Carvel’s now finished the two Northstar buntai the Starship crew got him for his 50th – a total change of direction from his usual painting “comfort zone”! The figures are lovely sculpts, full of movement and detail, and reward fine painting (have a look in the gallery for Carvel and Al’s minis – the Koryu, Bushi and Sohei buntai).
One of the other items in his birthday parcel was the Ronin rulebook, which we were sure Carvel would take to. With figures painted, the time was right to try ’em out! Cracking open the new rules called for the correct libation:
Sadly, we couldn’t find any Japanese rice crackers or snack to go with ’em.
The rulebook is simply laid out, giving enough historical background to the game (16th C Japan) to get a feel for the period and the weapons, armour, factions, fighting styles, etc, without getting too involved, and the rules themselves straightforward and pretty unambiguous. There was some page-searching later, but that was our unfamiliarity, rather than the fault of the rules, and there’s a rules summary download from the Osprey website to help out (see the links later).
This was just a basic rules-test, rather than a tactical battle, so we set up a three-on-three scrap in the outworks of the fort below (not very eastern!):
The Koryu buntai members were armed with katana and nodachi, up against a samurai and two ashigaru with yuri, teppo and katana. 76 points were allocated, making the Koryu members more skilled and of higher combat rank than the Bushi buntai – but with no armour.
Priority roll went to the Bushi; this decided, basically, who goes first! No moral checks needed (first turn), so straight into movement and “snapshot” shooting. Despite incurring a penalty for firing on the hoof, the teppo found its’ mark, winging the nodachi-armed kohai (a light wound). Movement closed the distance between protagonists, with the samurai and yuri-armed ashigaru going one-on-one against the senpai and the other kohai; the nodachi-wielding kohai couldn’t charge in to attack the remaining ashigaru as he reloaded his teppo, however.
The bonus to initiative for a long spear meant first strike to the ashigaru, piercing the kohai’s defence and critically wounding him! The other pair traded blows, with the Fast attack of the samurai giving him the initiative, his single attack slicing the senpai with a light wound, whilst his heavy armour blocked attacks of his opponent.
Next turn – Priority to the Bushi again! No shooting, as the teppo takes an age to reload, so straight into melée. The senpai went all-out to attack, but was once again thwarted by the heavy armour and strong defence of the samurai, and was cut down by a fatal stroke against which he had no protection. The remaining kohai, with his heavy sword, held off both the ashigaru by putting all his CP into defence, but against all three opponents, there was to be no happy ending to this tale …
A very brief game – but one which took longer to play than recount, as Ronin lends itself to very social gaming and we tend more to the social than the gaming! The very brief dry run did highlight the need for careful selection of Combat Points and a good balance of Attack and Defence choices – too much of either can be fatal. It also showed just how vulnerable an unarmoured warrior can be, and how fast and brutal combat is – I did wonder whether the wound table wasn’t too random and needed the probability of a critical reducing by using 2d6, but, on balance, the game is fast and furious – as ought to be! Next time – a small scenario with a twist! And a better balance of combatants.
Some links to Ronin-related goodies found here: