Oda Mon Nobunaga's Castle

Samurai Warfare Review

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Rules by Adams & Clarke

When I began building my samurai wargames armies, I had no idea what rules I would end up using. There were not that many sets dedicated to samurai wargaming (skirmish games aside), so I was determined to obtain as many sets as possible to see which I liked. I was aware that Samurai Warfare had been published in the early '80s but had never seen a copy and didn't really expect to. Imagine my delight when I spotted a copy for sale at the Wappinshaw wargames show in Glasgow last year. I already own a copy of the authors' Hoplite Warfare rules so I couldn't resist these, especially for the princely sum of £2.50! I knew the mechanisms would probably seem dated but nostalgia is a wonderful thing.

The rules are 42 A4 pages long (excluding cover and contents pages) and have separate sections for skirmish games and major battles. This review will concentrate on the major battles section. Suffice to say the skirmish rules are fairly detailed, consuming some 25 pages. Normal and percentage dice are required (and average dice (numbered 2,3,3,4,4,5) for the skirmish rules).

The major battles section is designed for battles of the sixteenth century. No ground or figure scales are given. Both 25mm and 15mm figures are catered for. Base sizes for 25mm figures are 20mm x 20mm for foot and 25mm x 40mm for mounted; 15mm figures halve these sizes.

Troops are classified by morale, close quarters fighting skill, shooting ability, armour and training. Morale class can be samurai, ashigaru or peasant. Close quarters fighting skill and shooting ability are given numeric ratings - the higher the better. Armour can be samurai armour, ashigaru armour or none. Training class is either well trained or badly trained. Samurai units must include at least one champion figure (unless they only have missile weapons).

The game uses a simultaneous movement system which requires written orders. These orders are written at the beginning of the game and can only be changed by signals or messengers. Units may not always be relied upon to act on these new orders immediately. This is influenced by the various rating of the generals which are diced for before the game begins. Once orders are written, the game proceeds with both players carrying out the following sequence: Charges are declared, missile fire is perfomed, movement is carried out, close quarter fighting is resolved and finally, morale tests are taken. Should the idea of written orders or simultaneous moves not appeal, an interesting alternate move system is presented as an optional rule.

Movement rules are simple, taking up one-half page. For 25mm figures, foot move 8", mounted move 12". As is the case throughout the rules, halve these distances for 15mm figures.

When a morale test is required, two normal dice are thrown and added to several tactical factors to yield a result which is compared on a result table. There are separate tables for samurai and ashigaru/peasants. Although a simple mechanic, with around 20 factors to plough through, morale tests could become quite time consuming in a large battle - reminiscent of my old WRG 4th edition ancient rules. The tables do seem to capture the period nicely with the factors and results listed.

Shooting is calculated using a combination of shooting, armour, target, combat and random factors, all nicely integrated into a couple of tables. Bows have a longer range than guns (20" to 15") but less powerful against armour. Casualties are full figures, no rosters etc.

Close quarter fighting is resolved in a similar manner to shooting with the added fun that when two samurai units engage, their respective champions seek each other out and settle their differences before the main combat ensues.

Overall, a fairly straightforward set of rules which have plenty of period flavour. Now, I wonder if I could trim the number of morale factors...

Review by Ian Duncan. January 2004.


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