A Walk in the Forest, by John Ewing

Preparations were well in hand for the second outing of the Falkirk Buntai into the fabled land of Nippon tomorrow night. I had three new players to induct into the ways of Daisho plus Andy who is a veteran of 1 game.

I’ve decided to take Craig’s advice and continue with the narrative from our first game. So the scenario will be the Escort and Ambush one from the rules with a reverse version of the Twilight complication. The game will commence a little after dawn with the early morning mist limiting visibility initially, but this will steadily improve by 2″ per turn as the sun comes up.

The Clan Patrol will be escorting their prisoner through an area of dense woodland and approaching a small bridge across a stream when the game starts. This time I will try to take some photos.

Looking forward to the resultant chaos!

In a monastery garden…

The Abbot was annoyed. Some of his monks had fled back from the village claiming they had been set upon by a spirit creature wielding a fiery sword. And 3 of his warrior monks had been bested by a kabuki-mono and a youth from the local Ryu. They would be dealt with later. Fortunately Brother Yoda had preserved the Monastery’s honour and yet avoided an outright conflict with the Daimyo’s men.

Alas, the prisoner he had returned with was of no consequence. A recent member of the gang he knew little of its operations beyond the names of its leaders Minamoto Kiyoko and Minamoto Hyondo, the latter a prisoner of the Clan Patrol. He could consider himself fortunate that the Abbot had allowed him to work out his penance cleaning out the Monastery’s latrines rather than provide bone meal for its gardens.

The Abbot was intrigued, though. What were two scions of the Minamoto Clan doing in Honja? Some believed that the kabuki-mono were nothing other than dissolute samurai seeking their own pleasure, but the Abbot felt there was more behind some of these gangs. He needed to question the other prisoner, he must be brought into the Monastery’s custody, but now was not the time to antagonize the Daimyo.

“In a moment of chaos a prepared man can profit.” reflected the Abbot. And he knew a way to create chaos without the Monastery being suspected. Brother Yoda and his men would discretely follow the Clan Patrol and when chaos ensued they would take possession of the prisoner. Simple really.

He summoned his servant to deliver a message.

Meanwhile in a local dojo…

The Sensei felt troubled, not a feeling he relished. His students had done well to avenge the insult paid by the kabuki-mono against their fellow, but his two Masters had failed to return with the leader of the gang. Moreover, they had been bested in the combat in the village square, an embarrassment to the Ryu little mitigated by the fact that they had been outnumbered.

However, he was troubled more by the description of the gang leader given by Master Toshiro and Toshiro’s insistence that the villain had fought in a style identical to that taught in the Ryu itself. Who could he be and what had brought him and his gang to Honja?

The Sensei had to question one of the prisoners. The one taken by the monks would be out of reach by now. However, the Clan Patrol would have to escort their prisoner through the forest. Here there might be an opportunity to relieve them of their burden.

The Sensei did not want to provoke the anger of the Daimyo by attacking the Patrol directly, but it would come as a no surprise to anyone if other members of the kabuki-mono gang attempted to rescue their fellow. Perhaps in the confusion of such an attack Toshiro and Hiroki might spirit the prisoner away.

The innkeeper still had the distinctive clothes worn by the gang members who were slain, left with him as compensation for their depredations. If some of the Ryu students were to dress in these and similar clothes they might be mistaken for the gang members in the early morning light.

The Sensei chuckled at his cunning. He summoned Toshiro.

The Game

So having set the background how did last night’s game go. Very well in fact with plenty of excitement, a cliff hanging ending and a group of players willing to play again.

Our game was played on a 4’x3′ board with a road run along the long diagonal through the forest and across a bridge over a fast flowing stream. A bridge keeper’s cottage, with the bridge keeper squatting on iss porch, was the only building.

The brief instructions given to the players were as follows:

Ninja briefing

You are Chunin Aoka in charge of a Buntai of the Clan’s best Ninja. The instructions in your contract are clear. You are to ambush the Clan Patrol leaving the village of Honja and relieve them of the prisoner they are escorting. The prisoner must be brought unharmed to the monastery at Honja or if that is not possible left in the custody of the Sōhei Monks.

Ryu Briefing

You are Master Toshiro of the Red Sword Ryu and along with Master Hiroki and 5 students of the Ryu you have been sent by your Sensei to recover the prisoner currently being escorted by the Clan Patrol and return him to the Ryu for questioning.

The Sensei is anxious not to provoke the anger of the Daimyo by overtly attacking the Patrol. So he has ordered four students to dress as members of the Prisoner’s kabuki-mono gang so that it will appear they have attempted a rescue. At an appropriate moment, you can step in to extract the prisoner in the confusion.

However, both you and Hiroki bear a grudge against the Patrol for attacking you in the village square yesterday. You would welcome a chance to exact revenge on them and the leader of the Sōhei Monks.

Clan Patrol Briefing

You are Toyoda Susuke, leader of the Clan Patrol escorting a prisoner back to the Daimyo’s castle. You and your men are well fed and rested having spent the night in the village inn at Honja. Now in the early morning mists you are progressing through the forests with your prisoner whom you must bring safely to the castle.

This forest has a gloomy air and the mists could hide many things you and your men must stay alert.

Sōhei Monks Briefing

You are Brother Yoda and lead a Buntai of Sōhei Monks from the monastery at Honja. The Abbot has ordered you to discretely follow the Clan Patrol as it returns to the Daimyo’s castle. You are not to attack the Patrol but may defend yourself if you are attacked.

The Abbot is confident that an opportunity will arise for you to take the Patrol’s prisoner into the monastery’s protective custody. You must be prepared to act boldly when that moment arises seize the prisoner and return to the monastery with all speed.

The report of the game

The game began with the Clan Patrol and their prisoner placed some 12″ along the road. While the prisoner may appear to be wielding a Katana in the photos, for the purposes of the game his hands were bound and linked by a rope to the Ashigaru guard. As per the rules he would meekly follow whoever held that rope and remained in base contact with him.

The ambushers had been given six counters to deploy within 12″ of the road, each of which could represent up to two figures, so as to maintain the suspense. Visibility stated at 10″ and increased by 2″ each turn.

Initially only the Patrol chose to move along the road, but on turn 3 the Ninja revealed their presence with two men stepping out of the woods to throw shuriken at the patrol. Neither they nor the Patrol achieved any successful hits, a story that was to be repeated throughout the game.

A walk in the forest 1

By this time, the Sōhei Monks had also started to appear to the rear of the Clan Patrol whose Leader decided to run the Prisoner and his guard along the road. Seeing the patrol separate the kabuki-mono disguised students stepped out from the trees to engage the Ashigaru and seize the prisoner.

The Patrol Leader sent forward two samurai to safeguard the prisoner and a general fight ensued.

While battle raged the ninja took cover in the trees and engaged the Patrol’s missile men without success.

A walk in the forest 2 A walk in the forest 3

One Samurai was slain and one knocked down for the loss of a student, but the Ashigaru fought off his attackers as his Leader and Churro rushed to his aid.

A walk in the forest 4

Killing one student, Churro prepared to engage with the Ashigaru’s attacker, but at this point another pair of Ninja appeared and attempted to put a quick end to proceedings by tossing a gunpowder grenade in the direction of the Clan Leader’s horse. Fortunately, it failed to explode.

Meantime the Monks were still engaged in their enigmatic advance giving no indication whose side if any they were on.

A walk in the forest 5

A closer view. What are the monks up to?

A walk in the forest 6

There followed several turns of frenzied action all happening too quick to be caught on camera.

Two of the ninja charged the missile men and cut them down, while two others engaged the Patrol Leader and Churro in combat. Meantime Toshiro, Hiroki and the remaining student stepped into the fray dispatching the samurai who had never got back off the ground in three turns.

Just as the student finally gained the better of the Ashigaru the ninja chief stepped forward to seize the prisoner’s rope and lead him away while his accomplice took on the student and slew him.

The Patrol Leader and his deputy were still engaged in combat with the ninja when the Churro was struck a fatal blow and sank to the ground.

Meantime the monks were moving to occupy blocking positions to prevent anyone making a run with the prisoner.

By this time a rather smelly peasant had moved over the bridge for a closer look before throwing aside his disguise to charge the Ninja Leader while Toshiro sought single combat with the Monk’s Leader.

A walk in the forest 7

Minamoto Kiyoko had spent an unpleasant night hiding in the village dung hill, an old ninja trick to avoid detection by those searching for him. Overhearing the Patrol’s plans he decide to lay in wait near the bridge to see if an opportunity might arise to rescue his cousin the prisoner.

Noticing the ninja chief move away from the fray he saw his chance and pounced but his attack failed. And the ninja was rapidly reinforced by one of his fellows. They remained locked in battle.

Although Toshiro fully intended to seek revenge for his treatment the previous day, the Monks continued their evasive moves, skilfully disengaging before Toshiro could attack and moving to block any retreat paths through the woods.

Frustrated Toshiro remembered his mission and ran to engage the ninja chief before he could escape while the student went to aid Hiroki fighting a fifth Ninja.

A rapid series of turns saw the Patrol Leader take out two ninja, while Minamoto fell to the ninja leader’s blade having dispatched one ninja as another fell to Hiroki’s nodachi.

Seeing the last of his ninja fall the ninja leader made a break for the forest with his prisoner closely pursued by Toshiro. The Patrol leader attacked Hiroki and the student. Meanwhile the monks moved silently into position to surround the ninja, prisoner and Toshiro calling on them to lay down their weapons and submit to the Abbot’s justice.

Their call was ignored as Toshiro attacked the ninja who dodged his blow but could not land his own blow in return. Finally winning the initiative the ninja saw his chance disengaged from the combat and dashed off table deeper into the forest with his prisoner, leaving his pursuers stunned at his audacity. The Abbott would get his prisoner after all.

A walk in the forest 8

As the dust settled the Monks returned to their Monastery as silently as they had come.

The Ryu Masters disengaged and returned to tell their Sensei that the prisoner had escaped once more but this time three of his students disguised as kabuki-mono lay dead in the forest.

Minamoto Kiyoko awoke to find himself bound and chained to the Patrol Leader’s horse. The cold hard gaze of Toyoda rested upon him and he knew fear. The Patrol Leader had lost three men, including his second in command, and was in no mood to be tested. But the Daimyo would get his prisoner.

Sorry for the length of this report but I hope you find them interesting and illustrative of the kind of exciting game you can have playing Daisho!

John Ewing

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2 thoughts on “A Walk in the Forest, by John Ewing

  1. As the ninja leader I found the game to be on a knife edge all the way through and was as surprised as anybody at the successful evasion of my pursuers which enabled me to spirit away the prisoner

    It looks as if I may have to invest in another set of rules……

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