Oda Mon Nobunaga's Castle

Taiko! Review

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Rules by Rod Thomson / Flagship Games

This nicely illustrated rules set covers both army and skirmish level games. The majority of its 60+ pages are devoted to the army game with a couple of pages detailing the modifications necessary for skirmishing. Also included are some army lists. There is no quick reference sheet enclosed but one is available for download from the Flagship Games web site. The rules are aimed at battles during the “Age of the Country at War” but can be used for earlier periods.

Although written with 15mm figures in mind, modifications are suggested for other scales. Figure scale for the army game is 50:1 and one inch represents approximately 30 metres. Skirmish scale is 1:1. Infantry and cavalry are both based with a frontage of one-half inch and have a depth of one-half inch for infantry and 1 inch for cavalry.

Armies in Taiko! are organised into several Tai (division or corps). Each Tai is composed of one or more units and must be commanded by a Tai Commander. The Army Commander also commands his own Tai. Sub-commanders can also be purchased to replace commanders killed in combat. Units must contain between 2 and 20 figures.

Commanders are represented on the table by a figure and are given a Leadership Rating. Tai and Sub commanders are also given a loyalty rating of 1 to 6 and are designated as Reliable or Unreliable. There is a slight chance that unreliable commanders could defect to the other side as happened historically.

Troops are rated for three main statistics: Class, Armour and Weapons. Class and Armour are numeric values from 1 to 6 and Weapon is simply bow, pole arm, handgun etc. Typical troop types are listed along with their relevant ratings. These can be Peasant Rabble, Ashigaru, Warrior Monks, Fanatics (such as Ikko-Ikki), Ronin, Samurai and Cavalry.

The Game
A turn in Taiko! has four phases: Orders, Battle, Rally and Check Victory.

Order Phase
The Army Commander may issue new orders to his Tai Commanders during the orders phase. Permissible orders are, Attack, Defend, Hold, Manoeuvre and Withdraw and are all fairly self-explanatory. However these orders must be activated before they can be acted upon. This involves rolling a die modified by various factors and getting a result of 8 or more. If the result is less than 8, then order interpretation depends on the reliability of the commander. This is when an unreliable commander may switch sides!

After new orders have been issued both sides test for initiative. The winner gets to choose whether to go first or second when activating their Tai alternately. During the turn, the side with the initiative may sacrifice the initiative for the following turn by activating two Tai consecutively.

Battle Phase
As you would expect, this is the main action phase of the turn. Each side takes it in turn to activate a single Tai. When activated, a Tai checks to rally any units with poor morale, performs movement, conducts missile fire and finally resolves melee combat.

Movement is straightforward with distances specified in inches and have the usual deductions for moving through difficult terrain and performing formation changes. Units moving at charge rate for consecutive turns can become fatigued. This has an adverse effect on the unit’s fighting abilities.

Missile fire is resolved by rolling 1d6 for each firing figure. Modifiers are added or subtracted and any results exceeding the armour rating of the target unit causes a casualty. In addition to normal firing by the active Tai, non-active units may be eligible for Defensive or Opportunity fire. Defensive fire can be performed by missile units in response to being charged and Opportunity fire can be performed by missile units in close proximity to moving enemy. Rules are also included for light and heavy artillery fire.

Melee combat is resolved in a similar fashion to missile fire. Depending on how the unit is armed determines who fights first. For instance, long-spear armed infantry will fight before any other troops. This means that any figures removed as casualties won’t get a chance to fight back. The side that inflicts the most casualties wins the melee and the loser checks morale. Should the loser pass this morale test then the winner must then test. If both pass morale then the loser is pushed back.

There is no morale phase. Morale tests are taken when required. Individual units and whole Tai may be required to test. Units can be in one of three morale classes: Good, Demoralised or Routed. To take a morale test, simply roll a die and apply some modifiers. Tai may have to check when reaching a particular level of casualties or when a commander is killed. Should the Tai fail its test it immediately changes its orders to Withdraw. Rally attempts by Tai are made during the Rally phase at the end of the turn.

The next few sections of the rules detail officer casualties, challenges (of course!), fire and siege. The latter deals mainly with scaling walls and assaults, which is a nice touch. The last section deals with special models like taiko (war drum), tsukai (messenger) and even ninja which all add to the flavour of the game.

Army Lists
About 12 pages are devoted to the army lists. There are three generic lists: Samurai, Monk and Ikko-Ikki. Each one details the maximum (and sometimes minimum) percentage of each troop type or commander along with points cost, armour, class, weapons and any other options available. Some other information about each troop type is also included. General notes about creating your army are given which should help with the organising of your wargames army.

Overall, Taiko! is a well presented set of rules with straightforward mechanisms. Plenty of period specific features that really capture the excitement of this unique style of warfare. Well worth trying for anyone interested in samurai wargames particularly during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Review by Ian Duncan. February 2004


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