A game report and review by John Ewing


We ran our first game of Daisho at the Falkirk Club last night and all the players had a ball. What was initially intended to be a straight 2 player fight between some Kabuki-mono and the students from the local Ryu to test the rules for close combat turned into a 4 player scenario involving the authorities and the complications of civilians and the intervention of a Shinto priest magic user. It’s a credit to the flexibility of the system that some of these late additions were included on the hoof and added to the flavour and narrative without breaking the game.

The set-up

Each Buntai was limited to 225 points with no Magical items or Magic permitted but Ki points and powers were used as these were seen as important to create a different style of game to IHMN which several of the players were familiar with.

The initial scenario envisaged a gang of 6 Kabuki-mono taking up residence in a local village inn. Having announced their presence to the locals by beating up a youth and novice monk and leaving them half dead, they were indulging their taste for sake at the innkeeper’s expense and smoking their opium pipes.

Unbeknownst to them the youth was a new novice at the local Ryu whose Sensei was less than happy when he heard of this outrage. Sending 2 of his Masters and 4 Initiates to the village he wanted revenge and preferably the head of the Gang Leader delivered to him.

The idea was to test out how the combat system worked with unarmoured figures and compare the benefits of using limited Ki powers ( the Ryu) with the Numb talent of the Kabuki-mono.

We expected the Authorities in the shape of a Clan Patrol to become involved at some point which would introduce some lightly armoured figures and a couple of ranged weapons to see how they affected play.

In practice one of the players turned up with a Buntai of Sohei Monks which he had painted especially for the game. So we tweaked the scenario by suggesting that the Abbot also wanted to avenge the slight to the Monastery’s honour but at the same time he claimed jurisdiction over the village so the Monks could be expected oppose the Clan Patrol’s attempt to exert the Daimyo’s authority with force if necessary.

So the scene was set.

The Game

The Ryu player had the initiative and brought his men on down the road which ran along the side and to the rear of the inn. The Kabuki-mono leader failed his Karma test so didn’t notice their arrival – too overconfident and full of sake. Next turn 3 of the Ryu students crossed the fence into the back yard of the inn while the two masters and the fourth student headed towards the front of the inn. Again the Kabuki-mono failed to react. Would they be taken in their cups?

Fortunately for them the Kabuki-mono won the next initiative and this time the gang leader spotted the danger. 4 of the gang members charged out the rear door of the inn to confront the Ryu students while the leader (Minamoto Kiyoko) and his cousin and sidekick Hyondo headed out the front. An outflanking manoeuvre they claimed – an escape bid more like.

The 4th student doubled back into the yard to join his fellows in combat with the gang. Meantime the two Masters (Yoshiro and Hiroki) moved to engage the fleeing gang leader. In the ensuing combat the Ryu player struck first easily hitting his opponent (+5 to hit against armour 7) only to see the blow ignored thanks to the effects of the opium (Numb). The fight swung back and forth with each side scoring hits easily only to see them deflected or turned aside without damage (passed Karma or Numb). One student was knocked down but quickly regained his feet.

This was to be the pattern of the fight over the next few turns with neither side able to gain much of an advantage though the use of their Two Weapon skill did aid the students on a couple of occasions and the judicious use of their Second Chance Ki power did help to. Eventually, the Ryu gained the upper hand taking out 3 gang members for the loss of one of their own. The remaining gang member fell back into the inn where he could more easily defend the doorway against his attackers.
Out front both sides were also equally matched as each figure struck and parried blows. In this case Toshiro’s Whirlwind attack power availed him little as he faced Kiyoko in single combat. Eventually, Hiroki’s nodachi prevailed and Hyondo fell.

At this point the Sohei Monks announced their arrival in a flurry of teppo shots and archery fire.

On turn 6 both the Sohei Monks and a Clan patrol arrived at opposite ends of the table and advanced towards the fracas outside the inn.

The Monks brought more ranged weapons than I had expected and let fly with 2 longbows at the figures in the fight. Neither hit. Next turn they remained stationary and fired again along with 2 Teppos despite having been warned about the risk to the civilians. Both bows hit but we’re brushed aside by the fighters, while the Teppos missed, one so spectacularly that it hit and killed a nearby peasant women.

Such blatant disregard for the locals could not be ignored. In the absence of a suitable kami model, the unprepossessing beggar sitting by the road was transformed into a magic wielding Shinto priest who promptly assumed Spirit form and advanced on the Monks wielding a Sword of Fire. Two turns later the teppo firers were taken out while the bowmen beat a hasty retreat off board since they lacked the means to attack a Spirit Creature with any real chance of success.

Meantime the Senior Monk and his 3 colleagues had reached and engaged with Kiyoko and Toshiro’s, while Hidoki found himself engaged with a naginata wielding samurai and an Ashigaru with yari. Lacking any remaining Ki power Hidoki was taken out while Toshiro’s used his Whirlwind Attack power to good effect killing one Monk but failing to make any impression on the armoured form of the Senior Monk (medium armour). The latter then swung his testubo and knocked out Toshiro who failed his Karma roll twice and went down.

Kiyoko succeeded in dispatching one Monk and parried the other, while the remaining gang member held the inn door against all comers.

Next turn Kiyoko took down the last Monk while the Senior Monk dispatched the Clan samurai who had had the effrontery to attack him. In the inn the gang member breathed his last and slumped to the floor having finally failed to avoid his opponent’s blade.

Realising he was on his own and about to be surrounded by the Clan patrol the Senior Monk hailed the patrol leader to suggest that they should cease fighting now that the miscreants had been subdued and each return to their respective masters with a share of the prisoners. Wishing to avoid the political complications of attacking the Monk directly the Clan Patrol Leader agreed.

Unfortunately while this exchange was going on neither took steps to capture Minamoto Kiyoko who promptly slipped away in the confusion and escaped to fight another day.

So the game ended with 3 dead Kabuki-mono and two others captured by the Ryu students who handed them over to the authorities in exchange for their two dazed Masters who earnestly hoped that the Sensei would overlook their failure to capture Kiyoko. After all who really knew which of the Kabuki-mono was their leader.

The Senior Monk also hoped that his Abbot would be satisfied with his prisoner, but he would need to spend more time disciplining his warrior monks to have greater faith in the justice of their cause. (We forgot their fanatic re-rolls).

Meanwhile the Clan Patrol Leader could return to his daimyo with a prisoner and 3 heads as confirmation that his authority in the village had been successfully upheld.

A good result all round.

Some analysis/comment on our game.

All the players enjoyed the experience and felt that the game flowed well and had plenty of Japanese flavour.

Familiarity with the mechanisms in IHMN helped us pick it up quickly, but this was definitely not IHMN with sushi and sticky rice. It has a charm all of its own thanks to the mix of different skills and the use of Ki Powers which gave the action a unique flavour.

While in IHMN players sometimes complain about the fact that so many hits from firearms are scored without result (saved by the Pluck roll) here the combat felt like the thrust and parry of a sword fight. Hits on unarmoured warriors are very easy for a skilled swordsman to achieve, but converting them into real damage is difficult if your opponent has a good Karma score. While it can come down in the end to luck with Karma rolls, it felt more like one side had a brief lapse of concentration and suffered for it.

Having skills like Two Weapons can definitely help you survive, but having a Second Chance Ki Power is a lifesaver.

The Ki Powers are interesting and appear to be finely balanced. I thought Toshiro’s Whirlwind attack would be decisive but he only got to use it once against the Monks. In single combat with Kiyoko he couldn’t use it and would have been better off with Second Strike. Choose wisely grasshoppers.

Armour is undoubtedly useful and the better armoured figures will survive longer. I think if you want an interesting game you should follow the advice in the book and generally stick to light armour. Medium armour should be confined to key Leaders/characters and Heavy armour should really be very rare and only used in specific scenarios like ambushing a Daimyo or very important Samurai.

The “Numb” skill seems expensive at 10 points for a one use skill. OK it’s an automatic Karma roll pass, but the Second Chance Ki power only costs 2 points and can potentially be regained if you take out an opponent.

All told I am sure that Daisho will prove to be a great game and give us hours of fun. Already folk in the Club are looking out old Samurai figures which have been gathering dust and planning Buntai. I can already feel a campaign coming on.

Just need to acquire an animated cooking pot.

John Ewing and the Falkirk Buntai


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