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"My take at samurai warfare." Topic

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Trokoshea24 Mar 2020 9:31 a.m. PST

Like most of you that are interested by this area and period, the Sengoku Jidai in medieval Japan, I'm heavily dependant on English sources. I therefore accumulated a substantial number of books, booklets and rulesets on the topic from which I've built as best as I could an understanding of the organisation and functioning of the daimyo's armies. I'd like to expose it in order to have your comments and further enrich the thinking. Apologies for the long text and possible English mistakes (I'm mainly French speaking)

My personal fancy/goal is giving my best shot at making the game a simulation of samurai warfare. Consequently, reaching a clear level of granularity is important to me. And giving each main commander plenty but small units IMHO goes towards that goal. Streamlining army lists or going for big chunks (Naito Masatoyo's 1000 troops equaling 1 unit for instance) may be achieving someone else's goals, but then, samurai tends to become a simple "skin" on medieval/renaissance warfare. I play Napoleonic at battalion level for the same reason.

First, I'm building my first army along the Takeda clan (what else) because they are the easiest (data available for both numbers and heraldry). Vassals provide a sizeable force in times of war according to their revenue in koku (Turnbull published the Koyo Gunkan list of Takeda vassals in his Samurai Warlords book). I chose to divide my army into right wing, left wing, centre, reserve (daimyo's body of troop behind the centre) and rearguard. Each part has several vassals, be they parents, fudai or others. For instance, my right-wing force is composed of: Naito Masatoyo (as wing commander), Takeda Nobushige/Nobutoyo, Takeda Katsuyori and Kurihara Nobuyoshi (for which numbers exist but apparently no heraldry… I'll manage). ;-) Cavalrymen provided by each are: Naito 250, Nobushige 200, Katsuyori 200 and Kurihara 100.

To determine a "ballpark" total amount of troops and breakdown by type for each of the four, I used the Killer Katana method. However, I plan on playing with the Taiko! ruleset because it allows for very small units (as few as 2 miniature strong). I also chose to set the scale to 1 miniature for 25 men (half the scale of this ruleset). The total strength of the right wing is then 3000 (or 120 miniatures), numbers obtained considering the Takeda cavalry should be roughly 25% of their army. Then, I've formed units (23) with the number of miniatures allowed for each type and dispatched the units so that each vassal has the proper number of soldiers and a fair balance of samurai vs ashigaru.

Naito has a unit of 6 cav yari, 4 cav yumi (bow), 6 sam yari, 4 sam yumi, 6 ashi yari, 4 ashi teppo (arquebuse) and 10 "non-combatants" (ashigaru with other weapons and nobori – see below). 40 miniatures fit his expected 1000 troops. No pike unit as Nobushige has one (the aggregated 6 sam) and Katsuyori the other (the aggregated 6 ashi).

So! All 4 vassals would be acting as a force but each being responsible of his own contingent with no interpenetration allowed. Moral would be dealt individually with consequences on the neighbour(s) in case of failure.

Noboris and non-combatants now. My guess on big flags (mainly noboris by the 1560s) is that they had the purpose to make explicit where on the battlefield each main vassal's body of troops were. They would remain visible as long as that clan was in fighting order (just remind the scene of the movie Ran when the "Reds" rout). My conclusion is that they were most of the time behind the fighting elements of their clan and out of enemy's reach as much as possible… as well as most of the troops considered non-combatants. I therefore formed a single unit for each vassal including nobori banners and ashigaru armed with "other weapons" (melee weapons but not yari) equivalent to the 25% of non-combatants given by Killer Katana's list (10 miniature strong for Naito including 3 nobori flags).

What else? The 4 vassals/generals themselves accompanied by a uma jirushi bearer each on a base. 1 conch player and 1 messenger with the wing commander and possibly extra generals when obvious (the 2 eldest sons of Sanada Yukitaka accompanying him, Yamagata Masakage with his brother Obu Toramasa, etc).

Do you have more or less the same understanding as me? Any suggestions or data that would contradict part or all of that "intellectual buildup"? Do you have different ruleset preferences (and why)? Thanks for any feedback to come.

sillypoint25 Mar 2020 2:01 a.m. PST

Interesting. I take my primary source is Ran And Kagemusha. So unit fluidity is a thing- making this warfare different. To limit player responses…anyway a work in progress. Would like to be updated on your progress. 😜

Rabelais25 Mar 2020 2:29 a.m. PST

Kurihara Nobuyoshi should be Kurihara Nobumori (also known as Kurihara Masayoshi). The kamon website harimaya/kamon world has his kamon as being the same as the Takeda, i.e. the four diamonds.

Trokoshea25 Mar 2020 5:44 a.m. PST

Thank you Rabelais. You're probably right about the first name of Kurihara. I'm an illiterate with kanji caracters (栗原信盛) so… Nobumori it is. Turnbull says somewhere that only troops of the family members (shinrui-shu) were wearing the four diamond mon on sashimonos (and possibly as their personal mon, like Nobukado), which would contradict your source since Kurihara is rather classified as a fudai in the Koyo Gunkan. The main relatives referenced not named Takeda are: Ichijo Nobutatsu, Anayama Baisetsu, Nishina, Mochizuki, Katsurayama, Itagaki Nobukata and Kiso.

Trokoshea25 Mar 2020 5:59 a.m. PST

sillypoint I'm a big fan of these movies too. However, the one thing Kurosawa does not display is actual contact/melee between body of troops. The movie Heaven and Earth on the other hand (the japanese one mainly shot in a plain of Alberta) gives some hints on the way battles happened (in particular slow moving blocks of pike and speedier spear infantry that become static on contact, flowing cavalry units that mingle with those of the opponent in melee). Taiko! allows that in a wargame providing the players bother to have their units behave in this fashion.

Part time gamer25 Mar 2020 10:42 a.m. PST

Is anyone familiar with the Ancient History website? If so I'd be interested in your opinions.
I was looking for info on Japans Warring States/Feudal period and found this:
*Trokoshea, you -may- find it helpful.

History to me is an "Intellectual Candy" store, so I cant stay focused on any one for any extended period.

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2020 10:48 a.m. PST

I like the way you went through it

In a similar fashion I looked for a different ruleset – havent found the set I like so I blended Kantanas with Armatii using the different unit sizes so I could seamlessly go between larger and smaller units and making things more playable

Also used Brians clan books for additional information

link – this site has some good reviews about rule systems

the Samurai Archives were captured her link

Trokoshea25 Mar 2020 12:30 p.m. PST

Appreciated DisasterWargamer and Part time gamer :-)

sillypoint25 Mar 2020 6:34 p.m. PST

I'm painting my 15mm Sassanids, and researching Samurai battles on my dubious primary source- YouTube ;).
There are obvious flaws in this process, however, given the lack of definitive source for a subject like the effectiveness of a plated knight charge, YouTube will do for now.
We could do battles as: we turn up, we line up, we charge, someone breaks- end of game.
It is the fine granular qualities of a Samurai battles we are searching for.
I have long abandoned the search for a good set of rules for this period, recognising that we each have our own prejudices that will never be met- I play in group of 6-9- we play one massed battle on the same table. I have Samurai armies (2 sides) in 10mm, 15mm and 28mm. We usually allow the host to provide the table, army and rules- which results in particular parameters for the rule set we adopt.
So, how to mounted Samurai behave? Lance/Bow? Units have gaps between them? Unlike Streeter's depiction of the battle of Naseby? Do you prescribe deployment- missile troops up front? Do you proscribe
Game or simulation? I prefer constructing a set of rules that allow players to make choices, and the outcome is a consequence of those choices + a bit of luck.
Looking on with interest.

WKeyser27 Mar 2020 11:07 p.m. PST

This gamer has probably the best take on Samurai warfare I have seen on the table. Originally a board game but he has converted it to the table.


Trokoshea28 Mar 2020 4:37 a.m. PST

WKeyser How wonderful!!! I did not know this website. And his understanding fits mine in many ways (evolution of the command structure from loose clannic to a "type of troops" one). I owe you! Thanks. :-) My project is for earlier armies circa 1550-65 and with focus set on a smaller scale depiction but the understanding behind is totally compatible.

WKeyser29 Mar 2020 12:11 a.m. PST

Hi Trokoshea
Yes I have been looking for rules for table top large battles for years. The ironic thing is I had those boardgames and played those years ago and had forgotten about them.

I think his take on the various formations is spot on, the idea that clans are together also rings true. Wargames have tended to treat Japanese warfare the same as European and from all I have read it misses the point.

The main things I am drawn to is the interpretation of how clans fought as a united entity. So bases had all types of warriors from ashigaru to samurai on one base, not the standard bow men on one base and all the bases combined into units etc.

Great stuff, now I just have to get myself going and painting those 10mm minifigs I bought years ago and was never able to find a set of miniature rules that would inspire me to paint them, now I have those rules.

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2020 3:43 p.m. PST

You might find this helpful

barcah200129 Mar 2020 6:28 p.m. PST

The board game does appear to be the answer for many of us who have been searching for a good set of big battles rules. Some unique and clever ideas here. But trying to find a combat table for the miniatures seems to be a problem.

Rabelais30 Mar 2020 1:43 a.m. PST

Thanks WKeyser, very kind of you!

barcah2001, if you're referring to the combat results table, then if you can't find a copy of the game, there are some translations of the play aids on the Board Game Geek page for Tenkatoitsu. Some of these contain the CRT. The CRT is exactly the same as the one in the 'Kawanakajima' game by the same designer too.

A couple of thoughts for anyone thinking of going down the Tenkatoitsu road:

It uses a lot of figures. You'll want around 20 bases a side eventually, and that's a lot of figures even in 6mm. So it's worth planning how many figures you want to use per base beforehand, or how big the bases you want to use. I used 95mm x 70mm bases for 100mm grid squares, but having 70mm square bases (for 6mm) on 75mm grid squares instead would be a saving in terms of figures painted and an increase in battlefield space without much loss in visual impact.

If you don't like using a grid, then I think a conversion of the rules to using measured distances is a LOT easier if you have square bases/units.

barcah200130 Mar 2020 1:53 p.m. PST

While looking for the game, does anyone think there are there elements that might be used to do modification of Taiko?

Triplecdad02 Apr 2020 12:55 p.m. PST

I will chime in: We have not used our Samurai armies in a long while, but Taiko! is an excellent set of rules for all sizes of armies. We played a 6-player game with each player controlling hundreds of figures ( and especially me since I was playing Ikko Ikki!) It was just what you want in a wargame, bloody with a bit of treachery thrown in. All our figs were Two Dragons. They are excellent.

barcah200102 Apr 2020 6:04 p.m. PST

Triplecdad, been using and enjoying Taiko (3 dragons figures) with Killer Katana for clan and personality reference for at least 10 years. If you are looking to move more into a simulation, then this game is very special. I encourage you to take a look at the rule book.

Trokoshea02 Apr 2020 6:07 p.m. PST

Triplecdad I have begun collecting samurai miniatures 25 years ago with Minifigs being the only choice at my local hobby shop. Since then, I've mailordered quite a bunch of Two Dragons. I will soon receive a 1rst detachment of Peter Pig's and order from Old Glory 15s as soon as the monthly deal is "pike and shot/samurai". Having a quarter of the army being cavalry is a bit expensive. ;-)
My last experience with Taiko! turned to be a shooting bloodbath even though the shooting unitswere smal and few. I hope the next ones with let melee units do their job.

barcah200103 Apr 2020 10:07 a.m. PST

WKeyser, getting the game pieces together, making my own help sheets . Is there much variation between the leaders for the CP rolls? I see Kenshin is sllightly better than Shingin. General leadership ratings are available through KK2, which I believe span +3 through a reched-1

barcah200129 Apr 2020 6:19 a.m. PST

Good article on warrior monk-Ikko-Ikki armies at the Tenka Fubu site notes above:

Trokoshea03 May 2020 6:19 p.m. PST

Thanks barcah. This guy's wordpress is worth reading.

barcah200104 May 2020 4:03 p.m. PST

I agree, something fresh and — and probably more historically accurate. Plus, it looks great! Samurai Lords in all their glory!

Trokoshea04 May 2020 6:08 p.m. PST

Yesterday, I raised the banners of Naito Masatoyo. I can't wait for the missing basing ingredients I mailordered to arrive! Nobori bearers are Minifigs, the general and uma jirushi bearer are Two Dragons. I'll share the pattern and measurements of my hand made noboris later on. I feel they have a better look than those that are casted (all 15mm manufacturers combined).

barcah200104 May 2020 6:27 p.m. PST

Those do look much better than the nabori banner castings! I've always liked the two dragons range, but now deep into Baccus samurai. Wish there was a competing firm with quality 6mm to add some variety for differentiating clans.

Trokoshea04 May 2020 7:04 p.m. PST

With a bit of patience on Adobe Illustrator, I also managed to get plenty of home made water transfers (I use Papilio products). I'll have most of the sashimonos, noboris, and uma jirushis with some on. Naito don't need any but this tsukaiban member did. ;-)

Rabelais05 May 2020 2:24 a.m. PST

2d6 Wargaming are working on a 6mm samurai range now, which should be bigger than the Baccus one. No idea of potential release dates though.

barcah200105 May 2020 4:35 a.m. PST

That would be fantastic! Looking forward to a new range.

barcah200109 May 2020 3:49 p.m. PST

Latest from Tenka FubuJapanese scholars are apparently now in agreement that the climatic battle of Sekigahara really was a 2 hour rout with no drama—the treachery having taken place the day before.

Trokoshea05 Jun 2020 2:28 p.m. PST

Here's the full result of my "take" at the Takeda army 1565 along the lines drawn by Brian Bradford in KK. 22500 men. Many lesser vassals aren't there. Anyways, I could not gather (until now) any piece of information on the strength of their body of troops or their personal heraldry.

The spread sheet is in French with the exception of the Rearguard (in yellow at the bottom) so that you may find the meaning of the few French words that may reveal problematic.

Trokoshea06 Jul 2020 7:35 a.m. PST

As I promised, here is my homemade nobori template (proportions aren't shown properly but the measurements are good). Uma-jirushi are built the same way with different proportions horizontal vs vertical.
The hatched zones have been set to 4 mm to fit the diameter of the metal rods I use as nobori shafts. That may well need to be ajusted (to 3 mm, to 5 mm) if you use bigger or smaller ones.
After I fold the two sides together as precisely as possible, I cut the hached zones in tiny paper bands leaving a mix of 2mm and 1 mm bands (usually a wider at both ends and eventually one in the middle if required to get the spacing even) – see picture below. I do the same for the top part. The 2 mm solid band is coming underneath (glued first with PVA glue around the horizontal part of the shaft so it ends in between the 2 vertical flaps when these are glued together).

Trokoshea06 Jul 2020 7:48 a.m. PST

A hint for painting the banners.
If some of the paper bands aren't meant to be white (like the red ones on the pic above), I suggest you paint the same color on the inside surfaces before the gluing step. The same for the banner poles (painted before assembly).

vonkluge Supporting Member of TMP15 Jul 2020 6:44 p.m. PST

Great thread guys! I love the period and have been building two army's for years (15mm). I hate to say it but I'm not a purist and build my army's in a much more "Hollywood" style in other words I build it to look good in the way I think looks good. I have plenty of books, done plenty of research, and finally decided to just paint what I wanted put it on the table and "lets Rumble" My hats off to you guys who take the "high road" and attempt perfection, your "tea ceremony" beats my "tea ceremony" but mine make me happy and people love them…lol! Besides I have a castle! so there 8P

I do not play much since none of my group do samurai but I love to build and paint so the army's get bigger from time to time. Most of my stuff is Two Dragons but there are a fair amount of Perter Pig figures and a smattering of others as well. I've used most rules but settle on Battles in the Age of War by Peter Pig as the ones for me. I'm in California, LA area and would love to find some players out here when we can play again!

Bill W

Trokoshea18 Jul 2020 6:06 a.m. PST

Thanks Bill for your testimony. I can relate to the fun of just "gaming the thing". I enjoy it too… A lot. :-)

But through all of my historical gaming (same goes through my History background at university as well), I've always wondered how things really happened and how a lambda set of rules would translate that reality on a table top. For the Napoleonic era, I settled for Carnage and Glory that brings the computer calculation power to the rescue (accounting for ammo, fatigue and other factors). But I also came to the conclusion I would never "learn" from a game unless the players agreed to do it the way it was done. In this case, giving time to the frontline units to grind the opponent before any attempt to exploit a weak spot by a 2nd line or ultimately the reserve. What gaming showed me almost every time was: two sides in a hurry to collide in hand-to-hand with no notion of attrition and looking for instant disorganization (because "we only have the afternoon to get a decision"). Even less attention was given to the notion of reserves (battles are supposed to happen during a campaign and thus the "all or nothing" wasn't a credible stance or rarely). So, simulation in the hope of learning something from historical gaming remained a "niche market" and had to be acknowledged from the start.

For the Sengoku Jidai warfare, it's no different. We all are happy to game it with wonderful miniatures like yours. Although to give ourselves a chance to understand the specific dynamics of the daimyo's armies, one has to learn about the tactics, find an opponent that is as knowledgeable and ready to alter his decision making accordingly. That's why I first tried to build the Takeda army in a way that fits. I say "I tried" so I may well fail for many good reasons that I haven't figured out yet.

With that in mind, the choice of the scale then matters. "How to simulate the clanic structure of the early years and the gradual passage to a more unit type structure?" With a one unit per clan approach? With many small units for each clan? These are guesses and will remain so as historical evidences are few and "foggy".

The most important is still the enjoyment we get from this hobby no matter what approach drives us.

grahambeyrout19 Jul 2020 2:23 a.m. PST

I am on my third attempt to start in the Sengoku Jidai period, having twice given up because I could not find a set of rules that seemed to reproduce the period. I feel that part of the problem is that the period saw significant changes in troop organization, tactics and weaponry in the period the 150 years or so between 1467 to 1615. I feel it is impossible to cover that time span with one set of rules. Yet rule sets seem to expect this. Even if there were rules that did accommodate all the period, I am reaching the conclusion that I cannot base my figures in any way that would allow me to cover the period. I either go for small mixed contingents based on the following of a feudal retainer of the early period, or larger more homogeneous units based on weapon type of the later times became common- aquebusier units being the obvious example. Consequently I am going to have to decide to either stick with one specific period, or have two differently based armies.

Trokoshea19 Jul 2020 5:35 a.m. PST

I hear you, Graham. This problem of ours had me decide to base troops for the Taiko! ruleset (2 miniatures of the same type per base). This way, I can form standard units from small to large size (2, 4, 6, …, 24 strong). That also allows me to put together all the miniatures of a clan in a single mixed bunch if I please (unit trays would then be required) to depict clan entities.

Since I planned the army with a 1 mini for 25 men ratio, it is possible to play with a 1 to 50 (Taiko!'s) or even 1 to 100 ratio so that clans "inflate with the same number of miniatures" when necessary.

Again, my goal is to reach a good level of granularity so that I stand a chance to understand the tactical level in detail while not giving up flexibility a- to use other rulesets or b- to adapt the army structures for a early Sengoku Jidai scenario.

I don't claim it's THE solution, but unless I hear from another wargamer that there's a better way to achieve the same goals, that IMO will do.

grahambeyrout20 Jul 2020 9:45 a.m. PST

Thanks Trokoshea. I have never used movement trays, but I suspect that I may have to start.

Trokoshea20 Jul 2020 10:33 a.m. PST

Yes. Since a unit representing a whole clan is an abstraction at some degree, you're the one to decide the capacity of each tray. ;-)

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