Test of Honour, Edo Style! Wargaming the Boshin War!

Oops I accidentally did a whole game again.

Sorry for not posting recently! I’ve been incredibly busy lining up a new job, fighting off existential dread and guilt concerning my inability to help the people of Ukraine, and various other small things that just drained my blogging energy.

One good thing to come out of it was my friend finally getting his wish; I bought into Test of Honour. I had avoided the game for a long time, as I’m not as knowledgeable about Japanese history as I am with 19th/20th Century European affairs, and I always thought that Samurai were overrated. But I had gotten him into so many games I played…it was about time to return the favour. So I watched a few reviews and battle reports….and it looked really, really good.

I ordered the Core box and the Ashigaru Scouts bundle, as well as the old 1st Edition Bandit models that were rereleased for Warlords of Erehwon. Great models all-around. I really enjoyed my first few games of the system at our Clubhouse, and I got two people interested. One has purchased Ninja and the Unlikely Companions set, while the other intends to print his force. The fact our Club had purchased a large amount of Japanese terrain really cheaply a few years back also helps, as it makes our games quite atmospheric!

A lone samurai faces his fate, as a bandit blocks his way. This duel lasted a while!
Another game saw me playing the bandits, facing down a force of Samurai and Ashigaru sent to stop my pillaging of the village.
In a three player game, a large group of Ninja attempt to interfere in a battle between Samurai and Bandits.

So far, all of the games had been set in the Sengoku period as the game intends. And it plays wonderfully in that context. However….

I may have limited knowledge of Japanese history on the whole, but when we specifically talk about the Edo Period and Meiji Restoration, I know considerably more. Bringing this great system to the Edo period and the Boshin War shouldn’t actually be all that hard, especially if I focus on keeping what makes the game great; it’s cinematic moments and Kurosawa action!

One needs miniatures for such a project, and surprisingly, such a line actually exists! Bac Ninh Miniatures does fantastic work, running out of his blog, http://bacninhminiatures.blogspot.com. I ordered a few miniatures to start, to see how long they would take to reach Canada and also to see how they look.

The Aizu Domain soldiers I grabbed! I intend to use these as Bakufu troops.
The heads are separate, which allows some posing. It also theoretically allows for some cool kitbashing, something I have yet to try!
The poses are quite nice too!
The command pack has some great characters in there too. The centre model is great, and the model on the left with a pistol and old school clothing is also really cool. The woman represents Niijima Yae, a famous defender of the Aizu Domain who used a Spencer Repeating Carbine.

All in all, I am very impressed by the models. I intend to order more shortly!

I’ve given some thought on how to integrate some of the more Boshin War weaponry into a system clearly designed for feudal Japan. I’ve gone for more cinematic approach here, less realistic.

Pistols could have the strength of a musket, but the range of a throwing weapon. Sure, the weapon could probably shoot further, but given the setting and feel of the game it still feels right. No reload is needed unless its a single shot weapon, and I’m giving some thought to having it have 6 shots, then a reload.

Regular smoothbore muskets are easily represented by the default musket profile, as the training of the soldiers using them and their inherent inaccuracy still “fits”. Rifles on the other hand would merely have improved range; the training would be reflected in a models “aim” stat.

Repeating Carbines, similarly to pistols, might have a reload after a set number of shots. Shorter range might also be worthwhile.

Wargaming the Boshin War’s more large-scale battles would be out of the picture, but doing the small scale skirmishes that led to them is totally doable, as well as personal struggles of samurai and their retainers as they make sense of the ever-changing world.

As for painting….

Oh no, the Samurai movie anti-christ!

I must admit a fondness for The Last Samurai, despite its many flaws. It plays extremely loosely with history to be honest. But it has a feel to it, that really works for the cinematic approach to the Boshin War. Many others have done the realistic approach, I will try for a much more stylized one.

With that in mind, my Bakufu troops will ironically be painted very similarly to the Imperial Army featured in the early part of the film. A nice deep blue, with slight variations.

A nice, clean look for the uniforms that should be easily painted!
The colour of the uniform here should be easy to replicate, and look good en masse.

As for the Shinsengumi, I will decide on how to paint them once I order them and they arrive. Additional, better equipped Shogunate infantry will be painted in appropriate historical colours unless I find something I like better!

My friend Ty over at Hussars and Handgrenades is the other half of this project, doing the Imperial faction. How he will approach this, I have yet to see! My Ninja playing friend easily slots into this setting; with historical accuracy being more of a historical suggestion it is much easier to justify their presence.

But that is all I have for today! I will post more in the coming days; I have missed blogging, a lot, and I have some cool projects saved up. Happy Wargaming wherever you are, and remember to obey the Shogun!

6 thoughts on “Test of Honour, Edo Style! Wargaming the Boshin War!

  1. This is a brilliant project! 🙂 I’m nearly as excited as you to watch it progress! I’m sorely tempted by those Boshin War figures I must admit. Working in 20mm scale is much more difficult for me, but I’ve got Boxer Rebellion period Japanese troops and they would work for governemnt troops in the Satsuma Rebellion (but not the Boshin War unfortunately) so I could always get some older period samurai/ashigaru to pass as rebels. You’ve probably got all the reference material you need, but I have the following and find them useful:

    1) Osprey’s Japanese Armies 1868-1877

    2) Foundry Books Publication Armies of the 19th Century: Asia – Volume 5: Japan and Korea, by Ian Heath. This is a brilliant book with loads of info covering Japanese armies all through the 19th Century. Figures are illustrated with plain black and white drawings but described in detail and some of the plates in the Osprey book render a small proportion of these figures in colour.

    3) Warships of the Late Tokugawa Conflicts (1853-1870) by William Eugene Warner. This author produces some nice books on 19th Century naval conflicts and ships that are a bit out of the unusual, so worth looking at. Simple line drawings are included to illustrate most ships (plus photos where available). The book covers Western naval operation against Japan and the Boshin War, but I’ve not read my copy in detail yet.

    If you want me to look up anything in these books if you haven’t got them just drop me a line. Hope you enjoy this new project!

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    1. Actually, I’ll take any research ideas I can get! I’ll look into those. I was aware of the Osprey books(there are a lot that are potentially useful) but the others are new to me.

      I just placed an order for some Shogunate infantry called the Hoheigumi, and if you can find anything in those books about them I’d greatly appreciate it. I would then know which books to buy!

      Yeah 28mm gives me a lot of options here! It helps that the Club has Japanese terrain already, so that cost isn’t something to worry about. You might be able to repurpose ACW figures for the normal infantry of the period as they were mostly in Western uniform with small Japanese additions. For me, having Bac Ninh Miniatures available is a massive boon.

      Test of Honour is primarily a Kurosawa style cinematic romp then strict history. For the larger skirmishes I still have to find a more appropriate ruleset for massed muskets that allow for some Japanese flair.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. OK, I’ve managed to do two things:

        1) Look up “hoheigumi”
        2) Look at the photos of the hoheigumi figures on the Bac Ninh Miniatures site (nice figures)!

        Hohei are Shogunate regular infantrymen. The Shogunate also disbanded magisterial guards in Edo and converted them into three 500-man infantry battalions. The first was of higher rank samurai and known as the bette gumi and continued to perform police duties, whilst the other two were of lower rank and known as hohei gumi and used as regular infantry (this is from the Osprey book I mentioned). The Osprey book contains a colour plate of a bette gumi soldier but he’s not quite the same as the Bac Ninh models. It also contains a colour plate of a denshutai soldier (an elite unit formed by the French military mission) in the same helmet as the Bac Ninh minis, but without the hood worn underneath the helmet.

        The Foundry book (Ian Heath) contains pictures of normal hohei that look like the Bac Ninh figures and it appear longer tunics could be worn (as per the Bac Ninh figures) as well as shorter waist length jackets. Jackets and trousers are dark blue with white stripes running down the outer edge of the sleeves and the trousers (although some trousers appear plain). The waist belt and cross straps are white, the ammunition pouch, scabbards and boots black. The helmet (jingasa) is black with a yellow arm of service badge on the front (assume the hood is also blue – it’s shown as such in other prints in the Osprey book). The back pack and its straps are brown with a red blanket rolled on top of the pack. These details are from the black-and-white plate descriptions in the Foundry book, so although no colours are shown the plates and descriptions are clear. It also seems likely that some degree of variation occurred between the different troop types.

        So I think the Foundry and Osprey books are worth having, the former has a lot of detail and the latter has colour plates (although it also covers the later Satsuma rebellion). Some of the above I had to find by skipping through the text, although both books have indexes, but I quite enjoyed the chance to look something up!

        Ignore my other reply – I’ve had the chance to look this info up for you and could only reply to your comment so the other reply has got shunted along!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks so much for looking all that up! I really appreciate it. I definitely should look into both of those books then it seems!

        That is far more information then I had to work with previously, and I have a LOT of Hoheigumi on the way so that is extremely helpful.

        Great work, and thanks again!

        Liked by 2 people

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