Saturday, 21 March 2015

Ronin Campaign 3 - Defence

The third scenario in the Ronin mini-campaign was the Defence scenario. One side defends an objective, while the other side tries to take it. The rules state that the attacker gets twice as many points as the defender for the standard scenario, but it was not clear from the rules how this translates into the campaign game. In the campaign you start with 300 points of troops and divide them how you wish between the three scenarios before knowing what your opponent is allocating to each scenario, so points can be quite equal. As it happened, we decided to make the side with the higher points allocation the attacker. That was me. I had 100 points while Steve had 97 allocated to this scenario.
The terrain for the battle consisted of two impassable carst formations, a small wood and a grain storehouse in the middle. The storehouse was the monk's winter supply and was guarded by four of their best. As you will remember, the monks have been getting uppity and my samurai must enforce the law of the land by insisting that the monks pay their taxes. As part of that, our lord has decided that we must raid the monks' grain storage to recover back taxes.

As the attacker, I started with half my force on the table, and the rest would arrive in subsequent turns. This meant that I had two figures on the table, one would arrive on turn 2 and the last on turn 3. Ronin games are not large. I deployed two ashigaru in the open but around the back of the storehouse from the monks. My guys had a yumi (bow) and a teppo (arquebus). I thought that I would try to force the monks to move into the open and shoot at them before my melee troops tried storming the place. The game was 1d6+6 turns long and Steve rolled a 6, so I knew I had plenty of time (12 turns) to build up my forces and advance. I was a little worried by the fact that Steve suddenly had troops with missile weapons. He had not fielded missile weapons in any previous battle. Still, I would do what I could do.

My missile troops advanced closer to make the shooting easier and Steve's monks moved around the corner. In the exchange of fire that resulted over the next couple of turns, my guys suffered a couple of light wounds and Steve remained whole. His monks had clearly trained more with their weapons and my armour was not proof against his high dice rolls.
As the ashigaru closed the range, my melee troops arrived on the opposite corner of my starting edge. An ashigaru with a yari arrived first, using the carst formation as cover to close the range. He was closely followed by the best samurai in our lord's force (a rank 5 dude with loads of skillz). He demonstrated those skillz by using the ashigaru as cover to advance towards the enemy monks. This stopped the monks with yumi and teppo from shooting at him. The teppo in particular was a worry because it ignores armour and is quite deadly at close range.

The ashigaru did his job and fell riddled with arrows and musket balls, but the samurai was now close enough to charge and did so to good effect. By closing with the enemy he prevented further missile fire at him, but the monks quickly surround him and he was soon fending off three of the dastardly orange-clad devils. The fight was quite short and hard fought. Over the course of a couple of turns he fended off many attacks by the monks and cut down all three of them in turn. His kenjutsu skill came in particularly handy because it meant that he got a free re-roll of one die on all attack and defence rolls. Many of the re-rolls were as bad or worse than the original roll because my dice hate me, but it worked out right in the end. A couple of good re-rolls raised the numbers high enough to be useful. With the re-roll from the skill, it also meant that I could attack more often rather than spending dice from his combat pool to enhance his attacks. This meant he could badly hurt or kill enemy figures in a single turn, thus shortening the odds against him.
In the end, my samurai killed all the enemy monks, aided only a little by the largely ineffective missile fire from my ashigaru. Heads were taken, grain was transported back to the castle and the monks were put in their place.

The campaign is supposed to finish with a final climactic battle but we called it a samurai victory at this point because Steve only had one monk left alive for the final battle, while I had three samurai and three ashigaru.

Thoughts on Ronin
So, my thoughts? I enjoyed this mini-campaign. The rules are simple enough to get into and are well written with few areas of confusion. The game plays quickly, if you don't spend too much time in and between turns chatting. Our games always take longer because they are social events too.

The combat pool mechanic is good. Each figure has a combat pool and you choose a total of attack and defence dice equal to that pool. You need attack dice to actually attack and can spend an extra one to enhance your attack. You automatically get one die on all defence rolls, but you can spend a defence die to enhance your defence. Choosing the right mix for the circumstances and deciding when to use them is a great mechanic that takes you away from just standard rolling. I like mechanisms like this because it gives you interesting tactical choices to make. In the fight against the samurai above, Steve chose all attack dice for his mob. He wanted to make all-out attacks against the samurai because the samurai's heavy armour and high fight skill meant it was difficult to hurt him. This choice left the monks vulnerable to the samurai's attacks though, because they were only rolling basic defence rolls. I chose a balanced combat pool so that I could enhance the early defence rolls against Steve's best troops while still making attacks. I also relied on the kenjutsu re-reroll rather than enhancing my attacks.

Combat is made more interesting by an initiative roll too. All figures in a melee roll for initiative and attack in descending order of their roll. You have to choose your combat pool before you make the initiative roll, so there is an element of calculation and risk in choosing your combat pool. Do you rely on attacking first and killing your opponent before he can respond, or do you assume you will have to defend and give yourself a die or two for enhancing your defence? I like these sorts of decisions. They make games more interesting.

Overall, I think these are a sound set of rules and we shall return to them again in the future. The decision making is interesting and this makes the game play exciting. But first we have a Talomir Tales battle to fight and then we are going to play Impetus for a bit. It has been far too long since my Vikings hit the table.

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