Review: Ronin

Rating: 4 stars

Ronin is a set of skirmish rules set in the Age of the Samurai, written by Craig Woodfield and published by Osprey Publishing as part of their Osprey Wargames series in 2013.

Each player has a warband, known as a Buntai, of between 4 and 20 models. A game usually takes place on a battlefield between 24″ x 24″ and 36″ x 36″.

In addition to a table and a warband, players will need:

  • A tape measure which measures inches
  • several six-sided dice
  • roughly a dozen counters preside in two different colours
  • wound markers
  • half a dozen pieces of scenery

ronin 1

To create a warband, players will have to choose one of several different types to play:

  • Bushi – Professional soldiers: Samurai and Ashigaru
  • Ikko-ikki – Rebellious religious movement
  • Sohei – Buddhist Warrior Monks
  • Koryu – Marial Arts school
  • Bandits – Criminals, Pirates etc.
  • Koreans – Allowing games to take place during the Imjin War.
  • Ming Chinese
  • Peasants – just in case you fancy recreating “The Seven Samurai”

In addition, individuals such as Ronin, Warrior Monks, Shugyosha and Ninja are able to join a Buntai as swords-for-hire.

Each model has several different attributes:

  • Rank – relative worth of the model, from 0 – 5
  • Combat Pool – capacity of the model for attack & defence in hand-to-hand combat
  • Initiative – ability to strike quickly
  • Fight – skill in hand-to-hand combat, from 1 – 5
  • Shoot – skill with missile weapons
  • Armour – armour model is wearing
  • Weapons – weapon model is using
  • Attributes – special abilities/skills
  • Points – model points cost

Eronin 2ach game is divided into a number of turns. Since this is a skirmish game, each turn only represents a few seconds of real time. Each turn is further subdivided into five phases:

  • Priority Phase
  • Move Phase
  • Combat Phase
  • Action Phase
  • End Phase

In the Priority Phase, players determine who has by priority for the turn. Each rolls 1D6, with the winner having priority. In the second half of the phase, each player checks the morale status of his Buntai. As morale falls it will become more difficult for a player to order his troops, or ultimately stop them from fleeing altogether.

In the Move Phase, players alternate in activating a single model, starting with the player with priority. That model may move, or may use a missile weapon. Movement is usually up to 6″, but this can be affected by the model being wounded, or by terrain. Models may also run or withdraw.

This phase also has the first opportunity for a model to use a missile weapon, though doing so will incur a penalty as it is classed as a ‘rushed’ shot. The shooting procedure is carried out in the following way:

  • Player measures range (bows and teppos have a range of 48″) and checks line of sight to target
  • Player rolls 2D6 and adds ‘Shoot’ attribute to the result to determine shooting attack
  • Shooting defence score is 6, plus any modifiers
  • Final shooting defence score is subtracted from shooting attack score. If the result is positive, a wound is caused – it’s severity is based on how much the shooting attack score exceeded the shooting defence score.

ronin 3In the Combat Phase, players alternate in choosing a combat to resolve where two or more models are in base-to-base contact.

  • Players secretly draw a number of attack and defense tokens equal to the combat pool attribute of their model in combat. These can be all attack, all defence, or a mixture of both.
  • The combat pool of each model is revealed
  • Initiative of all models involved in the combat is determined
  • Attacks occur in initiative order, highest to lowest

For each attack:

  • Nominate Attacker
  • Remove an attack token from that model’s combat pool (so, if the model does not have an attack token, it cannot attack)
  • Defender may choose to enhance his defence by using a defence token from its combat pool.
  • Attacker may choose to enhance its attack. This will cost an extra attack token.
  • Attacker rolls 2D6 (3D6 if enhanced) and applies Fight attribute and any modifiers to give an attack roll
  • Defender rolls 1D6 (2D6 if enhanced) and applies  Fight attribute and any modifiers to give an defence roll
  • Subtract the defence roll from the attack roll and if the result is still positive, a wound has been caused – it’s severity is based on how much the attack roll score exceeded the defence roll.

Different weapons give different modifiers, as does different armour types. A player can also make special subdue or disarm attacks, should they wish.

There are four different types of wound:

  • Stunned – models can be stunned multiple times
  • Light wound – another light wound will cause a Grievous wound
  • Grievous wound – any further wound will cause a Critical wound
  • Critical wound – model is killed

Wounds cause modifiers to their recipient model. these modifiers are applied immediately, so can effect the possibility of a model being able to attack in the current combat phase.

Next comes the Action Phase. Models not engaged in combat may perform an action:

  • Use a missile weapon (yes, this does mean that certain models can attack twice in the same turn)
  • Reload a Teppo – a model that has done nothing else this turn may reload a Teppo.
  • Loot a body / collect a head
  • Pick up an object
  • Mount or dismount
  • Rest

In the End Phase, models may roll to remove Stunned markers, and scenario victory conditions are checked.

ronin 4

The game is scenario based. The table is set up by randomly determining the battle location and placing a number of scenic items (D3+3 for a standard sized game).

The rules contain a number of scenarios. Each scenario contains its own set of deployment rules, objectives, game duration and victory conditions. The scenarios are:

  • Skirmish
  • Capture
  • Duel
  • Defence
  • Assassination
  • Tournament
  • Defend the Village

Ronin also contains a simple campaign system, where models can gain experience by surviving battles and performing certain actions, and thus increase in rank and perhaps gain new skills.

As well as all the above, the rules include special rules (such as banners and mounted models) and skills and attributes for models. An advanced rule allows fatigue to be used in the game. A further appendix discusses using these rules in other periods.

ronin 5Ronin packs a lot into 64 pages that this Osprey format allows. The rules are well detailed, with something of a unique combat system – that in itself is refreshing. Given that it is unique, it can get a little bit of getting used to, but there are a couple of good examples to work through which should resolve the vast majority of issues.

Each faction is thoroughly described, which when coupled with the detailing of skills, attributes and weapons gives a huge amount of period flavour. As to be expected, given that this is a ‘warband’ style game, the rules have something of a cinematic feel – but this is no bad thing. Gameplay is generally pretty fast, and with each player only activating a single model at a time, downtime is kept to an absolute minimum.

Possibly the only thing found lacking in the game is the campaign system. It works, but it is fairly rudimentary. This is probably due to limited space within the book.

In short, Ronin is a great set of rules for skirmish gaming in the age of the Samurai, and is well worth picking up. It’s available both as a softback set of rules (black & white with colour pictures) or as an e-book.

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