Open Theme at The BHGS Challenge 2019
Samurai vs Song Chinese
Next up, after a coffee from the conveniently placed shop, was an ASEAN region superpower faceoff, with the Samurai facing the historically credible prospect of an invasion from the Song Chinese.
Perhaps this time a divine wind would wreck the enemy fleet and reduce their numbers to a points total more easily despatched by the small but perfectly painted Samurai, in a rare example of a battle copying history?
The lists for the Samurai and Song Chinese 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.
Choosing to defend the Samurai looked to maximise the amount of cruddy terrain on table in the hope of corralling the enemy horsemen and any Heavy Foot halberdiers into obvious routes in which the Samurai could oppose them with the right mix of forces. It may also have been that I wanted to get the paddy fields on table again too.
The Song had opted for the archery-heavy version of the list, with a load of mixed and Elite Guardsmen shooters supported by a small packet of cavalry holding almost half the table, with the rest of their army tucked defensively in the other corner.
The Samurai bowmen and cavalry fancied their chances almost immediately and moved forward with intent and purpose, equally happy to shoot or charge home against this sort of opponent.
On the opposite flank the Samurai had plenty of time to practice their swordplay as they marched forward on the opposite flank towards a line of similarly bow-tastic enemy infantry and Heavy Guns.
The Song infantry showed no signs of moving up in any way, seemingly happy to sit and stew their noodles a little longer as the Japanese warriors closed the gap and inched towards being in artillery range of their hefty battery of guns. Marching into a wall of artillery and an army with more archery than they themselves had was not something the Samurai had really expected this weekend.
Slice me some Sushi! On the right flank the Samurai were setting about their business in a far more over confident and businesslike fashion.
Deploying into a nice parallel line the two groups of horse and foot sounded the great Samurai battle horn and started to advance to what they hoped would be a quick and decisive series of short hand to hand combats against the decidedly inferior enemy infantry and horsemen.
The Samurai cavalry drove off the Song Medium horse archers in short order, forcing them to evade and begin to leave the flanks of their infantry colleagues dangerously exposed to the aggressive Japanese cavalrymen.
As the infantry Samurai moved up smartly both sides unleashed volley after volley of arrows, and, inevitably, some of them started to strike home.
The Samurai were better quality, but the Song were more numerous and so Ashigaru had been pressed into unwilling action to widen the Samurai line. They soon were taking the brunt of the enemy fire, seeing markers and casualties to appear among the Japanese formations as they advanced.
On the opposite flank near-identical tactics were proving more effective when executed by a front line of Samurai warriors.
The Ashigaru here were tucked neatly in behind their lords and masters, sheltering in the lee of the immaculate lacquer armour of the dismounted Samurai bowmen as the enemy archery sought to find a gap in the formation.
Well Hello Kitty! The Samurai advance was almost going too well, and soon the warriors from the land of the Rising Sun had unwisely ventured into range of the Song artillery park.
As the hastily engineered bombards barked out the Samurai started to fall like leaves in the autumn, with a concentration of firepower from multiple sources proving far too much for the Samurai swordsmen to withstand.
Rehearse your death every morning and night
Only when you constantly live as though
already a corpse will you be able to find
freedom in the martial Way
(Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai)
The entry of the artillery into the battle had seemingly inspired the Song infantry to renew their archery expertise.
All along the line as the Chinese archers fired they were now finding targets where before they only were bouncing off armour.
The Samurai advance staggered and stumbled, their seemingly straightforward progression into combat against the vulnerable Chinese warriors becoming more challenging with each volley to strike home.
The combat-happy Samurai were now in serious danger of going into battle carrying so many injuries that they could face a real risk of losing to the seemingly hapless Song infantry.
The opposite flank was proving much more by the book. With some of the Samurai close fighters absorbing the brunt of the Chinese artillery, the rest of the body of mobile archer/swordsmen had quickly closed the gap between themselves and the machinegun-like crossbows of the Song infantry and were even now setting about them with their katana's and other highly precision engineered bladed implements.
Even carrying some injuries the Japanese went into this one with sky-high expectations - as well as a flanking position for their Ashigaru as well.
Yakitori! The Chinese Wall of pavises received the Samurai charge at a brisk trot, the wood splintering as the highly motivated and trained Japanese warriors hit home.
But these Song were made of sterner stuff than their colleagues - the Pavisers being the Elite Guardsmen of the army - and the combination of their resolve and the injuries inflicted on the Samurai and Ashigaru on their way in tipped the scales significantly in favour of the defending infantry, who repulsed the initial Samurai charge with aplomb almost all the way across the line.
Samurai however are tough, very tough.
Once the two lines of men were locked together in close quarters combat the superior swordsmanship (and swords) of the Samurai quickly began to tell as the Song Chinese infantry collapsed and fled. Now the Samurai were breaking through the Chinese wall at will, and were seemingly poised to roll up this half of the table in double quick time.
On the opposite flank the Song were providing barely more than token resistance as the well trained Samurai did what they do best, carving vast holes in the enemy formation and stepping smartly through them to begin the task of closing out the game.
As the Chinese line collapsed faster than a wet noodle mail shirt in the rain the Japanese army surged forward in a headlong rush towards the Chinese baggage train and artillery park.
The enemy formation was so vast that even wiping out the entire front line would not be enough to gift victory to the Japanese warriors - some of the soft underbelly needed to be taken down as well.
The need to start eviscerating the Chinese right wing was made even more urgent by some spectacular disasters on the part of the Samurai tasked with overrunning the Song bowmen on opposite flank.
Admittedly the Chinese were the Guardsmen of their army, but they were also equipped with little more in the way of close combat weaponry than sharpened chopsticks and garlic breath, so the armed to the teeth Japanese warriors had expected to see far less resistance than they now discovered themselves to be facing. The odd 6-1 also didn't really help either
With sunlight streaming into the halls the shadows started to lengthen alarmingly as the Samurai rushed to close out the game.
The Song were hanging on by their long and curly fingernails pretty much everywhere on the Japanese left as Samurai forces looked for overlaps and envelopment positions where they could
The Way of the warrior
is to be found in dying
(Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai)
As well as this rather smug "we're winning" stuff of course, the Samurai also needed to to stay out of charge range of the surprisingly dangerous (to medium foot in the open) enemy horsemen who had just arrived from a reserve position to shore up this flank for Song China
As the Samurai's outflanking moves were themselves outflanked in turn by the Song Chinese reserves the entire flank swiftly became an unseemly mess of whirling combats between men, horses and Samurai.
Everywhere you looked blades were swinging, bowmen were frantically firing at close range, and men were bracing themselves against pavises to try and withstand an enemy charge.
The Chinese horsemen on the opposite flank who had started the game by evading many, many turns and photos ago had now also managed to successfully run out of table.
With Samurai nobility pinning them in the extremities of the playing surface, this now also looked like at least a couple of valuable additional break points for the Japanese Emperors army.
Having outflanked the enemy in a headlong rush, the Samurai left wing was now, finally, starting to reform into something resembling a coherent line as they geared up to sweep in towards the centre of the table and crush the remaining hanful of Song warriors against the side of a mountain.
The enemy artillery, so long an irritant in the Samurai procession, were soon to be overrun as well, no doubt triggering the emergence of gunpowder warfare in mainland Japan as they were taken back to Edo.
With the Song army teetering on the edge of defeat across broad swathes of the table the only question now was where would the final blow fall?
Many Samurai wanted the honour of being the men to claim the final enemy head, but only one could take the unique prize.
With a mighty cleave of their Katana's a badly injured, artillery battered highly resilient Close Fighting unit pushed themselves to the front of the Honour Queue and grabbed the spoils themselves with a massive 6, pushing the Song to defeat before any of the other combats could be resolved.
The result is a decisive win for the Samurai!
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 Song are a historical enemy, and one who we have defeated for generations with the aid of the gods and the oceans. But here, in a test of bow against sword the man who is short-sighted enough to get close to his enemy proves it is always better to have the sharper shord than the sharper wits.
Artillery is a troubling opponent, but I find it is best ignored by making sure you get your men into close quarters combat as soon as is possible. A gun is no respecter of honour, but a gunner knows not to shot his own men at all times.
Fast attacks are the solution to all of these ills which the Song wizards attempt to bring to the slopes of mighty Fuji, and fortunately that sort of style suits me down to the ground as well and is quite easy to execute. Quite how the bowmen of the enemy army managed to survive even as long as they did against such a combat-shy force is however partly beyond me.
But, a win and a draw is a decent result from the first 2 of 5 games to be sure. Points on the board are like coins in a fountain - easy to reach out and keep if you are a Samurai in full armour with the right sort of aggressive stare.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
At last a game in which your limited strategic skills could be tested properly - an enemy who's main plan was to stand still in a single line and wait for you to race towards his army so he could shoot at you is a simple test, and one I am grudgingly prepared to accept that you succeeded in passing.
You did however do your best to fluff your lines here, by spreading your attacks into all three of his commands, giving a static opponent the best possible oppotunity of getting in at least a few shots at almost every single one of your men before they joined in close combat. Given this was pretty much exactly the ideal scenario for the Song commander to try and engineer, your willingness to comply with his obvious strategy was a generous and incompetent one indeed.
With such enormous shooting power and a large unit count it would have been almost credible to see your army fall to defeat with not a single unit actually killed. And very amusing to boot as well. Somehow you managed to avoid this ignominious end, but honestly, refusing one flank and piling into the other one in deep stacked columns would have been much safer and more effective for sure.
These are simple lessons, which you have failed to learn. Maybe the truth will seep in for the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition