Monday, 27 April 2015

Killer Katanas 2 - playtesting

The lads were up for trying out Killer Katanas on Thursday.  Except for Jon who - unlike Mark - wasn't prepared to lie to his spouse that he was popping out to Tescos and would be back 'soon' - then sneaked off to wargame for the next 4 hours.  Even worse, she was laid up on the coffee table with a bad back. 

I set up with a limited number of units per side and sort of evenly matched.  The Black team (Russ and Ian) had a larger unit of ronin, but sans armour and a unit with long lance (essentially pike) alongside the expected samurai and ashigaru.  The Red team (Mark and me) had some sohei warrior monks - which let me tell you now are crap against cavalry!

Reds below, Black above.  The Black cavalry get to move next

As with all new rule sets there was a bit of flicking through the rule book initially but, to be fair, once we got into the swing of things it seemed to move along quite nicely.  Very soon - especially as combat began - we were all hanging on the next card with hope (or trepidation) that we or the opposition would get their licks in first.

The card system works well.  Each card represents cavalry or infantry of either side.  If a Black Infantry card is pulled, all Black's infantry units (including commanders on foot) get to move.  There are 4 cards of each type (cavalry and infantry of both sides) - so a turn last 16 cards.  Some units like ashigaru with arquebuses need 2 cards to fire (reload then shoot) and as we found it is easy to get stuck waiting for your infantry cards to turn up to let you reload as the enemy bears down on you.

The Blacks plot their next move - onto the hill

Terrain played its part.  Movement is not speedy and being stuck on terrain (such as hills and paddy fields) severely restricts movement.  The Black ronin in particualar were picked on as they would be slow to come down the hill and our ashigaru arquebusiers certainly took their toll on them.

Interestingly, bow units are quite effective compared to other rule sets (they don't need to reload like arquebusiers) but to keep it balanced all shooting units can only shoot twice per turn.  I made up some counters to keep track of who had done what and we felt we needed a Reload counter for the arquebusiers.

Movement is randomish - you know your units will move but the distance is not fixed which can make charging slightly more of a lottery if you stop 1/2 inch short!

Counters a plenty as the shooting takes place.  

It was quite funny how we all seemed to get into it.  I forgot to take many photos as I was a) usually flicking through the rule book when an event came up or b) engrossed in the action.  All results seemed fair and there was certainly no shout of "These Rules Are Shit" as has been heard in the past.

We certainly didn't scratch too deep into the potential depth of the rules - there are loads of optional items we can introduce over time but we'll need some time to get acquainted with the nuances of these (such as historic battle formations and command and control distances).

One element that certainly had us going was the personal challenges.  Basically a unit commander, the main commander or unattached commanders can issue personal challenges to their opposite numbers.  We soon found that with the right leader, this could be devastating.  You roll for the commander ability on 2d6 - low is bad, high very good.  If you can get double 6 (as I managed for one of ours) he becomes a +3 unstoppable killing machine who takes out enemy unit commanders which then forces morale checks on the unit they were commanding (if you kill him, make him run away or if he refuses to fight). 

Our super duper +3 guy managed to scare off a flanking samurai unit and an ashigaru unit on the hill.  Similarly a Black commander opened up a significant hole in our ranks doing the same thing.

Carnage as a single samurai causes consternation and confusion to his enemies.  Run Away!
However, such units (if they engage in single combat) can suffer wounds and even be killed by an inferior opponent - and the wounds are cumulative.  In this way a crafty commander can send in his crappy -1 commanders in the hope of a) inflicting some wounds on the superior hero and b) getting his own crappy commander killed and replace him with a shiny, new higher rank commander!

I definitely need to spring for some small movement trays to keep units together and work on the paperwork needed to keep track of damage to units and individual commanders (especially noting the 20% and subsequent 10% damage which results in increasingly lower morale status and hence crucial in marking down).

At the end of the evening, both sides had reasons to be pleased.  Cavalry are not numerous but are highly effective and certainly the Blacks won the battle of the flanks while the Reds could claim victory in the centre.  Combat had been bloody and you can see why some historical formations allowed for rapid switching of troops to let those that had been battered retire to the rear before being wiped out or routing.

Feedback was positive.  Everyone had a good word to say about them and generally a thumbs up for Killer Katanas 2!

1 comment:

  1. Loved these rules, not much to fault so far and far easier than I thought to pick up. The cards do work well and there is plenty of flavour in the game play. Look forward to another game soon