Knocking another Samurai skirmish ruleset off my list with a review of Bushi no Yume. I initially read the rules a while back but have really struggled with how to write a review for Bushi no Yume. See, I am pretty ignorant when it comes to a particular ruleset that is fairly well known in the world of miniature agnostic skirmish games: Ganesha Games' Song of Blade and Heroes (SBH) but what little I do know seems consistent with what is presented in Bushi no Yume. Which caused me to ponder "how" to write a review (full review, delta review, cop out review).
Ultimately, the author took the time and effort to put Bushi no Yume together so I figured I should at least treat it as a stand alone game in reviewing it. As such, I will make no other mention of SBH except to say that you do not need it, or be familiar with it, in order to play Bushi no Yume. You can find lots of helpful information regarding Bushi no Yume here.
Scale of Game and List Building:
The rules state that a standard game should be around 5-10 characters, costing 60 koku (points) total, with games of this size being playable within one hour on a 3x3 ft table at 28mm scale (there are conversions for distance for multiple scales). Increasing the game size to 10-20 figures, costing 100-120 koku (points), should be playable within 2 hours.
List building/force composition for a 60 point game, limits that only 45 points can be spent characters which are classified as personalities with no other restrictions. I believe that beyond that, your force can be completely personalized including building characters from scratch if you desire.
There are a few core concepts for Bushi no Yume that are important to understand as they are a departure from most skirmish game systems. The first is the characteristics of each model has essentially been reduced down to two stats:
- Bujutsu (fight) - How well the character can fight.
- Kyu Grade (quality) - Roll up of all non-fighting characteristics
The second key concept is the activation system. At the beginning of the game, players roll to see who has initiative, with whoever winning the role retaining initiative every turn. After the first turn, this test turns into a Karma Card Roll (more on what this means later). The player with initiative will then select a model to activate, choose the number of actions (between 1-3) they wish to perform, and then perform an Activation Roll. This is a test against the models Kyu Grade, rolling a number of dice equal to the number of actions declared. For every success, you get one action. If you only have 1 failure you may activate another character afterwards. 2 or 3 failures passes play to your opponent (either immediately or after your action depending on if there is any successes). There is a fairly standard list of actions that accompany this system, some of which costing more than just one action.
While most characters have standardized movement values, there are a couple of major departures in the movement system. Firstly, the distance moved is measured from the front of the base to the rear of the base such that larger based models will have slightly more movement. The second difference is that while you do not have to move the full distance, you do have to move in a straight line such that if you want to negotiate around an object/corner you must use multiple moves to do so.
Combat resolution is accomplished in an opposed roll manner. In the case of ranged combat, the attack can end up missing, forcing the target to cover, or possibly wounding, or outright killing the target. For close combat, the combatants may end up disengaged, the loser forced backwards with possible followup from the winner, or the loser possibly wounded or outright killed (note, armor is factored in before determining the result). If a character is possibly wounded, it performs a wound test at the beginning of that player's next turn with results ranging from flesh wound to dead. Typical rules and modifiers apply to combat.
That being said, there are some additional fidelity to combat that are not often found in miniature games. There is an hierarchy of weapons, from best to worst, which give combatants with better weapons than their opponent a bonus. Long reach weapons also accounted for. Additionally, the type of damage a weapon inflicts (impact vs cutting/piercing) affects the target number for the wound test.
The rules give several scenarios to offer something more than just kill the other guy. That being said, killing the other guy most of the time seems to be the sure path to victory. There is a simplified campaign system also included, as well as an advancement system.
There are some additional rules, not mentioned above, that are covered in Bushi no Yume. This includes a morale system, karma cards, Ki, mythical creatures, and even a magic system! The karma cards, which replace the initiative roll at the start of each turn after the first, add a bit of unknown to the game by adding positive modifiers, actions, or events when played (one lets a character slice up arrows with their katana if fired at).
Ki is kind of interesting in that each character starts play with 1 Ki and at any time to modify one of their dice rolls +/- 1. And every time a character rolls a natural 6 in combat, than recieve an additional point of Ki.
Magic seems fairly abstracted, much like it is in Kings of War but glad to see its inclusion, as well as the inclusion of mythical creatures.
I am inclined to have several concerns regarding the Bushi no Yume rules but I also feel that should not express them without having tried the game, which I have not. Probably my biggest concern regarding Bushi no Yume can be rolled up into "acceptability": Will I (as well as those I try to convince to play) find the rules acceptable. This stems from the fact that there are several concepts, that are a foundation to the game, that are pretty major departures from standard miniature wargames.
Outside of the major departures, there is one additional concern though and that is how the rules are written. I do not mean to imply they are badly written, quiet the contrary they are well written. It is the fact that to introduce "flavor" it over uses (in my opinion) Japanese naming conventions. See above in this review, I used Koku and other terms. It shows a great love and care for the genre for the author to do this but it also makes it hard at times to digest the rules. And as I game that I may try to introduce other people to, it is a factor I would have to consider.
I also feel the additional fidelity of combat captured by the hierarchy of weapons and some other particular modifiers may add to much "work" to the game.
The last thing that gives me a slight pause is the opposed combat roll system. I am a big fan of this approach for combat resolution but I have always been concerned that it favors range combat over close combat. That is because range combat usually represents zero risk to the attacker, while close combat has a significant (at least by comparison) risk. Most systems tend to address this imbalance by limiting the amount of range combat units/models you can use, but this restriction seems missing in Bushi no Yume. Then again, maybe it should be left up to players to build their lists accordingly.
If I am correct that Bushi no Yume is very similar to SBH (I know, I said I wouldn't reference it again) then I can see why SBH appears to be very polarizing in the gaming community. I'm interested to try it out so that I can "give it a fair shake" but honestly I am afraid I wont like it. And if I do, I am afraid it would be a hard sell to other people.
That being said, it is one of the few games in this genre that I think could give me a bit of that Akira Kurosawa movie feel that I want: Through it's wound system and activation system. And it is the first that I have reviewed to introduce fantastical elements into the game, other than Ki in the Torii rules.
Adding this to the list of games of this genre: Samurai Skirmish as it is at least worth considering and/or trying out.