Open Theme at The BHGS Challenge 2019
Samurai vs Ottomans & Serbs
As the afternoon sun sets over the NEC, the third game in the Samurai conquest of the world continues.
With a win and a mutual destruction (scoring maximum points for a 'drawn' game in the process) under their Hello Kitty branded belts the Samurai are quietly confident that they may indeed have managed to extract a half decent list out of the mishmash of overpriced troops and no skirmishers in their army roster, but still nagging doubts remain.
This third game may therefore prove to be a watershed in the destruction testing of this well painted but still somewhat brittle force.
The third game was to be a test against another classic army with sort of unique and unmorphable troops - the rarely seen Ottomans, who again like the Samurai struggle with the curse of high quality must-take troops at the standard 200 point mark.
What would they have made of the extra 25 in this list?
The lists for the Samurai and Ottomans & Serbs 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.
With an opponent highly likely to be stuffed with good quality mounted troops and an almost obligatory Serbian ally the Samurai had chosen to bring their opponents to battle in a cluttered environment, with the Great Castle of Edo wall on one flank narrowing the table and as much terrain as could be fitted in scattered around as well.
The Ottomans surprisingly perhaps had added to this with some mountainous forest-covered hills, making their deployment zone a congested one which served to split their force into two unequal portions.
Lining up with the mounted-heavy wing on their right the Samurai found themselves facing a mirror-image opponent, also equipped with Shooting cavalry and Janissary Bow/Swordsmen - only the presence of better numbers of light horse distinguished the two opposing commands on this extreme open edge of the table.
The centre of the Samurai line was formed up of the close-fighting Heavy Infantry - their role was planned to act as an anvil on which the Serbian allies of the Ottoman army would blunt themselves in a bold but ultimately futile charge.
The Serbians also seemed to have adopted a similar plan - although one suspects their view of the outcome would see them as heroes, not heroic failures.
Preserve your bonds and fight to protect them
- that is the path of a Blade Warrior
This mix of troops however had left the Ottoman right wing surprisingly weak on actual troops, and only a handful of admittedly excellent quality Sipahi cavalry were left to oppose the enormous wall of mixed quality Samurai shooters, support troops and cavalry facing them.
The Ottomans and the Samurai both trusted in the quality of their largely Elite warriors, and both were keen to get to grips and fight a decisive battle.
As the two armies charged at each other the matchups started to take shape - on the Samurai right the Ottomans had superiority of numbers with their somewhat larger mounted force, but the Janissaries seemed evenly matched against the Samurai foot bows.
In the middle the Serbs horses were pawing the ground, ready for a do-or-die dramatic charge against the line of slightly nervous Samurai infantrymen.
This was going to be one proper fight!
The Samurai stepped up, sliding their formation apart to accommodate the rampaging herd of stampeding Wagyu beef cattle that their master weaponsmiths had cooked up, and which their master chefs had hoped to cook up after the game.
This was sort of as good as it would get for the cattle, who had enjoyed some positive outcomes last year at Burton but who had so far struggled to make any impact in this weekend's fighting.
The Ottomans themselves also were as enthusiastic as their Serbian allies on the whole charging in part of the game.
Far away from the Samurai castle walls they launched a stinging assault on the somewhat outgunned Samurai cavalry, driving off the Emeshi skirmishing light horse with their lance-armed Akinjis and claiming both Impact and Overlaps to give themselves a decent first-round advantage.
The Samurai needed to hold the line here quite urgently, otherwise the rearguard of one unit of Ashigaru would be unlikely in the extreme to prevent Ottoman cavalry from flooding into the Ottoman back line.
The Cattle had blown it - evaporating at contact in a flurry of hamburgers and racks of ribs they covered the victorious Serbian lancers in BBQ sauce as they expired.
The Serbs were unsighted by the sudden deluge of outdoor cookery condiments and by the time they had wiped their eyes clear of the sticky sauces they found themselves having broken through a line of Samurai, but at the same time having exposed their flanks to an attack by Samurai master swordsmen!
Even in defeat the Wagyu Herd had managed to achieve something of value!
These Samurai were painted by Lurkio painting service.
At the far end of the line, under the shadow of the looming castle walls things were looking much better for the Japanese Emperors forces.
With not enough troops to prevent a wall of shooting infantry from marching forwards the Ottomans had gotten themselves into an enormous pickle (maintaining the BBQ food theme consistently in the process) - an outcome which saw the end of their line turned by unopposed Samurai Cavalry even as Samurai bowmen closed in on the Sipahis frontally as well.
The Sipahis are Coming!!
The Heavy Warriors of the Samurai Clans were now where they wanted to be - close quarters fighting against stationary Serbians, outnumbering and overlapping the now impetus-free opponents on all sides.
In a rare moment the Samurai realised they had the advantage of numbers here, and they were intent on squeezing as much advantage from that as possible by cramming in overlaps and teeing up frontal charges.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - The Ashigaru in this photo could cause a cohesion loss to the Serbian knights by charging them frontally in the same turn that the HI Samurai have attacked them in the flank. But, it is probably wiser for the Ashigaru to delay their attack until their next turn.
If the Serbs are caught only in the flank they fight only the Elite Samurai, on factors of 0 for the Serbs (hit in the flank only is always 0) vs 2 for the Samurai (+1 for Swordsman, +1 for a flank attack). The Samurai are also Elite so it would essentially need a 4-factor dice swing for them to lose - and if they win their 2HW cancels the Serbs armour as well.
If the Ashigaru attack to the front at the same time, they would become primary fighting unit for the Japanese army - the Serbs would then be on -1 (Flanked and Disrupted by the 2nd attacker) and the Ashigaru would be on +2 (1 for Spear, 1 for the overlapping Samurai unit). With the Ashigaru being Mediocre and the Serbs being Elite, the Serbs would survive on only a 3:1 or better dice score.
It's close, but probably better to let the Samurai do their thing and use the Ashigaru to finish off the Serbs in 2 rounds of combats time.
The overpowered flank attack next to the Castle Wall was chewing through the Ottoman line like a whirling blade equipped super-Gundam monster robot thingy.
Which was kind of what it was really.
Well Hello Kitty! With the Ottoman cavalry transfixed by the imminently arriving Samurai in front of them they could seemingly only stand and watch as a line of Japanese cavalry rolled them up from the flank having overrun the sole Janissary unit unfortunate enough to have been tasked with anchoring their line
Everywhere you looked the Ottomans were struggling to achieve the breakthrough their rapid and aggressive thrusts had so clearly hoped to achieve.
Even the Quakapulu Heavy Cavalry had become bogged down against a wall of fiercely defensive mounted Samurai, and where the Ottomans sought to send Akinji's sneaking round the back of the Japanese line they found themselves blocked by spear-waving Ashigaru - not first liners for sure, but competent enough to hold off skirmishing enemy light horsemen.
Yakitori! As the Serbs fell under the swinging katana blows of the flanking Heavy Samurai, the Ottomans own best cavalry had reversed the transaction and slammed forward after overrunning a supposedly solid block of Samurai close fighters who had been tasked with simply holding them up while the Serbs were eaten alive.
Suddenly jubilation turned to concern and pursuit turned to regroup as the Samurai sought to rethink their plans in the context of this stunning turn of Ottoman fortune.
At the moment of victory,
tighten the straps of your helmet
The Samurai horsemen on the outer flank were doing far better than their pedestrian colleagues, triggering a vast implosion of Ottoman manpower as they went onto the front foot and took the battle to the Eurasian horsemen in some style.
Instead of breaking through the Ottomans were now facing the very real prospect of being broken through themselves on this wing, much to the concern of their main block of Janissaries who's flanks now looked in grave danger - even the Turkish Akinji who had been attacking the rear of a Samurai horsemen now realised his position was not exactly ideal..
Slice me some Sushi! The roll-up on the opposite flank was now also gathering some serious pace. Having succesfully withstood the Ottoman surge, the Close Fighting Samurai warriors were slowly but surely dragging down the Serbs as well, pinning both forces permanently to the tabletop as the rest of their more lightly armed comrades systematically destroyed the Ottoman line from the Castle Wall end of the table.
With the Ottoman assault in tatters it was now only a matter of moments until the conherent Samurai line, and in this decisive case it's supporting Ashigaru stepping up to despatch the last, overly aggressive Akinji, finished off the enemy army.
The Serbs were blunted, the Ottomans were overrun and the Samurai had claimed a second, consecutive victory!
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
Winning is a habit, and now this Samurai army seems to have acquired it with 6 defeats of the enemy army from it's first 7 games. Whether the mutual destruction in round 1 really counts is of course debatable, but if you wish to have that debate with me it is best you come armed or we will find out if the most compelling of arguments is a full suit of lamellar armour and a 4 foot sword.
Yet again a key strategy with which the army was designed has been tested and proved correct - using the Heavy Foot to stand up to enemy knights whilst the rest of the army overruns and shoots up both flanks to rack up a victory is a grand approach that needs bravery as well as tactics.
One day maybe I have always also hoped that my cattle would come into their own, and here they surprised me by helping my attack brilliantly by the simple act of losing in the enemy turn. With no losses and the enemy drawn forward into danger by their own impetuosity this way of helping was I agree a little unexpected but a lotus flower cannot choose which sun it opens to welcome.
Spirit and good painting cures many miltary illnesses, and the sweep of the brush is like the swing of the sword in its abiity to bring resolution to a situation. Although with those new Citadel paints coming outmany hitherto believed-in things may well yet change.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Finally the beginnings of srategy and a plan are coming together - or so it would seem. The anvil of heavy infantry just about held firm long enough for an overwhelming amount of Samurai force on your left to roll up a less numerate enemy - although how much of this was down to your list design giving you a surplus of assets on this wing and how much of it rested on a seemingly rather too small Ottoman command being tasked with occupying too much board is perhaps debatable.
I also rather enjoyed the sight of Samurai being asked to prove their bravery by facing up succesfully against cavalry opponents of high quality. The risks thses men faced were well mitigated by width and shooting, and at last it sort of felt - perhaps for the first time - that this army was doing what it was supposed to do.
Much of tis however rests on the opposition being the sort of Cavalry army for which the Chinese and Mongols who you historically avoided fighting due to inclement weather and a disrupted international ferry schedule were injustly famous.
These are popular armies, but not all armies are of the popular type. Will we see a return to form, or another ideally mismatched opponent in the next game I wonder?
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition