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Wow - have we got a BLOODY battle report for you today!
This month's game was a special story based on the Test of Honour "Attack at the Shrine" scenario. In the rulebook scenario, one samurai hero is praying at a shrine when attacked by an enemy force, and must weigh the benefit of staying to pray as long as possible against the risk of having his troops cut down before he can join the fight!
£ Well, we decided to swap the shrine setting for a wedding, with the central focus being the curtained area in the middle of the board. As the setup progressed, we couldn't help notice how similar this would fit to the story of the 1990s movie Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (with a few notable exceptions)...
The wealthy and tyrannical lord of the castle, Lord Kanemochi, is due to wed his bride Princess Sakura in the picturesque grounds of his castle this beautiful spring morning. For her part, the princess is vainly hoping for a last-minute rescue by her beloved ronin, Robu-san.
£ Unbeknownst to the guests, the wedding has already been infiltrated by the deadly Tomoko, posing as one of the kimono-clad castle staff.
As the ceremony begins to the accompaniment of traditional shakuhachi bamboo flutes, Tomoko is unlocking a small side gate at the edge of the castle grounds, allowing Robu-san and his band of not-so-merry ninja assassins to sneak inside, and attempt a last-minute rescue attempt...
£ This is Lord Kanemochi's guest list for the wedding. He has Lord Hosokawa and Reiko as honoured guests (his two 'lieutenants', on the right), and a small army of spearmen and archers, backed up by a banner bearer and sergeant.
Lord Kanemochi himself starts the game in the centre of the board, going through his wedding vows. The longer he stays at his wedding (and out of the fight), the more bonus victory points he can earn!
£ The leader of this rescue force is the ronin Robu-san (in brown and blue), with a ninja lieutenant to back him up, along with 6 lower level ninja assassins. All the ninja are armed with throwing knives - short range and weak, but quite annoying to opponents.
It seemed fitting to allow Tomoko (a lieutenant) to gain skill cards taken from the ninja deck, as she fits the image of a ninja-in-disguise well in this scenario.
£ The game started with the ninja forces of Robu-san rushing on from the table edge, quickly making their way amongst the cherry blossoms. Robu-san, as the hero he is (or thinks he is!), strides heroically up the path towards the wedding tent in the centre.
£ Tomoko guides a second smaller force of ninja assassins through the ornamental gardens, ready to rain throwing knives down on the wedding guests.
£ The defenders had started the game slightly disorganised, but quickly moved their large groups forwards to create a thick wall of spearpoints. Reiko guards the entrance to the tent area, to give her Lord more time to finish his wedding vows!
£ As the second turn begins, the group of defending spearmen rush forward to attack the nearby ninja group, but trip on the tree roots and blood drop themselves!
£ The ninja lieutenant seizes his chance, and rushes forwards to attack the clumsy spearmen. Choosing to fight dishonourably, he throws a knife up into the branches of the cherry blossom tree overhead, to distract the spearmen in a flurry of petals - and quickly cuts one man down!
£ Robu-san throws caution to the wind, and charges headlong into a second group of defenders, quickly cutting one spearman down.
£ Lord Hosokawa strides forward to confront the ninja assassins, and shouts out a lie to confuse them - "You took your time, didn't you? Now do what I paid you to do!".
As the ninja warriors looks to their lieutenant in confusion, Lord Hosokawa quickly cuts one down with a sneer! What a sneaky bastard!
£ Robu-san loses himself in a whirlwind of combat, and cuts down a second spearman outside the tent, and then the banner bearer, too! The nearby troops panic and run in fear!
£ Reiko, sworn to defend the wedding tent as long as possible, instead recognises her hated enemy Tomoko, who is stealthily approaching from the gardens - and rushes to intercept her. As throwing knives rain down from the nearby ninja, she charges Tomoko, who neatly dodges the attack.
They both warily begin to circle....
£ The defending unit of archers, having fled in panic from the terrifying storm of blades and blood surrounding Robu-san, redeem themselves by halting under one of the cherry blossom trees and neatly drilling holes into a distant ninja assassin (top right of the photo). An excellent shot indeed!
£ With a cry of "Do you mind? We've just been married!", Lord Kanemochi decides it's time to join the fight at last. But will he be in time to turn things around?
For that matter, will he even get off his chair?!
£ As Reiko turns to welcome her lord to the fight, Tomoko seizes her moment and flicks her razor-edged fan forward. With a devilish smile on her lips, she watches as the life-blood spurts out of Reiko's neck and the warrior slowly topples to the ground.
Lord Kanemochi watches in disbelief as his trusted lieutenant bleeds out almost in front of him, and threatens the deadly Tomoko with a vicious "I'm going to cut your heart out with a spoon!".
£ The battle under the cherry blossom continues unabated, with a lone ninja jumping down from the ruins of the castle wall to surround the enemy spearmen, and firing a small throwing knife into an unarmoured back.
£ The defending archers once again seize their chance, knowing that a ninja is most vulnerable after completing an action, and shoot down the lone ninja near the pond.
Surprisingly, this panics the nearby ninja lieutenant, and he flees away under the trees!
£ The wily Lord Hosokawa recognises that the flight of the ninja lieutenant was merely a ruse, and chases him across towards the hero fight by the tent.
No stranger to fighting dirty himself, Lord Hosokawa quickly picks up and tosses a long spear, entangling the feet of the 'fleeing' ninja lieutenant as he runs. He quickly closes the gap and stabs the ninja as he lies tangled on the ground!
At this point both sides have lost a lieutenant model, but Lord Kanemochi himself has been unable to take down the deadly Tomoko in combat - even blood dropping himself in his attacks, as she deftly ducks and spins around him.
£ As Lord Kanemochi prepares to end the threat of this deadly geisha once and for all (and finally get off his chair perhaps!), Tomoko's cunning strategy becomes clear - all of her weak thrusts and cuts had only been intended to weaken Lord Kanemochi's formidable armour, leaving gaps where others might strike....
Out of nowhere, a ninja throwing knife shoots out and embeds itself in Lord Kanemochi's neck, where an armoured panel had been cut loose! With a look of utter surprise on his face, the villain topples forward to the ground, quite dead!
£ Robu-san has meanwhile moved out amongst the trees to chase down the last of the defenders, and eventually cuts down enough spearmen and groups to panic them away.
So it seems we didn't get the hero vs. villain big showdown we were all hoping for, but the overall attack seems to have succeeded!
£ In the final action of the 5th turn of the game, Tomoko takes advantage of the shock caused by Lord Kanemochi's ignominious death, and cuts down the last of the defending lieutenants, Lord Hosokawa.
As she surveys the blood-splattered scene around her, Tomoko smiles grimly to herself at the death and destruction she has sown today. Her ninja masters would surely be pleased, and as luck would have it, there appears to be a new opening for promotion....
The final points tally stood at 10 for the defenders (plus 3 bonus points for spending six actions to finish his wedding vows), versus a massive 21 kill points for Robu-san and his band of merry killers.
MVP goes to Tomoko, for being a total badass and even using 4 dishonour cards ... Most-Valuable-Psycho indeed!
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