Daisho is a set of skirmish rules for warfare set in mythical Japan. The rules are written by Charles Murton and Craig Cartmell of The Ministry of Gentlemanly Warfare, who have also authored In Her Majesty’s Name and Blood Eagle, and were published in 2015. They are available as a 90 page softcover book, or as an e-book.
In Daisho, players build a Buntai, or warband, of somewhere between 5 and 20 models. Whilst it is perfectly possible to play a game using purely historical forces, Daisho is set in Nippon, a fantasy version of medieval Japan. In this world, not only does magic exist, but also the mythical monsters and creatures of Japanese myth: Oni, Bakemono, Shura, Tengu and Shuten-Doji, to name a few. You can choose what type of game you wish to play by which rules you exclude:
- Basic – this is a basic Samurai skirmish game, and does not include master-crafted or magical weapons and armour, magical creatures, ki powers or magical powers
- Heroic – includes master-crafted weapons and armour, plus ki powers, but nothing magical
- Legendary – everything is included
In addition to models, players will need a measuring tape marked in inches and a few 10-sided dice. The game takes place in an area of at least 36″ x 36″.
Each model has several attributes:
- Race – Human, Oni etc
- Social Caste – Samurai, Ronin, Heimin (peasant)
- Karma – a combination of personal fortitude and fate
- Shooting Value – bonus when making a ranged attack
- Fighting Value – bonus when making a close combat attack
- Speed – bonus to human speed and agility
In addition, there are some special attributes:
- Skills – abilities and training
- Ki Powers – some models can use ki points to perform superhuman feats
- Magical Powers – any magical powers or abilities
A game consists of a number of turns, as stipulated by the scenario. Each turn is broken into four phases:
- Initiative Phase
- Movement Phase
- Shooting Phase
- Fighting Phase
In the initiative phase, players each roll 1D10. The highest roll has initiative for the turn. Each phase uses alternate model activation. In each phase of the turn, the player with the initiative may activate a model first.
In the movement phase, models may move, run, move into contact or disengage from contact. Certain Ki or Magical powers may also be used in this phase. Basic movement for a human model is 6″ + Speed.
In the shooting phase, any model armed with a missile weapon with a target within range and line of sight may fire, provided they haven’t done anything in the movement phase to preclude them from doing so, such as running. This is done in initiative order. Pre-measurement is not allowed, so a player declares an attacker and a target. If the target is out of range, the shot is wasted, but a roll is still made as a fumble may occur.
If the attacker rolls a natural 1, roll another 1D10. If this too is a 1, then the model has fumbled and the weapon is unusable for the rest of the game.
The attack roll is 1D10 + Shooting Value + Weapon Bonus + other modifiers (terrain, movement, skills etc.) If the modified score equals or exceeds the target’s total Armour rating, a hit is scored and the target has to perform a Karma roll.
In the fighting phase, any model in base-to-base contact with an enemy may attack. This again is done in initiative order. The attack roll is 1D10 + Fighting Value + Weapon Bonus + other modifiers. If the modified score equals or exceeds the target’s total Armour rating, a hit is scored and the target has to perform a Karma roll.
Again, if the attacker rolls a natural 1, roll another 1D10. If this too is a 1, then the model has fumbled and the weapon is unusable for the rest of the game.
It is also worth noting that figures attack in initiative order, and results are applied immediately, which may mean that models may not be able to retaliate to attacks due to being incapacitated, knocked down etc.
If a model is hit as a result of shooting or fighting it immediately makes a Karma roll. The player rolls 1D10 and compares it to the Karma value of the model. If the roll is less than the figures Karma, then it is out of the game unless it receives rapid medical attention. If the roll is equal to the figures Karma, the figure is knocked down. If the Karma value is exceeded, the blow has no effect.
Some Buntai contain physicians, and it is possible for these models to attempt to treat any model who fails their Karma roll, but only in the next turn.
Victory points can be scored by removing opponents from the game. The higher the social caste, the more points are scored. Models with the leadership skill give extra bonuses. Models that are removed from the game are not necessarily dead, but it is possible that models who were in areas of the board controlled by the enemy could be captured if they survive the battle.
The rules then go on to describe how terrain works in the game, the different weapons, armour and equipment, the attributes of different beasts and magical creatures, and finally the description and effect of Skills, Ki Powers and Magical Powers.
Players can create their own Buntai from scratch, and the book describes fully how this is done, but the rules also give several example Buntai that can be used. These contain several named characters who already have skills assigned, plus a number of ‘generic’ models. These Buntai include:
- The Troubleshooters
- Bakura’s Bandits
- Sohei Monks
- Clan Patrol
Examples are also given of magical Buntai for the following fantasy races:
A number of named heroes are then described – these can join a player’s Buntai.
The scenario part of the book gives details of 16 different scenarios, each with set-up and victory conditions. You can then add complications to the scenarios – 17 are listed. These will usually make scenarios more challenging. Finally, there is a choice of 10 different landscapes the scenario can take place in.
Finally, the rules contain details of how you can link scenarios together to make a narrative campaign.
Daisho works very well as a game. The rules mechanics are relatively simple with the added bonus that they are similar in style to the other rules written by the author – if players are familiar with one system, then the others work in a similar way.
The game uses alternate model activation, so both players are constantly in the game. The combat and wound mechanics are simple so that the board does not become cluttered with tokens. One thing I do not like is the fact that the Teppo is given a greater range than either of the bows available. Matchlocks were notoriously inaccurate and short ranged, and I think that bows should be better weapons with a far greater range, though they require more skill to shoot well.
Daisho also differs by bringing fantasy elements into the game. If an historical game is required, these can be ignored, but having them ‘built into the game’ means that this element of the game is immediately accessible without having to look at an expansion.
The scenario generator and campaign system is an excellent part of the rules – indeed it’s almost worth purchasing the rules for these alone.
In short, Daisho is an excellent, fast paced skirmish game which is easy to learn and gives the players a multitude of options to expand their gaming experience, whilst containing a huge amount of period flavour. If you like Samurai gaming, then these are a ‘must buy’.