That Samurai Wargame

May 15, 2008

I’m currently in the throws of putting together the final draft for ‘That Samurai Wargame’, a working title (obviously). This is the (draft) introduction to the rules, outlining the concepts and motivations behind the design. The draft rules can be accessed as an attachment.

“This game is driven by a single vision and two underlying concepts of war.

The vision that drives this game is that there is no chance. All processes in the game are deterministic. No random dice rolls or random card draws occur. The closest the game gets to any stochastic mechanism is in the construction of units, which (as you will see) is done by selecting from a set of face down (and therefore hidden) blocks. Only a general indication of the value of a block is known during this process. In this sense, this game has almost no element of luck.

The two underlying concepts that have driven design are uncertainty and command decision. Uncertainty generates the sense of events happening outside one’s control. Uncertainty in the game replaces random die rolls and card draws. You don’t feel in complete control because you don’t know everything there is to know, even though everything there is to know (such as the composition of your units) is predetermined before the game begins. Command decision drives the actions that occur during the game. These actions determine the trajectory of events and outcomes, and therefore the game result. Again, the fact that your opponent will do things that you can’t predict or didn’t expect gives the game the sense of some sort of unpredictability, but this unpredictability isn’t stochastic in nature. This deterministic quality may seem a little strange: combat is resolved solely by the forces committed to it and not by any die roll or card draw; morale failure is likewise purely a function of the amount of damage and shock a unit experiences; even the cards in your hand are chosen by you, the player, to support your specific strategy. There are no surprises about what you hold for each turn, but you are forced to make judicious use of your hand and to select hands that allow you to enact your strategy while mitigating your opponent’s.

The setting of this game—medieval Japan, the sengoku jidai—is a favourite of mine, but it is merely the context for the broader concepts of uncertainty and command decision and the principle of ‘no chance’ articulated earlier. Nevertheless, the game is designed to reflect the qualities of warfare in medieval Japan, and you’ll find plenty of flavour to go along with the underlying mechanics. So, play and enjoy. And know that, if you win, you win not by the hands of fickle fate, but by out-thinking your opponent.” 


  1. I am very interested in your samurai rules. Is a playtest version of the rules available?

  2. Nevermind, I found them

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