An evening with the Deeside Defenders

Thursday I had a most pleasant evening at the Deeside Defenders’ Wargames Club (http://www.deesidedefenders.co.uk/). I was invited there by my old friend Pete ‘Ello-Ello’ Jones, who co-founded the Wrexham Wargames Club with me back in the day (now sadly defunct).

The Defenders have their club nights in the Broughton Aerospace Social Club right next to the huge BAE facility that manufactures wings for the Airbus, near Chester.

The club itself has a sizeable membership and every year puts on the Gauntlet Wargames Show in July. Although a small show, it is one of the friendliest on the circuit and I intend to be there next year.

I was invited to show off the Daisho participation game I devised for Salute. This now venerable board shall soon be retired having given good service at several shows. With the new Daisho buildings from 4Ground, I intend to create a different board for future shows.

Pete and another of my old comrades-in-arms Gary ‘Snowdrop’ Hinchcliffe tried their hand at the game and Gary pulled off an excellent victory.

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Gary is the sort of chap who remembers objectives so, whereas many players of this little scenario get carried away decapitating each other, he carefully led Lord Mukimuk to safety. Another victory for the Clan Patrol which makes it about even with the Sohei Monks

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Several gents came over to say hello, as it seems that In Her Majesty’s Name is quite popular there, and took an interest in our new game. Every one of them had a load of unused samurai etc., in their lead pile at home and could see how Daisho would allow them to use them to have some fun.

Around the club I could see everything from the obligatory GW games to Bolt Action, a variety of other historical wargames and several boardgames being played. I am told they regularly get over fifty gamers on a club night which is not bad for a local games club in the UK.

So an excellent evening, all in all, and I look forwards to seeing the chaps more often in the future.

In a Monastery Garden – a new battle report by John Ewing

A Bring Him Back Alive scenario for Daisho.

An audience room in the Daimyo’s castle

The Daiymo listened attentively to Toyoda’s report, thanked him and dismissed him to return to his men. He turned to survey again the bound prisoner kneeling before him. Wrinkling his nose a little at the smell, he spoke to the prisoner –

“Well Minamoto Kiyoko, hardly the most auspicious start to your mission. Half your men dead, your deputy captured by ninja and you brought before me in chains smelling of a cesspool. Tell why I should not have your head removed from your shoulders?”

The prisoner bowed his head even lower and said nothing.

“Your mission was to sow dissent between the Ryu and the Monastery so that those two cunning foxes the Sensei and the Abbot would not combine against my plans. You were also charged with finding out if either supported those rebels hiding in the hills. You have done neither.”

“Still I am feeling generous, for your mother’s sake I will give you one more chance to prove your worth.”

“The strange actions of the Monks during the attack on my Patrol leads me to believe they may have been working with the Ninja. I am certain that we will find your cousin in a cell in the Monastery at Honja. This whole affair reeks of the Abbot’s duplicity.”

“Toyoda has no love for the Monks. I think I will give him his head to call upon the Monastery to recover the prisoner he lost. That prisoner must be rescued or silenced, I care not which.”

“Now go, bathe and we will speak later of the part you can play.”

Minamoto rose and walk backwards out of the room bowing profusely and thanking the Gods and his mother that he had been spared the Daimyo’s wrath at least this time.”

Scene: The Monastery at Honja
Time: Early afternoon

The Monastery is peaceful. the Abbot is away on business and only a few monks are on guard around the grounds. The peasants are working in the fields at the rear of the Monastery as the Clan Patrol arrives at the front gate.

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Clan Patrol Briefing:
You are one of the Leaders of the Clan Patrols which watch over the border areas of the province upholding the Daimyo’s authority and seeking out those who would disturb the peace, especially those damned Ikko-ikki rebels who have begun to infest the hills around Honja. You are keen to return to your duties.

Before you can do so you are approached by a Hatamoto, a senior advisor to the Daimyo, he wishes to speak with you. From him you learn that the Daimyo has reason to believe that the Ninja who attacked the Patrol in the forest were working for the Abbot at Honja. The prisoner they captured is even now being held under guard within the Monastery grounds.

It would do much to restore the honour of the Patrol if that prisoner could be recovered and returned to the Daimyo dead or alive, by force if necessary.

You have no love for the Monks at Honja. They not only attacked your patrol in the village but stood by and watched as your men fought the Ninja in the forest. You would welcome an opportunity to seek your revenge.

Your Buntai is 250 points worth of experienced Samurai and Ashigaru.

Returning with the prisoner alive is worth 40 honour points (On), dead he is worth 10.
Capturing a live Ikko-Ikki prisoner for further questioning is worth 20 On.

Kabuki-mono Briefing:
You are Minamoto Kiyoko the leader of a group of dissolute psychopathic samurai who specialise in spreading havoc and living off frightened peasants and villagers and indulge your taste for sake and opium.

This also provides cover for you to carry out other more clandestine and lucrative missions for select clients, in this case your uncle the Daimyo with whom you are out of favour at present. It is essential that you regain his respect by completing this mission.

Your deputy and cousin Hyondo is being held prisoner under guard in the Monastery at Honja. He must be rescued or silenced. Returned alive he is worth 40 honour points (On), dead only 10.

You are aware that a Clan Patrol has been dispatched to the Monstery to demand the prisoner’s return. It would be quite a coup if you could slip in and rescue the prisoner while the monks are distracted by the Patrol. You and your men are currently hiding in the orchard to the north of the Monastery awaiting the best moment to strike.

You have a Buntai of Kabuki-mono worth 200 points.

Sohei Monk Briefing:
You are Brother Yoda a Senior Monk in the Monastery at Honja. The Abbot has been called away urgently on business and you have been left in charge to guard the prisoner captured by the ninja in the forest. He is bound and gagged and locked in one of the storehouses under guard. it is imperative that he remains in custody.

To complicate matters, the Leader of a group of armed peasant rebels has recently arrived with some of his men for a previously arranged meeting with the Abbot. They are being kept out of sight in the Abbot’s house since it would not do for the Daimyo’s men to learn of such contacts between the Monastery and the rebels.

The Monastery’s own loyal peasants are at work in the fields. They can be called upon to aid the defence of the Monastery if required but are not very effective fighters.

Let us pray it remains a quiet day.

Holding the prisoner alive at the end of the day is worth 40 honour points (On).

You have a Buntai worth 250 points of Sohei Monks plus some 25 points of loyal villagers working in the fields.

Ikko-Ikki Briefing:
You are the Leader of a small group of peasant rebels gathering in the hills above Honja, men who are tired of the abuse and cruelty of the ruling samurai, men who are willing to give their lives to overthrow the samurai rule. But there are few of you and you need weapons and armour.

You have arranged to meet with the Abbot at Honja. He is sympathetic to the suffering of the peasants and may be able to help arm and supply your men. He has also acquired a prisoner who may have intelligence about the Daimyo’s plans to counter the rebellion. It is imperative that you get the chance to question the prisoner for yourself.

At the moment, you are waiting for the Abbot’s return out of sight in the Abbot’s house. You are keeping watch for trouble and have just noticed men moving through the orchard when the Clan Patrol arrives at the Monastery gate. Something is about to happen but what?

You will gain 40 honour points (On) and the Abbot’s aid if the prisoner is still in the Monastery’s custody at the end of the day.

You have a Buntai worth 175 points of Ikko-Ikki mainly armed peasants as no Ashigaru has yet joined your cause.

The Battle Report.

As per their orders, the Clan patrol leader turned up at the Monastery gates to demand entrance and the return of their prisoner. However, he also took the precaution of sending two of his men each to the left and right to climb over the fence at quieter spots.

Meanwhile, the somewhat nervous Sohei Monk barred the gate and hoped his colleagues would reach him in time.

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Fortunately affronted by the attack on sacred premises the Archer and Teppo Monks could not miss taking two Ashigaru out of action and knocking down a third. An unusually bloody outcome. The outbreak of Teppo fire also brought the loyal villagers from their fields to come to the monks aid.

With the Monks attention firmly focussed on the main gate, and not a little worried that the Clan Patrol might not last much longer, the kabuki-mono player decided this was a good time to leave the orchard. 3 men headed for one of the storehouses whose guard had been drawn forward to counter the Clan Patrol men climbing over the fence in the bottom left corner.

While two of the Monk archers turned their attention to countering the infiltration by some Ashigaru on the right, Brother Yoda strode forward to counter the attack on the gate, a fight that was to last most of the game.

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The remaining two Kabuki-mono thought it sensible to check out the Abbot’s House slipping through the back door to face a room full of Ikko-Ikki with swords drawn and yari firmly pointed in their direction. There then followed a desperate struggle to gain the upper hand.

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In the meantime, the peasants hurrying towards the kabuki-mono near the stores were joined by some Ikko-Ikki slipping out of the Abbot’s House while the Clan patrol were fully engaged.

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Two monks dealing with the Clan intruders infiltrating on the left, before one moves to engage the kabuki-mono trying to unlock the store room to access the prisoner.

Several rounds of combat later the two Kabuki-mono in the house were defeated while the others were engaged by a mix of peasants and Ikko-Ikki and a Monk. The fight at the gate continued with neither side gaining ground.

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Reinforced by the rebel leaders and by one of the monks who had despatched the man attempting to free the prisoner, the kabuki-mono found themselves surrounded but unable to take out their opponents (some remarkable karma rolls by the peasants) they finally succumbed to weight of numbers.

With the Clan Patrol Leader finally running out of Ki points and falling to the Monk’s Naginata we drew the game to an end.

What remained of the Clan Patrol withdrew taking their wounded colleagues with them. Unfortunately, their Leader succumbed to his wound and died so did not have to face the shame of their defeat.

Three kabuki-mono also lay dead while Minamoto joined his cousin as a prisoner of the Abbot.

The intervention by the Ikko-Ikki had been decisive and they shared in the victory gaining the support of the Abbot for their pains.

Epilogue

“When Minamoto came to he saw his cousin Hyondo looking down on him. For a brief moment he thought he might have succeeded in his mission to free him. However, the bindings on his feet and hands told a different story. He too was a prisoner of the Abbot.

Still he smiled inwardly to himself, he could claim to have completed his mission. He was reunited with his cousin and he had firm evidence of a link between the Monastery and the rebels. Those armed peasants and the cursed Ronin who had bested him could only be Ikko-Ikki. His uncle would give much for a description of them.

However, it was unlikely that the Abbot would let him live long enough to tell the Daimyo. In the Way of Bushido the price of failure was always the same.”

Partizan 2016

One of the few disadvantages of living in deepest, darkest Mid-Wales is that you are so very far from just about anywhere. So it was up before cockcrow to ensure we reached Newark in time to set up.

This was my first time at any Partizan where I would be running a game and I was glad to have my good friend Gareth Pugh to accompany me. Long journeys seem so much shorter in good company.

We arrived in good time, fortified along the way with coffee and buns, and were expertly ushered into the main hall and given a table close to Northstar and several other chaps I knew well.

For those unfamiliar with Partizan’s venue it is Kelham Hall, a magnificent stately pile with many halls and rooms and a labyrinthine layout in between. The main hall boasts the largest brick dome in England. This was the last occasion that Partizan shall be held here and I cannot but think that the show will be diminished somewhat in less splendid surroundings.

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Much to the envy of all around us we set up in under ten minutes. Daisho needs only a small table and it is certainly nothing like Shaun and Terry’s incredible, 12’x4′, Indiana Jones in Egypt, 20mm display game.

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It did turn out to be a day of pleasant surprises though. The first being when Shaun handing me a box full of Trevor Dixon’s characterful Oni figures. I am so looking forwards to getting these based and painted.

The next was that my old mates of the White Hart group were next door to us, running a busy and quite noisy Frostgrave participation game. Well, two games in fact, including another of Mr King’s magnificent creations, a mountainous mauseoleum.

One of my very oldest friends, the distinguished Ian Notter, appeared completely unexpectedly. He and I began gaming together in the Portsmouth Vile Kush wargames club in the late 1970’s and I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years. He was supporting our mutual friend Simon Miller, who was putting on yet another enormous To The Strongest! exhibition game with the assistance of the Newark Irregulars. If you ever get the chance to see one of these do so. It is not often you can see a couple of thousand 28mm figures marching across the table.

So, less of the reverie of times past and onto Daisho!

The table set up is the Village of Himeshima that I used at Salute and the objective is remarkably simple. All you have to do is walk to the centre of the table where, on the veranda of the Village Elder’s house, is standing an important emissary from the Shogun. The local Daimyo had sent his right-hand man and a lightly armed greeting party to do just that.

Unfortunately, the cunning Abbot of the Green Mountain Monastery had decided that this was an excellent opportunity to embarrass the Daimyo and had sent a small party of skilled monks to kidnap the emissary.

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What neither had taken into account is that the emissary, Lord Mukimuk, is a pompous ass and very protective of his dignity. Thus, even when you capture him, he will not move at anything greater than walking pace, he will not clamber over fences or through gardens, and most certainly will not risk his gorgeous kimona in a fight.

Over the day several sets of opponents sat down to try and achieve this objective. Three times the Sohei Monks prevailed and twice the Samurai Clan Patrol. Every single game was a blood bath as monk and samurai clashed in between the poor dwellings of the village.

At one point a player asked if one of his monk archers could climb up onto the roof of a house to get a better firing position, i.e. take the high ground! I decided that if he could balance his figure on the roof then he could do so, but if his figure fell off it would have to take a karma roll to survive. This all went well until a samurai decided to clear the high ground of the irritating bowman. Both figures fell off and each player had to make a karma roll. Both rolled a 1, and both men died an ignominious death. The hilarity that ensued amongst the players and observers was so loud that every other game stopped and looked at us.

The man of the day though was Kiyoki, the Iron Wind. This able monk warrior, armed with a Kanabo (essentially an iron clad baseball bat) sent a dozen samurai and ashigaru to meet their ancestors. He died but once, surrounded by a throng of his enemies.

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Every player seemed to have a marvellous time and they all picked the game’s rules up by the middle of the second turn, just as their predecessors had at Salute.

I managed to meet up with both Wayne Bollands of Wargames Illustrated and Guy Bowers of Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy. Both chaps have been very supportive of IHMN and our latest projects, so it was good to see them again.

Wayne introduced me to Paul Chapman and his lovely wife.  They are keen aficionados of Sherlock Holmes and the other writings of Arthur Conan Doyle, one of my passions also.  Paul is writing an IHMN piece for Wargames Illustrated on the great detective and I am looking forwards to seeing it.

It is worth mentioning Paul’s attire. He was fully dressed as a gentleman of the late Victorian period. This was not mere cosplay mind, but real clothes and accoutrements including a magnificent hat (a homburg?) which, with his magnificent whiskers, made him look like Sigmund Freud, or perhaps Mycroft Holmes.

All through this my friend Gareth performed admirably, providing an opponent when a single player wanted a game, and advising and encouraging the players whenever I sloped off to chat to other writers and to publishers. I doubt the day could have gone so well without his assistance.

The calendar is starting to fill up again. I’m at the Deeside Defender’s club night in a couple of weeks’ time. After that it’s possibly Fiasco in Leeds in October, then Vapnartak in February 2016, Salute in April 2016 and Carronade (Falkirk) in May 2016. If you want me to attend a show with my little travelling circus, send me the details and I’ll see what we can do.