Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Block Warfare - Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan AAR

With the unfortunate closing of Half Day Studio's store, my chance to play miniature wargames has been drastically reduced. The store provided an excellent location for hobbyists to gather and play both spontaneously and planend games. 

Luckily, the local library has a room that the public can rent for free, which lets some of us still get together and game during the week. 

Sam and I have been focusing more on hex-and-counter and board wargames, which are easier to transport than miniature wargames - everything fits in a conveniently sized box, rather than having to transport foam trays of miniatures, boxes of terrain, rulebooks, tokens, etc. 

This past week's game was GMT's Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan, in which two players take the roles of leaders of the Western and Eastern armies, lead by Ishida Mitsunari and Tokugawa Ieyasu respectively. 

While our forces are hidden from each other (players can see the relative strength of an army in how many blocks are at a location, but not the specific makeup), the game begins with certain armies in specific locations. This, however, is complicated by random draws from the player's reinforcement bags.

The goals are rather simple - if either of the armies' leaders is killed in combat, or if the regent in Kyoto is captured, then the game ends. Otherwise, players count up victory points for how many castles and resource points (large cities and capitals) they control at the end of seven weeks.

As Sam and I played, we began to notice and understand some of the game mechanics.

For example, our hands of cards consistently grew larger with each turn. Since units enter combat by playing cards of matching symbols, this meant battles started as small skirmishes, but then grew to larger and deadlier outright fights. However, it can be difficult to plan attacks, since half your hand is discarded at the end of each week, and you draw five more cards from the deck. So that carefully crafted hand of cards can shift from week to week.

Inversely, as our hands grew, our armies shrank. Apart from the blocks that start on the table, and the four randomly drawn blocks that begin in the reinforcement area, players only draw nine more blocks over the course of the game. As we fought, Sam and I realized that our reserves were rapidly dwindling.

As for the game itself, it seemed for a time that Sam had the upper hand (as the Ishida player). While I, the Tokugawa player, won the initiative for most of the game, a single week with Sam holding the initiative almost led to his victory. An ill-planned attack by the Maeda on a Western army saw the Tokugawa-aligned clan almost wiped out and their leader vulnerable to an overrun. The Date, who had been holding Shirakawa for most of the game, was attacked and shattered as I had no cards to ge.

(The above photo is modern Sekigahara, which I visited in 2017 during Geek Nation Tours' trip.)

However, I was able to claim victory just before Sam's remaining numbers could overwhelm my forces. During an attack, Sam revealed that Ishida was leading an army out of Kyoto to Kuwana, which had been the sight of constant battles between the two sides. Though Sam forced my army out of Kuwana, a follow up attack against Fukushima at Kiyosu ended poorly, leaving Ishida vulnerable. Tokugawa, who had been taking resource points along the Nakasendō Road, quickly marched his army to end up behind Ishida at Kyoto. Fukushima launched a counter attack, generating enough impact to beat Sam's force and cause two casualties, eliminating Ishida and ending the game.

Hopefully this gets out on the table often, as there's plenty of variation for a game with no dice. We noticed that there were still unit blocks left unused in our bags, so our forces in the next game could look much different than what we were working with.

I should also mention how fantastic this game looks. The map is beautiful, the art on the cards is eye-catching, and the blocks are easy to read from a quick glance.

We had a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to playing again.


  1. Too bad about your local store. I am glad your Library provides an alternative location, but I will miss seeing Gangs of Rome and Red Book of the Elf King. Those are games that you do not see very often elsewhere. On a related note, I enjoyed looking at your games played and painted stats on the edge of your blog. Made me want to do something similar on mine!

    1. Luckily, there's enough space at the library that we can still get our miniatures out - it's just not as freely available as Half Day Studio was. There's a Gangs of Rome AAR coming out next week, and Sam wants to continue playing Red Book.

      And thanks for checking out my stats! It's a fun way to keep track of what I've played and painted over the year. Although this is probably the last time I'll do the 6x6 Challenge.