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Unit Strategy Review - Kato + Ashigaru Army

Posted January 2nd, 2016 at 03:50 AM by HS Codex
Updated January 22nd, 2016 at 03:02 AM by Xotli

Unit Strategy Review
Unit: Ashigaru Harquebus, Ashigaru Yari, Kato Katsuro
Author: Dysole

The Kato + Ashigaru army (or Asian Invasion as some like to call it) doesn’t see a whole ton of play. At first glance, 200 points for an average figure combined with a bunch of units with average powers and 1 defense doesn’t seem all that formidable. However, as we shall see, these units all work together to create something greater than the sum of their parts.

First let’s take a closer look at their stats:

Analyzed Statistics
Kato Katsuro
Cost – 200 (Queen Class Unit)
Size – Medium (Vulnerable/Somewhat concealable)
Life – 5 (Average)
Move – 6 (Fast)
Range – 1 (Melee)
Attack – 4 (Above Average)
Defense – 4 (Average)
Kato Katsuro's Command – take a turn with a samurai squad or hero or one squad each of Ashigaru Harquebus or Yari (tactical advantage: high)

Ashigaru Harquebus
Cost – 60 (Bishop Class Unit)
Size – Medium (Vulnerable/Somewhat concealable)
Life – 1 (Squad)
Move – 5 (Average)
Range – 6 (Average)
Attack – 2 (Average)
Defense – 1 (Poor)
Wait Then Fire - if no Ashigaru Harquebus move, they all get an additional attack die (tactical advantage: medium-high)

Ashigaru Yari
Cost – 40 (Pawn Class Unit)
Size – Medium (Vulnerable/Somewhat concealable)
Life – 1 (Squad)
Move – 5 (Average)
Range – 1 (Melee)
Attack – 2 (Below Average*)
Defense – 1 (Poor)
*Encircle Special Attack – 3 Ashigaru Yari may roll all dice as a single attack (tactical advantage: medium)

In-Depth Analysis
Each unit is complex, and must be well analyzed to be truly understood. For the Ashigaru and Kato, let us begin with cost. By cost, we refer mostly to value in points, but also to importance in your army. To simplify analysis, Agatagary has created several categories of cost, based off of chess, for comparison and nomenclature. For reference,
  • Pawn class (expendable, units that can be useful, but are not worth enormous trouble to protect)
  • Bishop class (more useful than a pawn, but still somewhat expendable)
  • Knight class (units that are interestingly powerful and can have a significant impact on the game in of themselves. It is advisable that they be kept alive, but if absolutely necessary they may be sacrificed)
  • Rook class (units that almost inevitably have a significant impact on the game, and whose death should be avoided as much as possible)
  • Queen class (devastatingly powerful or important units that should be protected at all costs)

The Ashigaru are incredibly cheap. The Yari tie with many figures for cheapest per figure cost in the game (10). The Harquebus are one of the cheapest ranged squads in the game: only the Arrow Gruts and Marro Warriors are cheaper per figure (13.33 and 12.5 respectively), and only the Blastatrons tie them (15 apiece). On the opposite end of the spectrum, only five figures from Classic Scape (eight if you include VC figures) cost as much or more than Kato.

Because of low survivability and low cost, Yari are pawns. With slightly greater survivability due to being ranged, Harquebus fit more into the bishop category. And lastly, Kato, with his high point cost and the fact that, once he dies, army efficiency goes down significantly, is a queen unit.

Now, since we are looking at multiple units, we will first look at their capabilities individually and then as a group. We will do this both for offense and survivability. Then we will look at how the units interact with other units.

The first thing to be aware of is that both Harquebus and Yari have similar offensive powers and statistics to other units while being much cheaper than that unit. Harquebus with 4th Mass and 10th Regiment, and Yari with Zombies of Morindan.

Wait Then Fireis a highly useful ability, especially when it comes from 4 attacks at range. However, like the 4th and 10th, Wait Then Fire is not always the best choice and should only be done if you cannot improve your position by taking height, increasing the number of available targets, or moving into a position that makes it harder for your opponent to engage and/or kill your Harquebus.

As for Encircle Special Attack, it is actually superior to Onslaught Special Attack since your Yari simply need to have 3 figures adjacent to the attacking figure and you are still allowed to move your 4th Yari, which can allow you to tie up an important figure, grab a glyph, or move up a figure from the back. In the Zombies strategy review, dok elaborates on how Sisyphus’ Probability Tables can be used to determine if Onslaught or normal attacks are better. However, the difference between the Zombies and Yari is that the Yari have an additional figure, so their calculations are a bit different.

Against squad figures or 1-life heroes:
  1. Encircle will cause more kills on average than four attacks of 2 against figures with 6 defense.
  2. Encircle will cause more kills on average than three attacks of 2 and one attack of 3 against figures with 7 defense.
  3. Encircle will cause more kills on average than two attacks of 2 and two attacks of 3 againstfigures with 8 defense.
  4. Encircle will cause more kills on average than one attack of 2 and three attacks of 3 against figures with 9 defense.
  5. Encircle will cause more kills on average than four attacks of 3 against figures with 10 defense.

Against multi life heroes:
  1. Encircle is stronger than four attacks of 2 against figures with 2 defense.
  2. Encircle is stronger than three attacks of 2 and one attack of 3 against figures with 3 defense.
  3. Encircle is stronger than two attacks of 2 and two attacks of 3 against figures with 4 defense.
  4. Encircle is stronger than one attack of 2 and three attacks of 3 against figures with 6 defense.
  5. Encircle is stronger than four attacks of 3 against figures with 7 defense.

If you only have 3 figures in range, you can refer to dok’s calculations in the Zombies of Morindan strategy guide .The big thing to get from this is that you should only rarely use onslaught against squad figures (saving it for things where a special attack is helpful to avoid defensive abilities like counter strike) and that it is best saved for high defense, high life heroes.

As for Kato, he is actually fairly sturdy and, in the late game, a 6 move, 5 life, 4 attack, 4 defense figure is nothing to sneeze at, and can be very effective cleanup. However, Kato’s greatest asset is his command ability. With that you are able to move and attack with 8 figures per turn. Only Blastatrons and Drones can move at least that many figures on a turn, and only Drones can attack with at least as many if they roll high enough. Units with frenzy can equal or surpass 8 movements and attacks per turn, but only if they roll high enough. However, no other army in the game will consistently have 8 good attacks a turn.

Ashigaru do not have very good survivability. At only 1 defense, any figure in the game can kill them and usually quite easily. Raelin helps improve their staying power and can be a solid investment, especially since she usually draws fire away from other figures, helping your Ashigaru stay around for even longer. However, if you bring along Raelin the Ashigaru army must sacrifice some of its board control for greater survivability. On some maps this is very much worth it, and if Raelin is in play don’t be afraid to leave the aura if it means you have a greater opportunity to kill something. As medium figures, they gain no special immunities. However, the Ashigaru are more than happy to work even without Raelin in play.

Kato Katsuro’s Command
The only restriction on Kato’s ability is clear sight, so if the map has line of sight blockers it will be very important to figure out early on which start zone spaces will allow you to see the most of the map. However, sometimes the best place on the map for the daimyo won’t be in the start zone and an early move on Kato to get there before your opponent develops the board can pay big dividends. When using the command, be very careful not to put an Ashigaru on a space where Kato will be unable to see him. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t place an Ashigaru out of sight if it is in a much better position to be able to kill a unit, especially if you don’t anticipate that Ashigaru surviving.

Since the Ashigaru move so many figures and can launch attacks comparable to some top tier squads, yet are so incredibly fragile, it is vitally important to have as many of these attacks as possible. This means that you do not want a lot of distance between the front line figures and the reinforcements, since you want to get as many of those 8 attacks a turn as possible. Ashigaru wage a constant battle of who can kill the other guy faster and 8 attacks can kill a lot of things very quickly. However, they are very fragile. This means you must not waste them. As in chess, a master protects pawns just as much as they protect queens. So while you should be willing to trade your inexpensive Ashigaru for opposing figures, do not send Ashigaru on a suicide mission haphazardly.

Furthermore, you can choose whether to activate the Harquebus or the Yari first. This is especially valuable since it can allow you to use the Harquebus to clear out figures blocking your Yari or send the Yari forward as a screen for the Harquebus. The game situation can change so you always need to assess what units are most likely to cause problems for your Ashigaru and prioritize those units.

If you have a choice about which units to put in harm’s way, Yari are preferred to Harquebus in almost every situation, due to the fact that Harquebus are ranged and have Wait Then Fire. Although they will not be expected to survive, it does mean an additional opportunity for the Harquebus to kill either that unit or a more dangerous unit. Again, since the Ashigaru are cheap, sacrificing the melee figures to save the ranged figures can be a solid strategy, especially since four attacks with a potential for Wait Then Fire isn’t a bad consolation prize if you lose all your Yari early.

One last thing to remember is that Kato can be used to protect his Ashigaru. If a figure is in close range and is able to eliminate a lot of Ashigaru very quickly (these figures will be discussed later), sending Kato up to engage can be a good way to buy your Ashigaru some time to eliminate the threat. As mentioned earlier, 5 life and 4 defense have a fair bit of staying power.

How many squads of Ashigaru?
The short answer is: as many as you can get. But to elaborate, Ashigaru are one of the units who hate start zone limits most. The higher the points go with unlimited start zones, the more valuable the Ashigaru become since it costs 100 points to get one of each. With a 24 hex start zone, after 3 squads of each, figures need to be dropped (however thankfully at 500 points you only have to drop one figure after you add in Kato). If you are investing in Ashigaru, one squad will not do it and two is really pushing it unless you are in the low 400 point totals. As above, if you have to choose to cut a squad of Harquebus or a squad of Yari, it will be preferable to cut Yari to Harquebus. The sweet spot for the army tends to be Kato, 2 squads of Yari, 3 squads of Harquebus, and support units/unique samurai to fill out points.

Other Units to Use with Kato
Kato Katsuro can also use any of the Samurai squads or Heroes in addition to Ashigaru. While Hatamoto Taro’s power works on Ashigaru and it has a rather wide range, you are usually better off investing those points on Raelin. Kaemon Awa is a solid addition and he can definitely free up some points if you are playing at around 600 points. None of the unique samurai squads are bad additions but each serves a different purpose. Since Kato can only activate one squad at a time, playing more than one squad is possible but certainly not optimal. The Tagawa Samurai Archers are a suboptimal pairing with Kato since Kato cannot grant them any additional activations on their own and they are inferior in offensive output to the Ashigaru, but they do make an intriguing option when paired with several of the unique squads and heroes. While the army is certainly interesting, it is significantly weaker than running Kato with Ashigaru. It does grant you the flexibility to change to whatever unit is best equipped to deal with the present board situation and also to avoid losing an Order Marker to one of the Unique Squads getting killed.

The Kozuke and Tagawa are more of an offensive powerhouse than the Izumi and are usually best used if you need the extra space because you are playing at high point totals (although Awa remains a better choice if you are choosing them for that reason). The Izumi fit in better due to being cheaper and so allowing for more Ashigaru but also because their excellent defensive abilities allow them to cover up for some of the Ashigaru’s weaknesses.

If you are using any of these figures in addition to Ashigaru, knowing when to activate them is crucial since you will be giving up 8 attacks. Any of the samurai squads are probably best served trying to provide an early strike force/glyph grabbers and going after whatever units will make life the most difficult for the Ashigaru later in the game. Izumi and Kozuke do this job slightly better than the Tagawa but the Tagawa can certainly work in a pinch. If using Awa, it is probably best to set him up somewhere where he will be well positioned to take care of a threat that will be dangerous to your Ashigaru and allowing you to jump to him when the need arises.

As a side note, Tomoe Gozen from VC can also be used with Kato, but she does little to help the Ashigaru and works better with Samurai; se could prove to be an intriguing option for the Kato + Samurai build.

Using Ashigaru outside of Kato Armies:
Of the two, Harquebus are a much better fit outside of Kato armies than the Yari. Harquebus + Raelin is equivalent to valiant 4th Mass. While that particular combination certainly costs more than an equivalent number of 4th or 10th, it is still a viable option especially if the tournament rewards armies with less power (Reverse the Whip, for example). They can also be used without Raelin since 3 squads is 30 points cheaper than 3 squads of 4th and 45 points cheaper than 3 squads of 10th. 30 points is the difference between Kaemon Awa/Hydra and Major Q10, or Major Q10 and Q9/Nilfheim. Oftentimes, the loss of one additional defense die can be worth the upgrade to a better support unit.

Yari are less useful, but again are very cheap and so a couple of squads are not a terrible option if you think a special attack or some cheap fodderwill be useful. Unlike the Harquebus, they do not have a more expensive alternative option that they provide a similar function to. One can certainly construct an army where they can be useful, but it is usually not going to be a very optimal one.

For both Harquebus and Yari, they are best served by being paired with Kato, even though they can be used elsewhere.

Units to Avoid:
Deathreavers: They are as cheap as the Yari, they are able to gum up the Ashigaru lines and force the Ashigaru to kill them, and they can also kill Ashigaru quite easily. While you can mitigate Scatter with Encircle Special Attack, Deathreavers will create a great deal of headaches and severely hinder your ability to focus on killing what is actually killing you. Bringing along Kaemon Awa is one of the best ways to deal with them.

Multiattacking ranged units: Not all of these are made equal. What is most important to consider is if they outrange you and how many attacks they can throw a turn. Nilfheim with 5 range and no more than 3 attacks is significantly less scary than either of the Majors who can launch 4-9 attacks from 6 and 7 range. While figures like Nilfheim need to be treated with extra caution, it’s the ones who can attack outside of the range of the Ashigaru with impunity that are most worrisome, especially since the fragility of the Ashigaru means that these figures don’t need to use their options which throw more dice. Other units like this are Deathwalker 8000, Zelrig if the map has close start zones or you are forced to stay close to each other, and Mimring and Moltenclaw, who require special care to make sure you don’t get roasted, which usually puts you in a suboptimal position.

Glad/Blasts: They combine the worst of both of the above. The Blastatrons can throw four attacks at a greater range than the Ashigaru and the Gladiatrons will keep you in position and be able to cover and hold their board position much easier than the Ashigaru. It’s not unwinnable since Glad/Blasts cost more per figure and only throw half the attacks but it is not an easy matchup and is much harder than dealing with other 4 figure ranged common squad armies since they can lock down the board much easier.

Cyprien Esenwein: He loves the low defense of the Ashigaru and it is usually very easy for him to be able to get into position to assassinate Kato if you are not careful. Cyprien is worrisome as, if the assassination attempt succeeds, your army will become much more difficult to handle, but if Cyprien fails the assassination attempt, you will have plenty of troops to be able to launch an Encircle Special Attack and then 4 attacks of Wait Then Fire possibly with height. Cyprien becomes much more worrisome in the mid- to late-game, when he can pick off your troops and keep healing while you don’t have nearly the capability to pin him down and launch 8 attacks at him. If Cyprien is on the other side of the board, do everything you can to keep your units within threat range of each other to keep the vampire from making your army his meal.

Dealing with these units can be a problematic and, outside of Kaemon Awa, who only does so much mitigation, Kato builds typically don’t have many answers. However, support units such as Raelin, Majors, and other units that counter these units can make for a very interesting and workable army. Just make sure to give yourself enough space for a swarm of Ashigaru or Kato will not be worth his cost.

For additional information see:

This guide was reviewed and approved by the USR.
Total Comments 5


Very nice article...I will have to revisit the Asian Invasion army in my next game or so.

Thanks Dysole
Posted January 2nd, 2016 at 09:02 AM by AMIS AMIS is offline
Updated January 2nd, 2016 at 09:03 AM by AMIS (Spearmen? I thought that was gum!)
Son of Arathorn's Avatar
Posted January 2nd, 2016 at 02:36 PM by Son of Arathorn Son of Arathorn is offline
TheAverageFan's Avatar
Very good tips. I've always considered Kato + Ashigaru to be a good army, even at 500 points. I appreciate that you mentioned that, although he's a 200 point support unit, Kato's not half-bad in a fight either in a pinch.


P.S. Another plus of this army is how much relief Kato brings the player to the headache that can be Order Marker placement.
Posted January 7th, 2016 at 04:57 AM by TheAverageFan TheAverageFan is offline
TheSparkleInYourWater's Avatar
Nice article, Dysole. It's a favorite army of mine.

As above, if you have to choose to cut a squad of Harquebus or a squad of Yari, it will be preferable to cut Yari to Harquebus. The sweet spot for the army tends to be Kato, 2 squads of Yari, 3 squads of Harquebus, and support units/unique samurai to fill out points.

I actually prefer to cut the Harqs over the Yari in most cases. As you mentioned a few paragraphs before...

If you have a choice about which units to put in harm’s way, Yari are preferred to Harquebus in almost every situation,

This and the fact that the Yari are front line melee units means you're almost always going to be losing Yari at a higher rate than Harqs. Much like with Kato, once all the Yari die, army efficiency goes down significantly,

However, as we shall see, these units all work together to create something greater than the sum of their parts.

Harqs are better than Yari as individual parts, but the "Asian Invasion" ceases to exist without the Yari (and they usually cease to exist first).
Posted January 8th, 2016 at 06:22 PM by TheSparkleInYourWater TheSparkleInYourWater is offline
Dysole's Avatar
Interesting take Sparkle. I've been in that situation before where I lose all my Yari and have to start taking turns with just Harqs. I can see how the strategy would definitely change with more Yari and fewer Harquebus but I would feel much more vulnerable when I did run out of Yari or Harqs than if I had more Harqs in reserve. Appreciate the feedback.
Posted January 12th, 2016 at 12:33 PM by Dysole Dysole is offline
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