Misc., Samurai Warfare, Black Powder – variant, 28mm
Some historical periods do very little for me, however pretty they might look. This is one of them. I took part in a large Samurai game, and spent the whole time wondering what on earth was happening, which “clan” was on what side, and why on earth people dressed up in such ludicrous outfits just to kill each other. For some some reason Japanese warfare has always left me cold, unless there’s an aircraft carrier involved. The whole Samurai thing just seems so unbelievable, and therefore seems something akin to fantasy gaming. I normally leave it well alone, unless I’m invited along to play a game…Still, I played my part – in this case as one of the “clans” loyal to the Emperor Go-Yozei, or rather to the Tokugawa Shogunate, who ruled Japan “on his behalf”. Apparently they were keen to capture and raze Osaka, the last remaining centre of resistance to Tokugawa rule. The Toyotomi faction was holed out there, and so the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu turned up with his army to kick over Osaka Castle. What followed was a surprisingly complex little campaign. Like much of Japanese warfare of this period it seems much too convoluted to my Western eyes, but the upshot is there was a battle or two, a siege and a final storming before the Shogun got his way.This game, played out over a weekend was essentially two battles, based – in theory on the “summer and winter campaigns”, as the umpire informed us. I remain none the wiser. All I knew was I had a clan to command, some outlandish-looking little figures, and an enemy to hack to pieces. It began with a series of “clan” columns approaching Osaka, and having to hack their way through the Toyotomi rebel defences. While the period was completely alien to me, at least were were using the now familiar Black Powder rules, albeit heavily modified by a variant called Gleaming Katanas. My “clan” (I called them the Toyotas) had a bunch of arquebusiers and spearmen in black pyjamas and coolie hats, a couple of units of Samurai foot, and a cavalry unit.My spears “formed square” – they called it “set” in the Katana rules – and saw off a determined Toyotomi cavalry charge, and then the opposing clan melted away. It turned out their general was challenged by a rival from my side, and our guy won. His clan then ran off the table, presumably to find a replacement. That sort of thing kept on happening, all seeming a damnably unsporting and unwestern to me!The table was a long thin one, with space to accommodate the eight or so players a side, but it also meant that at least for me, Osaka Castle remained far away in the distance, and the best we could manage was to wade our way six feet across the tabletop towards it before the end of the day’s play. Things seemed a little more heated down at the other end, where a full-scale stramash seemed to be going on for most of the day, with lots of dead units being piled away on both sides, but no clear winner emerging.On the second day the sides were altered a little, and this time we were up against the defences surrounding Osaka itself. I guess this was meant to represent the Winter Campaign, and it was a little more fun, as this time I actually saw more of the action, and had half of my clan wiped out by a furious Toyotomi cavalry charge – a counter-attack launched from the defences. The only thing that saved me from disaster was the timely arrival of reinforcements, and another “clan” keeping the defenders at bay by charging their defensive works – and capturing them.Cavalry seem to be particularly powerful in this, and large cavalry units are virtually unstoppable unless you have some Ashigaru spearmen to hand to hold them off. I always thought foot Samurai ruled the roost, but they get chopped to pieces by cavalry in this game! I had to leave before the game was finished, but it appears that the Tokugawa Shogunate emerged victorious, and after some particularly hard fighting they carved their way through the Toyotomi defences and captured the castle. Hurrah!I’ve already said that a bunch of weirdly-dressed Orientals running around with banners on their backs isn’t really my thing. However, I have to admit I rather enjoyed the experience, and while I probably won’t ever paint up any figures for this colourful but bizarre period, I’ll certainly answer the call next time the Shogun comes looking for volunteers. In case you ask, Gleaming Katanas – that Samurai Warfare variant of Black Powder – is available via the Black Powder Yahoo group pages.