The Oushokuji temple was in danger of being isolated on both sides as the aggressive attack of the Hachisuka mounted samurai had pushed back the defending units on the other flank of the temple.
On the samurai right the battle for the Kuroji temple continued with the monks holding their own and being joined by another horde of unworthy peasants from yet another village. Curiously, all this time the monks had failed to make use of their secret knowledge of a track through the impassable mountain between them and the Hosokawa maku, and launch an attack on that maku. This was because, even more curiously, the Hosokawa had kept back a couple of apparently wasted foot units to defend it. Perhaps Alan San of the Hosokawa showed hidden wisdom or had memories from past battles or was just suspicious of seemingly impassable terrain.
The Monks prepare
Aware of the arrival of the Samurai clans the monks reacted, each temple in a differing way. On their left, the Kuroji lined the river in the expectation of an attack from the opposing clans - the Hisamatsu and the Hosokawa, supported by the Hachisuka.
The Samurai Advance
On the Samurai left the Ashikaga mounted samurai swept boldy forward to the paddy fields surrounding the nearby village, only to be rudely surprised by the appearance of peasants lining the river ahead. The proud samurai were astounded to be fired upon by these low born rabble. To add injury to insult the leaders of both mounted units were felled creating a moment of both crisis and outrage. The Ashikaga Daimyo hastily dispatched replacement leaders but before their arrival the samurai had rallied, crossed the river and chased the peasant upstarts into the hills.
The Honda mounted samurai were more cautious and ended in conflict with the advancing mounted monks. The foot samurai and ashigaru of both clans laboured to close up but were left trailing behind.
In the centre, the foot samurai and ashigaru of the Ito and Sumikiri clans got their feet wet entering the paddy fields on their respective sides of the village in their advance toward the Howaidoji temple. Once again the local peasants mustered to defend the monks and a protracted firefight began to flush them out. Eventually assaults were made across the river and the peasants dispersed.
With the intention of exploiting what seemed to be a weakness in centre of the monk defence, the mounted samurai of the Ito and Sumikiri clans crossed the river and advanced up the slopes of the central hill.
Perhaps forewarned by the appearance of peasants in the villages, the mounted samurai of the Hisamatsu and Hosokawa clans swept past the village on the samurai right and headed for the Kuroji temple. Over several combats they reached the temple and beyond it but were forced back through loss of leaders and casualties.
In all the villages the Samurai entered, they seemed surprised that peasant units appeared that were friendly with their local monks. Those in the village on the samurai right were cleared with relative ease by the samurai and ashigaru foot. The advance on the Kuroji temple gathered pace and the temple seemed to be under imminent threat.
On a sunny day in June, a great horde of wargamers - 16 in all - mustered at Rob’s fantastic war room. They had responded to the war drums for a gathering of the clans - the Samurai clans that is – not a kilt in sight.
Clans and plans
Meanwhile four Monk leaders, none of them looking particularly monkish, had sounded their war horns and deployed their bands of fanatical monks, each wearing coloured cloaks - the sign of their respective temples. These unlikely looking fanatics were - Richard San -Howaidoji white cloaks, Dave San - Kuroji brown cloaks, Greg San - Oushokuji yellow cloaks, Mike San - Papuruji purple cloaks
They had secret knowledge of the local landscape. This they had used (I hope) in their deployment, but taking no chances they had summoned their friendly local Samurai clan (the Akechi led by Patrick San). Unfortunately the arrival of these samurai allies would take some time – no doubt delayed by London traffic or domestic duties for ‘She who must be obeyed’.
The Seven Samurai arrive
Rob San had laid out an interesting landscape of a long river valley lined by several hills and dominated by a central Ji (temple) with a fortified compound and the Samurai Shiro (castle) of a local Samurai clan (the Mori). Before hostilities commenced, for the benefit of the uninitiated or forgetful, Phil San and Noel San, quoting from religious texts (the simple inhouse rules) explained the customs and rites by which the combat would be conducted and decided.
Accompanied by much bluster and trumpeting, the Magnificent Seven led their clans to their agreed starting positions. They proceeded to set up their Clan Maku (screened HQs) and place their Daimyo (great name / clan leader) figure inside with many attendant leaders.
By the turn of a card (12 per turn) the order of play each turn was decided – differently in each turn – and many times during the day, one combatant or another bemoaned the lack of the relevant card at the opportune moment. Some even doubted the integrity of the Imperial appointed umpires, the honourable Rob San, Phil San and Noel San – all such suggestions were met with disdain.
I put on a game at the club with my collection of ECW figures. It is a period I love but I and other members of the club cannot quite find a set of rules we like. Each one has bits we like such the order system from Forlorn hope but we do not like its complicated combat and morale resolution systems. We decided to combine a number of rule sets, Forlorn Hope’s order system, Black Powders combat system and Warhammer’s ammo limits. Would it work? Each side had an equal number of infantry, cavalry and artillery units.
A traditional deployment was made by both sides with 2 lines of infantry in the centre and 2 wings of cavalry with the artillery deployed in support of the infantry. The Cavalry on both wings engaged quickly with the Parliamentary cavalry overpowering its Royalist counterparts on their left wing, where each side’s cuirassiers made an impact on the combat with their greater hitting power and better saving rolls. For once the dice gods were with me in this cavalry combat and much to Phil’s dismay I was left with one fresh unit to attack his infantry lines. On the other flank however it was a different tale. Alan leading the Royalist cavalry defeated the Parliamentary cavalry under Simon with some help from his artillery which was positioned on the extreme flank of his infantry line. This left the parliamentary infantry lines exposed on their right flank.
The infantry advanced and engaged in a firefight under the command of Noel (Parliament) and Jonathan (Royalist). The Royalists due to the terrain had more units in their front line firing and gained a firepower advantage. The firing was very effective, in particular the supporting artillery. The infantry after they were out of ammunition (after 4 rounds of fire) engaged in “push of the pike”. The game ended with the cavalry unable to make a difference on the flank due to emergency hedgehog formations and time evaded us in the centre to get a conclusion with the infantry. Did the mix of rules work? Yes and no. The order system works but we still feel we need a combat system that is simple and quick but reflects the period (in our opinion!). We all felt the firing was a bit too effective especially the artillery. I guess we just need to spend some time creating some house rules or come across a set that ticks the boxes in all areas - is there ever set that does that!
Noel brought along his amazing collection of 28mm figures (Perry and Foundry mainly)to play a game using Impetus rules system. Noel laid out his collection in troop types. Each player was to get a command and we diced to see who would go first in picking their units. We threw a D6 average to determine how many units we could pick each time but on each pick you had to get different troop types. Once all the troops were picked we then drew cards to see which sides we would play.
Black or Red cards deciding the side. The King of each colour was the pretender to the throne the rest were his loyal supporters - except Noel had also said those players with a diamond or a club card would win if they were on the winning side and could swap allegiances. This gave the Kings on both sides food for thought on how loyal his team mates were! Quality of commanders were rolled with lots of geniuses on the field (3 out of 6!) and unfortunately for Simon he was lumbered with the worst general type the Cowardly general. The Red team were aggressive on their left (Rob) and centre (Patrick as the Red King) whilst holding a defensive right wing (Jonathan). The Black King (Phil) however was also aggressive fearing the loyalty of his commanders, Alan to his right and Simon to his left. He attacked aggressively in the centre trying to kill his opposite number. Alan played for time on the left with being substantially outnumbered, whilst Simon had to contend with his Cowardly commander command dice rolls (avoiding doubles) to advance on the left. Archery and combats were fierce on the Red left and centre and the Black King’s troops however got to grips with Red King himself but even after getting a hit on the King he survived the encounter and were rescued by a unit of mounted knights from Jonathan’s command now under Noel’s supervision.