Sengoku San.

A Megagame held on 11th March in South London.


Do you enjoy something more if you are successful,
or are you successful if you enjoy it ?

Sengoku San was the most enjoyable Megagame in which I have had the pleasure of playing, there hasn't been a single one that I did not enjoy, but Brian Cameron and Jim Walman's Shogunate Japanese megagame is my clear favourite. Set in the Sengoku Era of Japanese history, roughly the second half of the 16th century, the megagame was about the political and military activity between the land-grabbing lords, with their incessant warfare and power-plays.

Sengoku San was the most enjoyable Megagame in which I have had the pleasure of playing, there hasn't been a single one that I did not enjoy, but Brian Cameron and Jim Walman's Shogunate Japanese megagame is my clear favourite. Set in the Sengoku Era of Japanese history, roughly the second half of the 16th century, the megagame was about the political and military activity between the land-grabbing lords, with their incessant warfare and power-plays.

Players formed teams representing the various clans and factions at the time, taking the roles of the Daimyo, his heir or direct family, generals and 'staff' represented by a chamberlain. Each team was assisted by a team umpire and the overall game was controlled by a team of umpires, handling mapping, combat movement, politics, life the universe and everything.

Our team was allocated control of an ancient, respected but rather weak clan Imagawa, with the following roles;

Tim Evans : Imagawa Yoshimoto. our 32 year old vigorous Daimyo.
Philippe Krait : Imagawa Yoshitoyio. his 30 year old brother and excellent General.
Dave Finch : Imagawa Ujizane. his 13 year old son and heir, who was to prove anything but juvenile.
Howard Tytherleigh : Mitsuyomo Amano. his 29 year old Chamberlain.

The Start

Where does power come from if not from the might of a large army.

We read our setup notes with a mixture of eagerness and concern. Our position was unenviable, with three low producing territories, set on a major road along which armies could approach very quickly, and with powerful neighbours to the east and west, both of whom were not well disposed to us. To our north was a friendly or at least neutral clan, and all three clans had a higher annual income. In the rules of the game, income meant the ability to raise armies.

How We stated... With the neighbour to the west, the Oda clan, able to raise 13 koku of rice and armies in their single province, compared to the five in our adjacent lands, we feared the worst. Even if we spent 100% of our income to raise armies in each province, we could loose our most productive area to a 2-1 attack in the first month of spring. The east was weaker still, but the mountainous territory mean that our neighbours couldn't raise large armies there and would have to march them in, which would take at least until summer!
Imagawa (us)

We raised armies in all our territories, gave offerings (money) to the gods and established a network of spies. Tactically there was one adjacent, neutral, province into which we could expand, but we would have to bide our time and see if we would be hit by an initial storm.

The general was sent to the map table, the chamberlain was dispatched to talk-up neutrality into peace with our northern neighbours, and the whole clan waited with bated breath.

The Game's Afoot.

Cry havoc and unleash the Finch of war.

Without descending into a classic wargamers description of a 'then I rolled a 6' detail, we survived and our neighbours attentions must have been elsewhere. The Hojo to the East were warlike and threatening, and the Oda to the West were quiet, we formed a good but informal relationship with the Takeda, mostly because they too were worried about the Hojo. We decided that we needed to expand into the neutral territory to the North West, an action which would gain us another valuable 5 koku province, but also an action very near the lands of the Oda clan. The chamberlain was dispatched with an offer. The Imagawa proposed to assist the Oda expand into the very valuable territories to their West, in exchange for their assistance (and therefore tacit approval) in our expansion. We were very disappointed to learn that the clan we assumed to be 'neutral' was related by marriage to the Oda. We progressed in a non expansionist policy for another few seasons, starting to build a temple and finding to our joy that the monks would raise a small additional army which would assist the defence of the province.

The Oda clan were the ones who finally broke the stalemate, despite the Hojo actually taking up most of our time and political efforts. We learnt that the Oda and Hojo had a mutual defence pact - so we could attack neither without incurring the wrath of both. Quite unexpectedly the Oda Chamberlain visited us, and described a breakdown in relations between them and their northern neighbour, and explained that they would like to see a more reasonable governorship imposed. Unfortunately at that time they were unable to commit troops in our assistance. It was always going to be a risky move, if the province was prepared for war we could, at best attack, it 1-1, and even them we would spend the rest of the year with a single army in the two territories adjacent to the Oda.

One Advance, and two losses Our general attacked brilliantly and we gained the new province without loss, he then managed to return the bulk of the army to our western province in case of foul play by the Oda. It must have been a surprise for them to find 5000 men guarding the territory as they stormed over the border, they should have had a strong enough army to take all three of our home provinces, but a brilliant fighting retreat by our general held one.

It still didn't look good that winter when campaigning stopped, we held our weakest province, and our new lands in the north west were still not to organised to raise an army , having only just been invaded. We turned to our friends, the Takeda, in the North for assistance. The Hojo offered their 'protection' if we became a vassal, and the Oda were definitely in no mood to give up their position.

(at this point the ref. team offered us as players the control of another 'spare' clan elsewhere as they saw our position as untenable, but the Imagawa never give up!)

The ancient and honourable clan Imagawa were granted these lands by the Emperor himself, and an Imagawa was going to rule them come what may. To this aim the son and heir of the Imagawa left, with his retinue, to join the Hojo. It was a sad day when his defection was most proudly and publicly announced by the warlike Hojo, giving them claim to our lands in the name of the son denouncing his fathers misrule. Luckily it also meant they did not attack in spring, because the young heir was able to explain to the Hojo about the Oda volte-face. The Hojo Daimyo was keen to ensure his 'rightful' claim was not impeded and sent a letter to the Oda explaining that he regarded the Imagawa lands as his, and would 'actively' leap to their defence if they were further attacked.

Re-Capturing our Lands Marshalling all our forces, and with the support of the Takeda, our general mounted a counter-attack into our former western province, again with a phenomenal success he re-took the lands routing their army, and in the next season retook the whole of our original territories, capturing a Oda general and being his second as he committed Seppuke in a public display of our empathic victory.

We had held our lands! but were weaker than when we started.

Saved by the Bell, or at least the Tolls.

Is not the Cuckoo the wisest of birds,
for it gains everything.

Political intrigue, the Bafuku (Emperors court / civil service) and the 'Shogun' came to our aid. Upset by the warring along both of the major roads from Edo to the west (it cost him tolls!), the Emperor raised a Shogunate army to impose peace along the roads. As all our territories were blessed with a road, this meant that we were effectively under the protection of the Emperor's army. At a painting competition held by the Hojo, the heads of warring clans were 'asked' to sort out their differences under the guidance of the Bafuku and Emperors army.

In this time, the Imagawa heir had been discussing the position of the Hojo, and the impossibility of them ever becoming accepted by other clans as Shogun due their lineage, not being descended from a Minamoto or Seiwa-Genji. (Game rule). Merely by adopting him as his heir, the Hojo leader, who was then easily the most powerful clan and about to cement his dominance further by crushing the other 'western' clan, the Uesugi, would be able to claim the position. This would leave only the weaker Takeda and Imagawa to oppose him directly. Imagawa Ujizane was publicly declared as the Hojo heir.

Back to the Start...

Discussion with the other warring parties were complete, apparently the Oda did not think we could or would attack to their north without their actual explicit aid, but had very nearly pulled off a perfect counter attack at the last moment. We had to cede back our conquered province to the 'neutral' original owners, but the Oda were to cease all hostilities in our lands and pay war reparations to the Takeda for the inconvenience they caused them. We were back to square one again!.

End Game

The importance of Buddhist Teachings

With peace restored, there was one of those moments in history where a leader is heard to issue an unguarded remark, not entirely dissimilar to "who will rid me of this troublesome priest". Our beloved Daimyo was discussing the plans for the next year when he was called away before completing his disclosure of his full plans to his team. (Dave mentioned it, Tim was about to discuss it and got dragged of by a referee to a peace treaty signing), so Philippe and Howard looked at each other and thought that an action that the Daimyo could not possibly actively condone was in order :-) )

The Imagawa spent the minimum it could get away with on armies that Spring, and not too much sign of visible expenditure was seen on public works either. But things sure got hot in the Hojo Daimyo's bedroom. Our assassins told us that they could not attempt such a mission without either more money than the Imagawa clan had at that time or assistance from within the target's clan. They were told that if the heir held a book of Buddhist teachings (actual phys rep.) while the attempt was made then this was a sign of his acceptance and assistance. The assassination takes the form of a referee taking the target aside and dicing. Hojo survived the first two attempts, but luckily there were three. I am still not sure in character or out whether they were all three paid for by us!

Some frantic politics as the news was announced (we had people in place) lead to the following happening in very quick succession (in the last round of the game!)

Son and Heir Control the North...
  • Everyone from the Emperor down supporting the accession to the head of the Hojo by the appointed (Imagawa) heir.
  • The peaceful agreement of the Uesugi to the restoration of all their lands in exchange for becoming Hojo vassals.
  • The full alliance of the Takeda and (original) Imagawa clans
  • The restoration of contact between the Imagawa Daimyo and Son, and them becoming mutual heirs.

in short we held sway over all major Territories at the Eastern end of Nippon, our team ref. was stunned, we were ecstatic, and the other clans were still placing bets as to which 'mutual heir' would last more than 10 minutes, when they saw exactly how much of a slice we had carved.

Did we all do a small 'end-zone' dance when the end of game was announced at that point ( the end wasn't fixed to avoid end game madness!) ? Could this be the reason we all thought it was such a good game ? I don't know, but our thanks definitely go our to the organizers, referees and other team members who made for 'one excellent day' in South London at a much lower price than something I could mention.


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