Open Theme at The BHGS Challenge 2019
Samurai vs Samurai
June, The NEC Birmingham - no, I've not joined Take That, and I'm not even trying to survive the Bear Grylls Experience zipline across Pendigo Lake - instead it's the gaming behemoth that is The BHGS Challenge @ UK Games Expo!
With a points total of 225 cunningly set to be subtly different to the points for the upcoming Worlds in Rome in a couple of weeks time the challenge of what to take to the Challenge had been vexing me for ages - until I had the triple inspiration of;
..plus of course not having a better idea meant I ended up concocting a Samurai list, secure in the knowledge that even if it was a bit rubbish it would at least look OK in the photos.
So, after a quick Friday peruse of the Games Expo, and a unsuccesful attempt to play Zombies caused by meeting too many people to chat to we ended up fully Premier-Inn-Breakfasted up and raring to go in game 1.. which, in keeping with my theme from Campaign was of course a Civil War against the other Samurai player!
The lists for the Samurai and Samurai from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at the BHGS Challenge can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
Samurai falls at the "I picked it because I like the army and the figures" end of the competitive spectrum, mainly because the high cost of the skilled troops makes it a very small army. In ADLG it also suffers from a lack of Light Foot, which makes it impossible to screen the combat troops from enemy shooting and also means there is no source of 4-point units to lower the average unit cost and bump up the army break point that way either. However, their potency in combat and shooting can mean there is a reasonably competitive list in there somewhere, especially if your opponent plays ball by bringing the right sort of opposition army along to play to their strengths.
The first (and thankfully only) Civil War of the weekend opened as the summer sun burned off the thin layer of mist lying over the hills on the outskirts of Tokyo.
The Loyalist Samurai Clans were defending their castle, and had chosen to draw their opponents into a fight outside the castle walls trusting in their own self-confidence to allow them to end the war without the hassle of a long siege.
Despite being both of the same lineage, the two armies had drawn up their men in quite different ways. The Loyalists had a solid core of heavy Infantry, densely packed and well armoured warriors who were there to blunt the aggression of their opponents on an unyielding wall of steel and armour, which they had flanked with a mix of horsemen and faster-moving, more lightly armed Samurai bowmen.
Yakitori! The Rebel forces facing them had tasked their mounted Samurai with holding up the Loyalist centre and had an incredible sweeping hook of samurai bowmen on their right, deployed away from the walls of the castle. Against the walls a token force of Samurai and their supporters served as a distraction only, hugging the terrain for protection.
Keen to start the long process of pushing the enemy from the table the close-fighting Loyalist Samurai raced forward at pace seeking to pin the enemy horsemen back and then divert some of their own forces to support their outnumbered colleagues on their left flank. Their bowmen were advancing more cautiously, keen for the heavyweights to be part of their attack.
Ekonomiyaki! The Rebels were not keen on playing their part in this plan however, and moving at some speed immediately converged their mounted component and left flank bowmen to pour missiles into the Loyalists block of mounted nobility.
The skies turned black as arrows flew unerringly to their targets, leaving the lamellar armour of the mounted warriors festooned with shafts and feathers.
Entering into a cavalry crapshoot was not something an army as expensively assembled as this one particularly wanted to do this soon in the weekend, and so a block of close-fighting Samurai were commanded to drive off the opposing horsemen, charging forward and sending a pair of units scuttling back towards their own base edge at speed.
Well Hello Kitty! Suddenly the odds were turning in the conflict between the non-pedestrians, and the Rebels remaining mounted contingent found itself badly outnumbered and the recipient of Loyalist massed mounted archery.
But the Rebels had trained long and hard for this battle (OK - Malcom has used the army many times before, I'd just put them on table with no practice games as usual) and they used that expertise and ability to combine both foot and mounted archery to deadly effect, decimating the Loyalist mounted nobles with an already-legendary display of bowmanship to inflict multiple hits on the shocked horsemen
These Samurai were painted by Lurkio painting service.
As the cavalry battle built towards a resolution the left flank infantry matchup was also drawing near a decisive phase.
The Heavy Foot were keen to get into combat to use their greater to sap the life force out of the massive wing of enemy archers resilience (4 hits vs 3 for the bowmen) before they reached the much smaller and less competent line of Loyalist bowmen still waiting, ankles deep, in the paddy field ready for the right moment to commit themselves to the fray.
The composite Samurai longbow was a powerful weapon, and with almost all of the units on both sides being capable of shooting the chances for losses were high.
Slice me some Sushi! As the bowstrings twanged the Samurai warriors started to reel back under the accuracy of the archery on both sides, and the tabletop became festooned with green 1-hit markers as everyone in sight hit home with volley after volley of well-aimed arrows.
You can always die
It's living that takes real courage
No-one really had the upper hand, but what was certain was that the losses all parties had suffered so far were sapping their will to fight - this exchange of arrows would greatly speed the ultimate resolution of the battle.
With the Rebel cavalry scattered by the concerted aggressive advance of the Loyalists, the Emperors cavalry charged home. Unable to safely flee and evade the Rebels had little choice but to stand their ground and fight like true Samurai - but were then horrified to see the Loyalist mercenary Emeshi Light Horse join in to provide what could prove to be a decisive overlap to the centrally located combat
Swordfights were breaking out all over the tabletop as the two sides got too close to each other to resist the temptation to initiate fisticuffs. Next up the close-fighting infantry of the Loyalists made it all the way across the table and into contact with the enemy bowmen.
Acting as wingmen yet more close fighters squared off against a mahoosive herd of (as of now potentially) stampeding cattle who the enemy had been corralling behind their lines, waiting either for the decisive moment to stampede them into action or perhaps for a quick bbq after a comfortable and early win.
The Rebels' cavalry, outnumbered and unable to evade, were soon being despatched in short order by the Emperors horsemen. This potentially opened up a large space in the centre of the field which the Loyalist Nobility would look to quickly exploit - provided of course they could survive under the downpour of enemy arrows which was still falling on them incessantly.
Aaaah! The supposedly resilient close-fighting Samurai of the Emperors forces were not quite exhibiting the resilience for which they had been recruited. Exploding in short order half their number were swiftly removed from the field of play, exposing the second strong Ashigaru spearmen (who had expected to at best play a flank or overlap role in the battle) to potential deadly attack by already bloodies enemy Samurai warriors.
The sad and defeated Heavy Foot trudged off home back to the biscuit tin with their heads bowed low in shame and disappointment at their failure.
The Loyalist cavalry continued to come under heavy enfilading archery from the enemy foot next to the Great Wall as they drove forwards seeking to mop up the remnants of the Rebel mounted contingent and open up the whole centre of the enemy army.
But the Rebels were putting up a stoic resistance, hanging on grimly against the odds, seemingly fully aware of their vital task to prevent the Loyalist horsemen from breaking through into their rear areas.
The enemy cattle stampede had wilted like cherry blossoms in late May (now rescheduled to early May due to global warming), freeing up more Loyalist close fighters to join the katana-swinging fray
The enemy bowmen sought frantically and calmly to press home their initial successes and drive the Loyalist out of the paddy field and back towards the safety of their castle walls.
All that remains
Of soldiers' dreams
The enemy had superiority of numbers here, and their lethally accurate bowmen were more than a match for the somewhat scratch force the Loyalists has assembled on this flank.
As the enemy right wing pushed relentlessly onwards the Emperors men started to fast run out of table into which to continue their cowardly retreat.
Suddenly, dramatically, the cavalry holding together the centre of the Rebel army evaporated under the withering attacks of the Loyalist Nobility, opening up the heart of the enemy army like a lotus flower on a spring morning.
Weight of numbers, and the driving irresistibility of the block of solid infantry closely supporting their cavalry had put paid to the Rebel resistance and now, perhaps, the wounded but jubilant Imperial Cavalry could wreak a fitting revenge.
As the Emperors cavalry flooded forward in a headlong gallop to mop up the last remnants of the enemy horse, the confidence of the Rebel infantry archers in stepping forward out of the terrain they had started the game deployed in suddenly seemed misplaced.
They had been comfortably outshooting the Loyalist Samurai bowmen arrayed before them, but their ability to deal with a cavalry attack from their flanks in open terrain was surely going to become a massive cause for concern pretty soon indeed.
The collapse of the enemy holding force in the centre of their line was also having equally traumatic implications for the Rebel Samurai right wing as well.
Suddenly Imperial cavalry started to appear in their zone of operations too, conjuring flanks out of thin air and bringing massive succour to the Loyal forces who had been struggling badly to assets control and authority over the impudent pretenders in a cagey series of one on one exchanges of archery.
One good round of shooting here could unzip the whole flank!
But even as the tired and battle-weary cavalry rode to the rescue the hapless Imperial Samurai continued to spectacularly fire blanks, absorbing hit after hit against accurate enemy archery from close quarters.
At this rate there would be little of value for the Imperial cavalry to ride to actually rescue, as hit markers continued to mount up imposingly across the Emperors entire army.
The game was fast accelerating towards a bloody conclusion, and many heads could be chopped and carried home before the lunchtime hotdog arrived.
Loyalist Cavalry regrouped and charged, slamming into the end of a flakey-looking formation of Rebel troops catching their second string Ashigaru almost by surprise.
These were not the men you wanted to rely on to hold up your flank against a horde of marauding mounted noblemen.
The stumbling and faltering of Imperial attacks and resistance on the left was however gathering pace as yet again the close-fighting infantry managed to spectacularly stoof things up with a terrible show of incompetence against yet another supposedly second-string Ashigaru unit.
At this rate the best of the Imperial army would end up slipping to defeat against a bunch of impressed farmers and rice-paddy tillers!
The left flank also was failing to implode according to plans and statistics, as heroism from the enemy Ashigaru saw them also survive here as well.
The end was definitely in sight for both forces at this stage (and was closer now for the Emperor than for the Rebels) and so difficult decisions needed to be taken, and taken quickly as each force looked to ratchet up the losses and push their opponents ever more quickly towards defeat.
With weight of numbers on their side, reinforced by the martial incompetence of the Emperors Samurai bowmen, the Rebels had by now cleared pretty much all of the Imperial left wing out of the paddy field on the left and were driving hard towards the Emperors baggage camp.
All the Loyalist forces had left to oppose them were yet more reserve Ashigaru spearmen and archers - troops so poor it was questionable whether they would be better off fleeing themselves and abandoning the baggage instead of being easily overrun when trying to defend it.
The Rebel Ashigaru however were proving to be a far more resilient formation of troops, standing up heroically against the worst the Imperial Noble cavalry could throw at them.
The entire enemy wing was at risk of being run down, but the brave peasant infantry were holding the Imperial assault at bay!
I dreamt of worldly success once
The Imperial left wing evaporated in a puff of smoke as the enemy archers and swordsmen continued their impressive demonstration of how weight of numbers is decisive in a matchup of otherwise equally equipped and equally well trained forces.
Only cowardly retreat had helped the Imperial army remain in the game for as long as they had over on this side of the table, with staggering losses pushing the Imperial army decisively to defeat.
But, finally, the resilient Rebel Ashigaru collapsed as well, sweeping away a further block of enemy combatants in a flurry of sword and naginata attacks.
The Rebel army too was now on its knees and, grudgingly, was forced to accept the bitter sake taste of defeat too.
The first game of the weekend had ended in a spectacular mutual destruction!
The Result is a Mutual Destruction!
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition, or read on for the post match summaries from the Generals involved, as well as another episode of legendary expert analysis from Hannibal
Post Match Summary from the Samurai Commander
The honour of our ancestors was at stake in this battle of the Samurai warlords, and in the end it was only fitting that these two great armies ended up sharing the spoils of victory, and the pain of defeat in equal measure. Many men aspire to victory, but being with brothers together in war is a more noble calling, in which even death is a sacrifice worth making.
Seeing another, more experienced commander than myself building his army on much the same set of building blocks was indeed a reassuring sight in this first normal-sized competition game for the Samurai army. The horse, the cows, the mix of heavy and medium foot together with supporting shooting from a few mediocre troops means a lot to my grasp of theory and war trade.
The main difference in the two amies was the balance of the commands, and here my mixed makeup with horse and foot together seems somewhat sub-optimal in comparison to the plan of having stack loads of infantry for the flank where the terrain will inevitably end up. Perhaps there are lessons to be learnt next time this army takes to the field?
A mutual destruction also keeps up my overall record of barely a single unfinished game of ADLG in the last year or so. Decisiveness is like the divine wind - it strips away deceit and forces men to the edge of the sword where the true test of keeness is always most keenly felt.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Your gonmic utterances and obscure epigrams hold no comfort for me, and certainly no comfort for the legions of dead warriors (and cattle) who's lives your wanton disregard for has brought you face to face with yet another crushing defeat.
I have lost track and patience with the number of times that I've had to raise the point that using a new army does usually require some practice rather than just a bit of list tinkering and a vague bit of theory-DLG, but this lesson seems to escape you every time. Quite how many defeats we will see before this sinks home is tough to calculate.
In this game you did at least seem to have a plan, but the problem was that your enemy's plan was at least as good if not better - if your baggage had been deplyed mere inches to the left you would have been staring up the table from a far inferior position than the one you find yourself in. Discovering clever ways to reshape your army list after the first game is not really the way to glean comfort from an army break I am afraid
The lesson of massing your forces and overwhelming the enemy in one area of superiority whilst refusing the opposite flank is hardly rocket science - but it almost undid your army at the first hurdle. Perhaps the second hurdle will be one we will see you scrape clear of in the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition