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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Thoughts on Samurai skirmish gaming

So after the second game of Ronin, the first one "doing it right", the game has not grown on me. It is not dynamic enough. Guys filter into the melee, end up standing in place and trading attacks, with manipulation of the Combat Pool tokens for determining how offensive or defensive you are playing each clash being the main tactical interplay and it get stereotyped pretty quick.

But I am enjoying the "look" of the thing regarding terrain and at least the better painted among the figures (i.e. not my 30+ year old Heritage guys painted with tube acrylics and no references).

So how do you get the "feel" of Samurai movies and Eiji Yoshikawa's novel Musashi (as much as I can remember of it after so many years) into a skirmish game? It needs lots of movement, closing and separating movement, with no ZOC-like penalties giving parting shots and the like that bias you towards a static toe to toe fight. It needs to flow. There should be some movement after every combat clash, with part of the result possibly being who controls it (or there might be a random element to it sometimes). Combat resolution should be really quick, so the next move can happen and flow of the action can be maintained. This could be encouraged by having mid-move "drive-by" attacks as the norm, with the figure's move continued after the contact where a clash is resolved, and maybe a penalty if you stop in place and fight statically. I'm tempted to think cards instead of dice to minimize factor counting on a table, and to generate ephemeral advantages and tempo changes. Have some sort of way to have some united rushes, and yet the more heroic figures have some sort of  "mook spooking" intidimiation that can either turn that group rush into a momentary retreat, or  he get out of the way of most of them, or pulls off a whirlwind attack that interrupts them and scares, injures, or kills several, at least some of the time. At other times, mooks filter in for serial one vs ones. Duels should sometimes emerge between pairs of skilled figures that can include turning movement, rushes past, and advancing/retreating moments. It needs to be easy to do, and have most movements either have tactical value or be morale/advantage results.

 I want to see a Samurai swordfight that is a swirling melee, and not something that coalesces into a rough line of static one on one and two on one dice contests until one side's moral folds.

I'll keep thinking about mechanics to achieve it, but at least the goal is clear now.

 I'm also going to look at the Kensai rulebook, which is another new set for Samurai, and see if they give the feeling I'm looking for. ... (several minutes pass) ...  Found the PDF and skimmed part of it. It is very pretty, with very high graphical presentation values. Check it out.  But it is not what I am looking for. It is a small units battle game,  not a man to man skirmish game.


8 comments:

  1. You should look at SAGA Ed. The rules are written for the Dark Ages but are easily adaptable for other periods and genres. You could easily make your own faction specific battle boards (the core of the system that makes it work so well).

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    1. I have Vikings and Welsh for Saga, with more troops backlogged on the painting table and like it a lot. But it's one scale step too high for what I want to do with this, pretty much like Kensai in that regard.

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  2. http://carmensminiaturepainting.blogspot.com/
    Carmen uses Two Hour Wargames "Red Sands, Black Moon" fantasy gladiator rules for his Samurai games. Check it out if for nothing other than the slightly (hah!) excellent figures.

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    1. That is some gorgeous stuff. Been there before looking at his post apocalyptic cars.

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    2. Actually, the Red Sands, Black Moon conversion might not be what your looking for- it can bog down into a simple back-and-forth sometimes (though I like that wounds are applied to specific body parts, and I love being able to make called shots. It's great for duels.) For skirmishing, I'd recommend Chain Reaction Swordplay. And they're free rules :)

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  3. What about maybe doing a LOTR variant - rememberto use the sliding charge mechanism to minimise ZOC effects and use those Might Will and Fate points for your heroic moves/actions?

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    1. I think there used to Yahoo group for this - Legends of the Rising sun, or some such?

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    2. Never actually played the LOTR skirmish rules, I'll give them a look. Thanks for the group pointer. I'll go see if I can find it.

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