venerdì 10 marzo 2023

The bridge on Shinano river - Clash of Katanas game overview


In my club, each member has his favorite historical period. This is one of the strength points of the club that allows the whole group to know historical moments (and consequently rule systems) normally unknown to most. Our partner Antonio has been collecting miniatures of samurai and Daimyo for a long time. Few rule books could adapt to the complex Japanese dynamics until, in 2022, the Erize brothers published Clash of Katanas (a Clash of Spears supplement) dedicated to the Sengoku period: the Japanese Middle Ages.
A period in which Japan was divided into small fiefdoms constantly at war each other
and covering about 150 years (1467-1615). The Japanese administrative structure in this period was quite simple: the strongest general (Shogun), formally appointed by the Emperor, administered the various military districts controlled by the Daimyo. With the outbreak of the Onin War (1467-1477) several Daimyo proclaimed their independence by dealing severe blows to the Ashikaga Shogunate.
A period full of events which that it is a perfect background for a skirmish-level wargame.


Clash of Katanas allows you to deploy different factions: Samurai clans (Chosokabe, Date, Hojo, Mori, Oda/Tokugawa, Otomo, Takeda, Toyotomi, Uesugi and Shimazu), pirates and bandits (Wako), ninjas (Igga), monks (Ikko-Ikki), Chinese and Korean.
Each warband has its own style.
It is played on a 120cm x 120cm table and, in our club, we use 28mm miniatures.
The game mechanics are simple: one of my units acts, then one of yours and so on. Each unit can perform a total of three actions: move, shoot and move (again) or charge. The system is developed giving the opponent the possibility to react to a rival action. Obviously, these actions-reactions are not free because you need command points. Command points are provided by the leaders deployed on the table and … more command points you have the more responsive is your army.
Another important aspect is the fatigue. If a unit takes a lot of actions, has received hits and casualties, or has been forced to take a morale test… it will receive fatigue. Accumulating fatigue on a unit has unpleasant effects so it is necessary to use recovery actions to reduce it.
The fatigue generated is often affected by the terrain and the unit's armor. If your men are heavily armored and moving across rough terrains they will fatigue more than a poorly armed but lighter unit of peasants.
The basic rulebook has many scenarios: the escort of the Daimyo, the kidnapping of an enemy ambassador or you can play an encounter battle.
The clash ends when, due to a breaking roll caused by the losses suffered, one of the two factions is forced to flee.


We chose the 5.2 River Crossing scenario from the core manual for our test game. The rules require you to place a river in the middle of the table with a bridge. The river must be 4” wide. Players may initially set up within 6” of the table edge. Two possible fords are placed 12” from the bridge, the players who arrive less than 4” from the ford must roll a dice. If the roll is a 3 or less the pass is too bumpy to use. The river is considered broken ground.
The scenario develops in the morning and, due to the fog, the distance to spot the enemy is reduced from 20" to 16".
The fight ends when one of the warbands goes rout.


My club mates decided to use two 1200 point gangs: the Togukawa (Aurelian) clan against the Uesugi (Alessandro) clan.

The starting table and…

… the terrain setup

The engagement phase ends when all tokens are in sight of the enemy…

... from that moment the deployment phase starts in which the players replace the tokens with the real miniatures ...

From the beginning, the battle focuses on the bridge.

While the Togukawa units trying to kill the enemy with their bows

The Uesugi attempt to cross the river beside the bridge but are repulsed by enemy arquebusiers who suffer heavy casualties.

Meanwhile, a unit of ronin in the service of the Togukawa identifies a ford and, after crossing it, attacks the enemy left flank forcing the Daimyo to flee

The clash ends in a victory for the Togukawa Clan controlled by Aurelian

venerdì 3 marzo 2023

Battle of Barada - Hail Caesar Feb 25, 2023


Last week, we played in our club “La Piccola Armata”: the Battle of the Barada … better known as the first day of the "potential" siege of Damascus.
We used Hail Caesar published by Warlord Games, deploying around 500 minis in 28mm scale on a 300 cm x 180 cm table.
The scenario was prepared by Ezio and was taken from one of the introductory scenarios in the basic rulebook.


The Battle of Barada is part of the Second Crusade and was fought near Damascus on July 24, 1148.
In 1144, the County of Edessa, the first Crusader state in the Holy Land, had fallen to Imad al-Din Zengi, founder of the Zengid dynasty. King Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany decided to reconquer the city.
The two monarchs, who moved separately, crossed Europe towards the Holy Land. After reaching Constantinople the two armies joined forces at Lopardium and then moved east.
Once in Jerusalem, Luois and Conrad met King Baldwin III and Patriarch Fulcherio, changing their initial plans. 
Since Edessa had been lost and retaken twice, it was in no condition to be retaken. So, it was decided to launch an attack against Damascus. A city which, until that moment, had been one of the Crusaders' allies.

The combined Crusader forces marched northeast towards Damascus. Having reached the fertile and irrigated suburbs, they turned north to cross the Barada River, circumnavigating the solid city walls. A force of militia and local Turkoman tribes tried to stop the crusaders amid low walled orchards, narrow roads and riverside irrigation ditches…our story begins here …


The Crusader army includes 3 generals and 3 commanders divided over three contingents. The contingent of the Latin States under the command of King Baudouin III, the French contingent of King Louis VII and the German one of King Conrad III.

The Damascus army deploys 1 general and 7 commanders divided into a main force (2 divisions) and a support force (6 divisions).

My club mates split into the various commands. Ezio, Marco, Riccardo and Rodolfo army of Damascus; Nevio, Giancarlo, Luciano and Simone crusader army.
Baldwin III's contingent deploys at the top of the hill near the village of Mizzah. The French and, then the German contingent enter, during the 1st turn with a test behind Baldwin's contingent.

Map from Hail Caesar rule book all copyrights reserved

The blocking force of Damascus is positioned on the banks of the Barada river. One of the divisions from the support force is already deployed by the player in march column on the road to Damascus.
The other divisions enter from the 2nd round onwards with a test at 4+
The objective of the crusaders is to pass at least 15 units across the Barada river. Muslims must prevent this. Routing the enemy army is considered a victory.


During the first turn, Crusader players attempt to move as quickly as possible towards their objective but a series of failed tests cause movement to slow down. Only the French contingent enters in this turn.

The Muslim support column moves along the roads to flank the Crusaders 

Muslim main force haunts enemies with bows, trying to slow them 

During the second and third turns the Crusaders attack with bows and crossbows. King Louis moves to the left flank of the formation to intercept the support columns.  Conrad and his Germans arrive on the battlefield.

On the Crusader left flank, the Turcopoles and Baldwin III's Knights Templar manage to push away the enemy light cavalry and approach the river.

Muslim main force holds off Crusader attack while support columns move quickly but, one of the divisions, is forced by a failed test to become stuck crossing an irrigation ditch

In the fourth and fifth rounds all Muslim support divisions enter the field

Baldwin and his knights push away the Arab light cavalry and arrive near the river. They try to threaten the enemy right flank 

The Germans and Baldwin's infantry also move towards the river

On the right flank of the Crusader deployment, King Louis lined up in defense trying to intercept the incoming Muslim troops.

The clash, in the following rounds, is concentrated in the suburbs of the village of Mizzah. Baldwin and the Templars charge many times the Muslim infantry and the support columns trying to screen the infantry that is going towards the river.
On the Crusader right flank, King Louis and his contingent fight against the support columns in an attempt to buy time for the rest of their army

The battle, after almost 7 hours of play, ends with a Saracen victory. Crusaders lose two cavalry divisions and fail to cross the river, only one cavalry unit reaches the objective. Even the army of Damascus sees the destruction of two divisions: one of infantry and one of cavalry, those of the main force.


The Crusaders, constantly bombarded by arrows and spears, laboriously pass through the narrow paths of the cultivated fields. Only thanks to a charge by Conrad III the crusaders open the way and drive back the Muslim attackers beyond the Barada river.
Arrived under the walls of Damascus, they use the wood from the orchards to build a defensive perimeter. Attacked several times, on 27 July, the Crusaders retreated to the east of the city. Area less fortified but with less supplies of food and water.
Among the ranks of the Crusaders, discussions begin about who will control Damascus after conquering it. Meanwhile, the Muslim reinforcements commanded by Nur ad-Din and Sayf al-Din approach Homs and on July 28 the Crusaders leave the field to return to Jerusalem.