The latest Osprey rule book – Ronin has taken the the THMG group quite by storm with many of the group being interested in the period. I have to admit that although not one of my ‘key interest’ periods for gaming, but it does hold some appeal – both at the painting and gaming/history levels. I do have some books on the period, like many of you I guess.
So this is a mixed little post, with a brief review of the rules from me and then comments on this rules set. These are after reading the rules through and playing a game. I also include a reverse engineered idea of the points system for a starting point for use of the rules in other periods.
So as you may guess, in summary I have to say that if you are interested in this period and Skirmish style of gaming I would definitely recommend you take a serious look this rules set.
The Rules Review
There are more complex and detailed reviews on the web for the rules book, so I’ll give my impressions and comments rather trying to explain the rules system or give an exhaustive review. As background, the system is for small scale (typically of 5 to say 25 figs) per side skirmish, where each fig moves and fights independently. It covers typical Japanese mid 15/16th cent small bands of troops, weapons and their engagements. The rules are set up for 28mm but I’m sure would work for other scales without an issue as well.
First of all, the books is the normal Osprey format and very professionally put together. It includes some cool paintings of troops of the normal Osprey fare as well as some very nice shots of various 28mm figures for the period. Overall, I can’t fault the production quality of the book.
The writing format is crisp and clean, so there are no issues with explanations or rules either. The book does not contain a lot of background or ‘fluff’ historical intro details,but I don’t see that as a bad thing. If you don’t know the period and the typical Japanese troops of the period then there are plenty of sites on the web and books (including those by Osprey) to provide that level of information. It does include forces for all the major combatants and their weapons, that a historical player would need. The rules also detail of how to adapt those to other periods as well, so I can’t fault the coverage in that area.
A selection of scenario’s are provided which cover the typical major skirmish topics as well as terrain set up and scenario special rules. So overall a reasonable set with everything you’d expect for the subject.
The rules themselves are an alternate action type game, where each player moves one of their models and then an opponent does. All figs move (or can take a quick shot with a bow/thrown weapon) and then all engaged fight, afterwards those remaining take an action – which can be shooting but also covers all the other options a fig can do, like picking up objects etc. That basic style is nothing that unusual for skirmish games.
The interesting bit of the rules is the close combat mechanic. This not only has multiple opposed rolls, for initiative (i.e. the order of attacks) and then the hit/defense rolls, but players have a combat pool which they can enhance/make attacks with, or counter attacks by being more defensive.
This changes the basic roll a die to add some modifiers typical of games by adding an extra decision point and tactical choice for the gamer. It’s nothing that complex, but this definitely makes things more interesting. To me this is a key thing which takes the rules above many other skirmish rule systems – more player interaction and inputs, without being overbearing/too complex.
So, as mentioned above, I have played my the first game with the rules now, which allows me to feel ok writing this post. One of the guys has decided to host a Ronin game based on the Seven Samurai movie in one of the local conventions in Ontario at the end of September. So he is running that at the local club to get all the rules right, and test out the scenario.
The rules system works well for this and he is refining the specific scenario details in the play tests. The scenario is a village is under attack by bandits and this is defended by seven unemployed samurai (who the villages have recruited). It’s a multiplayer game with 5 groups of bandits, all controlled by separate players on an objective grab style game and a GM player who controls the Samurai. Although, there is lots of bandits running around for rice and sake it also involves lots of combat so should be a great game and visually impressive when done.
The models and village are still a work in progress, but those done are really nice. You can see a sample of the table below, at the start of the game with the bandits all in the bottom right of the table. There is a lot more work still to be done but I’m sure you get the feel of the final game here.
Overall the game works very well for this type of specific style of scenario as well as matched points games – which have also been tried by club members. Even having drastically different skill levels of figures the unskilled can win the fight by ganging up on the skilled. So overall the game run through was an effective and interesting game. Now whether the points system in the game is well balanced will take many more games to figure out, but so far this system looks good and that’s a minor point really.
As said above, overall I would recommend the rules to people interested in the period or style of games. I was holding off buying more toys for this until the rules came out but have gone for group of Korean troops and some Samurai from Perry for this game. You’ll see them painted here at some point but for now they just have added to the lead pile…
Other uses of the system
One of the things which really interests and excites me though with this rules set is that this overall fairly simple rules set has quite a high tactical user interaction when fighting vs just rolling die. THAT’s really key for me and means I have added interest in the system.
As the Dark Ages is a period of real interest to me (can you tell from all the SAGA posts) I am already thinking about using this for the Dark ages/early medieval period. Most of the game will be able to be used with some minor modifications/additions for that period. Rules for Shield walls and the various weapons will be needed, but that’s not that hard. The advantage for that is that other members of the group will not have to paint up the number of troops needed for SAGA to play these games – and many people have troops for this period.
To transpose the periods, I also think the morale system may need a minor change, with an mandatory test after a specific % of losses in a force for some groups. I’m not sure if this would be ranks or No. of figs yet, which is not in the standard rules. This reflects the more western concept of personal control and willingness to run away if being beaten, lacking the ‘do or die’ morale reflected in the rules for most forces. I’ll play more games to see whats needed here and some forces may not need that change anyway.
The other thing needed will be to create new force lists for the various troops. Unfortunately, the rules don’t come with an explanation of the points system used to make the current troops. That’s really needed to start to work out new factions, or at least a way of generating the points value for new troops is. So, after some working out the various troops in the rules I think I am close to reverse engineering this and have listed what I have for this below.
Reverse engineered Ronin point system
Note. This system gets nearly all the models correct as detailed in the rules. A couple of the troops come within 1 point cost but are not exact. The Bushi Samurai and Senior Ronin are the most notable ones who according to this system should be one point more – for their commander attribute. Only the Sohei Initiate seems to be wrong in this and that may be because it does not include the extra weapon that the model has. If that is not included in the figure cost in the published rules then model pts are correct!
So we start with the figures Basic attributes:
- Rank: Usually the same as the Combat Pool of the figure, but based on the role. No cost for this.
- Combat Pool: Costs 2 points per point
- Initiative: Costs 1 point per point
- Fight: Costs 2 points per point
- Shoot: Costs 1 point per point
- Armour: Costs 2 per level above none. – none= 0, light = 2, medium = 4, heavy =6
Add the cost of the weapons/equipment the model has:
- Improvised: -1 points
- Add a Wakizashi (for free) if appropriate
- An additional weapons or use of one of these (Naginata, Yari, Teppo, Yumi, Nagae-yari etc.) +3 pts
- Horse : +10 pts
- Shuriken +2 (this is an educated guess)
- Revolver: +3
- Rifle with Bayonet: +5
Then add the attributes a model has. Some attributes are cheaper if always part of the model. These are listed below.
- Commander: +1
- Fearless: +2
- Acrobatic: +2
- Others attributes/Bujutsu: +3 each
This seems to work and I hope helps others work on other periods for this fun and interesting rules system. If the author does publish the official way the points cost works then I’ll see how close I came. But these seems good for now.
Well back to more painting.