Pevans's Perspective

This was the title of my board games column in Flagship magazine, so I thought I'd resurrect it, 8 years after Flagship's demise. The idea is to get down my musings in a more contemporaneous way - expect things to appear later in To Win Just Once (www.pevans.co.uk/TWJO) in a more considered form. Now, can I manage a less formal style?
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Samurai battles - lots of them

Paul Evans
United Kingdom
UXBRIDGE
London
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Nephew Tom and I have comprehensively christened my copy of Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles and I've given my first impressions of the game in my previous post: Commands & Colors goes to Japan. This was the result of working through early scenarios and here's what happened in them.

The first scenario is "First Samurai Skirmish" and is explicitly "non-historical ... to introduce ... the basics". Thus the two sides have the same units: a mixture of samurai and ashigaru, mounted and foot, bowmen and spearmen. And an arquebusier unit each. Here's the starting set-up (from commandsandcolors.net) - note the almost-square board.
From gallery of Pevans

I attacked with the right-hand half of my army. In particular, launching my mounted samurai spearmen into Tom's ashigaru and killing their leader (1:0 to me). This quickly developed into a pitched battle as his mounted samurai spearmen hit my ashigaru in turn. Meanwhile a long-range archery duel centre-left saw my bowmen damaging his.

The right flank melee ended with me having lost three units - only the arquebusiers and archers left - while Tom had lost just one. Plus another leader - my cavalry leader committed seppuku rather than suffer disgrace. (3:3) Meanwhile the left half of my force had attacked, the samurai foot spearmen finishing off one unit of archers, but being badly battered in the process (the first sign that marching up to bowmen is costly). (4:3)
From gallery of Pevans

Tom eliminated that samurai unit to take the score to 4:4. However, he had several one- and two-block units just waiting to be finished off - as can be seen in the photo above. My ashigaru (note two of these are down to 2 blocks but still have leaders attached) pressed the attack on his one-block samurai unit and took it out for the win (5:4). This was a close battle that did its job of introducing us to the game and most of the different types of unit. It took about an hour to play. Given the two sides are essentially the same, we didn't replay this one and moved on to the next scenario.

Scenario 2 is Arita Castle 1517 AD (Phase 1 - Takeda Vanguard). Red, representing the Mori clan, has four mounted samurai bowmen with a mounted leader against seven infantry (one samurai archer, two ashigaru archers and four ashigaru spearmen) and an infantry leader from the Takeda clan. This looked like a quick scenario as it's only three banners to win and eliminating a leader counts as two. As I was sitting on the blue side of the board, I took Takeda first.

Tom immediately attacked my archers in the centre, one cavalry unit charging in, while the others stood back and used their bows. I managed to bring up my spearmen to support the archers, but lost one while battering the Mori cavalry in close combat. (That's 0:1 to Mori)

Tom then played his masterstroke. With plenty of Honor and Fortune chips built up, he successfully played the "Turncoat" Dragon card. My left flank spearmen changed side and attacked the archers they were supposed to be supporting! I was not happy, but managed to extricate the archers.
From gallery of Pevans

In the centre, Tom retreated his battered unit and assaulted the ashigaru with another one - with archery support. That's the position shown above. I battered this unit as well, pursuing it with my spearmen. Tom then flung his third unit in and destroyed the Takeda samurai led by Motonao, killing him into the bargain. That took the score to 0:3 (0:4 if you ignore that a player can't get more than is required to win) and demonstrated the huge advantage of mounted samurai over ashigaru.

Thus I felt hopeful when we swapped sides. Ignoring history (the two sides "engaged in a heated archery exchange"), I sent my three cavalry in the centre into close combat with the Takeda archers - Tom had got two of his spearmen up as support. I demolished the samurai unit in short order, Motonao committing seppuku to avoid being ridden down, and the ashigaru archers shortly after - though not without casualties. (2:0)
From gallery of Pevans

Tom then played his masterstroke. With plenty of Honor and Fortune chips built up, he successfully played the "Turncoat" Dragon card. Again. My right flank unit switched sides and attacked its erstwhile comrades from behind. With ashigaru spearmen on one side and their own cavalry on the other, my men fought valiantly. However, I lost one unit (2:1) before getting rid of the turncoats. (3:1)

Now there are 40 Dragon cards and only one of them is the Turncoat. With us using less than half the cards each time, what are the odds of Tom getting it twice? Be that as it may, this left the aggregate score for this scenario at 3:4 to him.

The third scenario is Arita Castle 1517 AD (Phase 2 - Matauchi River) and is more substantial. Here's the set-up from the Takeda side. The Mori (red) forces have crossed the river centre-left with mainly samurai archers, one unit mounted (the river is fordable, so the fords are effectively open ground). More cavalry lurks at the rear while a mixed group tries to out-flank the Takeda right. However, the Mori are facing a larger (just) Takeda army.
From gallery of Pevans

Tom seemed to have all the left section cards as he moved up archers and was shredding the Mori troops that were across the river. So I moved in to attack at close quarters, hoping to eliminate the cavalry unit that couldn't retreat. Probably not a good move as my units were mostly archers too. In the fighting that followed, I lost three (out of five) units, while removing only one of Tom's six (there were only four when I started the attack). However, I also killed the (unnamed) infantry leader with them to make the score 2:3. As the photo below shows, I still have two units across the river facing most of the Takeda army. My out-flanking force on the left hasn't moved, but has been engaged by Takeda soldiers.
From gallery of Pevans

By now I had left section cards and nothing to rescue my two advanced units, so I tried to make something with that flanking group on my left. I eliminated one Takeda unit, while Tom removed my two stranded units right and centre. (3:5) My remaining units in the centre moved out of bowshot, hoping to tempt the Takeda forces up to the river so that I could play my "Blue Dragon" Dragon card (1 die against each unit on or adjacent to water).

Instead Motoshige and his mounted samurai spearmen hit my left, pushing them back across the river. Except for my samurai archers, who hid in the woods. But not for long as a mixture of archers and ashigaru spearmen finished them off. 3:6 and another win for Tom.
From gallery of Pevans

Switching sides for the re-match, Tom was careful not to charge in. I tried to emulate his approach, attacking the Mori advance force with archery. I was not as effective as Tom had been. Again, he had left section cards and advanced the outflanking group to start an archery duel with the Takeda bowmen centre-right. He won this exchange, with my archers eliminated, his reduced to one block and retreated back to the river. (0:1)

With a lead in victory banners, Tom then played his masterstroke. With plenty of Honor and Fortune chips built up, he successfully played the "Turncoat" Dragon card. For the third time. The samurai foot spearmen on my left flank switched sides and attacked the archers alongside them. D'oh! Here's what that looked like. Note Motoshige taking his cavalry to bolster the right flank.
From gallery of Pevans

The renegade samurai started towards the Mori side of the battle, taking out the ashigaru archers in the way. (0:2) Another ashigaru archer unit fell to the arrows of the opposing Mori. (0:3) Time to attack! As part of my general attack on the advanced Mori forces, I went after the turncoats with mounted samurai (bowmen). My attack did not go well: I removed an ashigaru unit, but some lucky dice by Tom destroyed the samurai lynchpin of the attack, their (unnamed) leader fleeing. (1:4) This picture says it all, I think.
From gallery of Pevans

Tom counter-attacked with Mori cavalry advancing across the river. I brought Motoshige back to make it two cavalry onto one in the centre while my brave right flank ashigaru charged the one-block samurai archers on the river, taking them out, and my mounted samurai eliminated the renegades. 3:4 looks a much healthier scoreline.

The fight in the centre took one of my ashigaru, while my cavalry could only chase off the Mori horsemen. (3:5) Motoshige went after them, but some ashigaru got in the way. Between them and the arrows of the retreating mounted bowmen, Motoshige fell to give Tom another convincing win: 3:6. And that makes the aggregate score for this scenario 6:12 to Tom. Sigh.
From gallery of Pevans

There's more to come, but I think I'll make them a separate post. Watch this space.
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