Design Notes – Landscapes

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As part of completing the Playtest Beta Rules it has fallen to me to create the Landscapes section so I thought I would describe to you how I went about this.

As in IHMN the purpose of the Landscapes are to provide players with ideas for their tabletops that will provide a certain level of tactical challenge during the game. It is one of the more unusual aspects of this series and has proven itself popular over hundreds of games.

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The landscapes are not prescriptive, you do not have to use them, but it particularly gives people who are unfamiliar with the genre a feeling for what they could use on the tabletop. In my opinion, even before painted figures it is nicely presented terrain that gives you a sense of satisfaction and immersion in the game’s narrative. After all it is one of the things we all look forwards to at shows.

Each landscape has a description and then suggestions as to the benefits it provides. the hazards you may face and some suggestions for the terrain pieces you might like to acquire and/or use.

The hazards section is often the most interesting as in there we often list Scenario Complications that might be appropriate to the landscape.
Combining a Landscape, a Scenario and perhaps one or more Scenario Complications gives you an enormous number of different potential games to play. Currently our count is 2,720.

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Here is the list we have so far:

A City or Town
The Imperial Palace
Daimyo’s Castle
Temple or Monastery
Village (Agricultural, Coastal/Fishing & Mountain)
Samurai Encampment
Abandoned Temple
The Forest of the Tengu
The Forgotten Village
The Demon Caves of Mount Fuji

If you can think of any we’ve missed or you would like to see leave a comment below.

Designing the Buntai: The Tengu

One of the otherworldly creatures we are going to make into the subject of a buntai are the Tengu.

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In traditional art tengu are portrayed as human-like creatures with a bird’s beak or a long and beak-like nose, wings and tail feathers on their backs, and claws on their fingers and toes. Some of the more monstrous depictions give them scaled digits or lips, pointed ears, mouths full of sharp teeth, three-toed bird’s feet, or somewhat bat-like webbed flight feathers. Like many demons, they are often associated with the colour red, although sources differ on whether this applies to their skin, hair, or clothing.

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Perhaps via confusion with the similarly-long-nosed Shinto deity Sarutahiko, Tengu are also sometimes portrayed with a red face and sans any bird features. This image is particularly common in folk art, like the famous Tengu masks that can be found in many Japanese restaurants.

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I am quite taken with the portrayal of the Tengu in the film 47 Ronin. It nods to the traditional, but brings it up-to-date. Some of the character of the Tengu shown in this film has made it through to my first draft of the buntai.

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So how do you see these fascinating creatures and how would you interpret them for a skirmish game?

Oshiro

As you may know I have been looking at terrain so I can build some participation game boards for shows next year. One of the chaps on Lead Adventure pointed me towards a British outfit called Oshiro Model Terrain.
I must admit that having seen these models all painted up that I am very impressed both with the quality and the range of buildings that are available. They have buildings for villages and towns and every accessory that you would seem to need.

Oshiro

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You can find out more about them here:
http://www.oshiromodelterrain.co.uk/catalogue28.html

Daishō Progress

So summer is over as are many of the distractions that brings and we are back with our noses to the grindstone writing Playtest Beta. This is the version we shall be sharing with a few carefully selected playtest teams so it has to be spot on.

To give you an insight into the writing process here are a few facts:

  1. Both of us have full time jobs with long commutes and neither of us get back from work until early evening.
  2. We also live 200 miles apart and can only get together half a dozen times per year. We communicate by phone about once per week.
  3. So we assign different parts of the rules to each other and write in isolation, often between other commitments (family, friends, gaming, domestics etc.).
  4. Then we send the parts we’ve written to each other and critically review them. Being old friends helps here as neither of us gets insulted by the other’s opinion.
  5. Pieces then flow backwards and forwards until we are both happy with them.
  6. This is all controlled by a simple status spreadsheet.

Well, back to the point, we’re are making good progress with Playtest Beta. The latest sections undergoing word-smithing are Scenarios, Complications and Landscapes, mostly my responsibility it should be said. While Charles hammers a few more of the Buntai into shape.

One of the things you will appreciate is that we are no longer restricted by the limited word count of the Osprey format so we can include more cool stuff and more examples. We have also learned so much from writing IHMN and all your many questions.

Our target is to have Playtest Beta ready to send out to our teams by the end of September. They will then have the opportunity to really shake the thing down. As we get reports and photos of the play-testing we shall be putting it up here for you to enjoy.

Following that is the hard job of producing the final draft, including all the tweaks and ideas the play-testers give us. This then will be ready in time for a December delivery to our publishers.

The first Playtest of the Rules

Over the summer Charles and I have been finishing the first draft of the Daishō rules. However, as we live on different sides of the UK we had not had the opportunity to get together to actually playtest them.

So in the last weekend in August the memsahib and myself journeyed to Surrey to meet up with Charles and his Buntai: Matt Cook, Dean Richards, Steph Richards and Sean Bissett-Powell .

You will find that there is now a page dedicated to the playtest reports (see the tabs at top of this page). On that page you will find a fully illustrated report of our first two games.

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The rebellious peasants await the arrival of their former masters with trepidation.

This game was played using the basic rules only. No heroic or legendary skills, powers, equipment or creatures were allowed. The idea being was to see if the adapted IHMN core rules worked in the setting.

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Two peasants prove their worth and prepare to die for their cause

The result was that they really did. The action flowed quickly, the new skills (replaces ‘talents’) worked well, the forces were evenly matched using the points system and we all had a whale of a time. To see what happened read the report.

Among the lessons learned from this exercise is that we have to review the On (honour) system, particularly with regard to the On rewards for besting a socially superior foe.

There shall be another report soon in which we take the game up a notch and begin introducing Ki powers.