Tuesday, 15 September 2020

revisiting Sekigahara

5 Sep 2020. Allen and I played Sekigahara again. It's my top 3 game, so I should play more of it. This time I played Ishida (yellow) while Allen played Tokugawa, because I remember the previous time we played it was the other way round. 

Both of us were rusty with the rules, so we had to do some revision before we started. During the game we still occasionally had to refer to the rule book. 

In the early game, Allen's Tokugawa army from Edo (upper left) swiftly descended upon my castle at the centre of the board - Ueda Castle, and captured it in one fell swoop. In real history, Sanada defended the castle well and tied down a big portion of the Tokugawa army. At the upper right, I gathered my troops to attack Allen's castles. Things went well for me. I had more troops in the area. By now Allen's forces were greatly reduced here. 

At the lower right, Allen's Maeda army had struck out from their home base, approaching Kyoto. I had a vacuum in the Kyoto area, so this was a looming threat. I needed to raise troops quickly, or send some back for defence. 

On the left, my forces had been completely wiped out. In a few short and decisive battles, Allen destroyed my Uesugi army. By now he had also captured all the resource locations on the left half of the board, indicated by the small black cubes. At the upper right, I had finally captured both of Allen's castles. Now I had to station soldiers there to keep them subdued. Allen had no more soldiers in this area. He did have one muster location there, but that would not be of use for some time. 

At the lower right, my army had attacked and beaten back Allen's Maeda army. Now I was pushing towards the Maeda clan castle. The situation on the board had clearly split into eastern and western halves. 

I had only two blocks in my recruitment box at this time. I had already mustered many of my blocks onto the map. In the background you can see Allen still having many blocks waiting to be mustered onto the map. He was holding a 5-block stack, ready to deploy. My casualties were high, and this was worrying. 

The five yellow Mori blocks were located in Osaka. As the Ishida player, it is costly to deploy them - one card per block. In history, Mori Terumoto was not so happy with Ishida Mitsunari and refused to deploy. That is why he's such a pain in the neck for the Ishida player in this game. Only if the Tokugawa player attacks Osaka then all these Mori blocks will come onto the map to defend Osaka. 

On the right side of the board, I have mustered some fresh troops. At the centre of the board along the Nakasendo Highway, there was one resource location which nobody dared to capture for a very long time. It was in a kill zone. Whoever captured it risked being attacked by the other side. 

There are 9 castles and 9 resource locations in the game. Castles are worth 2VP each, and resource locations 1VP each. The player controlling more castles gets to draw one extra card every round, which is handy. The player controlling more resource locations gets to draw one extra block when adding blocks to the recruitment box. The extra block is not yet deployed onto the map, it is just being available in the recruitment box. The Tokugawa player starts with five castles to the Ishida player's four, so Tokugawa has a slight advantage at the start of the game. 

At the bottom I was originally planning to attack and capture Allen's castle. I had enough soldiers, but I didn't have the right cards. So I sent that army further to the left to capture a resource location. This was a little risky, because if Allen mustered troops at his castle, he might send his new army to the right, which was lightly defended. Thankfully this did not happen. Eventually my army returned to capture this castle. In the late game, I managed to control six castles to Allen's three. 

At the top, Allen had assembled a large Tokugawa army and had marched it along the Tokaido (highway along the coast) towards my large army at the upper right. In the late game, I was ahead in victory points, so the pressure was on Allen to wrestle castles and resource locations from me. Either that, or he had to find and kill Ishida. To capture Osaka was already impossible. It was a bridge too far. 

Ishida Mitsunari was here in this army, preparing for Allen's attack. If Ishida got himself killed, I would lose the game. This army was mostly Ukita blocks. Previously I only had one block holding the castle here, and the rest of the blocks were slightly behind the front line. I had considered stalling, so that I would win by victory points when time ran out. However when I counted our points, I found that there was still enough time for Allen to capture the points he needed. So I must still fight and I could not afford to concede points easily. 

Tokugawa Ieyasu himself was first to charge into battle (the face-up black block on the left)! 

This was how this large battle turned out. Allen lost the battle due to a loyalty challenge card I played on him. His last 2-mon Tokugawa block turned traitor and joined my side. He had played one loyalty card too, but it didn't work on me because I still had an Ukita card in hand. All my troops stayed loyal. 

This was not the only time Allen lost a battle due to a loyalty challenge. The loyalty challenge mechanism is very clever. If you have a loyalty challenge card, you will feel anxious because you are often unsure when you should play it. Play it too early, and your opponent may still have the right card to defy it. Play it too late, and you may not have the chance to play it at all. Also, the fact that you have a loyalty challenge card in hand means you have one fewer card which can be used to deploy your own troops. Having a loyalty card, which is the highest numbered card in the game, is not necessarily a good thing. 

Although Allen lost one battle here, his reinforcements soon arrived and he was ready for another big showdown. This time I was defeated and my front line crumbled. 

Time was running out, so I could eventually apply the stalling strategy. First, Ishida must retreat and get out of harm's way. I also sent one block to the left to capture that resource location nobody dared to touch all this while. It was the last round now, so victory points mattered. I needed to send a block there so that Allen would not be able to capture it without sending at least two blocks. He had one four-block army at the centre of the board, which he would need to split into three, in order to maximise the number of victory points he could get on his last turn. One division had to stay where it was, at a castle originally loyal to Ishida. A garrison was required, otherwise the castle would immediately revert to my control. The two other divisions would need to attack separately to capture two different resource locations. Eventually this proved too much for Allen's army, and he wasn't able to grab enough points. 

Ishida lost the final big battle, but won the war. Time ran out, and political pressure forced Tokugawa to surrender. 

Sekigahara is a tense and beautiful game, full of surprises and excitement! 


Paul Owen said...

I often hear good things about this game. I'd really like to try it (when I'm back to playing wargames in person).

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Hi Paul, hope you are keeping safe! Sekigahara has a VASSAL module so it can be played online. I'm not familiar with the VASSAL system though, so I'm not sure whether it's a good play experience.

Anonymous said...

You can also play Sekigahara online with real opponents at https://www.yucata.de/

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Thanks! I didn't know it's on Yucata.