‘Getting Your Nobori Out In Public’: a 6mm Samurai Game

It was something a bit different for me last week, as I went down to W.A.S.P. and had a 6mm Samurai game with my old mate Gareth.  I’ve been admiring his astonishing 6mm Samurai collection for the last few years and his Tenka-Fubu blog is definitely worth a visit if you’re even remotely interested in Samurai warfare, or if not, just go for the eye-candy (a sample of which is shown above).

Sometime around 1994-1998ish, Gareth and I (along with our mates Jason and Doug) did a lot of 15mm Samurai gaming and put on a series of large demo games at shows such as Colours, Partizan, Warfare, Crusade, Warcon, Marston-Magna and WMMMS.  They even appeared in the pages of Wargames Illustrated and Miniature Wargames, thanks mainly to Gareth’s astonishing castle models (that were eventually sold to a bloke from Dublin, thus saving me the job of driving the terrain home from Colours ’98!).

Doug, Gareth and me at Marston-Magna ’96 with Gareth’s first castle model. The second castle was MUCH better…

To be honest, I’ve no idea how we found the time, as we were also doing a lot of large 15mm Napoleonic and Seven Years War demo games at around the same time.  I’m sure that there must have been a tear in the space-time continuum sometime around 1994 that allowed us the time and money to fit all this in…  Anyway, I’ve still got my old 15mm Samurai collection here (the Uesugi clan), along with Jase’s collection (Takeda clan); around 1,000 figures all-told, which I must dig out for a photo-shoot one day.

Anyway, back to last week’s 6mm game:  The game was played with Gareth’s own Tenka-Fubu: Warfare in the Age of Nobunaga rules (follow the link to his downloads page), which are an adaptation of For King & Parliament by Simon Miller (itself an adaptation of To The Strongest!).  These are designed for large-scale battles and I found them to be quick and easy to learn and play.  Unlike the modified version of DBR we used in the 1990s (and every other set of rules used to play Samurai warfare), Tenka-Fubu doesn’t break units down by weapon or troop-type.  Instead, each unit represents an entire combined-arms Sonae (‘brigade’ or ‘regiment’ being the nearest western equivalent).

Sonae have two ratings, first indicating their ‘Command’ ability (organisation, communications, training and drill) and second their ‘Military’ ability (skill at arms, small-unit tactics, weapons, armour and experience).  These factors range from 1 (Good) to 3 (Poor).  Some lucky Sonae will also include guns, which provide defending units thus equipped with an initial strike against an attacker.  Several Sonae are then grouped into a Shū under the command of a Bushō.  Several Shū then make up the army, commanded by the Taishō.  For a fuller explanation of the rules, go to Gareth’s download page, though note that a copy or knowledge of For King & Parliament will also be required.

Above:  A small Shū of only two Sonae, belonging to Oda Nobunaga’s army.  This is the Akechi clan, commanded by Akechi Mitsuhide (identified by the ‘F’ marker on the Sonae bases).  The clan’s two Sonae are average across the board, with both Sonae having a factor of 2 for both Command and Military ability.  The right-hand Sonae (to which Akechi Mitsuhide has attached himself) also has a dot above its Command factor, indicating the inclusion of guns.

Anyway, before we go onto the battle report, here’s some of Gareth’s scenery.  I should add that Tenka-Fubu is a square grid-based game, so each terrain-piece and Sonae neatly fits one square on the board.  The grid itself is marked by very subtle dots painted on the cloth, marking the corners of the grid-squares:

Above:  Peasants work in the paddy-fields.

Above:  In the nearby village, more peasants hang out the washing and do a spot of fishing.

Above:  Other peasants take a stroll with the kids.

Above:  Two peasants play Go in the shade of a pine tree, while a third looks on, probably offering ‘helpful tactical advice’.

Above:  I thought I’d add this coin to show the scale of Gareth’s incredible modelling and painting.  His figures are mostly by Baccus Miniatures, with a few 3D-printed models mixed in.  The scenery is all scratch-built.  For the purposes of our game, the scenic items (aside from woods and hills) were purely for decoration and were simply moved aside as troops moved through.  The underlying terrain cloth is a golden-brown ‘teddy-bear fur’ rug, painted with large patches of green.  This harks back to our old demo games, which used the same colour scheme in an attempt to match those wonderful Japanese folding screens (such as the famous Ōsaka Screen), which use gold leaf as the ground-colour, with large patches of green grass.

Above:  The opening positions, showing the army of Oda Nobunaga on the left and the army of Mōri Terumoto on the right.  The Mōri army is slightly stronger, but the Oda have the qualitative edge.  Here’s Gareth’s outline of the scenario, together with a rough order of battle showing the ID letter for each Shū, the clan to which they belong and the name of the Bushō.  Each Shū has 2-4 Sonae.  Most Shū have one Sonae equipped with guns.  I must add that this period is not my my area of expertise, so any errors below are entirely Gareth’s… 😉

Harima 1574

The basic and rather tenuous, premise is a ‘what-if’ scenario where Oda Nobunaga attacks the Mōri in 1574 after defeating the Azai-Asakura.  The battle happens somewhere in Harima province.

Oda Army (Gareth):

ID Letter – ‘Clan’ – Bushō
A – Oda – Oda Nobunaga (Taishō)
B – Oda – Sassa Narimasa
C – Oda – Oda Nobutada
D – Shibata – Shibata Katsuie
E – Hashiba – Hashiba Hideyoshi
F – Akechi – Akechi Mitsuhide
G – Maeda-  Maeda Toshiie

undefinedMōri Army (Me):  

ID Letter – ‘Clan’ – Bushō
A – Mōri – Mōri Terumoto (Taishō)
B – Mōri – Fukubara Sadatoshi
C – Kobayakawa – Kobayakawa Takakage
D – Kikkawa – Kikkawa Motoharu
E – Minor clans – Awaya Motonobu
F – Harima clans – Bessho Nagaharu
G – Murakami et al – Murakami Motoyoshi

Above:  Mōri Terumoto’s headquarters is situated on top of a hill near the right flank.  Terumoto gains a bonus when transmitting orders provided he remains within his headquarters, but will lost that bonus if he decides to mount up and move.

Above: To the rear of Mōri Terumoto’s headquarters are his household troops (A), consisting of three high-quality Sonae.  On the forward slope is the Shū of Fukubara Sadatoshi (B) with two Sonae.  On the right flank stands the large Shū of minor clan contingents (E), consisting of four Sonae under the command of Awaya Motonobu.

Above:  In the centre of the Mōri line is the Shū of the Kikkawa clan (D), resplendent in their black-and-white-striped sashimono.  This formation consists of three Sonae, commanded by Kikkawa Motoharu.

On the left of the Mōri first line and nearest the camera are the distinctive red sashimono and nobori banners of the Kobayakawa clan (C).  This Shū consists of four Sonae, commanded by Kobayakawa Takakage.

The Kikkawa and Kobayakawa clans are among the more powerful Mōri  contingents, consisting mostly of Average (as opoosed to Poor) troops and a slightly higher complement of guns.

Above:  The Mōri left wing is refused, lurking in the dead ground behind a hill.  This wing comprises mostly Poor troops and is therefore kept as far away from the enemy as possible!  Behind the Kobayaka clan are the Murakami and their retainers (G).  The Sonae of Murakami household troops (with the brown sashimono and nobori) comprises average troops, but the two retainer Sonae on their right are universally poor.

On the left flank and nearest the camera is a Shū made up from the local Harima clans (F), consisting of three Sonae, commanded by Bessho Nagaharu.  These are all Poor troops.  The fences indicate that they are defending their starting positions, for which they have a combat bonus.  This bonus will be lost if they move from their starting position.

Above:  Gareth’s overall view of the Mōri army.

Above:  Oda Nobunaga has also positioned his headquarters on a hilltop, to get a good view of the action.  In front of him stand the three Sonae of his household troops (A); two Sonae with black sashimono and nobori banners, plus one Sonae (on the right) with yellow.  On the left flank stands a Shū of four Oda household Sonae (B), under the command of Sassa Narimasa.

Above:  To the right of Oda’s headquarters is a third Shū of Oda household troops (C), comprising three Sonae, commanded by Oda Nobutada.

Above:  To the right of the Oda household is the Shū of the Shibata clan (D) commanded by Shibata Katsuie, with two Sonae carrying red sashimono and white nobori.

To their right are the blue banners of the Akechi clan (F), commanded by Akechi Mitsuhide.  This Shū also has only two Sonae.

Above:  In front of the Akechi clan is the Shū of the Maeda clan (G), carrying white banners.  This clan again has two Sonae, led by Maeda Toshiie.  Toshiie himself is easily identifiable on the battlefield thanks to his famous gold catfish-tail helmet and his personal banner depicting ‘Shoki the Demon-Queller’.

Lastly, on the Oda right flank and nearest the camera are another two Sonae belonging to the Hashiba clan (E), led by Hashiba Hideyoshi and including some exceptional troops.

Above:  Gareth’s overall view of the Oda army.

Above:  With a wave of his tessen, Mōri Terumoto orders his right wing (the small Shū of Mōri  troops under Fukubara Sadatoshi and the large, rag-tag Shū of Awaya Motonobu to advance rapidly, to take up more advantageous defensive positions on the high ground to their front.  The respective Būsho are marked with a circular base of pack-mules, indicating that they are under March orders.

Above:  The rest of the Mōri army remains stationary in their original positions under Defend orders (as indicated by the fence markers).  Terumoto-sama has decided to refuse his left flank and anchor it on dense woodland, but now starts to regret his decision, as the hill forward of the left flak might have been more defensive ground.

Above:  Oda Nobunaga meanwhile, knowing the quality of his troops, decides on a much more aggressive approach.  His entire right wing moves forward in echelon, hoping to destroy the poor-quality troops on the Mōri left flank and then rolling the Mōri army up from there.  The tip of the yari is formed by the excellent Sonae of the Hashiba (red banners) and Maeda clans (white banners).

Above:  Next in the echelon are the Akechi and Shibata clans.  Note the marker with a mounted tsukai-ban (messenger) figure, wearing a voluminous red horo on his back (looking rather like a Ninja Turtle).  This marker indicates a Shū on Attack orders.  A marker with a single nobori banner-bearer indicates a Shū on Regroup orders, but there are none of those on the table yet.

Above:  The Hashiba clan quickly closes to contact and charges the leftmost Sonae of the Harmia clan.  The Harima are not good troops and casualties quickly mount, despite despite their reasonably good position.

Note the marker with a tuft of grass; these indicate ‘hits’ on the Sonae.  Each Sonae can withstand three hits, but will be destroyed on the fourth hit.  Hits can be recovered if the Shū as a whole adopts Regroup orders or if the Bushō gives a temporary Regroup order to an individual Sonae.

I don’t know if Gareth was invoking Matsuo Bashō when he had the idea of using grass tufts to represent casualties, but it makes me think of Bashō’s famous haiku;

Natsukusa ya
Tsuwamono domo ga
Yume no ato

“Summer grasses, all that remains of stalwart warrior’s dreams” (there are other translations, but I like that one best).

Above:  Despite Bessho Nagaharu’s best efforts, his leftmost Sonae quickly collects a critical number of grass-tufts, but inflicts only one in return!

Above:  The view across the battlefield from the endangered Mōri left flank.

Above:  The view from the opposite flank.  In the foreground, Awaya Motonubu’s mixed Shū has occupied the hilltop and adopted Defend orders in the nick of time as in front of them, Sassa Narimasa’s Shū is moving to attack the hill.

Above:  Back on the Mōri left flank, the Harima clans are collapsing in the face of the ferocious Hashiba attack!  Bessho Nagaharu has thus far managed to escape death or capture, but now he makes his last stand with his household Sonae.

Above:  The ferocity of Hashiba Hideyoshi’s attack has been so astonishing and rapid that Murakami Motoyoshi has not managed to organise a counter-attack to save his neighbour!

However, in the distance, Mōri Terumoto has spotted an opportunity.  While the Oda left wing has charged rapidly forward to get stuck into the Mōri left wing, a large gap has opened up in the Oda centre, covered by only the two Sonae of the Shibata clan (red sashimono and white nobori).  With another casual wave of his tessen, the Taishō orders Kikkawa Motoharu’s powerful clan (with black-and-white-striped sashimono) forward to destroy the Shibata and cut the head off the snake!

Above:  The Akechi (light blue) charge home on the Kobayakawa (red)!  However, Oda plans quickly unravel as both Akechi Sonae suffer heavy casualties while assaulting a single Kobayakawa Sonae.

Above:  Over on the Mōri left flank, Bessho Nagaharu is still holding out with the last remnants of the local Harima clans.  However, the leading Maeda Sonae has charged home on the left-flanking Murakami Sonae, inflicting heavy casualties (at some expense to the Maeda).  The second Maeda Sonae meanwhile, wheels to outflank the Kobayakawa, who are already hard-pressed by the Akechi! [edited to de-gibbish]

With his left flank going to nezumi no tawagoto, Mōri Terumoto starts composing his death-haiku

Above:  Over on the right flank however, things are going rather better.  Awaya Motonobu’s Shū is still managing to hold his hilltop against Sassa Narimasa’s Oda troops, while on his left Fukubara Sadatoshi has charged into the fight with his Shū of Mōri household troops, inflicting significant damage on the right-hand Oda Sonae.  All they have to do is hold their ground…

Above:  In the centre, the black-and-white striped banners of the Kikkawa clan charge through the paddy-fields to strike home on the Shibata!  However, Shibata Katsuie proves to be a wily foe and wheels one of his Sonae to outflank the Kikkawa assault.  In turn, Kobayakawa Takakage orders his clan to counter-attack and succeeds in outflanking the outflanking Shibata Sonae!  However, the Kobayaka are now being outflanked by the Maeda…

Got all that…?

Above:  Back on the left flank, Bessho Nagaharu’s heroic resistance finally ends as he goes down fighting, having inflicted heavy losses on the Hashiba in sweet revenge.  The brown-bannered Murakami Sonae has also gone down fighting, beset on two sides by Hashiba and Maeda Sonae.  However, Murakami Motoyoshi is starting to get his act together and has managed to turn one of his Sonae to face the threat on the flank.

Above:  Over on the opposite flank, Awaya Motonobu’s mixed bag of minor clans is starting to be pushed off his hill!

Above:  At last, the Mōri army has some success as the Shibata clan is destroyed by the combined efforts of the Kikkawa and Kobayakawa!  However, One of the red-bannered Kobayakawa Sonae has been destroyed by the combined efforts of the Maeda and Akechi clans, while the hoped-for Mōri breakthrough in the centre has now been blocked by the intervention of a fresh Shū of Oda household troops led by Oda Nobunaga’s son and heir, Oda Nobutada.

Above:  “Amaterasu on a jitensha!  Do I have to do everything myself?!”  Alarmed by the deteriorating situation on the left, Mōri Terumoto calls for his horse and leads his personal household troops to stabilise the situation!

“And don’t forget to roll up the wind-breaker! “

Above:  Determined to push Awaya Motonobu off the hill, Sassa Narimasa presses home his attack.  However, Sassa Narimasa’s right-flanking Sonae is destroyed by Fukubara Sadatoshi… The battle for the hill could still go either way.

Above:  Suddenly, the gods smile on the Mōri!  By some miracle, the Murakami, hard-pressed on the left flank, manage to repulse yet another Hashiba attack, breaking one of the two Hashiba Sonae!  Shocked by the repulse, the rest of the Hasiba clan break and run, closely followed by one of the two Maeda Sonae!  The astonished Murakami immediately advance, hoping to crush Maeda Toshiie in concert with the Kobayakawa and roll up the Oda right flank.

Perhaps the Tasihō‘s reserves aren’t required after all?

Above:  However, Oda Nobutada soon pisses on the Mōri osumi…  The injection of a third Kikkawa Sonae into the battle at the village makes little difference as the other two Sonae are destroyed.  The lead Kobayakawa Sonae is similarly destroyed by the Akechi and yet another Kobayakawa Sonae flees the field in response to the unfolding disaster!

A huge, four-Sonae gap has suddenly appeared in the centre of the Mōri army… Thankfully, Mōri Terumoto is perfectly placed to plug the gap with three elite Sonae!

Above:  As the Taishō leads the charge against Oda Nobutada, the Murakami advance to roll up the Oda right flank.  However, Maeda Toshiie escapes the trap, ‘advancing to the rear’ with his remaining Sonae to regroup.  The Akechi meanwhile, find themselves in trouble, having suffered heavy losses and now beset by the remnants of the Murakami and Kobayakawa clans, as well as fresh Mōri household troops!  In the distance, Oda Nobunaga has also mounted up and is riding to join the battle…

Tragically, that was where we had to leave it!  The battle was on a knife-edge and the loss of one Sonae to either side would have secured (a rather Pyrrhic) victory!

My sincere thanks again to Gareth for a superb game and a wonderful introduction to his magnificent collection and to Tenka-Fubu rules.

There’s another AAR with Gareth to follow (Mollwitz 1741) and yet more SYW.  Sadly we had to cancel our Warburg game due to illness, but we’ve re-booked that one as our Christmas game (which gives me time to paint more scenario-appropriate units). 🙂

This entry was posted in 6mm Figures, Games, Samurai, Sengoku-Jidai, Tenka-Fubu Rules. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to ‘Getting Your Nobori Out In Public’: a 6mm Samurai Game

  1. Andrew McGuire says:

    I’ve got as far as “Got all that?” to which I can only respond, not really.

    The deluge of unfamiliar names and terminology aside, what confuses me is the statement, “the leading Maeda Sonae has charged home on the left-flanking Murakami Sonae, inflicting heavy casualties (though not without inconsiderable loss to the Maeda)” which appears to have too many negatives to convey the sense one – or this one at any rate – might expect. Given my somewhat patchy knowledge of the period, however, I may have overlooked the possibility that under the precepts of Bushido – and I am prepared to be informed that this term is an anachronism arising from acute cultural ignorance – it is, at least on occasion, not undesirable when attacking the enemy, not to suffer inconsiderable loss. (This at least would, I postulate, mean the foe not losing face).

    In short, as to whether I have got all that, some of it, or none of it, I humbly request your gracious clarification.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Aha! Yes, sometimes I gibber absolute talkish… I’ll order a clean-up in Aisle 3 and have the editor flogged. Basically the Murakami got stuffed, but took a few Maeda with them. 🙂

      That was a joke when I said “Got all that?”. A few of the ‘Japanese’ phrases are also worth running through Google Translate if you fancy a laugh… 😉

      Re the blizzard of names and terminology; Yes, that’s a tricky one, as the units are only identified in terms of their family affiliation or leader’s name, rather than straightforward numbers or unit-type. The two armies also look very similar, with a similar mixture of colours and troops and only the tiny ‘mon’ on their banners (which re very difficult to see at this scale) to set them apart (and the letter-markers, which for the most part can’t be seen in the photos)… It was a bit of a dilemma, hence the ‘roll-call’ at the start and the occasional reference to banner-colours.

      That said, I’m sure that Samurai-experts get confused when I’m banging on about ‘the Biehnflicken Bombardiers being taken in the rear by the Grosswurst Grenadiers’ or ‘a displacing YPR-765 PRI-25 being KOd by a 9M113 (AT-5) fired by a BRDM-2 9P148 in defilade’. 🙂

  2. Superb Samurai display. Very interesting to see combined arms’ stands vs individual BMUs by weapon/troop type.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Jonathan! Please do have a look at Gareth’s website. We also does a more ‘granular’ level of Samurai battles, as well as Samurai skirmish, early ‘Genpei War’ Samurai combat on horseback and 19th Century ‘Boshin War’ skirmish. He does like his Japanese history…

  3. Steve+Johnson says:

    What a cracking game and such a visual treat too!

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Thanks Steve! As always, the internationally-recognised phrase when taking credit for someone else’s work, is “Glad you like it boys! Amicalement.” 😉


  4. Baron von Wreckedoften says:

    So ritual seppuku all round then? (It would certainly explain the rash of illness holding up the Warburg refight!)

    Good efforts by all concerned. I am still unconvinced that that second photo includes you a mere 27 years ago…..

    • jemima_fawr says:

      I was happy then… I met Mrs Fawr the following year…

      So now I’m MUCH happier, obviously! I’m like a good nominal roll; broken down by age and sex.

  5. MarshalNey says:

    Fantastic looking game, figures and scenery are excellent!

  6. Nick says:

    Lovely looking game

    Not a clue what was going on

    Must read it again after I have had a lie down My head hurts with all the Japanese phrases

    • jemima_fawr says:

      To be fair, I didn’t have a clue what was going on either… 😉

      • Gareth says:

        Now you’ve got the hang of it, we’ll do the Battle of Ukino next. That’s part of the war between branches of the Oda clan so it’s Oda Nobunaga and his cousin Oda Nobukiyo against Oda Nobukata. Nobunaga’s brothers were Nobuhiro, Nobutoki, Nobuyuki (AKA Nobukatsu) and Nobukane. Nobukiyo’s father was Nobuyasu. Nobukata’s father was a different Nobuyasu. The other sons of the 2 Nobuyasus were Nobumasa, Nobuharu and Nobuie.

  7. Nick says:

    Will that come with subtitles to help the bewildered

    • jemima_fawr says:

      No problem! 🙂

      コツがわかったので、次は浮野の戦いをやっていきます。これは、織田家の分家間の戦争の一部であり、織田信長と彼のいとこである織田信清と織田信方との戦争です。信長の兄弟は信広、信時、信幸(別名信勝)、信兼です。信清の父は信康。信方の父は別人の信康でした。 2人の信康家の他の息子は信政、信春、信家です。

      No need to thank me. Nothing is too much trouble on this blog! 😉

  8. Rod says:

    Magnificent as always. I used to play the GMT game Sengoku a lot, Kudos to Gareth that’s a nice site and lovely models,But what I would really like to do is a 6mm campaign of the 16th century Japanese invasions of Korea. But there’s a distinct lack of Korean and Ming figures in that scale. Or any scale. 😉

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Ah, now there’s me having no idea what you’re talking about… 😉

      In the 90s Gareth did start us on a samurai campaign based around several clans vying for domination of the southern island of Kyushu, but for various reasons it petered out (the problem with most campaigns). I’d love to revisit that, or something similar.

  9. Pingback: ‘Hannover Siegt, Der Franzmann Liegt’ (Part 8: Hanoverian Cavalry) | Jemima Fawr's Miniature Wargames Blog

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