Game Title : Shinsengumi-Shimatsuki
Publisher : Kokusai-Tsushinsya
This game is published as an issue game of a new magazine “Wargame Japanese-History #1”.
Game Designer : Makoto Nakajima
Game Thema : Area control between Shinsengumi (Edo-government) and Kin-noh Rohsi (Revolution side)
Period : from 1864 to 1867
Map : Central Kyoto area, which is important for political matters
Units : Each person of Shinsengumi, Kin-noh Rohsi, and related personnels
The game map covers the important are of Kyoto covering Royal Palace and around areas. The map is divided into areas and drawn in classical taste. I think this is very attractive. But, it is somewhat confusing that sometime it is difficult to judge which area is connected into which areas.
The game units have bigger size and much information and also a silhouette of the persons. These covers most of important members of Shinsengumi and Kinnoh-rohsi. Since many people are killed in this game, these units have alternate person on the back side who comes into play after the first person is killed.
You need at least one die, hopefully 2 dice which have different colors but these are not included.
The basic game is composed of 8 turns.
Each turn is composed of
First player’s First movement
Second player’s First movement
First player’s Second movement
Second player’s Second movement
Area control determination
Royal Palace visit
Victory point calculation
Background of History
“ After Japan opened up to the West following U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry's visits in 1853, its political situation gradually became more and more chaotic. The country was divided along various lines of political opinion; one of these schools of thought (which had existed prior to Perry's arrival) was sonnō jōi: "Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians." Radical followers of this ideology began to commit acts of murder and violence in Kyoto, the imperial capital. In 1863, hoping to respond to this trend, the Tokugawa Shogunate formed the Roshigumi , a group of 234 masterless samurai (rōnin), under the nominal command of the hatamoto Matsudaira Tadatoshi and the actual leadership of Kiyokawa Hachirō (a dynamic ronin from Shonai Domain). The group's formal mission was to act as the protectors of Tokugawa Iemochi, the 14th shogun, who was preparing to embark on a trip to Kyoto.
The Rōshigumi, as stated above, was funded by the Tokugawa regime. However, Kiyokawa Hachirō's goal, which he revealed following the group's arrival in Kyoto, was to gather rōnin to work with the imperialists. In response, thirteen members of the Rōshigumi became the thirteen founding members of the Shinsengumi. ”
(from Wikipedia English)
Since Shinsengumi worked for Edo-government and that side finally lost the war, Shinsengumi is now known a notorious assassination team biased by the winner Meiji-government. Also, they are notorious for bloody internal fighting, since the era was fast-paced changing and everyone could not share the same political opinion during the whole period of Shinsengumi.
This game covers the episode in Kyoto. During this period, basically Shinsengumi was a patrolling team for Edo-government and tried to capture the radical Kin-noh rohsi and killed them if they encounter their resistance. This was important to intercept the Revolutionary movement by Kin-noh rohsi and keep the Edo-government longer than its real history.
Characteristic game mechanics
Basically, players will try to get the maximum VPs from actions.
VPs are awarded mainly to area control but also assassinating important personnel and Royal Palace visit.
Area is controlled by sole occupancy at area control determination. Once someone got the control its status can never be changed until the enemy’s sole occupancy.
In this game, a number of areas are limited but also a number of counters are limited. In addition, if you distributed your force in many areas, the chance of being attacked by the enemy is significantly increased because each of your force is so small.
The timing of movement is very important. If you move first then your enemy can assault your smaller force easily. On the other hand, if you occupy important passage area first, the second player cannot pass through the area and thus cannot reach the important area. Each of moving first and second has each merit and risk. During initiative determination, both players roll a dice and high roller has an initiative and has choice whether moving first or second.
In addition, there are 2 movement chance for each player. During first chance, you can move 2 areas (possibly 3 areas by die-rolling), during second chance only the units which didn’t move during first chance and which moved intersection area can move and the distance is basically limited only 1 area (possibly 2 areas by die-rolling).
If you’d like to go very distant areas from your base, you must go on both chance utilizing appropriate intersections. Because of this mechanics, intersections are very important and usually occupied by the first player’s first movement.
Even though, the first player can occupy the intersection, as written above, the second movement chance is limited. So, if you move second, you don’t have to cry your poor rolling on initiative. You can carefully check where the first player put the strong force and then you can occupy several areas without serious risk. Of course, if you are aggressive you can put your strong force around enemy’s force and try to have big combat.
Challenge for players
Basically this game is an area-control-game.
Since area-control is the easiest way of VP and it can continuously earn VP as long as the area is not challenged by the enemy, it is the most important strategic target.
But, both side have nearly equal size of force, it is difficult that you get much more number of areas than your enemy.
Now, the other ways of VP become important.
Visiting Royal Palace is checked each turn by the player who have majority of 6 areas’ control around the Palace. If you have the majority, then you designate one character in these areas and roll a die. If the die is equal or smaller than the number of those areas you control, it is successful and you get the VP equals the character’s rank. Since the rank ranges from 1 to 4, usually it is done by the character who has 4 or 3 rank. Since controlling 4 or 3 area is much more difficult, the Visit is very important and sometimes decisive.
But, again Visit is dominated by area control around the Palace. Thus, this game is in every respect the area control game.
And in case of the Visit, the rank of a person is important. So you’d like to put the person around the Palace. But, remember your enemy can get VP by assassinating the person who has high rank. This is the third important method to get VPs. And this is strongly related to the second method.
As a conclusion, this game is a real challenge for players.
This game is very interactive in many ways. Definitely area control is the focus for both players and of course only one player controls each area at each turn. On the other hand, if you have a chance to attack without serious risk, this is important. Once you kill the enemies without your loss, now you get an advantage in number of force which is very useful to get area control.
The combat system is a kind of GDW style which is used in “Imperium” and other games. The defender put one unit from his force, and then the attacker matches up one unit with it. After making combat pairs, in each pair each player rolls a die and adds it to his character and compare. Since most character has special ability effective in combat, the real procedure is somewhat complicated, but the basic procedure is above all.
Betrayal is included in the game. Every turn, Kin-noh player can try to betray some personnels of Shinsengumi. If failed, there is a chance of that character being purged by another Shinsengumi member.
Since this is the issue game of new magazine’s first issue, I think this game is very important how the readers think of this magazine. In my personal opinion, this game is simple enough even for non-wargamers and the topic is very famous and attractive for Japanese. Thus, I hope this game is well accepted to Japanese readers.
And from this game, I can accept a message from editors that this magazine would like to enlarge population of wargamers to young history-like potential players. I’m not too optimistic for this idea, but this game looks to be in a fair way.
“Wargame Japanese-History” is publisher every 3 month. The next issue will appear in June and issue game will cover “Warlords” in medieval era. That is another most popular topic in Japanese history. If this magazine can have another easy and attractive game in this topic too, these games will be very good tools to introduce newbies to wargaming.