The Fate of Reiters


Sengoku Jidai Volume 1

Subject: the 4th battle of Kawanakajima, in feudal Japan

Designer: François VANDER MEULEN

Complexity: Low


Online rules

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Price: 24 € (ziplock game)

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Japan, October 18, 1561. For the past five days the armies of Takeda Shingen, the tiger of Kai, and Uesegi Kenshin, the dragon of Echigo, have faced each other along either bank of the Chikumagawa river, which flows in the middle of the fertile Kawanakajima plain. The two adversaries know each other well, as they have already fought here three times over some dozen years for control of Shinto province. The day before, at the urging of one of his generals, Takeda Shingen has decided to take the initiative and lay a trap for his opponent. Part of his force (12,000 men under the command of Kosaka Masanobu) will be secretly sent at first light to the forested slopes of Mt. Saijo, to catch Uesegi Kenshin in his encampment. The plan is for this surprise attack to panic and put the Uesegi forces to flight. The rest of Takeda's army (8000 men commanded by Takeda in person) will lie in wait to attack the fugitives as they flee down the road. But when Masanobu reaches the Uesegi camp this morning, he finds it deserted. As he enters, he hears the sounds of battle … coming from the plain. It turns out that Uesegi Kenshin, under cover of the morning fog, has already left his camps and brought his army to face Takeda. And, discovering that he has numerical superiority, Kenshin is attacking!

The game

Kawanakajima 1561, simulates the fourth battle of Kawanakajima. This will be the first game in the series Sengoku Jidai, which will cover battles in 16th century Japan. The system is designed so players can finish a game in an evening, and has simple but dynamic mechanics.

In the game, each player takes the role of a commander in chief. Each army consists of various clans, and the players have to choose an action for each of their clans. Each clan is represented by 1 to 3 units. The units have various abilities, summarized by the 4 factors: élan, mass, fire and the presence of a leader. Elan represents factors such as the unit's mobility, and its boldness in attack, and is also used to reflect the advantage that cavalry can have over infantry when attacking. The unit's mass represents its staying power, such as its ability to resist a cavalry charge or a rout.

Pion Sengoku Jidaï

A unit's abilities are tied to the value of its four factors and the current mode of the clan that it belongs to. A clan can be placed in one of four modes: Attack, Defense, Move, and Rally. The owning clan's mode will affect a unit's ability to move or engage in combat.

Pion Sengoku Jidaï

A game turn consists of alternating phases where a player can activate his units. The order in which activations will occur is tied to a chit pull system. Each player first rolls on his commanding general's command table to see how many clans he can activate for the turn. These markers are placed in the chit pull cup along with other event markers: Combat x2, March, Rally, Leader's initiative. Once a clan marker is drawn the owning player can carry out movement and combat, and try to change that clan's current mode (with a die roll). Then the marker is discarded and a new one is drawn... this makes for a game where each player will be continually involved. When an event marker is pulled, both players must carry it out. For example, a March marker permits each side to move any units in a Movement mode.

Pion Sengoku Jidaï

The game system requires each player to plan carefully how to win. They must maneuver to gain numerical superiority, deploy in terrain that takes advantage of their clan's mode, and try to surprise his opponent by attacking troops that are not prepared.

Pion Sengoku Jidaï

The system also places the players under the same historical limitations as the actual Japanese leaders. Japanese generals of this time prearranged their battle plans and coordinated their armies with a precise system of semaphore flags and sound signals. Each player, before the game starts, will be able to choose secretly some of his clans to receive a battle signal. He then gets corresponding signal markers which he can use during the game. A clan that gets a battle signal will be able to immediately carry out a special action during its activation. Examples of battle signals: Gyorin - elastic defense - units can break off from combat Saku - defend in place - units receive a die roll modifier in combat to simulate a leader commanding his troops to 'not retreat an inch'.

Pion Sengoku Jidaï

The game includes 2 scenarios: one depicting the historical battle, and a "what if?" hypothetical scenario. In the historical scenario, Takeda's army is divided in two contingents. One of the contingents is taken by surprise by Uesugi's army, and has to fight a holding action until the rest of the army can come to its aid. But the other half of Takeda's army, commanded by Masanobu, is on the opposite side of a river, which can only be crossed at a ford. There are three possible fords that Masanobu can choose, but Uesugi cannot guard them all. Meanwhile, Uesugi needs to make use of his temporary numerical advantage, and strike hard to overwhelm his opponent before Takeda's army can reunite. But which ford will Masanobu choose as he rushes to save his commander? Special and optional rules allow the players to vary the initial set-up and allow for surprise.

Pion Sengoku Jidaï

The hypothetical scenario explores what could have happened several days before the historical battle. Uesugi's army is encamped on Saijo hill, threatening the fortress at Kaizu, which is garrisoned by Masanobu. Takeda has put together an army to relieve the fortress. When Takeda's army is spotted crosses the plain in order to ford the Chikumagawa, Uesugi is urged to swoop down on the enemy's army before they can relieve the fortress. But Uesugi refuses. Instead, he spends the day listening to poetry, and his army sits immobilized while Takeda joins up with Masanobu, and the fortress is saved.

But what would have happened if Uesugi hadn't wanted to listen to poems? In this scenario, the battle takes place on the plain, around the ford, and also within the fortress of Kaizu. The battle for the fortress is simulated by special rules and is fought on a part of the map with a different scale. In this way, the players can, in a simple and abstract way, simulate an attack by Uesugi's army on the fortress and also the arrival of the relieving army …. but will Takeda get there in time?


In "Kawanakajima 1561" a hex represents about 250 meters and a strength point corresponds to around 100 men.

Carte Sengoku Jidaï
Carte Sengoku Jidaï

The second volume in the series is already in development and will cover the battle of Yamazaki (1582)

Game components

  • 1 map A1 (84cm*60cm)
  • 228 game counters (88 5/8inch, 140 1/2inch)
  • one rule book with scenarios
  • Game play aids
  • Cardboard jacket
  • 4 dice