Gaming the Sengoku Jidai Period

The Sengoku Jidai period, which roughly ran from 1467 AD to around 1616 AD is a fascinating period in Japanese history marked by social upheaval, political intrigue and near-constant military conflict. Colourful and massive armies clashed across the country in a series of campaigns. It seems ideal to represent in the table.

Originally I built my own Japanese, mostly purchased second hand, for use with my preferred Renaissance rule set DBR. Typically DBR is used for large games on large tables. As a result in all that time I have used the army with the DBR rule set I have only managed a couple of games against other Japanese armies. Something was missing. Over recent months a regular opponent and I have been engaged in a series of Sengoku Jidai encounters using DBA. DBA of course is based around small armies and short games. The armies were now out on the table and providing excellent games in our mid-week gaming slot. Even more interestingly these smaller games have had considerable variety, more so than the large games which tended to use all my miniatures.

In part this variety is due to the options in the DBA army lists. The armies have a core of standard troops which is varied by yari armed ashigaru, various town or Ikko Ikki militias, or the warlike Sohei warrior monks. In addition unusual options such as command posts, dismounted generals and bodyguards, as well as cavalry supported by dismounted followers, can be fielded. As a result, assuming players make the most of the options, considerable variety between games can be achieved.

Now I know that DBA is not for everyone. However, the ability to fight battles between historical enemies with a pleasant opponent provides, for me, an enjoyable gaming experience – especially when time is limited. Last night additional variety was introduced when another player visited and fielded a Yi Dynasty Korean Army. Here was another seldom seen army and yet again DBA produced an excellent evening of gaming. A few photos of this game can be found here.

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On Campaign with the Count of Nassau

I’m very fortunate with my wargaming. Yes, it’s true and every so often it’s worth reminding myself of that. I’ve been playing Volley & Bayonet since 1994 when the first edition came out. Despite playing the rules for 23 years now the rules keep producing outstanding games. Partly that is because there is a such a pleasant group to play against locally. However there are other reasons, including the obvious – the rules are just really good!

In the last few weeks I’ve played a couple of outstanding Napoleonic encounters, while just a week ago a challenging American Civil War battle with a completely different feel. Then, last night I was able to try another sub-period, in particular a Marlburian game. Above, Dutch infantry advance against the French during the game.

So what is different? Well, in the Marlburian period the infantry are slow, musket fire is poor and artillery is moved by civilians. A far cry from the Seven Years War never mind the Napoleonic or American Civil Wars. The basic rules are of course the same, so the mechanics are familiar. However, each sub-period has several small differences and these transform the game. 

These much to be said for wargaming the black powder era and I just can’t go past Volley & Bayonet. If you are interested in our latest game have a look at a series of photos which can be found here.

Empire: 280 BC to 271 BC

Our Ancients campaign continues with another turn complete, this time covering the period 280 BC to 271 BC. I’m pleased with the changes to the mechanics and the support a number of locals are providing. This turn for example we have had five people involved in the games with a bit of a lottery on which armies you end up commanding. Everyone seems to be enjoying the context of the games than any focus on world conquest.

All the playing states are suffering a mix of success and setback which is adding to overall interest. Pyrrhus, who is currently King of Macedonian, is under particular pressure. Despite this after two desperate battles he still controls his Macedonian throne, just. Meanwhile while Rome and Carthage are locked in combat Seleucus was last seen campaigning somewhere in Bactria.

If you are interested you can find a full summary here.

Technological Challenges 

As regular readers will know I enjoy gaming several different periods but one ruleset I particularly enjoy is Spearhead. In particular the World War II version. Spearhead has for me an excellent balance between command level challenges and technology. Further, the rules are not too complex, meaning a player doesn’t feel exhausted at the end of the game.

For some years my Spearhead games have been focussed on the and 1944, in part because I was in the process of rebasing the early war collection and painting extras. Over the last year I finally completed the first phase of this rebasing project allowing me to finally breakout my miniatures for a series of cracking good early war games.

The fascinating thing about this period, for me at least, are the challenges the various armies had with doctrine and technology. Lessons from the Great War had been learnt but their application on a different battlefield was not straightforward and continued to be refined sometimes due doctrine and on others due to limitations around rearmament. Obvious examples are the British light, infantry and cruiser tanks, as well the various early Panzer I and II tanks of the Germans. Of course all nations had similar challenges. On the battlefield what do you actually do with a Panzer I or a Vickers Mk VI?

The technological challanges were very evident in our most recent game. However, with Spearhead you actually need to focus on the coordination of various arms realising you will pay the price when you can’t achieve these sufficiently.

Of course all these interesting technologies, combined with trying to achieve combined arms, are made even more interesting by the tactical situation and two players duelling to place their opponent at a disadvantage. What a great way to spend an evening!

A Sumatran Outing 

Like many readers over the years my miniatures collection has grown to the point that I have trouble finding time for games involving the various armies in my collection. That’s despite not having that many armies. Sometimes this of because of changing trends, but at other times there just is only so much time. As a result collections just don’t get out of the box.

I’m fortunate that I get to play a range of periods and rules, but it was with some enthusiasm that last night my Sumatran army, from the 17th Century, had an outing after a period of time hiding in their boxes. The resulting game, using DBR, was extremely enjoyable for both players. Interesting armies, unusual troop types and the vagaries of the dice added much to the game and resulted in an excellent evening of gaming.

The Sumatrans are an unusual army, comprised mostly of charging foot with support from archers, skirmishers and a few elephants. Their opponents on this occasion were Ottoman Turks, who themselves are an eclectic lot and comprise mounted of variable quality, a significant artillery train and foot with, shall we say, a range of capabilities. A few photos of the game can be found on my Renaissance blog here.