With the Samurai Battles recently unboxed and all the stickers already applied, it was just a matter of time before I brought that title to the table. I am going to present the session reports connected with the game in similarly way as I did for C&C Medieval and Belisarius Campaign. You may expect the historical background to each battle, picture-rich story for every engagement as well as interesting insights regarding the design mechanics. I hope you will find that fantastic installment of the Command & Colors series enjoyable!

The Game

A little more about the game before jumping to the after action reports. The Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles game rules allow players to portray important engagements of Japanese history. The battles, included in the scenario booklet, focus on the historical deployment of forces and important terrain features in scale with the game system. The scale of the game is flexible and varies from battle to battle. For some scenarios, an infantry unit may represent an entire clan of soldiers, while in other scenarios a unit may represent just a few brave warriors.

The game follows the well-proven mechanics of Commands (cards driving the moves and creating Fog of War) and Colors (the units designation, having huge impact on battle). The dices allows us to quickly resolve all battles and the components in the box allow for creation of countless scenarios. In essence, Richard Borg at his best!

What I really like is grouping some of the scenarios into the linked, chronological and logically connected sets. This usually means some particular battle being separated into couple of phases. That process can be done based on timeline – as it will be in below example – with battle interlude, main action and final phase. But we shall also see the split based on troops location – like overview scenario, left flank, right flank, etc. I find both approaches enjoyable and allowing for much closer familiarization with the particular historical event.

Arita Castle 1517 (Phase 1 – Takeda Vanguard)

Historical Background

When the head of the Mori Clan died suddenly, Takeda Motoshige saw the opportunity to advance into Mori territory and capture Arita Castle. Provoked into action, Motonari, just a young man of 20 years, mobilized the Mori clan and set off towards Arita Castle. On the way, he and his personal retinue of mounted Samurai encountered the Takeda vanguard commanded by Kumagai Motonao. The two forces instead of closing, stood firm and engaged in a heated archery exchange. While encouraging hie men Motonao was struck down and the Takeda vanguard seeing their leader fall retired back to the castle.

Session Report

The occasion to play Samurai Battles was last weekend, when I had possibility to finally meet with my youngest brother Jakub – as you might imagine, all those pandemic restrictions and the overall situation does not help. Still, we were glad to put to the table two linked scenarios, which allowed us to really well familiarize with the game and simply be fascinated by this title.

Arita Castle is a perfect set of scenario to start your journey with Samurai Battles. The first one uses very few units, limited number of their types and finishes after 3 victory banners. It gives good introduction to the game mechanics mechanics. Let us see how it went – Jakub (Mori) vs me (Takeda).

Initial forces distribution in first scenario (click to enlarge)
I started with pretty good card (Hold & Shoot) but very weak rolling (1 block hit only). In essence, the beginning of the game was mainly focused on archery duel, which was in large ineffective.
I knew it will be quick game but never assumed this to finish so abruptly and decisively! Jakub and his Mori forces advanced in the center…
…and their concentrated attack not only scored 2 VPs by killing Motonao on the first leader check roll (above, you always use 1 dice in close combat and sword immediately kills the leader) but also wiped out the entire Heavy Samurai Spearman unit.
The final situation on the battleground with Mori decisively triumphant (click to enlarge)

Well, that was rough beginning for my forces. After couple of card plays – including some interesting Dragon ones – I was obliterated within one turn. So we immediately prepared second scenario in the series.

Arita Castle 1517 (Phase 2 – Matauchi River)

Historical Background

Takeda Motoshige, learning of the fate of Motonao, marched to the Matauchi River and found Motonari and his allies on the opposite bank. Although outnumbered, Motonari decided to attack and sent half his men across the river while a small force moved to outflank the Takeda position. The Takeda army quickly pushed the soldiers of Mori back to the river. Motoshige, seeing the Mori army retreating, wishing to make his victory complete, rode forward to the river, but was struck by an arrow and killed. The Takeda army broke, leaving Motonari the victor and paving the way for the rise of the Mori clan.

Session Report

The second part of Artita Castle battle features many more units and their types, but still a manageable complexity for the beginners. The set-up is pretty confrontational, with many units within attacking range of enemy. I hoped to get my revenge now – although I had less cards and my main leader again was worth 2 points to Mori. Let us see how it went!

Initial forces distribution in first scenario (click to enlarge)
Some of the Dragon Cards can be really powerful – although also costly. That one was timely played by Jakub when we started to close on each other, which resulted in my two red units retreating and loss of 4 Honor & Fortune!
I then responded with deadly accurate range fire from my bowmen – 3 green symbols on 3 dice and obliteration of enemy bowmen! (arquebusiers blocks were used on both sides by mistake which did not have any impact on result of the game)
We exchanged another set of range fire attacks and then I decided to move forward! The initial advance brought some successes…
…and then was followed-up by the Cavalry Charge! It was really well executed operation which brought so much needed break-through!
Especially, as at the end of turn Jakub’s cavalry leader was alone, forced to retreat with Morin holding minimal amount of Honor. That resulted in forced Seppuku! 2-2 and Takeda on the rise!
What happened next really surpassed all my expectations. And not in positive way! Jakub charged in the center at my weakened cavalry and killed it alongside with my cavalry leader Motoshige, gaining in process 1+2 VPs
In a follow-up attack the full strength Samurai Spearmen were charged. They managed to survive but not the leader leading at the front! Those leader check rolls are deadly, really!
The final situation on the battleground with Mori (again!) decisively triumphant. Jakub gained 4 VPs in last attack, 3 of them by killing the leaders; what a bloody business! (click to enlarge)


Evidently, we finished our two introductory games pretty historically. Mori won twice. Check. Motonao and Motoshige (Takeda commanders) were dead. Check. The invasion was repelled. Check.

The final score: Jakub (Mori) 9 Michal (Takeda) 2. That was a truly crushing defeat for me – evidently, I need to work on my tactics brought from Ancients & Medieval, as Samurai Battles is definitely more a game of attrition and honor rather then pure brutal force 🙂 It has great flavor and theme and I will gladly continue the campaigns. And the byproduct of such a decisive Mori victory was my brother being so much hooked by the game – I could not wish for anything more!