Continuing to tilt at windmills, specifically for a Samurai skirmish game, I just revisited the Torii rules by Zenit Miniatures. I had flipped through the rules a while back and I did not recall anything that was explicitly a show stopper, at least for me, so I thought it was worth going back and reviewing a little further and capturing my thoughts. The rules are available for free and can be found here or from the main page of the Zenit website.
Although not the purpose of this review, I should point out that Zenit also offers a Samurai oriented mass battle ruleset called Kensei. They also offer an wonderful range of Samurai models, in fact their range is the one I want to use for whatever ruleset I converge on (if I ever get around to it). Unless something better comes along before then. Anyway...
Scale of Game & List Building:
The rules advertise it is a game of 8-12 models per side, consisting of 3 categories of troops you can use to build your force, with the following restrictions:
- Hero: Must include at least 1. No more than 2 are allowed and they must be different.
- Elites: Up to 4 may be included into your warband
- Warriors: No restriction
- No more than 12 models total
- Only less than half of the warband can be equipped with ranged weapons
You have 100 points to build your warband as above. You can also spend points to equip them with mounts or range weapons or you can purchase Offerings for the Gods (rerolls).
While each category of troop shares the same stat line, the "force lists" expand this vanilla approach by offering different choices of Warriors (for instance) with different skills depending on the Clan they represent. There are also common troop choices available to ever clan. I really like this approach in theory and it appears to alleviate my first impression that the game would be very bland due to so much parity via the statline.
Torii is what I would call a "I go, You go" with reaction system. Typically not my favorite form of activation systems but at least it has a reaction component. In this system, the active player starts issuing and resolving orders to their models, where an order represents one or more actions (coming back to this in a second). If more than one action is permitted (more on that later), it can not be a duplicate of a previous action that miniature has taken during it's activation, nor can you have more than 1 combat action per activation. Any model that has received an order (either the active player or the reactive player) is considered activated and can not be re-activated that turn. The active player then continues to activate their other miniatures and once they have finished all of their activations, the second player then proceeds to activate their remaining eligible models.
What is a bit interesting in all this is that the number of actions a model may have is variable and not determined until the command roll is made at the beginning of a model's activation. A command roll is simply a 1d6 + initiative roll. On a 4+,the model gets 2 activations, otherwise it just gets 1. This seems kind of interesting but may end up being a bit of a love it/hate it type mechanic, at least for some. Lastly, on a command roll of a 6+ the model activates it's "Ki" (some skills may only be used if this has occurred).
Back to actions. There are a fairly typical set of actions available to the active player and a limited set for the reactive player. It is worth noting though that some actions to require 2 action points, hence the command roll could really hamper your plans.
Torii is a d6 based system and most rolls utilize the appropriate stat, rolling that number of d6s with a 4+ being considered a success. Close combat is resolved by each miniature rolling the appropriate number of dice (with modifiers) and counting successes (multiple of the same rolls, that are a successes, cause a crush bonus to be applied during damage resolution if that miniature wins the combat). The miniature with the higher number of success is the winner and causes a number of impacts equal to the difference. To resolve the damage, you roll a 1d6 + the difference from the previous step + modifiers (like crush): on 1-4 the target is stunned, 5 or 6 is a wound. It is clearly stated that stunned tokens are removed at the beginning of the turn but I'm not sure of the affect otherwise (can't be activated?). It would also seem, although not clear, that 2 stunned convert into a wound.
Range combat works in a fairly similar way. Except Line of Sight affects the target number for success: 4+ for clear LOS, 5+ for partially blocked LOS. There are also modifiers to the number of dice you roll based on class of range weapon (ie, short range weapons like shurikens) and the range band it is firing at. Outside of that, if the target reacted with an opportunity shot it is basically the same as close combat. If not, then the difference in impacts is equal to the number of successes the attacker rolled. If successful, then the damage is resolved. Given the disparity in the number of impacts you can generate (versus Close Combat), it would seem that unopposed range combat could be very deadly.
In all cases, if a miniature is wounded it then must perform a Honor Test or it will attempt to flee the combat. I would have liked to see some modifiers to this test, for instance if a warrior is within X of a Hero, it gets Y modifier to it's Honor Test. Maybe it is buried in the skills.
Outside what I've already mentioned, the rest of the rules from there on seem pretty standard.
There are 6 missions provided, each with a primary and secondary objectives and scoring. A common primary mission is randomly determined and shared by both players. Typically it offers 3 scoring elements of 1, 2 and 3 for a possible total of 6+ points. Each player also receives a random and independent mission to score for their secondary objective, worth 2 points. I am a big fan of this type of mission/objective approach. My only concern is the disparity between primary scoring and secondary scoring would seem to make going for a secondary a very poor decision. I would have to play through them multiple times to really tell though.
The rule book is fairly well laid out and would seem to flow well but I actually found myself searching around it a lot. Something in the flow is just slightly off but I can figure out what. That being said, from cover to cover it is only about 16 pages, if you exclude the skill list/definition and the force list, so it does not take long to find whatever you may need to look up. There is no table of contents or index for the rules, but given how short the rules are I do not think this is a big issue.
It should also be noted, as written, that Torii does not allow pre-measuring prior to issuing orders, which is not a big issue for me but for some it may be. Of course, you are likely to never to play this game in a tournament, so why don't you and your opponent just agree to play the way you want. ;)
The rules also specifically call out that models should be mounted on square bases but honestly there is no mechanic that would seem to drive this. I personally would consider this optional, just like the pre-measuring issue.
Weapons are handled fairly generically. Close combat weapons are all considered similar. Long combat weapons are just slightly different. Range weapons are all fairly similar, only grouped into range categories. Perhaps all that is for the best or perhaps it makes it a little to vanilla.
I should also mention the rules are in metric. As a one time player and fan of Confrontation, this is really not an issue to me but I remember some people, at the time, were very adamant about their hatred of the metric system and unwilling to consider playing a game in metric.
As in Test of Honour, Torii appears to lack any fantastical elements. Unless you consider the Ki triggering/allowing skills to take affect. So this is a bit of a downside to me personally. But in the case of Torii, I find this very odd (which I will come back to later).
There are some slight issues with the rules, as presented. I do not think there are any major holes in the rules, all the content seems to be there. It is just I felt like I had to flip around a lot to find things. For instance, as I stated above the close combat mentions "Crush", I figured that would be explained in the rules for resolving damage. But it is not. You find it in the skill section. Which is fine, I understand this approach but they could have written "crush skill" or something that would have clued me in. Also, I think the rules are simple enough to get away without having any diagrams or examples but I would I have still liked to have seen some.
As I mentioned when I covered range combat, it does seem on paper that range combat could be very deadly. It is definitely good that the list building rules limit the amount of range weapons your force can be composed with. But I still worry that it could be a little to deadly for my tastes.
The only other major issue I see is I am not sure of the support for this game. I think it is great they are leveraging off of Kensei and the range of models they have for Torii. But, why doesn't Torii have Clan profiles for all the great undead and Oni/monster models they released via crowd funding for Kensei? And why are there no fantastical elements to the game rules to support this? That hole leads me to have concerns about future support/intentions from Zenit for Torii.
Torii may end up being a bit vanilla. Maybe the simplified/unified statline utilizing skills approach will backfire, maybe it's a perfect solution. But, since the rules are free and there is nothing that necessarily ties you to using Zenit's range of miniatures (therefore to me it seems fairly miniature agnostic), I think the game is worth trying out if you are interested in a Samurai skirmish game. If it does not work out for you, you can always carry your miniatures over to another system (I suspect most rulesets for this genre that you will find are going to be miniature agnostic) and give it a try.
Right after I hit publish on this post, I found out Zenit has launched its Kickstarter for a second edition of Kensei (their mass battle Samurai rules). Since I have not really looked into Kensei, I do not really have an opinion about it. That being said, the Kickstarter does offer a lot of their miniatures and even a printed version of the Torii rules. You can find the Kickstarter here.