Saturday, 16 July 2011

Song of Blades Campaign, Act 1

Greetings one and all. The last week has seen frenzied activity on the hobby front. In the last week my latest warband for A Song of Blades and Heroes has been finished as well as a spew of new scenery. as mentioned last time, it all has a bit of a Asian feel to it.

Today saw the first three games in our Song of Blades and Heroes campaign, taking place in the fictional Shinda Province. I wrote some fluff for the setting and the motivation of my force and emailed it to the players in the group.

The write up went a little something like this (any likeness to the Legend of the Five Rings setting are entirely meant to be a complement to the setting. Also no points for spotting the Kurusawa references) :

"The Senji Empire long abandoned their mainland provinces due to the rise of the Oni Clans from beyond the Warden Wall. The noble samurai of the Senji Imperial Army fell back abandoning village after village. Eventually they withdrew across the ocean to their island homelands. 

Senji Spearmen of the Akematsu Clan
Five centuries have passed. The Senji Empire is going through a time of testing. A season of fire and death. Clans have risen against the rule of the young Empress, yet untested in war or at court. Bandits roam the countryside preying on any who are too weak to defend themselves. Word at court is that the Shogun is plotting to take control of the Senji Empire himself. 

And amidst all of this the monks, shugenja and priests have all warned of dire portents. There is something stirring within the spirit haunted and ruin strewn bamboo forests of the abandoned Shinda province. Something sinister lurks, growing stronger in the darkness. Something from forgotten aeons when the stars were different. Something has awoken, and the Oni have heard its call. 

Akematsu Ichiro, Senji Kensai,
warband leader
The visions show a Hidden Fortress, in a chamber with a Throne of Blood stands an artefact that could mean the salvation or damnation of the Senji Empire. Maybe even the world. 

Warbands from various Gaijin nations have already descended upon the Shinda province. The Imperial Council and the Empress are too busy dealing with threats at home to send an army. They have sent a young samurai, the youngest Kensai to herald from the Himura clan school, yet untested by war and death. His name is Akamatsu Ichiro, and the fate of the Senji Empire is in his hands."

The response was good and all of the participants wrote up fluff for their warbands and their reasons for being in the Shinda Province. 

The warbands participating thus far are: a band of lost Norse demon-slaying Vikings and a cult of jungle gnomes who worship a giant turtle god (who get the prize for most original warband I have ever seen in anything, ever). 

Sanuske Hanso rallies the ashigaru spearmen
to come to his lord's aid.
After organising our warbands we decided on each player playing two games each, ensuring that they face both the other warbands in the campaign. We were all new to the system, but got a good grasp of the rules with only minimal checking in the book. 

Without further ado, a summary of the first campaign turn. 

Game 1: Akematsu Clan vs. Ulfgar's Raiders: 
The first game saw the warriors of the Senji Empire tackle the foreign menace of Ulfgar's Vikings. The game began with a mad dash to the bridge, the only crossing point over the stream bisecting the field of battle. Akematsu himself managed to cross the bridge, only to be promptly taken out of action by Ulfgar, who proved to be a superior fighter despite the young Kensai's expertise with the blade. 

The fighting over the bridge was fierce, and my lone surviving samurai, Ssanuske Hanso was left to hold the bridge until my archers could get their act together and rid me of the barbarians, who had begun to ford the stream in order to get at my less able fighters. 

It was after Ulfgar himself had matched blades with Hanso and half my warband lay strewn across the riverbanks that the kami smiled on the men of Senji. A lowly ashigaru archer took aim, and loosed an arrow that flew true, striking one of the foreign invaders in the throat. His death was so horrid, his death rattle so disturbing, that the enemy who had bunched up in order to cross the bridge, broke and fled the field. 

The day was saved, and post battle was still horrible with my exploration of the nearby jungle led to the men of Senji being ambushed by lizardfolk, two walking wounded and one dead ashigaru. Ulfgar's men fared little better with one of Ulfgar's champions falling into a pit trap and Ulfgar himself suffering permanent wounds.

One of Ulfgar's horsemen tries to ride down
the were-turtle. 
Game 2: Ulfgar's Raiders vs. The Cult of the Crimson Turtle:   

The second game saw Ulfgar's battered men stumbling upon the Cult of the Crimson Turtle, made up of fanatical gnomes and... poisonous war turtles. The battle proved once again bloody, with Ulfgar nearly destroying the cult single handedly. Soon all that remained was the Crimson Wizard and four turtles performing history's slowest flanking manoeuvre.

It was as Ulfgar was about to trike down the cult's wizard that the most bizarre and amazing thing I have ever seen on the field of battle. As the wizard's lifeless corpse hit the ground it rose again and took on a horrid form. Unknown to the rest of us, the wizard was a were creature. And the wizard's animal form was... a turtle. A giant, Gamera-like turtle. Who proceeded to beat the life out of what remained of Ulfgar's men.

Even with earning the underdog bonus for loosing two games, Ulfgar received another crippling wound that may see his warband bowing out early from the campaign.

Game 3: Akematsu Clan vs. The Cult of the Crimson Turtle:
Being a man down and having witnessed the destructive potential of the wizard/were-turtle I was wary of facing the Cult. Unlike the previous pitched battle scenarios we played the Place of Power scenario. And lacking a wizard I was doubly worried about letting the wizard claim the magical statue in the middle of the table.

A tense melee breaks out with the Cults leaders. 
The opening moves went well with group actions getting my ashigaru archers to cover the approach to the place of power and Akematsu and the wounded Hanso ready to counter charge if need be.

Due to some poor activations the Crimson Wizard ended up making a rush for the sinister altar on his own. This was a crucial moment, as if I failed to drop the wizard, he would be on top of the place of power with his next move, and then all hell would break loose as his magic potential would be increased.

The ashigaru took aim and fired as a group. The first arrow dropped the wizard, and as the were-turtle rose in his stead it was promptly knocked off its feet by a second arrow, before a third arrow killed the monster before it could casue any more damage.

The ashigaru archers drop the were-turtle
with a deadly volley of arrows. 
despite loosing the were-turtle the Cult was still proving dangerous, with swift gnome troops outflanking my lines and the heavier gnome infantry occupying my better fighters. The game was still in the balance.

The fighting became bitter as the Cult made extensive use of the Poison ability to damage the quality of my fighters, making them less reactive and a liability, as I was risking turn overs if I failed too many activations with them. Akematsu Kensai dispatched the Cults leaders and proceeded to stomp on the Cult's turtles whilst on the other side of the shrine the archers became embroiled in a vicious fight with the leaping gnomes who were slowly poisoning their way through their ranks.

The archers fight to save their poisoned

In the end, with the gnomes eventually dead, the warband now consisting of turtles routed, leaving the field and the dark shrine in the hands of the men of Senji, who proceeded to cleanse it, and in so doing earning me another lizardman ambush. I managed to avoid any casualties so was in a good position for the next campaign turn. The Cult was left with only three living members (including one turtle) and so was in a bad position to carry on. 

With only one campaign turn played and two warbands looking at how to carry on, it proved just how bloody Song of Blades can be.

The biggest decision facing the Akematsu clan is what to spend our 30 gold coins on and how to spend our Campaign Points.

All in all the first turn has been a lot of fun, and it is a true testament to the brilliant nature of the mechanics that three newbies can pick up the rules and run a campaign in no time and have a brilliant time. The themes and narrative of the warbands have really made the campaign, and the were-turtle is a moment that will never leave me.

 The next campaign turn should happen in the next couple of weeks. I will keep you all updated on the warbands and scenery being made as well as a write up about how I went about making the scenery use for the campaign.

Next months hobby budget will go on more material to make some oriental buildings and ruins to help flesh out the Shinda Province as well as perhaps a custom written scenario. Oh and lots more samurai figures to paint.

Until next time,

-Banchou Badger