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Tatsunoshi
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2008 3:37 am    Post subject: Japanese History War Game/Simulation/Board Game Releases Reply with quote
Tenka Goudatsu: Sekigahara O Koete (天下強奪:関ヶ原を越えて-an operational level tabletop simulation of the entire Sekigahara campaign, including the various castle sieges) is out. It's included in Command Magazine Japan #78. Looks like one of the more interesting Sekigahara games among the dozen or so out there, with a nice map stretching from the Osaka area to the eastern castles involved in the campaign.



War Game In Japanese History VASSAL page


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2008 9:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Sengoku Fuunshou (戦国風雲抄-roughly "Warring Provinces State Of Affairs Summary", or "Sengoku Happenin's") is a Japanese language bagged boardgame that is your typical exercise in "choose a daimyo and grab all the provinces". It's set up for multi player and is a pretty quick play for games of this type-it's also easy to pick up and learn. You get instructions, full color labels for making counters, 4 sheets of cards, and a 4 section map of Japan that is patterned after old maps rather than new accurate ones.



Also new is "Shinsengumi Miburou" (新撰組壬生狼-Shinsengumi:Wolves Of Mibu). This Japanese language 9-17(!) player game is card based and should be a big hit with Shinsengumi fans. Take the role of your favorite member and cooperate/compete with the other members as you sweep the streets of Kyoto clean of Loyalists and other hardened criminals. Included is a pretty detailed instruction book, biography cards of the 17 Shinsengumi members with original artwork, and a mixed deck of event/character cards (all printed in Shinsengumi blue).



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 1:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
GMT's detailed and meticulously researched wargame of Sengoku era warfare, RAN


has been out for awhile, but you can now get rulebook errata plus a patch for the Nagakute battle map HERE.

There's also rulebook errata for the 2nd edition of SAMURAI (the earlier game with most of the marquee battles like Sekigahara, Kawanakajima, and Nagashino) HERE.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2008 2:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Hideyoshi Choujou Kessen (秀吉頂上決戦, Hideyoshi's Battles On The Summit) is the newest release from Game Journal in GJ #26:



It contains two games: Tennouzan Kassen (天王山合戦, Battle Of Mt Tennou-ie, Yamazaki) and Shizugatake Kassen (賤ヶ岳合戦, Battle Of Shizugatake). Like most Game Journal games, it features easy to learn rules (by simulation standards), fast gameplay times, area movement, and some card driven events to introduce a random element. The magazine that comes with the game features historical background articles on the battles, play tips for these and other Sengoku period games, and a big feature on next month's upcoming special release-Tenka Fubu (天下布武), a multiplayer game focusing on Nobunaga's campaigns to conquer Japan.


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PostPosted: Thu May 01, 2008 5:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


Just out from Game Journal is Tenka Fubu (天下布武-Rule The Empire By Force), a tabletop simulation (all in Japanese language) of Oda Nobunaga's drive to Kyoto from 1560-1570 (it takes place right after the Imagawa have been defeated at Okehazama). Rather than a regular Game Journal issue, this is a special edition and has a bigger map and more components than normal. Inlcuded are the map, rulebook, 396 full color counters (some with portraits of daimyo), and 128 cards.
As with most Game Journal games, it features area movement, random events introduced via cards, and a relatively easy to learn game system. A nice feature this time is using another set of cards to plan your tactical actions during battle. For 2-6 players (Oda Nobunaga, Azai Nagamasa, Uesugi Kenshin, Takeda Shingen, Matsunaga Hisahide, and Kennyo Kosa) with many other daimyo along as non-playable clans. It's sort of a companion to the earlier 'Nobunaga Surrounded' Game Journal special (this one might eventually be published in English by Multiman Publishing), that roughly covered the period 1570-1580 (although each uses a unique game system). A well done effort that looks like it would be perfect for an SA conclave!



Also out is Plan Sunset #3, the support magazine for Sunset games. This company has reprinted many of the Epoch Japanese series of games from the 80's. Included is a short one page article on Fedual Lord (戦国大名) and a very nice eight page article covering variants and strategies for Sekigahara (関ヶ原-this is the reprint version of the game A.J. Bryant wrote about in the first edition of his Osprey Sekigahara book).


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PostPosted: Sat May 10, 2008 2:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Probably the most impressive series of wargames/simulations centering on pre-modern Japanese warfare is the set of Japanese language games produced by Tsukuda Hobby of Japan in the 1980's (the age of monster wargames). There were 8 in the series-each was a stand alone game focusing on a specific area of Japan (usually highlighting the daimyo that had the most impact there, like Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Oda Nobunaga, or Date Masamune, or in some cases the locale, like the Kanto, Shikoku, or Kyushu). Each game was extremely detailed, and when the eight were combined and played as one game comprised a monster simulation that would take up the floor of a large room!
The games are still extremely popular among Japanese gamers today, and there are quite a few fan based expansions that have found their way onto the market. One of these is the recent release from Solger, Chinzei Gunki (鎮西軍記-Kyushu War Chronicles).



This is an inexpensive expansion kit (about ¥1500) for the 'Kyushu Sangoku' game in the old Tsukada series. Whereas the original game covered the warfare centering around the Otomo, Shimazu, and Ryuzoji, the expansion includes units, rules, and tables to simulate Hideyoshi's invasion of Kyushu. There are full color sticker sheets (front and back) to make new unit counters for Hideyoshi's forces (the game thoughfully supplies cardboard sheets to make them out of!), 15 pages of new rules and scenarios, and player aid cards for organizing the new and old forces. It's a nicely done fan effort and brings new life to an old favorite.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2009 1:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Finally, after almost a year there’s something to talk about on the tabletop Japanese historical simulation front. Even better, it’s a new, exceedingly well produced S & T style magazine/game that’s focusing on Japanese history (unlike Command Magazine and Simulations Journal, which feature mostly Western battles). The aptly named 季刊ウォーゲーム日本史 #1 (Japanese History War Game Quarterly #1-and yes, it's all Japanese language) features Shinsengumi Chronicles: Bloody Tales Of The Kamogawa (新選組始末記: 鴨川血風録-Shinsengumi Shimatsu Ki: Kamogawa Ketsu Fuuroku) as its debut entry. Played out on a map of Bakamatsu Kyoto from the Imperial Palace and Nijo Castle to Gion, Kiyomizudera, and points beyond, the player can assume the role of the Shinsengumi (the Shogunate sponsored police force that terrorized the Loyalist factions in Kyoto) along with the Mimiwarigumi and the Shugoshoku (Kyoto Protector’s Office), or try to spread the fires of rebellion as the assorted factions of the Loyalists. The game becomes even more interesting when different players take on the separate factions of the Loyalists (Choshu, Satsuma, Tosa, Imperial Tomb Guards-a VERY small faction!, and Miscellaneous-even the mythical Kurama Tengu, Kurata Tenzen, as an optional piece), showing more than ever how a small force like the Shinsengumi was able to control the city for so long while the opposing forces went in their own directions.

Unlike most other war games, here each counter represents a single individual taken from history. All of the ‘big names’ are here (from Serizawa Kamo, Kondo Isami, Hijikata Toshizo, and Okita Soji to Takechi Hanpeita, Katsura Kogoro, Sakamoto Ryoma, and Saigo Kichinosuke) along with dozens of others (over 100 characters total). Each individual is rated on combat ability, status and official position (important in command and politics), literature (more like intelligence, useful for building alliances and gaining support), and command ability. The differing forces battle for control of the city’s political institutions as well as to kill off members of opposing factions. If you have a ‘propensity to kill’ and a ‘lust for power’, then this is the game for you!
The magazine itself is a first class package from top to bottom. Unlike other game magazines, Japanese History War Game comes in a square bound cardboard cover that has the magazine pages on the inside front cover and a plastic bubble containing the game components (map of Kyoto, counters, etc) on the left. The magazine is printed in full color on nice heavy stock glossy paper with the rules opposite the game components and the features behind the cover. There are great historical articles that blend with the game. There’s a history of the Shinsengumi, photos and descriptions of the locations (and site markers) on the map are shown, and each individual counter in the game is given a biography. Every section of the map is given a historical background as well, and there are articles on Shinsengumi movies and TV shows and their role in pop culture. There’s even a recreation of the Ikedaya Incident, showing how it would play out in the game. One of my favorite features is a manga strip that runs throughout the book with the mascots becoming part of the historical action and offering game tips (this is also something that Game Journal and Command do). There’s even the requisite cute as can be girl who sporadically becomes insanely violent (at one point putting the ‘tenchu’ on an unsuspecting slob with a sword strike from behind).

Issue two’s game looks like it will be an update of the classic Epoch/Sunset game Feudal Lord (Sengoku Daimyo)-it’s called Shin-Sengoku Daimyo. It also looks like they’re planning on releasing Shinsengumi Battle Record (新撰組戦記-Shinsengumi Senki). This features two Shinsengumi battle games simulating the Ikedaya Incident (池田屋事件-Ikedaya Jiken) and the Battle Of Aburanokoji (油小路の戦い-Aburanokoji No Tatakai).


Also out is Plan Sunset #4, the support magazine for Sunset Games. In this issue is a short article on Feudal Lord (Sengoku Daimyo), the Sunset version of the game mentioned above.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 1:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


Wow-nothing for a year, and then two tabletop games in two days. I wasn’t expecting this one, as I had preordered it in 2006 and haven’t heard anything since-but it arrived early this morning. “A Most Dangerous Time: Japan In Chaos 1570-1584” by Multi-Man Publishing is the English language version of the Japanese game (produced by Simulations Journal) “Nobunaga Saidai No Kiki” (also known as ‘Encircled Ruler At 1570’ and ‘Nobunaga’s Greatest Crisis’). It (along with Feudal Lord) is probably the most popular historical simulation game ever produced in Japan. This operational level game recreates the battles of Oda Nobunaga (along with the Tokugawa, Matsunaga, Tsutsui, and Hosokawa) against the so called “Anti-Nobunaga Alliance” of the Ashikaga, Azai, Asakura, Rokkaku, Enryaku-ji, Ishiyama Hongan-ji, Murakami, Takeda, Uesugi, Saika, Mori, Ukita, and Miyoshi. Historically, Nobunaga was able to divide and conquer his foes (helped along by huge amounts of good luck) only to see his achievements disappear when he foolishly left himself open to attack and was killed by one of his own vassals. Each unit in the game represents between 1000-2000 men and all of the above clans (plus several ‘neutral’ ones) have their own counters. There are other counters for individual leaders, castles, temples, and to signify special conditions (such as ‘out of supply’). As with most of the current crop of Japanese games, it uses a point-to-point movement system rather than hexes, and card play has a major impact on the proceedings. An exceedingly well balanced, detailed, and entertaining game, it’s focused on politics and warfare.
While a lot of players HATE the idea of card play in a simulation (and I can’t say I’m a fan of it myself) for the random luck element it introduces, it’s not so bad when it’s handled as it is here. The cards introduce historical events and others that could have happened. Thankfully, it doesn’t end up with Pokemon or Magic: The Gathering style gameplay where there’s a constant exchange of cards and negating cards. One side or the other gets an advantage and occasionally a card can be countered by another, but this part of the game simulates the ‘winds of fate’ more than giving an advantage to a player who can skillfully manipulate his hand. Granted, this could all be done by having optional rules rather than cards, but somehow that wouldn’t be quite as much fun as playing the ‘Oda Insults the Shogun’ or ‘Burn Enryaku-ji’ card.
Solid decision making, negotiating skills, and operational/tactical planning will more often than not win the day here. That isn’t to say that having a vassal turn traitor at the wrong place at the wrong time won’t bring the whole house of cards down, but as Oda found out, that’s the nature of life-and death. “A Most Dangerous Time” will be available in the next couple of weeks directly from Multi-Man (preorders have been shipped) or through your favorite hobby store.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2009 1:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote




The Japanese language publication Game Journal has the game Bunroku Chousen No Eki (文禄朝鮮の役-Korean War of The Bunroku Era) as the featured simulation in issue #31. This simulation of the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592-3 covers the land war through the initial Japanese conquest of much of the Korean peninsula through the rise of the Korean Righteous Armies and the intervention of the Ming. Above you'll see the game map, rulebook, random event cards for both the Japanese and Korean/Ming forces, and the unit counters. The unit counters do an excellent job of reflecting the intial orders of battle-there are leader counters for each large contigent as well as their forces, and the Japanese OOB is nicely partitioned into the initial divisions. There's enough rules to give a good level of detail and accuracy but not enough to bog the game down. Like the majority of Game Journal's efforts, it features an area movement system and random events introduced by card play. The area movement system is actually more involved than usual, and doesn't take as much away from accurate gameplay. I'm also starting to come around to the idea of cardplay in a simulation-game designers are becoming better at integrating them as realistic random events a commander would have had no control over, and as a result becoming less of a way for a skilled card player/lousy commander to pull off a win. It falls a bit short insofar as the naval war is completely ignored, only refelcted in abstract concepts. The effect of supply, the major reason the Japanese advance was halted, is also largely absent (which makes for an easier but less accurate game). Overall, it's a fun to play and accurate simulation of the Bunroku war.
The magazine also features several articles on the historical war, the best of which is Hideyoshi's Dream/Hideyoshi's Nightmare. Another article uses photos of the game to explain and detail the troop movements and battles of the war, a very helpful concept that even the maps in most Japanese and English sources can't match. Finally, there's a six page manga that features Korean Admiral Yi as a woman, which I found absolutely hilarious.
The rest of the mag features reviews of other new games, game retrospectives (including Sengoku Daimyou), game designer's roundtable, hsitorical articles on other games/periods, and the like. It seems GJ is going back into a pre-modern Japanese history phase (the last few issues have been largely modern Western conflicts), as the next issue (#32) will feature not one, but TWO different Sekigahara games.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 2:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Two new samurai warfare simulations have been released recently:



Shin Sengoku Daimyo (新戦国大名, New Feudal Lord) is a revamped version of the Japanese language multiplayer megagame covering the unification of Japan in the 1500’s. Released first by Epoch in the 80’s (along with a later expansion kit that allowed up to 16 players to take part), it was reprinted about five years ago by Sunset Games (with new scenarios and leaders added later, but the planned expansion kit was cancelled). This ‘new’ version appears in the magazine/gamebox “Wargame of Japanese History Quarterly #2 (季刊ウォーゲーム日本史)”. It’s a somewhat more compact and scaled down version of the original, but carries over the familiar area movement/card driven/province grabbing action of the original.



As can be seen by the map in the photos, it no longer encompasses all of Japan-just the center area of Honshu (much like other recent similar ‘province grab’ games like ‘Encircled Ruler At 1570’-or its English version ‘A Most Dangerous Time’, ‘Tenka Fubu’, ‘Road To Honnoji’, ‘True Record Of Nobunaga’, or ‘Nobunaga Surrounded’-many of which you can read about in earlier entries on this thread). Personally, I’d prefer more games covering individual battles on an operational level and fewer grand strategy games focusing on Nobunaga’s attempt to unify Japan (which has grown tiresome as a subject). But, ‘New Feudal Lord’ does deliver up a faster paced game that is far more competitive and involving than the earlier versions (with less of the nationwide mop up required to win at the full versions of the others). Most of this is due to the fact that gameplay is capped at five players. As is traditional in Feudal Lord, you’re not limited to playing any single clan-you can use the color sorted forces to set up anywhere on the map, and everyone starts out even in forces and resources. While the six daimyo cards used in the game are obviously based on Uesugi Kenshin, Takeda Shingen, Hojo Ujiyasu, Ashikaga Yoshikage, Oda Nobunaga, and Saito Dosan, the example of game play in the magazine substitutes the Miyoshi for Saito/Takeda (there are six daimyo cards, but only room for 5 players-go figure). Gameplay is affected by the capabilities of the historical generals one is able to recruit, and also by random events introduced by card play.

‘Wargame of Japanese History’ has quickly become my favorite Japanese gaming magazine. The rules and magazine are combined and printed on high quality stock, and bound into the heavy duty laminated cardboard cover/box. The components (two full sheets of counters, 50 cards, a map, and various sized Ziplocs to store counters and the map after punching) are sealed in a clear plastic bubble attached to the cover. The full color magazine has 10 pages of rules and 22 pages of game replay articles, reviews of samurai DVD’s that have relevance to the game, historical articles on the daimyo and history involved, reviews of other video/war games, and more. There’s also a color comic strip running throughout the rules that helps to illustrate several effective techniques to be used in the game-I must admit, the gleefully homicidal behavior displayed by the purple-haired female half of the strip’s two hosts has endeared her to me. The game even goes the extra mile, including a separate 4 page handout detailing variant versions of the game with a color page of new cards and leader counters to use. Looks like Issue #3’s game will be a strategic version of Sekigahara-at least the 16th simulation based on the battle. Hopefully, one day this mag will do some hex-based versions of lesser-known battles (or at least major ones that haven’t been done, like Winter Osaka). Still, a great package and recommended.





Also recommended is the first Japanese-themed release from a French company, Hexasim. Kawanakajima 1561 is the first of what they hope will be a series of games utilizing a common system based on famous battles of the Sengoku Jidai. Game rules are available in English or French (and a complete set can even be downloaded from their website), and the game is packaged in a Ziploc bag containing an attractive folder filled with the game components.



Along with a sheet of colorful counters, the instructions, and two game aid sheets you get a large map of the Kawanakajima area, which includes an additional detail map of Fort Kaizu (which can be sieged in an optional scenario of the game). The map of the fortress is accurate, seemingly being based on the reconstruction of Matsuhiro (Kaizu's other name). The system used to invade the castle is a very interesting and unique game mechanic, requiring the attacker to break down the outlying defenses bit by bit and section by section just as in a real assault, a long and costly (in terms of manpower) method of conquest. It’s obvious the developers have done their share of reading on Japanese warfare. The units are grouped by leaders and combat results use an innovative table that takes both morale and troop size (or ‘elan’ and ‘mass’) into account, with lots of easy-to-figure modifiers based on the orders each unit is operating under. The simple command system does an incredibly good job of simulating the difficulties of commanding a Sengoku era army after it’s been committed to battle. An easy game to play with a relatively small amount of counters and bookkeeping, it’s one of the more accurate simulations done of samurai warfare on a tactical level. I prefer it to previous efforts done on the same battle such as ‘Furinkazan’, ‘Kenshin Vs. Shingen’, ‘Shingen Vs. Kenshin: Bloody Battle Of Kawanakajima’, ‘Shinano War Chronicle’, ‘Battle Of Kawanakajima’, and GMT’s Kawanakajima game. The game also includes interesting developer’s notes and an historical background article that, although using outdated information in places, is generally accurate. And you know those blank counters that pop up on virtually every counter sheet? Hexasim has found a novel use for them-they’ve printed ‘preview counters’ for upcoming games on them. Included are counters for Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Ishida Mitsunari, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and Ii Naomasa for the upcoming games (yay!) ‘Yamazaki’ and (boo!) yet another ‘Sekigahara’ (which would be at least the 17th-or the 20th, if the two upcoming Game Journal releases and GMT's developing effort are counted). Hopefully, Kawanakajima will do well and ensure that these games will get released.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 6:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Click HERE for the SA/Shogun-ki's post on 'Selling Sekigahara-The Legacy Of The Taiga Drama' (which features Sekigahara books and simulations).
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 28, 2009 8:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Since Tatsu has about as much romance in his soul as Curly from the 3 Stooges, he did the sensible thing by askin' the Brickster to write this review for Genji (created by Dylan Kirk for Z-Man Games). Since nobody'd ever believe me if I told you the game's premise in my own words, I'm takin' it straight from the rule book (my comments in parentheses):

"1010 AD: In the Imperial court of old Japan, one book title is on everyone's lips: The Tale Of Genji, the story of the greatest lover in all Japan. In a world where nights are filled with furtive romances (and women afraid of Ashigaru breakin' in), all men at court want to imitate Genji's success. The most prolific lover will go down in history as the real Genji!

You are a courtier in the court of Emperor Ichijo in a time in Japanese history when poetry and the arts reigned supreme. Your goal is to increase your reputation at court by secretly visiting Princesses and winning their hearts by writing them the greatest love poetry. At the end of the game, the player who has the most Reputation Points is the winner!"

What the hell? You're supposed to win a Heian broad's heart by spoutin' poetry? That trick NEVER works, Bullwinkle. Well, except in the modern day after they invented the electric guitar, when it's a no-miss proposition. I mean, a game dealin' with romance like the classic 'Office Party' or 'Around The World In Bed' needs to have a bit of drinkin' and hands on treatment. And lookin' at the poem cards included with the game, the Brickster didn't see the word 'Nantucket' once, any word that rhymed with 'China', or for that matter any lines that rhymed at all. Just a bunch of crap about flowers, spring breezes, and Dew on sleeves (and I know for a fact Mountain Dew wasn't around in those days). It was obvious that I was gonna need a woman's help to get my head inside the game. Normally I'd use Koyori, but she had went back to Japan after her photo shoot and I was still in the US doin' haunt publicity. Instead, I asked my pal Sonja (the same one from a coupla blog entries ago) to help me out. As you'll recall, Sonja's a part time haunt actress and a full time exotic dancer at Racer's gentlemen's club in Sparta, KY.



Anyway, the Brickster suited up in his authentic Heian court robes and Sonya wore her traditional Heian women's wear-a black leather bustier/hot pants combo and knee boots with stacked heels (and the heels ain't all that were stacked, I'm happy to say). We figured that's what they wore under all those robes-I was gonna ask Tony Bryant or Josh Badgley to confirm this for me, but since the literature on the era never says that it wasn't used, that was good enough for us. We opened the game and right away noticed that the components (82 Poem Cards, 6 Bonus Cards, 12 Princess Cards, 4 Season Cards, 3 Fashion Cards, 6 Pawns, 6 sets of markers, and rule books in English, Japanese, and French-hah! what do the French know about romance?) were of high quality and well done, with attractive Japanese style artwork and symbols. We also noticed there's not a gameboard-you make your own usin' the 12 Princess cards. This is kinda nice since you can in effect vary the gameboard with each play, and it simulates the Heian man's propensity for walkin' over women like they weren't there. After readin' the rules and seein' that you could only take the part of a male courtier, I wondered if Sonja would be OK with romancin' other women. She said that it wouldn't be the first time and that was fine with her. We decided to invent an optional rule on the spot-that every successful poem placed would result in that player downin' a glass of Shochu. After all, what's Japanese entertainment without a drinkin' game added?



The game system really grew on the Brickster fast. In the tradition of the best games, it's simple to learn and difficult to master. There are four seasons (turns), and the players make the rounds of the 12 Princesses, makin' up poems as they go and tryin' to score by puttin' their marker down with every success. The game system captures the vagrancies of Japanese poetry perfectly-a poem that's a big hit with one Princess might flop with another, and even become out of style or become flat with the change of seasons. Each Princess has her personal likes and dislikes-for example, since the Brickster likes romance and fall, he chose as his 'home' the Princess that prefers those. Since strippers don't believe in romance, Sonja took the Princess that loves springtime and nature. Each poem card represents a 'beginning' or 'end'-you can combine two to form a complete poem, or leave it unfinished (either completin' it later with a better card or riskin' lettin' an opponent finish your verse). Each card is suitable for a specific season or trend (like romance, nature, or melancholy), and you score points based on that. So a poem that has symbols for spring and melancholy on it might be a huge hit with a Princess who loves the two, and the effect is multiplied if it's spring and the current fashion is melancholy. But play the same cards in fall to some happy broad that prefers romance with the fashion bein' nature, and yer gonna look like the Shinin' Prince of jackasses.

Poems stay on the board, and half the fun of the game is challengin' the other player's poems and makin' them look bad-you not only get to 'steal their material' (by takin' one of the cards), but get to kick them out of the 'mansion' and rev up yer love machine for the Princess in question. Since the poems generally stay on the board until thus removed, you can wait a season and when that brilliant poem of spring sounds like the babblin' of Renfield from Dracula in summer, it's easy to blow it off the board and bring the Princess into yer lovin' embrace. Bonus cards can be played for 'refined calligraphy' or 'signature stamp'. There are also special 'flower' cards that can really score big, simulatin' the cut seasonal flowers a courtier might send to a Lady with his poem. After four turns, the player with the biggest reputation is the winner-this is based on 'Most Beautiful Poem', 'Cuckoldry Bonus' (I oughta clean up there), and points for winnin' each season. If you have a handful of garbage, you can spend a turn 'studyin' the classics' and draw new cards. This may all sound complicated as hell, but it's not-a stripper and a grade-Z movie actor learned it within a turn, so everyone else should have no problem.

Our playthrough started out enthusiastically, with me fallin' steadily behind as I was payin' more attention to lookin' at Sonja's ass than my poem cards. But as the wily Brickster had counted on, the successful poems Sonja placed and the attendant penalty glass of Shochu slowly worked its magic-she became more giggly, sloppy in her play, and began to hang on every word as the Brickster gave dramatic readin's of each of his poems in authentic formal high pitched courtier's speech-and she don't even understand Japanese. By the time Autumn rolled around, I knew by the gleam in her eyes that the three dollars I had spent on Shochu at I-75 Cork 'N Bottle's import section would not be wasted. When I triumphantly placed a double flower poem in season on a Princess who loved both and scored a whoppin' 12 points (the max), Sonja was moved to tears and could contain herself no longer. In a case of life imitatin' art, the poem that broke her will to resist was

"Entranced by your name,
Oh lovely maidenflower,
I have plucked your bloom,
Please do not let it be known
That you lured me from my vows."

Well, I'd say that summed up the real life situation pretty well-and provided the biggest score of the night, not just in game terms either. The part about keepin' her damn mouth shut was a nice touch, too. What happened really wasn't my fault-I'm a firm believer now in the mystical power of poetry to seduce women. In fact, I'm thinkin' they shoulda named the time of Genji the 'He-in' era.



All in all, the game was elegantly put together and does give players a basic understandin' of how Japanese poetry of the Heian era worked. It's a helluva lot of fun to play as well, with a situation that's always in flux and as unstable as the whims of a woman. While I'm not sure the general public will be seekin' it out, I can see it becomin' the hit of the Pre-Modern Japanese Studies (PMJS) list. Almost every member there is obsessed with poetry, Genji, or both to the exclusion of everythin' else. Their idea of a fun party game is tryin' to come up with 1,001 different translations for a three word poem and then arguin' about which one was best. Now, they have a workable alternative. Genji gets a big 'thumbs up' from the Brickster.
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Brick McBurly
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 4:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Guys, you know how it is-do somethin’ once, and all of a sudden you’re stuck wearin’ that label for the rest of your life. Well, recently the Brickster guest reviewed Z-Man’s board game ‘Genji’ for the Samurai Archives and now it looks like he’s been labeled with the tag of ‘game reviewer’. Check out all the stuff I’ve had forwarded to me the last couple ‘o weeks:



There’s Daimyo, Rice Wars, Bushido, Senji (an amalgamized ‘SENgoku JIdai’, accordin’ to legend), Samurai: The Card Game, Oshi (or "O shi*!" as the Brickster likes to call it when he's losin'), and HeroCard: Rise of the Shogun (with its ‘Prince’ and ‘Miko’ expansions). Heck, some of ‘em ain’t even in English! And from the looks of ‘em, there’s nothin’ to do with romancin’ the ladies (like Genji was), either. I’m not sure that I’m qualified to review a game like Rice Wars, where the object is to manage your fief’s farmland effectively and yield the most rice (and presumably NOT get laid in the process). I think maybe some rice counter like Tatsu or even LtDomer (who rumor has it has been hidin’ out in a sekrit lair in Iga the last coupla’ years) would be better off doin’ it. At any rate, the art direction and components of these games are gorgeous, and even though Bushido is in German (although I hear it’s bein’ released in English soon), you could use the box to knock a bank robber unconscious-that’s how much stuff it has inside. With the New Year and Christmas comin’ up, these games might make the perfect gift for that special someone.
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Tatsunoshi
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2010 3:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Just in time for the late December-early January ronin spotting season is Japanese History War Game Quarterly #4. This popular Japanese language game-in-a-magazine features “Uchi-iru Chushingura: Genroku Taiheiki” (討入忠臣蔵:元禄太平記, literally Raid of the Treasury of Loyal Retainers: The Genroku Era’s Chronicle of the Great Peace). The English translation actually works better as Chushingura Raid: Genroku Taiheiki. Chushingura is of course the fictionalized retelling of the 47 Ronin’s (they being the ‘Treasury of Loyal Retainers’, although it can also refer to the name of their leader Oishi Kuranosuke) historical raid on the mansion of Kira Yoshinaka. The Taiheiki is the famous gunkimono (war tale) of the 14th century Kenmu Restoration and Nanbokucho War which, among many other things, extolled the loyalty and bravery of Kusunoki Masashige (a samurai whose devotion to the Emperor, according to legend, never flagged). The subtitle is in effect calling the Ronin’s raid the Genroku era’s equivalent of the exploits and loyalty shown in the Taiheiki.



We were looking forward to this effort as the 47 Ronin is a favored topic of ours, but came away disappointed. As indicated by the title, the game is based on the Chushingura play, not the actual historical raid. The reasoning for this is understandable-simulating the 47 to 5 beat down that happened historically wouldn’t be much of a game. So Kira’s side has been beefed up substantially, acquiring many of the characters that appear as Kira’s vassals in the play (who either did not exist or were actually vassals of the Uesugi and not present at the raid). The game in slanted heavily in favor of the Ronin. Not only do the Ronin still have a pretty much two-to-one superiority in numbers, they have the initiative and the advantage of conducting a night raid where the enemy is sleeping. They’re also more powerful on a unit-to-unit basis (although the Ako Ronin were known for having poor sword skills). The numbers on Kira’s side may have been increased, but many of them are still unarmed household staff or monks that have no combat rating. Virtually the only way for the Ronin player to lose is to run out of turns before finding and killing Kira. Although all of the counters on Kira’s side are deployed at the start of the game, they’re flipped to their ‘hidden’ side-they have to be engaged by one of the Ronin to expose their identity. But with counters for 47 Ronin (and an optional 48th one), it doesn’t take a Bakufu rice counter to figure out that it’ll take no time at all to flip over the 30 enemy units. And while we’re complaining, they also took out the Manga strip that usually runs with the rules to illustrate gameplay points. The Ronin would have been a perfect subject for the antics of the comic’s hosts (but it looks like the strip will return for the next issue).

The news isn’t all bad-this is actually the first time I’ve seen the names of all 47 (48 ) Ronin, and the historical background in the magazine gives short biographies of each. Each of the Ronin and Kira vassals have individual counters that feature great ‘woodblock’ artwork based on historical renderings. The magazine claims to use the historical layout of Kira’s mansion for its game map. It appears to be a standard Edo mansion for a retainer of Kira’s rank, with none of the fortifications, secret passages, hiding places, etc, that are usually attributed to it in order to further glorify the Ronin. Historical articles give not only the story of Chushingura but also examine how it differed from history. There are photos of some of the sites and locations associated with the legend. An illustration of the game map is used to show how the raid played out historically. Finally, there’s a section devoted to ’47 Ronin’ DVD’s, spotlighting some of the better selections out of the dozens that have been produced in Japan. Even though things didn’t turn out perfectly here, it was good to see the magazine try something different-which, sadly, they’re not doing in the next issue. Issue 5 will contain yet another 4th Battle of Kawanakajima game-Kawanakajima Gunki (川中島軍記).

You'll also get (on the panel inside the plastic bubble where the game components are packed) the password that will allow you to go to the War Game In Japanese History web site and download the Vassal module for this game. Vassal, of course, is the free program that allows you to play online versions of any game you own a physical copy of (and that someone has created a Vassal module for).
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 19, 2010 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Game Journal #34 (the popular Japanese language wargaming magazine) features two historical simulations of interest this month: Moeyo! Anagawa No Tatakai (燃えよ! 姉川の戦い, Burn! Battle of Anegawa) and Seinan Sensou 1877 (西南戦争1877, literally The Southwest Campaign 1877 but traditionally known as the Satsuma Rebellion). While both games follow the Game Journal tradition of relative simplicity and playability (the Satsuma Rebellion has only four pages of rules, with pictures taking up over half of these), the Battle of Anegawa seems to be a bit more involved than many past GJ samurai themed efforts.



The Battle of Anegawa is a standard hex and counters simulation of the 1570 conflict between the forces of the Asakura and Azai on the north bank of the river facing the Oda and Tokugawa on the south. The game features an extremely detailed order of battle and the counters are color coded for ease in setting up (along with ‘shadows’ of the units on the map for initial placement). The historical positions and formations of each army follow historical accounts, and much like the actual battle, the game hinges on whether the smaller Tokugawa force will defeat the Asakura in time to aid the Oda (who get beat up by an Azai army that is inferior in numbers). The game map is more accurate and detailed than that included in GJ’s initial attempt at an Anegawa game (GJ #23, when it was paired with a Nagashino game) and is light years better than the blank travesty that GMT’s otherwise excellent ‘Samurai’ game has. It also encompasses the Oda forces to the southeast that were laying siege to a nearby castle that took part in the late stages of the battle. Why does it have the prefix burn? Well, several reasons-by all accounts, it was sweltering the day of the battle. It also refers to the high degree of resentment and anger felt between the Oda and Azai armies (with Nobunaga insisting on his army being the one set against them, while pitting the small Tokugawa army against an Asakura force larger than the Azai). Lastly, ‘Moeru’ (or in this case Moeyo) is a popular term used in Japan for conflicts (such as the Genpei War novel Kusa Moeru)-somewhat coming across as ‘the flames of war’. In any case, it’s a well done game that allows both sides to simultaneously attack and defend.



The Satsuma Rebellion 1877 is a simpler and fast-playing game that uses point-to-point movement. It’s focused on the aborted attempt to march on Tokyo by the so-called ‘Last Samurai’, Saigo Takamori. Saigo’s army of disgruntled former samurai attempts to clear the island of Kyushu of the Meiji government’s Imperial forces, while the Imperials desperately try to hold their ground until reinforcements can arrive. The orders of battle are somewhat simpler than the issue’s other game, reflecting the ad hoc and unofficial nature of the majority of Saigo’s forces (and for that matter, much of the Imperial Army). It’s nicely balanced with the greater initial strength of Saigo’s force being balanced by the depth of Imperial holdings (allowing the Imperial player to trade territory for time) and an abundance of reinforcements. It successfully recreates the historical situation and what both sides must do to win. The game map is small and can be set up virtually anywhere, making it an excellent short play.

As usual, the Game Journal is loaded with game reviews, designer’s notes, playing tips, and lots of historical articles. And Nobunaga’s sister Oichi sitting around with her top open-ya, rlly. Both the Satsuma Rebellion and Anegawa get plenty of coverage. There’s a nice two page spread of the game map and units that’s notated with the events of the battle:



And also an aerial view of the battlefield with the opposing forces overlaid:



You can’t go wrong with this package-two well thought out and organized games that look great and are fun to play with copious background material. Unfortunately, it looks like yet another in the seemingly endless string of Sekigahara games lies in the GJ’s future…


Last edited by Tatsunoshi on Fri Nov 12, 2010 10:05 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2010 11:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


4th Kawanakajima is second only to Sekigahara in the number of times that a samurai battle has been turned into a tabletop simulation. Adding to the stack is War Game In Japanese History #5's "Kawanakajima Gunki" (川中島軍記, Kawanakajima War Chronicle). This game is useful primarily for its order of battle and the counters that display the commanders that took part in the actual battle. Otherwise, it's highly abstracted, using area movement (odd for a tactical game) and a combat system that largely boils down to luck. Counters have extremely high defense values (usually 9) and very low attack values (usually 1 or 2), with the roll of two dice being added to the attack values to determine combat results. There's nothing in the way of differention between units, with samurai being 2/9 and ashigaru 1/9. Here's a look at the inside packaging displaying the counters:



The map is rather nice looking and an improvement over both GMT's and Hexasim's efforts:



As always, the magazine bound into the game package features historical background articles, a restaging of the battle's progress using photos of the game components, and reviews of DVD's that feature the Battle Of 4th Kawanakajima (all of which I was surprised to find I had). Sadly, it looks as if the manga strip that ran with the rules has been dropped for good. A nice package for those interested in the Takeda and Uesugi.

Next issue looks to be a simulation of the Bakumatsu's Hakodate campaign in Hokkaido, being subtitled 'The Last Samurai In The North'.
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PostPosted: Sun May 09, 2010 4:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


Every year the Samurai Archives runs its Samurai Fiction contest and every year we get a few entries that are woefully lacking in terms of realistic historical background. Names that couldn’t exist in Japanese are bandied about along with unrealistic depictions of government and culture at any given time. The SA Citadel message board also sees a steady stream of gamers of all varieties looking for available sources to help them out in building more realistic and believable environments and situations for their gaming scenarios. Up to now, there hasn’t been much in the way of resources tailored specifically to this market. There have been RPG’s such as Sengoku, Bushido, or Land of the Rising Sun that have given some background but being tied to a specific rules system sometimes makes them difficult to adapt to other efforts, and information is often abstracted to make it work within the system. Finding what they need in regular history books is possible for gamers and authors, but can be frustrating and time consuming. Filling this void is Different World's recently published gamer’s guide to feudal Japan, “Daimyo of 1867: Samurai Warlords of Shogun Japan”.

Author Tadashi Ehara was born in Sapporo, Japan and is well known in the gaming community. Tadashi was a publisher for Chaosium (and a contributor to its landmark Call of Cthulhu series) and the editor for Different Worlds magazine. In the 1980’s Tadashi received a copy of E. Papinot’s Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan. Papinot’s book, despite at times containing outdated information, remains an invaluable reference work. For example, most of the biographical sketches in Steven Turnbull’s Samurai Sourcebook were copied from Papinot (although Turnbull unfortunately did not credit the book or mention it in his sources). Combined with his love for chanbara films and Japanese history, Tadashi decided to make Papinot’s long unavailable book the foundation of a guide meant “for creating more realistic backgrounds for role-playing games, boardgames, miniatures games, and computer games. It is also useful for those writing historical novels, screenplays, graphic novels, comic books, anime, and other creative works”. While it certainly does that, as we’ll see it’s also a useful guide for the Japanese historical community in general.

One of the first things we do when reviewing a book is to check out the types of sources it uses. “Daimyo of 1867” uses many of the better sources available in English. Besides the aforementioned Papinot, it has listings for works by George Sansom, A. L. Sadler, Hiroaki Sato, Marius Jansen, John Whitney Hall, Engelbert Kaempfer, Helen McCullough, Jeffrey Mass, Ivan Morris, Paul Varley, the ubiquitous Stephen Turnbull, and many other authors that will be instantly recognizable to SA members. Even casual sources tend to be reliable, such as A. J. Bryant’s Sengoku Daimyo website and of course the Samurai Archives itself. Absent for the most part are the questionable histories written by martial artists (although the notorious ‘Secrets of the Samurai’ does rear its ugly head), so the book is built upon a solid foundation. Author Ehara further establishes credibility in his introduction by addressing the differences between the Japanese lunar calendar and the western Gregorian calendar, establishing Japanese naming conventions, and providing a pronunciation guide to Japanese. The book features hundreds of black and white photos, maps, woodcuts, paintings, mon, and other visual aids-rare is the page that isn’t enhanced by some sort of illustration.

The book proper begins with a look at the geography, climate, and topography of Japan and quickly moves on to a general summary of Japanese history from 660 BC to 1192 (the period where the Emperors of Japan or the representatives of their court held real power) and 1192 to 1868 (the period that saw warrior rule come to the forefront). This is followed by an excellent 17 page chronology that covers the years 660 BC (when the first Japanese Emperor, the presumably fictitious Jimmu, came to the throne) to 1877 (the Satsuma Rebellion led by ‘Last Samurai’ Saigo Takamori). These 17 pages provide an excellent framework upon which those new to the study of Japanese history could build on. The major roads and thoroughfares of Edo period Japan are examined, with a focus on the Gokaido (the five main routes leading to and from Edo). However, there are more than a dozen other more obscure routes examined that should provide ideas for authors and gamers alike. Ehara then proceeds to address the culture of Japan. Mainly centering on the class structures of the Edo period, other topics include population centers and their numbers, short sections on religion and the monetary system (both koku and coinage), a history of the different Shogunates, and an introduction to the structure and offices of the Tokugawa’s Bakufu.

A gamer’s guide addresses how to use the book’s information to enhance one’s game system of choice, even in how to lend ahistorical campaigns a solid grounding in reality. Many of the more storied legends of Japanese history are presented as examples, such as the vengeance of the Soga brothers and the 47 Ronin. The account of the 47 Ronin’s famous ‘drive-by’ at Lord Kira's estate follows the ‘Chushingura’ version rather than actual history-for example, it has the Ronin fighting dozens of Kira’s guards rather than the three to five they encountered in real life. While this would be unacceptable for a regular history book, it’s fine for a work intended to be used for real, imagined, or legendary situations. Topics such as martial arts training, sankin kotai (the alternate attendance system used by the Tokugawa to both have direct control over the daimyo and deplete their coffers), heirs, marriage, concubines, the role of women, ronin, sanctioned and unsanctioned vendettas, and yes, even shudo (the practice of an older, powerful samurai taking on a young page as a sexual partner) are examined. The gamer's guide section on ninja walks the middle ground between fantasy and reality, making it useful for either type of campaign. A daimyo name generator is given to help provide gamers and authors with authentic names, along with a short section detailing naming conventions, the coming-of-age ceremony, and how to go about choosing an 'auspicious' name.

Several pages of “Daimyo of 1867” are devoted to a listing of samurai themed games, their year of release, and manufacturer. These extend across the entire gamut of gaming-there are boardgames, RPG’s, wargames, miniatures rules systems and figures, card games, computer games, and video games. Many of them are obscure little treasures that even we hadn’t heard of. Ranging from commercial releases such as ‘Legend of the Samurai’ to the quirky and varied home brewed efforts from Warp Spawn Games, we spent the better part of a morning downloading them off the web. Many of the listings can be downloaded for free or at low cost, making this a feature that will be highly appreciated by any gamer. One disappointing aspect of the book was that there was no listing or discussion of chanbara and jidaigeki films, usually a standard component of books of this type.



Until now, most of the material in the book appears in one form or another (although with the exception of Sengoku usually not as accurately as here) in most RPG games and sourcebooks dealing with samurai. 'Daimyo of 1867' sets itself apart from the crowd in the section that takes up most of the book (a little over 200 of its 346 pages). Here you'll find an overview of each daimyo in existence at the end of the Edo period-all 270 + of them. As you can see by the sample page, there's a lot given in each listing. While the listings sometimes vary slightly due to the availability of information, a typical entry will have a province broken down into han, each of which will have it's daimyo's name, mon, domain name, revenue, class (both tozama and fudai daimyo are given the numerical rankings used by the Tokugawa), headquarters castle, succession, biographies of notable ancestors, and related branch families with their locations. Ehara has taken the information found in Papinot's book and presented it in a fashion that not only gathers scattered data into one spot, but also draws attention to things that wouldn't be noticeable in Papinot's text. For example, who would have thought that at the end of the Edo period there would still be four members of the Oda family who were daimyo? That the Go-Hojo, who most thought dispossessed and eliminated by Hideyoshi after the siege of Odawara, would still be tending a domain? That an entire province (Noto) contained no han and did not have a daimyo? Or that the Naito had fully six branches that held daimyo status? This is a real treasure trove of information, and not just for gamers or authors-it would be extremely useful as a reference for would be historians as well. Ehara has also taken the trouble to index these pages using not just one, but four different methods. You can look up entries by han, clans, province, or daimyo name, meaning that you can go straight to what you need without having to dig it out. Want to know what han comprised Echigo province? Where a certain han was found? Where the Yagyu daimyo were located? It can be frustrating trying to look it up elsewhere, but it's easy here. The only shortcoming I can see is that many famous samurai whose clans did not survive into the late Edo period (like the Takeda) or that never regained daimyo status (like the Chiba) have no biographical entries (while of course both the Oda and Uesugi daimyo have listings for Nobunaga and Kenshin). However, the book IS focused on the Edo period and its daimyo, so their lack of inclusion is understandable.

As with any survey of this scope, generalizations are sometimes made and certain topics simplified but make no mistake-there is a cornucopia of detail in the book. Authors can use the information herein to set up scenarios and backgrounds that are historically and culturally accurate. Gamers, especially those of the RPG and LARP persuasion, will be able to do so as well. The emphasis on the relatively peaceful Edo period means miniature enthusiasts and wargamers might find it a bit disappointing due to the lack of detailed information on armor, tactics, and weaponry. However, these concerns are addressed in detail in any number of rules systems readily available-the book can still be used as a complement to these to set up campaigns and battles that reflect real history, particularly in the turbulent Bakumatsu era. Apart from its value to the gaming community and writers, the ‘han’ section of “Daimyo of 1867” along with many of its details on other aspects of Japanese history makes it a useful and handy reference work for amateur scholars. Despite author Ehara’s statement that “This is not a scholarly piece of work”, there was a lot of research, hard work, and care put into the production of this sourcebook. “Daimyo of 1867” is available directly through Different Worlds Publications. You can learn more about the book, check out sample pages, and order a copy HERE-or order through Amazon at the Samurai Archives Bookstore.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 06, 2010 1:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
The newest issue of War Game In Japanese History Quarterly (#6-a Japanese language publication) features not just one tabletop simulation but two: Lion Of The North/Hakodate Sensou (箱館戦争, Hakodate War) and Hakodate Wan Kaisen (箱館湾海戦, Naval Battle Of Hakodate Bay).







Hakodate Sensou simulates the fighting that took place in the southern region of Ezo (the old name for Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido) that pitted the last holdouts of the Shogunate against the new Imperial Army in 1868-1869. Presumably ‘The Lion Of The North’ is Hijikata Toshizou (being contrasted to Saigo Takamori, the ‘Lion Of The South’), former Shinsengumi vice-chief and one of the most important leaders of the holdouts. The game features a nice-looking period map of southern Ezo and features point-to-point movement as well as area naval movement. The counters have a nice variety of individual units along with pieces for their historical leaders and individual counters for each fighting ship. There are also twenty cards to simulate random elements and add some uncertainty to the proceedings. It’s a fast and well balanced play.

Hakodate Wan Kaisen (map not pictured-it’s on the reverse side of the Hakodate map and is just a field of blue with a hexagonal grid superimposed) is a rarity among pre-modern Japanese history games-it features samurai naval combat (or at least ‘samurai’ vs ‘Imperial’). The only other game I can think of that does that is the old Epoch electronic boardgame Kessen Dan-no-Ura. At any rate, this shares many of the counters with the regular game but recreates the battle of Hakodate Bay on a tactical, ship to ship scale rather than being represented abstractly as in the first game. It’s pretty basic and most of the fun is watching the converted Confederate ironclad Koutetsu (AKA CSS Stonewall) make mincemeat of enemy ships. There’re rules for boarding and individual guns for artillery fire.

The magazine that comes bound into the game has articles on the historical battles and gives a short history for each of the units, leaders, and ships in the counter mix. There’s also a review of several Japanese DVD’s that center on Hakodate, most of which predictably center on Hijikata. There’s also a code (on the inside cover of the magazine, visible after you remove all the game components from the plastic sleeve) for downloading a VASSAL module (letting you play the game online). The module wasn’t posted on the website at the time I wrote this, but should be shortly. The game also includes Ziplocs for storing punched counters and two die. It’s the best designed gamer magazine in the business.

Best of all, there’s a little something extra on the counter sheet. It isn’t strange for magazines with simulations (like Strategy & Tactics or World At War magazines in the US) to include variant counters for games released in previous issues. But there’s something new in this issue that could only happen in Japan. Three variant leader counters are supplied for use with issue 3’s Sekigahara game. And they replace the historical leaders with their present day historical mascots. I kid you not. This was done as a tie-in to promote an anniversary celebration in the city of Hikone. So if you’ve ever wondered how the army of the west would do with cartoon cat mascots Ishida Mitsunyan, Shima Sakonyan, or Otani Nyanbu in command, look no further. One only wonders why we didn’t get Hikonyan replacing Ii Naomasa, too. Purists will gnash their teeth and rail at the skies in anger. I, on the other hand, am loving it.

Next issue’s game will be the battle of Nagashino. Nagashino has been as gamed to death as Sekigahara or Kawanakajima, and the preview of the map makes it look like it’ll be a poorly done version to boot (an area movement TACTICAL level game?!?!?!). Maybe they’ll surprise us, though.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2010 12:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
It’s been a while since we updated this section, and there’s been a nice selection of historical sims/games released in the interim. Everything reviewed is Japanese language only except for ‘The Imjin War’.





The best of this round of offerings is likely Game Journal #36: Sanada Gunki: Kessen! Osaka No Jin (真田軍記:決戦!大坂の陣, Sanada War Chronicles: Decisive Battle! Siege Of Osaka). This is an update of Tenka Fubu’s 1992 release Sanada Gunki. It’s a strategic/operational level simulation of the Osaka campaigns of 1614-1615. The game has enough specialized rules to make it unique and interesting but not so many that it becomes overly complex and bogged down. Played on a well done map of Japan from Owari to west of Osaka, it employs a standard hexagonal movement grid. The counter sheet and orders of battle are excellent, sorting the different forces (Tokugawa vassals, Tokugawa allies, Toyotomi retainers, and Toyotomi allies/ronin) by color. The Tokugawa forces outnumber the Toyotomi by roughly two to one, but the Toyotomi are given a shot at surviving by the strength of most of their units. While this was done to balance the game, it works against it from a simulation standpoint. The Toyotomi units did tend to perform better in the battles, but is Sanada Yukimura’s small personal force really twice as strong as the main Tokugawa force under Ieyasu? For that matter, is Akashi Teruzumi’s detached force (which historically performed miserably, getting lost and missing the battle) one and a half times more effective than Ieyasu’s? The Toyotomi army also has the advantage of being able to hole up in Osaka castle when things go bad, an extremely hard nut to crack for the Tokugawa (and something they almost have to take to win). There are plenty of other castles and objectives to take for both armies. It’s well balanced and games played between two players of similar skill will go down to the final turns.

There are scenarios for the Winter campaign of 1614 and the summer campaign of 1615. There are also three ‘what-if’ scenarios. What if Sanada Masayuki had lived to take command of the Toyotomi forces? If Fukushima Masanori had deserted the Tokugawa and thrown his support back to the Toyotomi? And finally, what if it had been Ukita Hideie who had returned from exile to take command in 1614? Sanada Gunki is an excellent old school wargame that might be Game Journal’s strongest offering to date. The magazine has several articles on the Osaka campaigns, including an historical overview, designer’s notes, a phase by phase illustration of how the action unfolded in real life using the game components, and even a manga strip with gameplay tips. Comparisons of various Sengoku related wargames, reviews of other new releases, and articles on non-samurai related wargaming round out this excellent package.





Japanese History War Game Quarterly #7 features Nagashino: Shitaragahara Kassen (長篠:設楽原合戦, Nagashino: Battle Of Shitaragahara), the famous 1575 battle where the allied forces of the Oda and Tokugawa effectively ended the threat of the Takeda. Strangely enough, this tactical level game features area movement on a map that encompasses not just the main battlefield but also the area around the besieged Nagashino castle. A hex based map would have been far better for this level of game, but it’s not totally unexpected since JHWGQ hasn’t produced a hex game yet. The map itself is quite an ugly and abstract piece of work. As with most games that appear in this publication, there are cards to introduce random elements into the battle (like the weather changing, rendering the Oda guns useless). The counter mix is by far the best part of this offering-the oversized counters are broken down into generals for both sides and the Oda/Tokugawa forces have two for each commander-one used for equipping them with guns and one without. Yes, as if being outnumbered historically by almost three to one isn’t bad enough for the Takeda, they don’t know until battle is joined which of the Oda forces have guns-and for that matter what commander is where, since units are hidden until engaged (but all of the Takeda forces are clearly identified from the get-go). There’s great cover artwork featuring Takeda Katsuyori and a glowering Oda Nobunaga, and you’d swear it was Darth Vader being depicted on Oda’s in-game counter. As a bonus, there’s a code exposed when the game components are removed from the bubble that allows you to download a Vassal module for Nagashino from JHWGQ’s website. At any rate, it’s a fast play and has a high fun factor.

There have been several changes made in the format of JHWGQ with this issue. Some are minor-the magazine is now printed ‘Western style’, opening and being read from the ‘front’ (with the game components now in a bubble on the right side of the opened magazine rather than the left). Some are medium-the rules for the issue’s game are now printed separately instead of being part of the magazine, somewhat hurting the cohesiveness of the product as a whole. Some are major-there’s now only 16 pages to the magazine, just about half of what JHWGQ #1 had. A bit of this is due to not including the rules, but other content (such as reviews of DVD’s that tie in with the issue’s subject matter) have been eliminated. What’s there is fine-an overview of Oda Nobunaga’s army and various battles it took part in, an historical article on the Battle of Nagashino, set-up instructions and an introduction to wargaming, and an examination of the campaign using the game map and components to illustrate how the battle played out in real life. JHWGQ has been losing steam the past few issues with content being scaled back and using less polished components-probably cost cutting measures that bode ill for the future. Hopefully they’ll be back on track in issue 8, with a game depicting the action of the Bakumatsu.



Sengoku Daimyo Card Game: Kunitori! (戦国大名カードげーム:くにとり!, Steal The Nation!) combines the best of both possible worlds: a Sengoku period province grabbing game and hot anime chicks. Yes, all your favorite daimyo from the warring states are rendered as women in this game by some of Japan’s best known manga artists. Whether it’s the cutesy-pie flat chested Hideyoshi or brassy lingerie-wearing Oda Nobunaga strutting around with her big boobs spilling out, these famous historical figures take on a whole new dimension. This 270 card non-collectible set (meaning you get the whole thing at once-none of this ‘false collectible’ rare card and booster sets crap) from Arclight not only has novelty appeal but is a solid gaming experience as well. Like most card games, it’s easy to pick up and play but will take some time to master all its subtleties. Up to six players can compete and games can be finished in 30-60 minutes. Enlist the help of foreign traders, boost your economy, mash enemy daimyo, and check out Nobunaga’s rack. Go ahead-you know you want to.



‘The Imjin War’ is a condensed 16 page booklet produced for use with the Killer Katanas 2 (tsk, tsk-a plural Japanese word) miniatures game system. It contains information and rules for putting together miniature Ming Chinese and Korean armies and pitting them in battle against Japanese forces during the Bunroku/Keicho campaigns (Hideyoshi’s Invasions of Korea in the 1590’s). There’s a nice level of detail here, giving the mainland Asian forces plenty of armament and artillery options. Ming armies are rated differently for northern and southern troops and Korean forces are divided into regular army, Righteous Army, and armed monks. Sorry, no provisions for naval warfare, so Admiral Yi cultists will have to wait for another day. While the KK system is probably the most accurate and detailed English language rules system portraying tactical samurai warfare, this particular rules set tends to result in fairly balanced battles, coming up with rather ahistorical results. This is easily rectified by dropping the morale factors for Chinese troops (always) and (depending on the battle and type of forces) Korean troops by one. Then you’ll be seeing battles that play out accurately. For further fine tuning, try raising/lowering the morale of Japanese troops according to their supply status in a particular battle. Author Brian Bradford has been selling these booklets on eBay, but interested gamers might want to wait until early November when his full scaled ‘Hideyoshi’s Korean Invasion’ sourcebook comes out. The sourcebook will contain the rules found in ‘The Imjin War’ plus scenarios of notable battles and lots of background information such as illustrations of Ming banners and flags. Unfortunately, it appears that Kenneth Swope has had some input into the finished product, so it might be skewed in favor of a powered up Ming army-but that’s nothing that can’t be fixed by lowering a factor here or there.

For those not familiar with the KK2 system, it’s well worth checking out even if you’re not a gamer. Brian’s base set and supplements give some of the better information to be found about most of the major Sengoku daimyo and their campaigns in English (although a lot of it is taken from Rekishi Gunzou mooks and the notoriously unreliable Japanese General Staff written histories of the 1890’s, so be forewarned). You can contact Brian on the Yahoo ‘Asian War’ group for more information.

Our wife Ayame recently visited from Japan and gifted us with some older games we hadn’t known about. The following two games have been out for a couple of years, but are worth a look for their depictions of subject matter not usually covered in samurai era sims.







While Command Journal Japan #75 touts two WWII German vs Russian games as the main attractions, what we’re interested in is Toukai Yuukyou Den: Jirochou Sangoku Shi (東海遊侠伝:次郎長三国志, Eastern Gangster Legend: Jirochou’s Three Provinces Record). This is a game simulating the Edo area Yakuza turf wars of the late Edo/early Meiji periods. It’s based on the well known Japanese novel Jirouchou Sangoku Shi that details the adventures of historical Yakuza boss Shimizu No Jirochou (AKA Yamamoto Chougorou). Jirochou was a tremendously popular ‘chivalrous man’ along with being a master swordsman, gang mediator, philanthropist and a type of ‘Robin Hood’ figure in Japanese lore-he’s been the subject of dozens of films and novels. As indicated by Jirochou’s name, the object is to control Yakuza activity in the areas between Edo and Kyoto. There are several factions in the game (including Shogunal inspectors sent to control them) and the counters represent individual figures from history (and sometimes fictional ones). There are oyabuns, sub-bosses, enforcers, soldiers, and the occasional ronin bodyguard. The rules system covers a lot of options and has interesting ‘chrome’ rules, giving the gameplay that seedy Yakuza feel. The map features area movement with the different famous major roads of Japan (such as the Tokaido) playing a large part in strategy. Overall, the gameplay is quite like that seen in War Game In Japanese History’s #1 ‘Shinsengumi’ game (reviewed earlier in this thread). For fans of Zatoichi and Yakuza films, this game will have a lot of appeal and is an interesting break from the conventional battle games that usually appear in Command Journal. The reverse side of the map has a cool 'woodblock' look to it with illustrations and doubles as a fourth game-Meiji Zankyouden Sugoroku (明治残俠伝雙六, Meiji Yakuza Tales Sugoroku). Sugoroku is a simple Japanese dice game, in this case playing off the 'Showa Zankyouden' film series. It features the Yakuza as well (zankyouden means 'remaining chivalry' and is often used to describe the Yakuza). The main magazine also contains articles that give mini biographies for each of the figures in the counter mix and one that gives a history of the Yakuza in the Kanto area in the 1800’s. You also get the two other WWII games and loads of reviews, gameplay tips, and (non-samurai related) historical articles, making this issue a great value.









‘RPGamer’ is a Japanese magazine that touches every facet of Role Playing Games, from Call of Cthulhu to Star Wars to D & D-horror, SF, fantasy, and more. Issue #12 focuses on historical roleplaying, featuring Shibaiyuugi: Mito Komon (芝居遊戯:水戸黄門, Drama Game: Mito Komon). Mito Komon is the historical Tokugawa Mitsukuni, a member of the Tokugawa Mito branch family and an historian who began to put together the massive ‘Dai Nihonshi’ (‘Great History Of Japan’) that took around 200 years for the Mito branch to complete. Mitsukuni was said to have wandered the length and breadth of Edo period Japan incognito in his research efforts. Folk legend had it that using the guise of retired wealthy merchant Mito Komon he righted wrongs, broke up criminal gangs, and punished corrupt officials along the way. The Mito Komon legends have been the source for dozens of Edo period and modern novels along with a long running TV series and several movies. The game allows you to recreate these adventures of the elderly Mito and his two energetic young aids (and whatever other playable characters you might care to roll up), presumably pausing at the penultimate moment to dramatically flash an inro with the Tokugawa crest emblazoned on it just to show those punks who it is they’re REALLY dealing with. There’s a detailed 24 page rulebook/sourcebook with small scale maps for all sorts of Japanese environments-farming village, fishing village, small town, way station, daimyo mansion, etc. There are game markers to represent the forces of good and evil and a very nice three panel gamemasters screen. The latter has a map of Edo period Japan on one side with all of the provinces, major towns, and road networks displayed. The reverse side has all the tables needed to play this entertaining and colorful RPG. For anyone putting together Japanese themed RPG’s or even aspiring authors, it’s a great resource. The magazine has a huge variety of articles and reviews, including one that examines the different releases over the years in the ‘Japanese Historical RPG’ genre. Even better, it covers both English language (Sengoku, Gurps Japan, Land Of The Rising Sun, Ninja, and lots more) and Japanese releases-surprisingly, there seems to be more of these in English (although the Japanese releases appear to have lots more color, flavor, and chanbara feel to them). Other highlights include reviews of ‘Edo period’ DVD’s to add flavor to any campaign, several manga strips (our favorite being a long one that pits ‘Mito Komon Vs Mobile Great Buddha’), ads for every RPG game ever released here or abroad, and overdeveloped gals in sailor suits with blazing automatics. Japanese publications almost always figure out a way to work hot chicks into the mix, and I for one appreciate their heartfelt efforts to gain my entertainment yen.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote






War Game of Japanese History Quarterly #8 (Japanese language) brings you “Shishi no Jidai” (志士の時代、Age of Patriots). This game for 3-6 players simulates the Bakumatsu era, covering the period from 1853 (when Perry’s Black Ships opened up Japan) to 1868 (when the Shogun transferred power back to the Imperial family and the Boshin War took place). The emphasis here is on playability (the game can be completed within two hours) and fun rather than complex accuracy-the rulebook is a scant four pages, much of which is examples. The three primary roles go to the Tokugawa (the Shogunate/Bakufu), Aizu (the most tenacious defenders of the Shogunate), and the SatCho alliance (the traitorous provinces of Satsuma and Choshu that ultimately proved to be victorious). The game can accommodate three other players-Nagaoka (in Echigo, who joined Aizu in holding out to the last), Sendai (controlled by the Date, who lobbied for stripping the Shogunate of power), and Tosa (supporters of the Imperialist agenda and home to the storied Bum of Tosa, Sakamoto Ryoma). Resources, economics and politics play a huge part in gameplay and are generally more important than battles (although it’s ultimately the battles that decide things). Factions can upgrade their forces with advanced Western weaponry. The action takes place over all of Japan, with seven boxes for each of the factions (Satsuma and Choshu, while controlled by one player, each have their own forces). There’s an additional one for Kyoto, the main battleground for control of the nation, and one more for the Hokkaido Republic’s Goryokaku fortress (the last bastion of the Shogunate). There are 140 counters comprising the different forces and resource point markers.

The game has also incorporated the most famous figures of the time in an interesting manner. They enter the game through cardplay, with each figure having their own card and effect. Depending on the situation, a leader can be worthless-or invaluable. There are 37 cards featuring figures such as Atsuhime, the Emperor, the different Shoguns, Sakamoto, several of the Shimazu, Saigo, Ii, Yoshida, Takasugi, Kazunomiya, the Matsudaira, Yamauchi, Mouri, Katsu, Iwakura, and even Westerners like Thomas Glover and Roches. The cards also bring into play extra forces such as the Shogunate’s dreaded enforcers, the Shinsengumi, and Choshu’s Kiheitai militia.

While this is certainly a fun group game, having Choshu and Satsuma allied from 1853 on is an unfortunate design decision. While likely necessary for play balance, it strips the game of much of its historical drama and uncertainty. Clever players will be able to work around this, making Satsuma an independent, but doing so will likely see the game end in a victory for the Shogunate.

But wouldn’t this game be just perfect for an SA Enclave? Naturally, we would be the stalwart, loyal defenders of the fair and just Bakufu. Heron would control the misguided but earnest rebels of Choshu along with their scheming on-again-off-again allies from Satsuma (who could be split off and put under Obenjo’s control). Dash would of course be in charge of Tosa’s Kool-Aid brigade. Who better than Wicked Lemon in dealing out Kyoto justice as the Aizu and Shinsengumi? Onna could fill in for Nagaoka. And we could even bring back banned member Kato Kiyomasa to play as the treacherous and overrated Date-after all, he ‘claims’ a link to them and I can’t think of anyone else who’d want to play as them. Brick McBurly could sit back and do nothing as the Emperor as a guest ‘eighth’ player. Of course, history would be changed and the righteous forces of the Bakufu would crush the traitorous scum and send them running back to mama. Choshu, prepare for a fistful of comeuppance!

The magazine part of the game is still down to sixteen pages. It has a short historical article, several pages of game examples and playing tips, a Bakumatsu timeline, short bios of most of the historical figures along with a faction/leader relationship chart, and even short sidebars on Bakumatsu-themed movies and dramas. There’s also a code exposed after removing the game components that allows you to download a Vassal module for the game, allowing play via email. Next issue’s offering is ‘Daimyo-ki’ (Chronicle of the Daimyo), another one of those tiresome Nobunaga’s Ambition type Sengoku province grabbing games. Yawn.

And no, the Shinsengumi fan doesn't come with the game. It's just a whimsical touch of stage dressing.



Don’t let the misuse of the word ‘uniformity’ in the title of “Hideyoshi’s Korean Invasion: Organization, Uniformity, and Battle Scenarios for the Ming and Chosen Armies of the Imjin War” mislead you-it’s a well done miniature gamer’s guide that packs a lot of solid information, much of which is difficult to find in English. This is the latest supplement for author Brian Bradford’s ‘Killer Katanas 2’ game system and an extension of his earlier ‘Imjin War’ booklet we reviewed awhile back. The Killer Katanas system is likely the most involved and historically accurate set of sim/gaming rules covering samurai warfare to date. This 100 page supplement brings the armies of Ming China and Korea (Chosen) into the fold and allows gamers to recreate the land battles of the Bunroku/Keicho No Eki (the two Japanese invasions of Korea in 1592 and 1598).

Bradford states in his introduction that he’s attempted to be as non-partisan as possible in reconciling the sometimes wildly different accounts given of the conflict by the three participants. For the most part, he’s quite successful in doing so. The book starts out with a ten page overview of the course of the war. Following are chapters on Korean Armies, Korean Leaders, Chinese Armies, Chinese Leaders, siege devices of the mainland forces, a points chart (used to ‘purchase’ troops in game terms), basing information (for building miniature armies), modeling information (with uniform and flag plates for the Chinese and Korean armies), seven scenarios, a random scenario generator, and a surprisingly extensive and well done bibliography with many solid sources (and the occasional clunker like ‘Admiral Yi and his Turtleboat Armada’).

The sections on the armies give information on organization, weapons systems, armor, and allow for the idiosyncrasies of the Korean and Chinese forces (such as incorporating rules for the Korean Monk Forces and Righteous Armies along with Chinese Northern and Southern troops). The leaders sections give ratings for a multitude of Ming and Chosen generals, monks, and peasants. The siege devices chapter describes the different bizarre carts, towers, ladders, and fortified cities used by the combatants along with drawings of the devices. The modeling information contains black and white drawings of different styles of armor and attire for the Chinese and Koreans along with the flags and banners used by these forces (along with descriptions of coloring and who would be using each flag). Much of this information is extremely difficult to come by in English and makes the book useful to those with an interest in the conflict as well as gamers.

There are seven battle scenarios included-Chungju, Imjin River, Siege of Pyongyang, Pyokje, Haengju, Chiksan, and Sachon. They represent a good variety of sieges and field battles and also vary the roles of the combatants-both the Japanese and mainland forces find themselves in the roles of attacker or defender. Setting up these scenarios is where Bradford excels-providing extensive (and largely realistic) orders of battle, organization and leaders, maps, force and weapon breakdowns, and special rules reflecting the changing circumstances of each battle. A random scenario generator also allows players to work up examples of the many skirmishes and smaller conflicts that took place.

While the book provides the purchaser with a wealth of information and a great gaming experience, we did have issues with a few things. Leadership ratings are obviously going to be somewhat abstract and arbitrary, but given the historical performance of the Korean and Chinese armies, an inordinate amount of their leaders seem to possess positive combat ratings-on the whole, higher than their Japanese foes. Some ratings are puzzling-for example, Kato Kiyomasa, generally regarded by all three sides as the best tactical/battle general of the war (although somewhat lacking in a strategic and operational sense), is given a ‘+2’ while the relatively obscure Goto Motosugu is given a ‘+3’. The ratings seem to have been done with game balance in mind-for more historical results, we find that dropping the ratings of Chinese and Korean leaders by 1 (depending on the situation) works well, along with dropping the morale factors of regular Chinese troops by 1. Some of the casualty figures quoted are astronomical (see the * sidebar following this review for more information on Bunroku/Keicho casualty figures-the author quotes figures correctly, but much of the information is outdated). And there are a few rules that are cringeworthy from a historical accuracy standpoint-such as the ‘Dying Gloriously’ generated scenario, which among other things states that ‘the aim of samurai was to do their duty and not violate the Code Of Bushido’ (there’s that damn Edo period invention surfacing again) and ‘a glorious death was better than…living with the shame of defeat’ (which ignores the well established facts that casualty figures in samurai battles were usually quite light and that samurai preferred to run away rather than die a useless, albeit glorious, death). The text also incorrectly states that if Admiral Yi Sun Shin’s Turtle Boats were indeed reinforced with armor (it appears from most studies that they were not), that would make them the world’s first ironclads. Instead, the world’s first ironclads were deployed (with decidedly mixed results) by Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga against the Mouri during the second battle of Kizugawaguchi about 14 years before. On the whole, however, “Hideyoshi’s Korean Invasion” is an excellent sourcebook for gamers interested in samurai warfare-not to mention anyone interested in the conflict in general. We recommend it along with all the other entries of the ‘Killer Katanas’ series.


*-When History Doesn’t Add Up: Casualty Figures Of The Bunroku/Keicho Invasions (Coming Soon to your friendly neighborhood Shogun-ki)




Also worthy of note is the Gamestop Exclusive Pre-Order of Total War Shogun 2's limited edition. By getting it at Gamestop you'll receive an additional battle: The Battle of Kawagoe (1545) where the Hōjō clan launch a successful night time counter-attack against the besieging Uesugi, eschewing heavy armour and the collection of heads in favour of speed and stealth.
It's also the limited edition of the game, which will net you:

-An exclusive ninja clan-the Hattori clan are masters of the Iga-ryu ninjutsu-a unique collection of martial skills and guerrilla techniques. This additional in-game faction is only available in the Limited Edition and includes the most powerful battlefield ninja units.

-Extra historical scenario-he Battle of Nagashino saw an alliance between the Oda and Tokugawa clans clashing against the legendary Takeda clan in 1575. Takeda was ultimately defeated but, as in all Total War battles, victory lies in your hands and by playing one of these three factions you can repeat history... or even rewrite it!

-Special armour for your avatar-this complete set of armour will make your General's avatar stand out on the battlefield and will reward you with the Bad Omen retainer that affects morale to enemy ashigaru (foot soldier) units, giving you a competitive advantage online.

-Bank account of XP for your avatar-only the Limited Edition owners will be able to start their General's avatar at a higher level, with instant access to one upgrade point to spend on special skills or traits.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2011 1:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


Game Journal #38 features 賤ヶ岳戦役:秀吉怒涛の大返し VS 瓶割り柴田/Shizugatake Seneki: Hideyoshi Dotou No Okaeshi Vs Binwari Shibata (Shizugatake Campaign: Great Return Of Tidal Wave Hideyoshi Vs Pot Breaker Shibata). Covering the period of the second through the fourth month of 1583, this traditional hex based/ZOC simulation is an excellent treatment of the campaigns among the former retainers of Oda Nobunaga after his assassination. While the game is designed for two players taking the roles of Hashiba (Toyotomi) Hideyoshi and Shibata Katsuie, the 198 color counters represent over 20 different factions. Each ‘clan’ has a different color assigned to it and is also identified by their ‘mon’-clans include the Hashiba, Niwa, Nakagawa, Ikeda, Shibata, Maeda, Takigawa, and two different factions of the Oda (under Nobukatsu and Nobutaka) along with a dozen different smaller clans. The game is of moderate complexity with eight pages of rules and takes from 2-3 hours to play. No cardplay here to introduce random elements-the players will live and die on their own decisions. The map is rendered well and manages to encompass the wide-ranging campaign waged by Hideyoshi as he dealt with the threats posed by the Shibata alliance one by one. As indicated by “Great Return Of Tidal Wave Hideyoshi”, he ‘swept away’ all resistance and managed to return back west to deal with the main Shibata force long before his enemies deemed it possible. And why ‘Pot Breaker’ Shibata? This alludes to a famous incident in when Shibata, in charge of a besieged garrison at Chokoji Castle in 1570, smashed the last remaining pots of water in front of his thirsty troops. In effect telling his troops there was ‘no going back’, this motivated them to mount a full scale assault against their besiegers and drive them off.



This particular game does a solid job of showcasing why the battle played out as it did, and helps to expose a few common misconceptions. While it’s true that Hideyoshi’s forces were surrounded on three sides and being assaulted from all three directions (variously the Shibata/Maeda, Oba Nobutaka, and Takigawa), having the advantage of interior lines let him shift troops rapidly from point to point as needed. And while Shibata’s forces are usually presented as having a large measure of numerical superiority, it was in fact Hideyoshi who held a substantial edge in numbers. The Taiko-to-be was just better at gaining allies than the gruff Shibata (in game terms, 13 clans to 8 )-showing once again that it’s usually what happens before battle is commenced that wins it. The game mechanics feature rules for the line of forts built by the two sides around Shizugatake. There’s also an interesting game mechanic where, except for the Hashiba and Shibata, all troops for a clan must be stacked with the clan’s commander. Only certain Hashiba/Shibata troops can garrison and act independently, reflecting the larger numbers and degree of command sophistication (for the era) enjoyed by these two forces. It’s one of Game Journal’s better efforts, and while it sacrifices a bit of playability, is much more accurate and satisfying than the area movement/cardplay games they often feature.

As a bit of a bonus, the counter sheet also includes two counters for use in the game Sekigahara Taisakusen: Sekigahara He No Michi (which appeared in Game Journal #32). They're used in conjunction with optional rules for a new scenario that's presented in a two page spread this issue...which brings us to...

And the magazine is a great complement to the game, providing an extensive historical article about the game that among other things uses the game components to illustrate the action and superimposes troop positions on aerial photos of the terrain. Many of the commanders involved are provided bios in sidebars, and there’s a section on gameplay strategies along with a Shizugatake manga that aside from offering tips has Oichi dressed as a Nazi officer and beating the crap out of Shibata. Several times. Rounding out the Shizugatake themed articles is a large retrospective of Japanese wargames featuring Hideyoshi that collectors will find of interest. The rest of the mag is loaded with reviews of other current releases, wargame design theory and discussions, an article on the Bakumatsu/Boshin war era, campaigning in the Sendai area in the years leading up to the siege of Odawara, and in-depth examinations of World War II fleet compositions and pre-WWII land battles. It’s a great package, although at Y3600 just a bit on the pricey side.



Brian Bradford's "Killer Katanas II" samurai miniatures rules system has received a second printing from "On Military Matters". There have been a few changes from the first printing, with the errata being worked in and two new battle scenarios included (Wakae and Yao, two of the battles that preceded the main battle of Tenno-ji during the Summer Battle Of Osaka in 1615).
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Making its debut this week is the most anticipated computer game release for samurai warfare enthusiasts in years: Total War Shogun 2 on PC DVD-Rom. I’ll let the game’s press release speak for itself:

"Shogun 2: Total War is the long-awaited follow-up to the original PC game in the Total War turn-based Strategy franchise, Shogun: Total War. In it players assume the leadership of one of several warring provinces in a historically correct rendition of Medieval Japan simultaneously cursed by warfare and blessed with new wealth following the fall of the Ashikaga Shogunate. Using the natural and political resources available, as well as the strengths of their Samurai and peasant units, players eliminate enemies by all means possible as they seek to become the next shogun and extend their power over the whole of Japan. Additional features include: leveling of the player character, hero units and standard units, realistically varied AI responses and both competitive and cooperative online multiplayer support.

The Total War Franchise

In 2000, The Creative Assembly game development team reinvented the Strategy game genre with Shogun: Total War, an unprecedented blend of 3D real-time battles and turn-based game management that would become the first offering in the multi-award winning Total War series. With over 7 million units sold and universal acclaim from the press and community, The Total War franchise has consistently been at the cutting edge of the genre and is today one of the most successful PC franchises of all time. That success continues with Shogun 2: Total War. Shogun 2: Total War takes longtime veterans and newcomers alike to the next level of strategy gaming on PC. Based on 10 years of experience, Total War, Shogun 2 is the perfection of the series with a new Artificial Intelligence (AI), revolutionary multiplayer modes, brand new campaign map options and epic 3D real-time battles.

Set during the golden age of Samurai warfare, Shogun 2 brings to life the most turbulent period of Japanese history. It is the middle of the 16th century in Medieval Japan. The country, ruled for nearly 200 years by a unified government under the Ashikaga Shogunate, is now split into many warring clans following the shogunate's fall. The player takes on the role of one Daimyo, a feudal clan leader ruling a limited area of the country, and will use military engagements, economics and diplomacy to achieve the ultimate goal: unification of Japan under his supreme command and the title of Shogun - the undisputed ruler of Japan.

Gameplay

Like all Total War games, Shogun 2 is a turn-based Strategy game, featuring real-time tactics. The original Shogun: Total War game was the first in the Total War series, making it the blueprint for those that came after it, but this new game does contain a variety of new notable gameplay features. These features include: the players role as an individual leader on the field instead of an invisible hand guiding combat; improved graphics down to the motion capture techniques used to animate matched combat; a built-in morale system that allows opposing AI to react to the forces you set before them, influencing tactics as well as their willingness to stand and fight; combined naval and land battles; and RPG like leveling of standard units and special Hero units that rise in rank with each successful battle.

Key Game Features

* Total War Redefined - Shogun 2 is the ultimate refinement of the original formula with a new, cutting-edge AI, more polish and online functionality than ever before. The result is the perfect mix of real-time and turn-based strategy gaming that invites both veterans of Total War and new players to experience the enjoyment and depth of the series.
* New Character Progression - Choose from nine different clans and compete for the undisputed supremacy of Medieval Japan. Gain experience to level up your own character-warlord as well as your generals and agents.
* A Complete Single and Multiplayer Offering - Play through the main campaign in single player or invite a friend online to play competitively or cooperatively in Campaign Multiplayer mode. Join 8-player multiplayer battles with your own upgradable avatar and climb the online leaderboard to show the world who reigns supreme. Also including exciting new modes of team play for clans, a first in the Total War series.
* New Generation AI System - Developed according to Sun Tzu's principles in "The Art of War," the game's artificial intelligence constantly analyzes its situation and reacts to your every move with greater precision and variety.
* Improved Land and Naval Battle Gameplay - Land battles never felt so realistic with new multi-staged castle sieges and terrain features changing according to the weather and time of the day - turning each engagement into a tactical challenge. Set buildings on fire to force garrisoned troops out and use your units' special abilities to turn the tide of the battle. Naval combat also offers more variety with the addition of coastal battles. Islands can work as effective cover for your ships, while sand bars and reefs can be used as traps against an enemy fleet.
* Accessible and In-depth Empire-building Gameplay - A streamlined user interface makes management of your kingdom much easier. Build and govern cities, recruit and train troops, conduct diplomacy and manage your agents – each feature is now introduced with comprehensive tutorials, gradually revealing the depth of the Shogun 2 campaign map – the heart and soul of the Total War experience."

There are all types of releases for the game. Supposedly, there is or will be a regular release (maybe the direct digital download?), but I haven’t seen it yet. Here’s the limited edition release along with its extras (and if you preordered from Gamestop, another extra- The Battle of Kawagoe (1545) where the Hōjō clan launched a successful night time counter-attack against the besieging Uesugi, eschewing heavy armour and the collection of heads in favour of speed and stealth.) :



-An exclusive ninja clan-the Hattori clan are masters of the Iga-ryu ninjutsu-a unique collection of martial skills and guerrilla techniques. This additional in-game faction is only available in the Limited Edition and includes the most powerful battlefield ninja units.

-Extra historical scenario-he Battle of Nagashino saw an alliance between the Oda and Tokugawa clans clashing against the legendary Takeda clan in 1575. Takeda was ultimately defeated but, as in all Total War battles, victory lies in your hands and by playing one of these three factions you can repeat history... or even rewrite it!

-Special armour for your avatar-this complete set of armour will make your General's avatar stand out on the battlefield and will reward you with the Bad Omen retainer that affects morale to enemy ashigaru (foot soldier) units, giving you a competitive advantage online.

-Bank account of XP for your avatar-only the Limited Edition owners will be able to start their General's avatar at a higher level, with instant access to one upgrade point to spend on special skills or traits.

Buyers in the EU and Australia can pick up the Collector’s Edition:



This has a very nice art book and a statue of Takeda Shingen along with the limited edition release of the game, all packed in a themed bamboo box.

Or, EU/Oz buyers can opt for the Chess Set Edition, which contains the limited edition release of the game along with a very nice themed Shogun 2 chess set and board:



Finally, there’s the be-all/end-all. Available only in Australia and Germany is the Grand Master edition. This combines both the Collector’s Edition and Chess Set with more elaborate packaging for the ultimate Shogun 2 collectible. I’d like to get one of these but the folks in Australia I’ve seen selling them so far don’t seem very reliable.



There's also a lot of promo items floating around, like the Takeda figure in special packaging, a themed Shogun Total War 2 Fan, at least two different posters, a nice IPhone App, and the free Shogun Takeover flash game on Facebook.

There have been the expected technical issues with the game-compatibility, many minor bugs, and problems running with software that had been updated since the game was finalized. Hopefully they’ll get the major ones ironed out and patched in the next several weeks.

Early reviews of the game have generally been quite positive. The game is absolutely gorgeous along with the soundtrack (which should be available on ITunes soon) and it seems the AI’s intelligence has been ramped way up during battles. It does appear that the anachronistic elements of the first Shogun have carried over (like having geisha in the Sengoku period) along with some of the ahistorical crap involving ninja and unit types, but let’s face it, any game of this type needs a good portion of chrome rules to catch on with your average gamer who doesn’t really care about J-history. While the naval battles are breathtaking, they really don’t have much of a place in a game dealing with the Sengoku (unless they at some point throw in the Korean invasion). Other than a couple of battles involving the Oda and Mouri, large naval engagements were unheard of. They’re there just to make fans of the Total War franchise happy, since they’re a big part of the other games in the series. Many gamers are upset that you’re required to have an account with Steam just to activate the game. There are also reports that the single player game was shortchanged, lacking many of the cool features and options given for multiplayer games. However, it does look like Sega has produced a real crowd-pleaser with this release.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 19, 2011 10:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Pursuant to the talk on the main forum of Shogun Total War 2 being a "time-sucker" (which it most certainly is-they even state that in the manual), here's the list of in-game Steam achievements you can earn...


A Promising Beginning Complete a campaign on easy difficulty.
A Respectable Rule Complete a campaign on medium difficulty.
Advanced Firearms Be the first clan in the campaign to obtain gunpowder mastery.
Against All Odds Complete a campaign on legendary difficulty.
Agent of the Stealthy Blade Obtain a maximum level ninja in the campaign.
Balanced Attacker Win a battle using an army composed of at least one of every class of unit (sword infantry, cavalry, archer, matchlock, spear, naginata).
Battlefield Dominance On maps with more than one key building, your alliance shows its dominance by holding all of them simultaneously.
Belligerent Admiral Sink a European caravel or the flagship vessel the Nihon Maru during a naval battle.
Berserk Charge Win a multiplayer battle using no ranged units in your army.
Bringer of Death Win 50 matchmade battles in multiplayer.
Carve a Path Capture 15 provinces on the avatar campaign map.
Castle-stormer Win 10 siege battles as the attacker.
Chosokabe Victory Win a campaign as the Chosokabe clan.
Claw of the Tiger Win 25 matchmade battles in multiplayer.
Commander of Commoners Keep at least 4 ashigaru units for a whole battle without routing once.
Date Victory Win a campaign as the Date clan.
Dishonoured Foe Win a multiplayer versus campaign despite giving the other player 10,000 koku.
Divine Right Achieve the ultimate goal and become Shogun in the grand campaign.
Elusive Strikeforce Have all your army, excepting the general, hidden simultaneously for more than 30 seconds.
Eradicate the Hattori Wipe out the Hattori clan in the campaign.
Eradicate the Ikko-Ikki Wipe out the Ikko-Ikki.
Exceptional Warriors Through the avatar system, get a veteran unit to level 4.
Experienced Taisho Play 10 multiplayer battles of any type.
Famed Shogun Complete a campaign on hard difficulty.
Fear No Horseman Win a multiplayer battle using no spear units in your army.
Fearsome Commander of Men Obtain a maximum level general in the campaign.
Forged in the Hottest Flame Win your first multiplayer battle.
Glittering Grand Cities Be the first clan in the campaign to master the art of epic architecture.
Head-Hunter Collect 10,000 heads of enemy soldiers.
Heroic Warriors Through the avatar system, get a veteran unit to level 9.
Hojo Victory Win a campaign as the Hojo clan.
Holder of Kyushu Control the Kyushu province.
Holder of Shikoku Control the Shikoku province.
Inspiring Counterattack Successfully rally 5 units at once with one use of the general's rally ability.
Japan Torn Asunder Win a multiplayer versus campaign.
Legendary Force Win a battle using an army composed entirely of hero units and your general.
Legendary Sohei Obtain a maximum level monk.
Living for Battle Obtain a unit of maximum rank in the grand campaign.
Loyal to the Clan Personally earn 20 clan tokens
Man the Defences Win 10 siege battles as the defender.
Master Interrogator Obtain a maximum level metsuke.
Master of the Waves Win 20 naval battles in multiplayer.
Military Might Be the first clan in the campaign to master the art of Shih.
Mori Victory Win a campaign as the Mori clan.
Oda Victory Win a campaign as the Oda clan.
One Rule Under God Win a campaign as a Christian daimyo.
Onna-Bugeisha Win a defensive siege battle with the lady of the house, the Onna-Bugeisha, as your general.
Path of the Leader Spend the maximum number of points in your avatar's skill tree.
Servant of God Obtain a maximum level missionary.
Serve with Honour Join a multiplayer clan in Shogun 2.
Shimazu Victory Win a campaign as the Shimazu clan.
Soaring Fame Obtain 100 fame within 20 turns.
Spreading Like Wildfire Defeat a Creative Assembly staff member in battle, or anyone else who has gained this achievement.
Stranglehold Your clan holds 5 provinces simultaneously on the multiplayer clan campaign map.
Stubborn Pursuer of Victory Complete a campaign on very hard difficulty.
Swathed in Fire Win a multiplayer battle where more than 50% of your army is made up of matchlock units.
Swift and Deadly Win a multiplayer battle losing less than 15% of your starting troops.
Takeda Victory Win a campaign as the Takeda clan.
The Army on the March Win 25 land battles.
The Dragon of Japan Win 100 ranked battles.
The Gathering Storm Win a multiplayer battle using no cavalry units (excluding the general) in your army.
There Can Be Only One Achieve the ultimate accolade and obtain rank 1 on the multiplayer Shogun Ladder.
Tokugawa Victory Win a campaign as the Tokugawa clan.
Trade Route Monopoly Control all the trade posts on the map at the same time.
Uesugi Victory Win a campaign as the Uesugi clan.
United in Conquest Win a multiplayer co-op campaign.
Uniter of Japan Capture all provinces on the avatar campaign map.
Unnecessary Force Completely wipe out an enemy unit.
Zen-like Dedication Win 200 multiplayer games of any type.


It would take a gamer far more dedicated than me (or a kid with lots of free time/unemployed gamer) to nail all of those down...

Looking at them, it looks like they actually have the "Japanese navy" fighting European ships and also have Japanese women generals. Beginning to seem a bit like a "History Channel" game.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 1:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


War Game In Japanese History Quarterly #9 (Japanese language publication) features 東国争乱 (Tougoku Souran, Tougoku Disturbance-Tougoku being the Kanto or Eastern provinces of Japan). This is a fast playing and easy to learn game of the battles between the major factions of Japan in the east during the Sengoku-those being the Uesugi, Takeda, Hoko, Imagawa, and Oda.

This is an area movement game that focuses mainly on warfare, although there is a rudimentary economic element with each part of the map having 'resource points' used for production. It's pretty standard stuff for anyone who's played the myriad of province grabbing games produced over the years dealing with the Sengoku, except here the Oda don't hog the spotlight. Rather, it's the interaction between the Hojo-Uesugi-Imagawa-Takeda that drives the game. Forming-and breaking-alliances at the right time is crucial to success. Combined with the simple game system, this makes it the perfect party game (well, at least for historical gamers!).



You get a pretty unimpressive map of eastern Japan with most of the provinces being divided into two areas. The 160 counters are divided into mounted samurai, spearmen, and teppo. There are rules and markers for castles as well. The rules consist of four pages and they do a good job of putting together a pretty detailed yet fluid game system. The best part of the game are the five 'daimyo' cards for Uesugi Kenshin, Takeda Shingen, Hojo Ujiyasu, Imagawa Yoshimoto, and Oda Nobunaga. They're used for a variety of purposes and also outline several 'special skills' and abilities for each daimyo and clan. The game can be played as a campaign with five players and can be finished up in 2-4 hours. There are also five scenarios for 2-3 players simulating the campaigns and alliances of the following years-

1553-1st Kawanakajima

1560-Okehazama

1575-Nagashino

1552-Rise Of Kenshin

1550-The Three Clan Struggle (Hojo, Takeda, Imagawa)



WGIJH has also changed its format yet again this issue. It's now a regular magazine, and no longer has the plastic bubble mounted on a hard cover that used to contain the game components. Now it's packed in a ziploc bag like Game Journal and Command Magazine. There does seem to be a bit more content-there are bios of the different commanders, gameplay tips, historical articles on the period covered by the game (the historical articles have really been beefed up in this issue), and lots of maps and illustrations. Gone are the historical DVD reviews and regular columns that have been featured since issue 1.

You can see a lot more about the game and a short two minute video of a playthrough in stages HERE.

For WGIJH #10, they've FINALLY turned their attention to the Genpei War. Named Juei No Ran, looks like it will be covering the latter years of the war and focusing on the campaigns of Minamoto no Yoshitsune.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 1:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
The Strategy Guide is out for Shogun Total War 2 and is available only as an E-Guide from the Steam site or the Brady Games website. While the strategy and tactics therein are nothing special, it works well as a reference for introducing you to game mechanics that the game does a poor job of explaining.
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