This past Saturday, our growing community of local Bushido players headed down to Atomic Empire for our first tournament: Shunki Kōreisai Kyōsō, described as a "rivalry on the day when feudal samurai would venerate past emperors at shrines around the time of the Vernal Equinox." Warbands were to be 50 rice and the scenarios were Keii, The Messenger and "Shingon" an excellent custom made scenario by our Tournament Organizer, Karl-Christian (FatherKnowsBest on the forums). A few local players were unfortunately unable to make it, but with 6 of us in attendance, we were able to enjoy a great day of quality Bushido rivalries.
I currently own both Silvermoon and Tengu minis, but as I've been painting my Tengu lately, I decided to field them... even though that sadly meant not quite having every mini on the table painted (Sanjakubo will be painted next, my other Tengu will be photographed and added to the gallery here shortly!).
My approach to building a warband was fairly simple: start with my favorites: the majestic Buzenbo, the slippery Tarobo and the "stunning" Sanjakubo, then fill in the blanks. Here's the crew that I took to the tournament:
Game 1: Keii vs. Karl-Christian
I've played Karl's Ito and his Ryu before, but for the tournament Karl was going with something brand new: the Kage Kaze Zoku ninjas. Due to some late shipping on the models, our game wound up being the first time Karl had a chance to play the KKZ. Despite Karl's newness to the faction, I think their nuances were quickly grasped and we had a great game.
The scenario was Keii - where 6 objectives of varying value (2 friendly, 2 neutral, 2 enemy) have to be prayed at. Each warband has a total of 5 prayer tokens, so you have to choose wisely where and when to use those.
I've been burned on Keii in the past by spending too many prayer tokens on the neutral idols, so my plan for this was to use Nuniq to Flank, allowing her to deploy anywhere on a table edge (ie. closest to an enemy objective) and try and pray at that idol while using the rest of my force to draw the ninjas into the center of the battlefield, tying them up in combat (hoping to survive - the KKZ are vicious fighters!) and preventing them from getting to pray at my idols. Grabbing the first victory point was also a high priority as, with the timed matches, there was no assurance that we'd go the full 6 rounds.
Fortunately, the battle generally played out according to this plan. Kotenbo and Taliriktug held out on the left side of the table, Buzenbo took the center, and Sanjakubo and Tarobo marched up the right side (supported heavily by Buzenbo). Karl's Kappa fell early to ranged attacks, leading him to throw both Kerasi and Katsumi at Buzenbo seeking revenge. On the left, Kotenbo and Taliriktug trusted to their armor and toughness to hold out against Kouhei and Shizuka. Meanwhile, Nuniq, using Flank, deployed on turn 2 and hunkered down to pray at an enemy idol. While Buzenbo eventually fell, I was able to hold out and tie up the ninja long enough to take the first 2 victory points before time ran out, winning 2-0.
As my first game against the ninja clan, I had a great time. They were a challenging opponent despite Karl having never played them before; now with a few games played, I think they'll be truly fearsome. Playing against them as Tengu, Tarobo is very useful being able to use his special ability to give Sixth Sense to a friendly model (in my case often Buzenbo) allowing you to see through the ninja camouflage. Tarobo's special ability also grants Aware: this saved my skin from a potential ninja assassination at one point too!
Game 2: The Messenger vs. Matt
For my second game, I faced off against Matt and his Ito clan. For this round, we played on the "Ito's Summer Camp" board: a bamboo forest with a swampy pond and a larger house in the center. With corner deployment, this meant that we were going to have 2 main fields of battle as we parted our forces to go around the house.
In The Messenger, each force selects a hidden VIM (very important model). The goal is to discover and kill your opponent's VIM while trying to get your own VIM across the board into the enemy's deployment zone, a 6" square in the opposite corner of the board from your starting zone.
Deciding my VIM was easy: Tarobo - with his Dash Ki feat (giving him Auto Disengage, Elusive and an extra 2" at the end of his movement) and his Scout ability (starting him 4" further up the table), he is both fast and slippery, able to get up the table quickly to nab the "first in opponent's deployment zone" point, and then hopefully able to use auto-disengage to wriggle out of combat and stay alive until the end of the game.
As before, I sent Kotenbo and Taliriktug (this time also supported by Nuniq who I did not choose to flank in this game) to the left and big Buzenbo with Sanjakubo and Tarobo to the right. Early on, Buzenbo and Matt's Kaihime Ito exchanged arrow fire. Buzenbo's massive bow packs a punch, but with Kaihime's arrows tipped with the deadly Blood of Orochi poison, Ito had an advantage there. Supported quickly by Itsunagi in melee, Buzenbo again provided a large juicy target. On the other side of the building, the hill tribe warriors wore down Yuui Ito and a well-placed Snare by Nuniq kept Masunagi Ito out of the battle.
With all the warriors tied up, at the end of turn 2, both Matt and I unabashedly made a break for it with our VIMs. On Matt's side, Chiyo slipped past Itsunagi (who, with Kaihime's arrows had already taken Buzenbo down) with a clear path towards my deployment zone. However, it was here that Tarobo had the advantage. Already 4" further up the table from his Scout deployment, he spent his Ki to trigger a Dash and then a run, flying over the exhausted Kaihime and Sakura to land, camouflaged, behind a row of bamboo, winning me the first VP.
At the start of the next turn, fortune swung my way and I won the tactical roll, allowing me to go first. After the previous turn, Kotenbo had been able to re-deploy close enough to put him within charging range of Matt's VIM, Chiyo. Having previously made a break for my DZ, Chiyo's back was to Kotenbo allowing the feathered samurai to surprise the smaller Ito bushi. The dice were again in my favor and Kotenbo's blade made swift work of Chiyo.
At this point, provided I could keep my VIM, Tarobo, alive I had a shot at winning the two remaining victory points. While Sakura and Masunagi were closest to Tarobo and bore down on him, I was ultimately able to slip away with more Dashing and Flying to finish with a 3-0 win.
Game 3: Shingon vs. Kevin
In the final game of the day, I faced off against Kevin and his Silvermoon Syndicate in Karl's custom scenario, Shingon. In this scenario, each side has 4 shingon prayer markers, each the size of a US penny. The goal is to drop a shingon marker on your opponent's half of the table. However, as each shingon marker represents a prayer on a piece of paper, they can be destroyed, forcing you to either drop them in a safe area or hang around and protect them (hence the marker's size - it is smaller than a zone of control so as long as you're in base-to-base contact with it, your opponent is forced to melee and defeat your model before being able to destroy the marker). Each marker has one wound and is Tiny for purposes of ranged attacks. Scoring occurs on rounds 2,4 and 6 with the VP going to whomever has the most shingon markers in play at the end of that round (or if tied, no VP is awarded).
After playing my first game against the KKZ ninjas earlier today, this was another first: my first game against the Silvermoon Syndicate (prior to the tournament, I'd been the only Silvermoon player locally). Interestingly, Kevin played a very different list to what I typically field. As with his Cult and Ito lists, Kevin took to the table with the goal of outnumbering his opponent. So, rather than focusing on the more expensive Buto and Oyabun (whom I prefer), his list included more lower-priced models such as Sukuratchi and his ferret and, crucially, the street urchins Kani and Nomi.
With this game, I began flummoxed by how to deal with the outnumbering (9 to 6 models) and where to place my shingon markers. My plan, such as it was, was to try and carve out a little pocket just past the center-line, deploy my markers behind several models (Taliriktug and Nuniq) and then use the Tengu's mobility to then re-deploy over to support them, having hopefully drawn some of the Silvermoon away early on.
However, after losing the deployment roll, I immediately knew I was in trouble when Kevin announced that Kani and Nomi were deploying via Flank on alternate sides of the table. I knew this meant that they would arrive later in the game as far back on my side as possible to drop their markers. Still, short of ceding the center to his other models, I forged ahead with my initial plan, hoping that his flanking rolls would be such that they entered on to the table in the later, rather than earlier, rounds.
After a first round of advancing forwards and some small exchange of crossbow bolts and longbow arrows, the next big blow against my strategy came in turn 2 when Kevin successfully used his Dark Secrets special card to place 2 control markers on Nuniq and then sent her into melee with Kotenbo. This is the first time I've been on the receiving end of control markers and boy do they hurt! Added to the fact that I was already outnumbered, losing 4 activations (2 of Nuniq's and 2 of Kotenbo's as he unsuccessfully tried to disengage) gave Silvermoon a big advantage. When Kani and Nomi showed up to drop their markers deep in my territory, I knew there was no way to prevent Kevin taking the first VP at the end of turn 2.
It turned out that we'd not been playing as swiftly as it seemed and, looking at the clock, it became clear that we wouldn't make it to the next scoring round, so I ceded to Kevin's flawless strategy, giving him a 1-0 victory.
All told, Kevin and I tied for first place in tournament points, but Kevin's victory over me at the end of the day served as the tie breaker and I finished the day in second.
I had a great time at our first Bushido tournament and hope that we'll be able to do more in the future, hopefully enabling some more of our players to attend. At this point, we have a really diverse set of warbands represented. Yesterday alone, we had one each of Tengu, Kage Kaze Zoku, Ito, Silvermoon, Savage Wave and the Cult. Given how each faction and mission plays so differently, a full day of Bushido tournament gaming really keeps you on your (mental) feet, having to change up strategies and approaches every couple of hours. All in all, thanks again to Karl for organizing everything and to my opponents for a great day day of gaming.