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Old June 22nd, 2012, 10:24 AM
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Samurai Battles (aka Battle Lore Does Japan)

Some Pre Purchase Notes on SAMURAI BATTLES

Samurai Battles, the new Richard Borg design by Zvesda, has come out at the recent Origins gaming convention, and although some distributors don't have it yet, some at boardgamegeek who didn't go to that Con just got it in their hot little hands. I expect to have my copies (see below) within the month. I've read reviews, comments, designer comments, seen the Origins video and photos of all the components, and last night read the rules online. So here is a summary of what I've found out here and there, for those who are interested. I'll be following up after I have the game in hand myself.

For now I'll only be discussing the Borg rules, but you do get the Zvesda Art of Tactics rules and scenarios as well. Being unfamiliar with the Russian system, I'll leave off commenting on it for now. The game retails for about $80, and mini-expansions are so far available already for $4 per 4 figure unit. I won't go into details, which you can check out at boardgamegeek, but the three additional unit types not included in the core game are Mounted Samurai Archers, Warrior Monks, and Ninjas. In the video of the Con report, the Russian head of Zvesda offers to put Borg's rules for the new units in the boxes if he'll give them to him, and Borg smiles and says "Great!"

Samurai Battles (SB) appears to be most like Battle Lore (BL) of Richard Borg's (RB) designs. It is totally Command and Colors (C&C)--which may tell you whether or not you are interested. The counter system of Honor/Fortune Tokens tokens is a simplified version of the Lore magic system 90without all the subcategories and war councils), and the command cards are closest to BL as well, as both are representing Medieval/Renaissance systems. The tokens can be used either to activate a Dragon Card from your hand (Fortune) or spend to pay for retreats and augmented attacks (Honor). At the end of a turn, in addition to a Command Card, you may pick either two Tokens or a Dragon Card.

However, the design is customized nicely for Japan's historical Warring States Period. Here are some examples:

1. Samurai units are more powerful but slower than Ashigaru (peasant) units.

2. Your Samurai HQ unit is placed and remains immobile. It has powerful defenders but is worth multiple victory banners if captured. You also get individual unit infantry and cavalry leaders.

3. Retreating leaders means loss of honor counters--if you have them to spend at the time. There is even a seppuku option! Banzai!

4. "Dragon Cards" provide a second deck from the normal Command Cards (like Lore Cards in BL), and put Japanese fantasy/legend or just plain "inexplicable" abilities into the mix (RB's term).

5. The figures are in unpainted gray hard plastic, and fragile, but very nice with the historical uniform detail you can only get with multipart figures. Much assembly is required, but they mainly snap together (reinforce with glue at your option). I'm thinking about using segmented boxes to store the figures, since Borg says "once you open the box, its so packed that you'll never get the stuff back into it."

6. A superior social rank of a unit gives it extra attack and defense abilities.

7. The spearmen and cavalry units have historical characteristics. Archers can generate Tokens when the attack, which Arquebusiers do not, but the firearms have a slightly greater range and greater damage capability.

8. Most of the C&C seven scenarios are about different phases of two historical Japanese battles (you also get an introductory scenario), and its been mentioned that future expansions will focus on different ones. The Art of Tactics (AT) scenarios cover more different battles, with about the same number of scenarios provided. There are also additional components for the AT games, such as unit bases, additional banners, erasable order sheets with markers, etc. so you are in fact getting, as the box trumpets, "Two Games In One."

There are other elements as well which should make it feel as 'period specific' as any other (fairly abstract but simple) C&C game. Initially--before playing--I'd rate it as a simpler BL, below C&C Ancients and Napoleonics in difficulty, but a bit more complex than Battle Cry or the Memoir 44 Core Set.

It seems that Zvesda is to some degree changing from a figures company to a gaming company, and will support the game. Other previous rules sets were sold with rudimentary game parts for their earlier Napoleonic 'playsets.' However, their more recent WWII Russian Front Art of Tactics design, the first to be given a more complete 'game' format, did not apparantly sell well, although people who have played it seem to like it. My plan is to get two copies initially of SB for the extra figures and board (the six board sections are printed in clear terrain and on the other side with some terrain such as rivers preprinted on them, and their edges have half hexes which will synch up with another board placed next to it for larger or multi-player battles, although rules for such are not provided yet), and a couple each of the three expansion units mentioned above. (You do get seperate terrain hexes, and even a raised 'elevation' type of piece to make your hills 3D).

I've read glowing reviews about the game, but one dissatisfied player said the cards are thin, the boards are warping on him, etc.--he was only willing to rate the figures highly of all the components. (For my comments on a superior game with inferior components, see my thread Star Trek Fleet Captains: Silk Purse From Sow's Ear? Personally, I own almost everything Borg, so its a no-brainer that I'm in (see various posts on the 'What Board Game Are You Playing?' thread). RB says elsewhere, not in the video, that this new direction for Zvesda may mean opportunites to expand C&C to more new historical periods in the future.

I don't want to go on too long here, as this information is available online elsewhere--although you'll have to hunt for some of it. But if you have a specific (Pre Purchase) question or two, feel free to ask...

Last edited by chas; April 23rd, 2017 at 05:03 PM.
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Old June 26th, 2012, 07:53 AM
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Re: Samurai Battles (aka Battle Lore Does Japan)

NEW DESIGNER SCENARIO CORRECTIONS

Richard Borg has just posted some unit symbol changes to 3 of his C&C scenarios. A number of boardgamegeek players had noted that there doesn't seem to be enough cavalry to play them! If you go to that site, a thread listing the updates is up. All C&C Cavalry units should have 4 figures!

RB also says he is going to post more playtested historical scenarios which can be played with the Core Set.
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Old July 3rd, 2012, 07:32 PM
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Re: Samurai Battles (aka Battle Lore Does Japan)

Got my two copies today. All of the components seem to be there on Copy A, but I'll have to inventory it, as both of the card decks have more cards than the box back lists (these lists are sometimes modified after they are printed up anyhow). Everything looks great.

Boardgamegeeks who are just getting their games seem to be favorably impressed as well. One guy who was too impatient to finish assembling all the figures used C&C Ancients blocks for his first game!

(Edit) I'm happy to say my cards are all right--each set has on extra Command Card, and two cards which have Dragon Card backings are actually the empty "Victory Cards" where you are supposed to place your captured enemy banners. The cards are all too thin, but all the other components are quite nice.

One of the editing problems--a minor one, since you do seem to get everything you need to play both games--is that there is no general guide for both games, introducing which component is for which. There is a figure assembly diagram. For other components, you have to read both sets of rules to see what goes to which rules set, which are written without reference to each other. In addition, some things are left out. Example: you have to sticker the eight C&C dice, and although you get eight sets of six stickers for them, nowhere does it actually say which stickers go on each individual die. There are other small things like this, none of which will subtract much from my gaming experience.

I think this game is going to be a big hit. At least the C&C avatar. I've heard that Art of Tactic(s) is fun to play. The biggest issue will be customer service for the Russian company. Some players who have components missing have not heard back from them yet. They need to appoint an English speaking customer rep.

(Edit 2) Boardgamegeekers all across the country are struggling to make inventory lists of the many parts, and assemble the figures. One suggested long nosed pliers helped him assemble the figures. I first got a couple hundred personal flags (sashimono) and some round disk pieces (used in AOT) off their sprues. then I spent a good part of the day yesterday preparing six units (about 30 figures) using Krazy Glue. That's out of 28 units (14 per army), and that's just the first of my two sets...and they don't have the individual colored flags in them yet!

Its going to be a long term project. Normally I dislike both hard plastic and small scale work (my thousands of minis are 54mm), but hey, its a challenge. And I've only got two pieces still MIA when they jumped out of my aging fingers and landed Somewhere Over The Rainbow...

Last edited by chas; July 5th, 2012 at 11:50 AM.
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Old July 7th, 2012, 11:50 AM
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Re: Samurai Battles (aka Battle Lore Does Japan)

Okay, after several days I've got about 40 figures assembled (roughly 1/3 of 1 game box's contents, except for the personal banners, which I'm saving for later). I'm using Krazy Glue, x-acto knife, sprue cutter, long nosed pliers, and lots of patience. As experienced modelers know, you go on an entire journey of discovery with each figure. Idwentical figures from the same set/bag are done at the same time. My main problem is you want to fit pegs to holes before glueing, but some plugs will only go in once before breaking off! Some holes need enlarging, and a few pegs trimming. Another problem for me as a non-modeler is that you have to let some pieces dry before you can position other pieces on the same figure. So I am even more assembly line oriented than usual.

I have my cutting board with one bag (2 units usually) in a later stage of assembly, while a second is in a tray having initial sprue cuts of pieces being prepared for a one glue stage assembly. I've got piles of empty sprues (four sprues per bag times 14 bags) to show my glorious progress toward actual completion on some far off date...

The figures are very fragile. I don't know if I'll ever let other players move their own figures on the board! Storage solutions have so far been unsuccessful for boardgamegeekers who have discussed this. I was thinking of using segmented boxes, but the fragile spears seem to be too long to fit in most kinds.

On boardgamegeek.com note that Borg's scenario revisions are now hidden in the Files section, on the thread following a good aid that gives inventory of units per scenario for both rules sets, plus what you get in the box. It is titled C&C Scenario Update.

Whew! If you buy this game, you have a new hobby of assembly before you can play it, unless you substitute C&C Ancient blocks, Battle Lore figures, etc. I'm also thinking about card holders, as these thin cards will be handled much more than the similar Star Trek Fleet Captains cards.

Others are buying up the Zvesda previous Samurai figure sets, which are cheaper. But this is why I bought two copies--so I can fight larger battles, and don't have to switch the sashimono personal flags (red and yellow army IDs), which apparently don't survive such transitions.

People who have actually gotten to the stage of playing the game are giving it high marks for period feel and game play--that's my incentive!

Last edited by chas; July 7th, 2012 at 01:10 PM.
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Old July 9th, 2012, 09:27 AM
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Re: Samurai Battles (aka Battle Lore Does Japan)

I'm closing in on the end of the assembly process! I've clipped 12 of 14 bagged sets clear of their sprues, and have only a few more figures left on a few of those already 'liberated.' I just picked up a couple more tubes of Krazy Glue, as I still have to do the personal flags for each figure (red or yellow armies). Then there are all those army decals; I'm not sure about them yet, as they are historical Mons (family house symbols) that would only be correct for certain scenarios where those two houses are involved.

Partial Painting: As I haven't figured out a storage solution yet, completed figues are all standing by unit in trays on a large dining table, and I am contemplating how they will look during a game. One figure or so from each unit will not be used in C&C, as only the AOT (Russian Rules set) require them.

Each unit has figures in different poses. Some players have already commented that with the figures unpainted (and I know I personally will never paint them) and only ID'd by army, it is difficult to tell who belongs to each unit easily. Gray flags on each unit will ID the unit, but when the figures shift about, and are removed as casualties, it seems that it will be difficult to get them back in ranks for either battle or storage. And I can't expect new player to know the figures as I do! (One pal said "No Thanks" when I asked if he wanted to help on all the assembly work).

On Battles of Westeros figures, I highlighted the leaders by faction (Stark or Lannister) with their faction color by painting only the sides of the bases, a nice idea someone else on the internet had done. This works well when playing the game and trying to find the leaders when setting up or distinguishing them during a battle.

I am thinking similarly that it will work for these figures, by using the colors of their unit type rank. These are green for light (so far the Ashigaru or peasant ranged units; bow or arquebus), blue for medium (Ashigaru spears), and red for Heavy (samurai spear or mounted spear). These are the colors used in Battle Lore (for colored unit flags), and C&C Ancients (unit type block symbol.) Since figures and flags in this game are all in the same gray, the colors only appear on a few of the cards. The actual weapons/armor/horses of the models would distinguish between different units of the same rank (as would the unit banners). They could more easily be stored by type this way as well, facilitating set up and knock down.

Painting this way would be simple and quick, and I have the paints at hand, though I don't usually work in such a small scale. Perfect. I can use white for all leaders/bodyguards, and even paint the flags the same colors (currently the flags have the symbols as cut outs in their gray surfaces). Currently they are all the same gray as the figures, but use the same banner symbols as C&C Ancients: circle for light (light green troops), triangle for medium (light blue), square for heavy (red). This will add lots of nice color to the figures as well, even if they remain essentially unpainted!

I'll have time to think more on this idea while I'm still assembling...

(Edit) A discussion of how many Unit Flags are provided with the game on BGG (I won't bore you with details) had me laying out my flags to check the count--so far I'm not missing any components at all in my SB game--and it got me thinking that with the Partial Paint Highlighting scheme, I won't need the unit flags at all, as each figure will be color-ID'd! This is one fewer fragile component type to keep sticking in the back of figures; although they may look cool enough to warrant paint and use just for the heck of it.

P.S. HELLO OUT THERE! If you're reading this thread, I assume you're thinking about buying the game. It seems like many have checked this out, although there have been no comments as yet. But if you have any questions I can answer that will help make up your mind for you, please feel free to ask. I know with all the assembly work required, its been great for me to enjoy the BGG discussions even more than usual, so that I feel I'm not the only one trying to come to grips with this stage of SB game ownership. Some day I'll even be able to comment on how the game plays...(sigh)...so if you own the game, feel free to chime in anytime here.

I'm retired so I have the time, but with my 60 year old eyes and hands, its taking me longer I'm sure than younger players, and especially experienced modelers or small scale miniatures devotees. Hey, if I was also rich, I'd have someone else assemble and even paint all the figures! They do look great all painted up.

Well, its going much faster as I get used to it. That factor even allows me to imagine assembling all those figures awaiting in my second box...some day.

Last edited by chas; July 9th, 2012 at 10:37 AM.
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Old July 13th, 2012, 11:36 AM
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Re: Samurai Battles (aka Battle Lore Does Japan)

Figure assembly? Check!
Rudimentary recognition painting? Check!
Sashimono individual flags? Check!

HOLY COW--I'M ACTUALLY FINISHED AND READY TO PLAY!!!

After all the anticipation and preparation, it will be time for stepping up to play the game! Amazing!

Of course, I'll now be away two days gaming elsewhere. But tune in again soon for some actual game commentary...

Last edited by chas; April 23rd, 2017 at 05:08 PM.
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Old July 15th, 2012, 06:37 PM
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Re: Samurai Battles (aka Battle Lore Does Japan)

Just finished my first solitaire game of the First Samurai Skirmish --the introductory scenario, which has little terrain. From the very different Command Cards and Dragon Cards drawn, it was clear that although both players had identical armies (all 10 units and all unit and leader types except for the Command Tent HQ), they were about to play very different games. It was also clear that Red would win. Red was soon in trouble, and not only lost to Yellow, but was actually shut out 5-0. So much for prediction. The poor Red Guy, who started out with so many advantages, never even got to play the "Turncoat" Dragon Card, which he got at the start of the game, and which he expected would pratcically hand him the win (see the well known historicial Battle of Sekigahara). Yellow on the other hand got out White Dragon early, adding a card to his Command Card hand!

I've made up a draft of a two page Rules Guide on how SB is different from other C&C games. Tomorrow I'll be reviewing it with a live opponent.

SB has a great period feel. The Dragon Cards are generally cheaper than the Lore Cards in Battle Lore. The armies are somewhat fragile. Although its too early to judge, its seems like rather than battering away hoping for a good die roll, you want to set up 'force multipliers' by using cards well, and also using leaders to Inspire their units with that extra attack die.

The Fire units turned out to be more important than I expected, repelling an attack on one front and on the other side combining with a melee assault on the opposite flank. The powerful single Cavalry unit on each side was a terror to lesser units, but ended up just charging each other and more or less cancelling each other out. Newbie mistake!

As retreats cost Tokens, they can impact the game more than in other C&C systems. Tokens, which had been plentiful, were soon precious and rare: "You went from zero to two tokens on your last turn? Hah, now you lost them again!"

Its clear that expansion is anticipated, as the Cavalry Charge card talks about using "up to 4 Cavalry units," and others talk about different kinds of cavalry (Samurai Mounted Archers are coming as one of the first new types).

There is a very fun card mix; some are direct copies from other C&C games, some are "and now its time for something completely different." Nice design work here.

The armies look cool, with even the little color I put on them (flags, base edges, and hats). And while I used Krazy Glue (Regular, Tube, and Advanced) in the initial assembly, I'm just quick fixing the two banners which came off during the careful handling during play with Elmer's!

Both players in this solitaire game were very sneaky, and I wouldn't want to meet them in a dark alley on a Saturday night...

(Edit)
A Second Solitaire of the first scenario had Red Guy grousing that Yellow Guy again was getting all the breaks. but Red won 5-0 this time, showing that anything can happen! I'm starting to get the rules down now, and learn about how the Dragon Cards can work. But like any C&C game, card fall and die rolls can change things around pretty quickly. Can't account for the extremes in scoring, except to say that there was a lot of card play "just in the nick of time" to change the current battle situation over and over again.

This is basically a Medieval C&C variant with dramatic shifts in the circumstances of the battle. Although there are turns where not much happens too, due to bad dice or counter card play. Each game is an adventure for sure! The second game, although of the same scenario, was a completely different affair...

Last edited by chas; April 23rd, 2017 at 05:10 PM.
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Old July 17th, 2012, 09:10 PM
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Re: Samurai Battles (aka Battle Lore Does Japan)

THIRD SOLITAIRE: Fourth Kawanakajima Phase 1

Why do I keep beating myself so badly? Yep, another shutout, this time Red Wins 5-0. The scenario is pro-Red, with them getting both cavalry units vs Yellow's having both arquebus units. Red got a Dragon Card right at the start that allowed them to mess Yellow up badly. Yet unlike the previous two plays, the rest of the game the Dragon Cards played little part(!) Red did get two First Strike Command Cards though, which hurt...Yellow.

Since I didn't want to reflag units, and my second box of figures, is not assembled, I simply placed two stones of the "new owner" in front of the unit (the same red and yellow ones (plastic beads really) I use to indicate which units are activated. I used black stones for fire units who had moved (and are therefore using one less die to fire). The figures are very fragile, and I've lost a spear or two already, but they look cool and can be moved around with care.

Historical Background

Today I researched the battle represented by five of the eight Samurai Battles scenarios! It turns out to be one of the most famous of Japan's Warring States period. After the internet, I watched the samurai film Heaven and Earth (1991), which includes this fight. It wasn't all included, but was great pagentry, with a black army versus an orange one--you could see all of the game units being reenacted .

The five Commands and Colors phases are almost a mini-campaign in themselves, which is a very different approach to the game than the other version of the game, Art of Tactic, which has scenarios from mostly different battles, to about the same number of scenarios. To make it short, Red invades, and a Yellow general (Toshiro Mifune in Samurai Banners (1969) (besides the two movies, the battle was portrayed in a Japanese TV series) suggested sending part of the army around the flank to strike at Red's rear. So the first frontal Red assaults are taken at a disadvantage--Yellow fighting without part of its force, which is busy flanking around Red. Eventually Red gets all the way to the Yellow rear and threatens the Yellow HQ, where the two Lords of each side actually exchange blows with each other historically (this almost never happened) until they were forced apart! Finally the Yellow flanking column forces its way across a river and in the final scenario (Phase 5) is ready to strike from the flank rear as the two front lines face off against each other. Historically, yellow won the victory! But the poor Yellow General, thinking his maneuver had failed, previously sought death in battle, and badly wounded, committed seppuku. Quite a story!

I'm looking forward to playing some of these scenarios tomorrow with my pal, who was delayed a day in coming over.

(Edit) It is worth noting that Samurai Banners (like Shinsingumi, another Mifune film of the Sixties), is introduced by extensive program notes and character sketches by Animego. This company was a large factor in introducing Anime and other Japanese productions to the US). Watch them before the movie!

Last edited by chas; July 18th, 2012 at 10:47 AM.
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Old July 19th, 2012, 03:43 PM
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Re: Samurai Battles (aka Battle Lore Does Japan)

First Live Face To Face Games Played (Finally!)

My pal and I really enjoy this game. In some ways its the best of the C&C Richard Borg games, as the cards are amazing, Just like a Treasure Glyph in Hersocape allows you to customize your hero to a degree, these cards do this for your game play, pieces, and other cards! They are varied and imaginative, with more variety than ever seen in C&C before!

We first played two of the First Skirmish scenarios, and it only took the other guy one game to get his chops up. In this scenario, all of the units are on the table for both sides, so they can get used to using them (except the Commander Tent HQ).

First Play: Me (Yellow) 5, Him (Red) 0
Second Play: Me (Yellow) 1 Him (Red) 5

Then we moved on to the five scenarios from phases of Fourth Kawanakajima:
I stayed with Yellow (Takeda) and he with Red (Uesugi) so we could get the feel of the entire arc from one side.

Phase 1: Yelliow 1; Red 5
Phase 2: Yellow 3; Red 5
Phase 3: Yellow 1; Red 6
Phase 4: Yellow 2; Red 6
Phase 5: Yellow 1; Red 6

Most of the games only lasted an hour. One battle included a Command Tent. Karma was against me as you can see. He often avoided situations which would have been very bad without realizing it, and also rolled very good dice. But obviously an experienced C&C Player can learn this game pretty fast, like the others.

Next week we'll play the other two scenarios from the battle of Domyoji.

There are a few components that are provided or concepts referred to or cards which will be explained in future expansions. Clearly a healthy life span for this game is anticipated. All across the country, there is a lag between purchasing and playing, as everyone gets their pieces assembled.

Last edited by chas; April 23rd, 2017 at 05:10 PM.
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Old July 22nd, 2012, 11:51 PM
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Re: Samurai Battles (aka Battle Lore Does Japan)

Seems like Red was pretty dominant Chas. Is that due to play styles or are Red set up to be better in those scenarios?

Regarding the lag time. I can see that is an issue due to the time it takes to put all that stuff together. I remember you mentioning it and it seems like that aspect of the game will delay session reports on BGG.

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Old July 23rd, 2012, 08:35 AM
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Re: Samurai Battles (aka Battle Lore Does Japan)

Hahma:

Yes, the only session report on BGG so far is for the Russian AOT game, not C&C! I did a short game review but its apparantly being held "for review." My comments so far are under a different name, who is a pal of mine who set me up under his account.

Red is dominant because my other pal rolls incredible dice. However, I have noticed that the scores seem to be very one sided, although its not always the same side. But I've only played one other friend so far, and it was his first game. But you'll notice its also been true for my solitaire games!

Last edited by chas; April 23rd, 2017 at 05:11 PM.
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Old August 5th, 2012, 12:06 PM
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Re: Samurai Battles (aka Battle Lore Does Japan)

I've finished playing through all the scenarios now, and really enjoyed them. The card play may offer the most interesting opportunities of any C&C game out so far. The two decks interact well.

I've also looked at the AOT scenarios, but they can't be used for the C&C game, as they are set up the opposite way on the map boards provided.

New C&C scenarios and new units will follow soon.
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