Terrible Reprisals at Sanjo Palace

I was going through an old hard drive tonight looking for a scenario I had written up for WWII and came across an old After Action Report I did on a run of Japanese Art of War 2nd Edition rules. I searched my own blog and did not see it written here. I remember running the game, probably 2 or 3 years ago. Maybe more? Anyway, I am reporducing the AAR as I think it is actually quite interesting. Please enjoy!

The scenario was “Terrible Reprisals at Sanjo Palace” and takes place in the year 1056. Overall the game went very smoothly. The scenario was this:

During this time period the court was dominated by 4 clans. The Fujiwara, the Soga, the Taira and the Minemoto all were vying for supremacy in the court. The top clan used to be the Fujiwaras, who had long ago gotten very close the Imperial Family. The Soga used their control of Buddhism to gain power, but it was the Taira who were the most powerful; having both a powerful fighting force of Samurai and deft political skills. The bottom rung of this group were the Minamoto who were seen as wild men from the untamed frontier. While they had a good fighting force, trim from fighting the Emishi and opening up land for the Emperor, they didn’t have capable political skills.

The Fujiwaras were not happy at having to take 2nd place to the Taira. Their clever plan was to unseat the Taira and the best way to do that was by proxy. They met with the Minamoto and convinced them that their problems in the court were directly involved with the Taira and that the time to strike the Taira down was now. They even suggested a plan. The thing the Minamoto needed to do was to capture the child Emperor and the retired Emperor. With them in their possession they could speak for the Emperor and thus have all the power. It was a cunning plan. No, not the kidnapping of the two Emperors but the convincing a third party to take out their enemy! Historically the Minamoto were defeated and treated harshly. The few survivors we exiled to the frontier and no one heard much from them for 20 years.

In the game we forced the Taira to place at least one emperor in Sanjo Palace, which was surrounded by a high wall. The other emperor could be hidden anywhere on the board. There were 5 other buildings and a patch of woods. The Taira were only allowed 2 units on the board with the rest coming in as reinforcements. Each side had 1 hero/leader, 2 samurai units and 2 retainer units. The Taira placement would be hidden. The Minamoto could come on anywhere and the entire force was allowed to place immediately. In my mind I saw one clear path of action, an immediate assault on the Sanjo Palace with a fighting withdrawal as they searched for the 2nd emperor should he not be in the Palace. This did not happen.

The Minamoto were told they could start a fire on any building using 3 action points from one figure. On turn one they immediately moved on 3 of the buildings (but not the palace) and set them on fire! I think the idea was to smoke out the Emperor! This did not seem to work. One of the buildings they set fire to was a Temple. This was considered unkind by two wandering Yamabushi! They immediately went to work on a couple of the Minamoto. They had lots of dice but they only generated defense on 1’s and offense on 6’s. Still, they were considered quite bad and soon one was surrounded by Yari armed Samurai and the other was educated in the art of dodging arrows. While both went down, the delay was costly for the Minamoto and allowed the Taira to organize their defense better.

Soon enough the Minamoto decided that of the remaining 3 buildings it was worth a look into the Palace. A quick hop over the wall with one Samurai revealed 2 Minamoto units and the retired Emperor! The Samurai used his remained action dice to scramble back over the wall!

As the Minamoto started to move in on the palace Taira reinforcements arrived. A command decision was made and the Minamoto decided to deal with them first! A bloody battle ensued and left many Taira dead as well as several Minamoto.

Eventually the Minamoto made their bid for the Palace. There were 20+ samurai fighting it out on the courtyard of Sanjo Palace. The battle would go in favor of one side then the other until finally there were two Minamoto against one Taira.

The Taira had one swordsman left while the Minamoto had a bowman and a spearman. The Taira won initiative and moved their Katana wielding swordsman such that the yari armed Minamoto blocked line of sight to the bowman. The ensuing melee however saw the death of the yari wielding Minamoto Samurai. This lead to some cheers on both sides; for the Taira because an enemy was down but also for the Minamoto because the line of sight was now clear. Yumi versus Katana. Could a more perfect Samurai themed duel be fought? It was almost ripped from the pages of Samurai Legend! It was a consummate moment.

The Minamoto leveled his yumi on his opponent and let fly his arrow. The die roll was excellent and would have felled anyone. But the Kami favored the Taira and he had enough DO generated from Turn Done Dice and from the previous fight that he survived!

The next turn the Katana closed the range and it became Katana vs. Tanto, ending in a draw.

Another turn came and again a draw.

Everyone was on edge, the table was cheering when finally the dice were rolled and the katana cut the Minamoto Samurai in half! The game was over! The Taira started to high-five. But wait, the GM was stern faced. Had they not won a great victory? The GM smiled and declared the winner: The Fujiwara! With the Taira decimated they had won great honor but it would be the Fujiwara who would control the court for decades to come. The Minamoto battleforce had won a pyrrhic victory. Further, the destruction of the Temple meant that gaining support from the Monks in future campaigns was going to be nearly impossible.

It was a great battle and a lot of fun to GM. If we had used the morale rules surely it would not have been a game that ended with man on man but would it have been as exciting? I don’t think so. I look forward to getting the 2nd edition finished and published.

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