So I've finally started tilting at this windmill: The search for a desirable (to me) Samurai Skirmish game. I should probably define the search parameters I am seeking for a suitable game but I am in a "I will know it when I see it" state of mind right now.
One thing to note though, as I long time fan of Legend of the Five Rings, I really would love a ruleset that had mystical/fantastical elements to it: Undead, Oni, magic, etc. That being said, most of the rulesets that I am aware seem to stem from the more historical side of our hobby and therefore lack this element. Since, at this time, this seems pretty universal I will not consider the lack of this element as a negative. And if I find one that does offer it, I will consider it a positive instead.
What I've found so far:
Test of Honour by Warlord Games:
- I really like the rule system and think it captures a lot of flavor the genre has.
- Maybe double counting (given I just gave it a plus on the rules), but on paper and from my demo I really love this activation system!
- If interested, as I understand it, this will feed directly into, a mass battle ruleset as an expansion(?) for Warlord Games Pike & Shotte (eventually).
- Nothing ties "me" the manufacture's miniatures. That being said, coming from Warlord Games, if this gains traction we could begin to see tournaments at conventions, which easily could require the use of Warlord miniatures.
- I think with Warlord Games behind this, Test of Honour got a really good (relatively to others in this genre) penetration in to the hobby.
- For me, the buy in for this game is ludicrous. Just to get all the rules/options, I would have to pay over $100! Hell, just the get the core stuff is a $50 buy in. Yes, this provides me a bunch of miniatures but honestly, they are miniatures I don't want. Additionally, having to buy miniatures I do not want just to get specific cards I want (ala X-Wing, Armada) rubs me the wrong way. I really hope that Warlord addresses this someday and soon.
- I believe (from my demo at Adepticon, cause I don't remember this in the rules) if your leader is killed, the game ends (ala Warmachine's "caster kill" mechanic). I can actually live with this approach except when it is coupled with scenarios (which Test of Honour has/does), then I hate it.
- List building seems to limit you to 1-2 "Samurai", with the rest being more common/Ashigaru like troops. I'm not sure this gives me enough Samurai "goodness." lol
- While I am not interested in Warlord's miniatures, I think it is important to note that their packaging of the miniatures makes no sense for this game. It looks like to me it is geared toward the future release of the Pike & Shotte expansion for Samurai.
My more detailed review can be found here.
Torii by Zenit Miniatures:
- Since the elite troop slot provides samurai options, this provides the ability to field a good number of samurai models (potentially 4 elite samurai + 2 hero samurai). So it has enough Samurai "goodness."
- The rules seem solid and take an interesting approach in streamlining the stat line of different troop types (Hero, Elite, Common) and then using skills to provide more uniqueness. This could backfire though by constantly having to look up skills to figure out what they do.
- Nothing ties "me" the manufacture's miniatures, although these are the miniatures I will most likely buy. I don't think we will ever see a tournament formal enough for Torii to require using the manufacture's miniatures (at least here in the US).
- The rules are free.
- I'm not completely sold on the "I go, You go" with reactions activation system. That being said, it is definitely an improvement over a pure "I go, You go" system. Only playing a few times will tell.
- IMO, it is a little light on the flavor of the genre.
- While it is hard to identify exactly what needs to be addressed, I think the rules need some refinement.
- If you are wanting to field mostly samurai, I think you will find the 100 pt limit very restricting. How to scale the game up beyond 100 pts will require some experimenting.
My more detailed review can be found here.
- I believe with the robust selection of factions, each with their own force composition rules, you get a nice selection models for your force to suit your tastes.
- Phased turn sequence, with alternating activation within each phase.
- Interesting combat pool mechanic.
- Being one of the Osprey series of wargaming books, the rules are very affordable. I think I paid less than $15 for mine.
- The faction specific force composition rules, in general, will force you toward a higher model count just to get stronger models into your force.
- Along the lines of above, you might not be able to field a lot of samurai especially if you keep the point total down low.
- Outside of the "names" of troops and equipment, the game just seems a little light on flavor.
- Kill the most models seems to outweigh playing the suggested scenarios.
Bushi no Yume by Surf Shack Games:
- Magic and fantastical elements!
- Would seem to provide a lot of the cinematic flavor I am looking for.
- Some interesting mechanics, including the activation system.
- Availability is an issue. I honestly can remember when/how/where I acquired my set of these rules. I assume if you did around the forums at Surf Shack Games you can find an email address for the author and inquire/purchase from him.
- The "flavor" extends all the way into the rules with lots of Japanese names being used, adding some confusion at times and could effect buy in from others.
- Some of the mechanics are significant departures from the "norm" and might affect getting others to buy in.
- The reduction to 2 primary characteristics may be to much of an abstraction for my taste.
- Augmenting the abstraction above with special abilities/skills may lead to lots of looking up what those special abilities/skills do.
- Not sure how much active support the game is receiving.
Daisho by The Ministry of Gentlemanly Warfare:
- Magic and fantastical elements! But can also play a more pure historical version, if desired.
- Excellent variety of scenarios plus many complications that can be added to them.
- Seems like a tight/concise rule system.
- Availability is an issue. Only available from a limited number of retailers but they do have a printable e-book version, now.
- Without Ki/Magical powers lacks mechanics that convey a samurai flavor.
- Some book keeping required to track whether figures have moved/ran, as these modify shooting.
- A fair number of Skills/Ki/Magical powers to reference during gameplay.
Still to do:
Saga 2nd Edition?
Whatever else I can find.