04 August, 2009

Battle of Yamazaki

Following his defeat of the Takeda at Nagashino, Oda Nobunaga continued on his path to domination of central Japan. While continuing to fight the remnants of the still deadly Takeda, Oda turned his attention towards the Mori, dispatching Toyotomi Hideyoshi to deal with them. With news of the Takeda's destruction, and a request from Toyotomi for reinforcement to deal with the Mori fortification at Takamatsu, Oda dispatched all of his troops away from his side. Akechi Mitsuhide, one of Oda's generals, smarting from years of insults and humiliation chose this moment to strike, attacking Oda's palace (the Honno-ji) at Kyoto with his entire army, and installing himself as Shogun.

Thirteen days later, after a hasty and generous truce with the Mori and a lightening march from Tadakatsu, Toyotomi meets Akechi in battle on the road to Kyoto. Toyotomi's army outnumbers Akechi's by some 36,000 to 15,000, but Akechi has a defensive position, and Toyotomi must defeat him before more of Oda's generals arrive to claim vengeance.

A fordable stream runs between the two armies. On the Toyotomi right it becomes a more powerful river. On the Toyotomi left, is a large hill. The greater part of this hill. Covering most of the hill is a forest, however there is a road running from the Toyotomi left to the river over the hill.

Battle of Yamazaki

To show the importance both sides placed on this road (running to the capital, Kyoto) any side holding it at the end of a turn would gain 1 morale chip. This would encourage the Akechi to make a historical attempt to take it, despite a strong defensive position.

I also made several slight adjustments to the historical scenario. The first and unintentional change was the lack of rain (it rained for the entire battle apparently!). The second was the absence of two bridges crossing the river. I was unsure of how to model this in Piquet, both in terms of combat and in terms of crossing them, especially since the usual Sequence Deck lacks Deployment Cards.
Also, and less importantly, is a Ninja raid on Akechi's camp the night before the battle, causing fires to tents, destroying supplies and provoking general chaos. Gives me some ideas for a Theatre of War Campaign – but that's another day!

Seeking swift vengeance for Oda Nobunaga's foul murder the entire Toyotomi Army surges forward. Kuroda's Cavalry wheel towards the summit of Mount Tennou, hoping to dominate the road to Kyoto. Such is their fervour that the advancing missile units begin to open up on the Akechi Army (far out of range).

Toyotomi and Kuroda below Tennozan

The Tsuda Command responds, advancing up to the river, their Arquebusiers firing on the Kato Arquebusiers, having deadly effect. The Akechi Command also advanced, possibly unwisely missile units in the Toyotomi Army had yet to be affected by their but judging that the importance was in reaching the stream first.

Tsuda Arquebusiers advance and fire

On cue the other Toyotomi missile units shoot at the arrayed Akechi Command on the banks of the stream, none of them having much effect. The Toyotomi Command advances, its Bow units inclining to the flanks to let the Samurai Foot through the middle.

All other commands also advance, the Kato and the Kuroda both reaching the stream. The Toyotomi Leader takes personal command of one of his Samurai units, intending to force the crossing of the stream himself.

Akechi and Toyotomi advance to banks of river

Obviously things are not going to plan for the Toyotomi as the entire Toyotomi Command withdraws in disorder, without their Leader directing them from behind a misheard order reverberated through the units.

Toyotomi Command in disarray

The Kato Command is the model of efficiency. Their two Arquebusier units advance to the river, firing on the Tsuda Samurai, and on the Tsuda Arquebusiers, doing some damage.

Kato Arquebusiers shoot into Tsuda ranks

This is the sort of thing Toyotomi Hideyoshi had in mind, reminding his men why they are here today "Remember the Honno-ji!"
The Akechi Army is shaken by the renewed fervour of their foe but knows exactly what is at stake in this battle.

Hideyoshi is not impressed

The Tsuda Arquebusiers, unperturbed fire once more into the Kato Samurai but to no effect. The Akechi Army advances to the river, where the Tsuda Arquebusiers discharge once more into the Kato Samurai ranks, this time inflicting serious casualties.

With the Toyotomi centre is disarray, the Akechi Commander decides to strike - if it can turn against the Kuroda Levy units at the stream victory would surely follow. The Akechi Command crosses the stream.

Akechi take advantage of Toyotomi disorder and cross river

While opposite the Kuroda Levy the Matsuda avalry units maintain their position, threatening and preventing the Kuroda Levy from turning to meet the Akechi, while also protecting from any future attempt by the Kuroda Cavalry to cut behind the Army (while also recognising that the fight against them would be very difficult)

Matsuda cavalry threaten Kuroda Ashigaru

The Tsuda Leader inspired his men to attempt the difficult crossing again. Once more they attempt to cross the river, succeeding and exultantly charging the Kato Arquebusiers.

Tsuda Samurai charge Kato Arquebusiers

With the enemy in sight the Akechi Commander must restrain his men. To add the necessary control the Akechi Leader advances to the stream and issues new orders. The Akechi swing to their right to threaten Kuroda flanks.

Akechi swing to their right to threaten Kuroda flanks

With the Toyotomi Army seriously at risk, the Kuroda Cavalry abandon their race for the hill's summit, wheeling towards the Akechi Command.

Kuroda cavalry abandon mission to capture summit of Tennozan

The Tsuda Arquebusiers volley continuously into the Kato Samurai eventually destroying the unit entirely, but being forced to call back to the baggage train for more ammunition.

Tsuda Arquebusiers take aim at Kato Samurai

The Kato Samurai flee the torrent of fire from the Tsuda

Kato Samurai flee

The Tsuda Samurai cross those final few yards, realising that the fire from the Kato Arquebusiers is ragged and uncoordinated and cuts through them, destroying them to the last man.

Tsuda Samurai  rout Kato Arquebussiers

The Akechi Ashigaru charges the Kuroda Levy in the flank, and the Levy resists bravely, turning to face their enemy, but is pushed back, almost into the other Levy unit.

Akechi hit Kuroda Ashigaru in flank

The Kuroda cavalry advance, coming down off the difficult terrain of Tennozan. The Cavalry then split up, charging the Akechi Samurai, and charging the Akechi Levy in the flank.

Kuroda cavalry hits Akechi

The Akechi Samurai counter-charge, but are pushed back. Beside them the Akechi Ashigaru plough into the Kuroda Levy, inflicting losses, and that pressure is too much for them – they flee!

Kuroda Ashigaru run for their lives

As the chaotic situation across the river develops the Matsuda Cavalry fall back in disorder, no longer menacing the Kuroda Command.

Matsuda cavalry in disorder

The other Kuroda Cavalry have more effect, pushing the Akechi Samurai back, into the path of the oncoming Toyotomi Samurai. Seeing this danger the Akechi respond!
The Samurai, having absorbed the best effort of the Cavalry strike back with determination, even though they are disordered from the charge, and routing the unit. The Levy follows their example and routs their opponents also.

As Kuroda cavalry flee the nearby Ashigaru follow

Toyotomi Hideyoshi, seeing the danger his army is in, decides to take a direct hand in matters. He supersedes control of the Toyotomi Command, and slowly asserts command over the Samurai units, and then rallies them, judging that he has neither the time nor the inclination to do so with the Bow units.
Without a steadying influence in their path the routing Cavalry and Levy units of the Kuroda Command leaves the battlefield.

Hideyoshi takes direct control

Akechi Samurai and Kuroda cavalry battle on

Akechi Samurai and Kuroda cavalry battle on

The Toyotomi Samurai, with their Leader charging in front of them, impact on the flank of the Akechi Samurai, and by the pure shock effect routs them.

Akechi and Toyotomi Samurai clash

Akechi Samurai flee across the river

Akechi flee across river

The Tsuda Arquebusiers finally receive ammunition from the rear area.
The Akechi Leader, shouting over the stream separating him from his Command, asserts his command of the Samurai, and slowly rallies them. The other Leaders in the Akechi Army follow suit, Tsuda bring his Samurai into command, and Matsuda bringing one of the Cavalry units into command.

Akechi and Matsuda bring their men back under control

The Tsuda wheel to face Toyotomi in centre.

Tsuda wheel to face Toyotomi in centre

Akechi recross river to be met by Toyotomi Samurai. With Battle Lust and a thirst to finish off their work, the Toyotomi Samurai charge the Akechi Samurai once more, this is a hard fought battle, but the heroism of Toyotomi's leadership tells.

The fighting continues, and the Akechi formation is so thinned and disordered that they cannot stand against the power of the Toyotomi.

Akechi recross river to be met by Toyotomi Samurai

The Tsuda Arquebusiers cross the river with very little trouble. And then they and the Tsuda Samurai wheel to face the main battle area, the Kato Leader sees no chance and charges the Tsuda Samurai, reciting his lineage and getting to his grandfather before 4 Samurai spear him like a dog! The Kato clan has disintegrated.

Tsuda Arquebusiers wipe out Kato command

With only one unit left in his command, Akechi knows he must rally his Levy before the enemy contacts them, and does so despite the difficulties in commanding them over the stream. And eventually he decides to ride over there and take personal command of the unit. The Akechi Ashigaru then move to flank Toyotomi Samurai.

Akechi Ashigaru move to flank Toyotomi Samurai

With the Akechi seemingly resurgent the Toyotomi Army becomes seriously doubtful that they can carry the day, but all stood. Akechi's Ashigaru are caught in rear by the Kuroda.

But are caught in rear by Kuroda Ashigaru

and they flee across river. Eventually and With true heroism, cutting down several of the Levy who are at the head of his routing Levy, the Akechi Leader finally rallies his unit.

Akechi Ashigaru flee across river

The Tsuda Arquebusiers take a long shot at the second Toyotomi Samurai, but their enfilading fire has no effect. The Tsuda Samurai, hoping that their opponents will be reduced by that fire charge the Toyotomi unit in the flank, damaging them somewhat.

Tsuda Samurai hit Toyotomi in flank

With the rear of the Kuroda Levy in sight, the out of command Matsuda Cavalry cannot restrain themselves and they charge.

Matsuda marshals his cavalry

Terror has been struck into the hearts of this Levy unit by the blood-thirsty Matsuda Cavalry and they rout.

To smash Kuroda

Turning their back on those blood-thirsty Cavalry takes some will but the Toyotomi Samurai unit do so and charge the Tsuda Arquebusiers. These Arquebusiers have cut many notches in their guns today, and the Toyotomi Samurai must have nerves of steel to run blindly through the dense fog of black powder.

Toyotomi Samurai advance into gunfire from Tsuda

They meet those Arquebusiers with steel and give them one for Oda Nobunaga pushing them back. They follow up and this time there is no firing from the Tsuda unit, and they are destroyed.

And drive them from field

Meanwhile the Toyotomi Samurai stand fast against the Tsuda unit, though the odds are against them.

Other unit of Toyotomi fight hard against Tsuda

Finally the weight of the Tsuda attackers prevails and the Toyotomi rout.

But Toyotomi Samurai are beaten hands dowm

Again the Toyotomi Samurai wheel to face the Tsuda Samurai and charges them in the flank. These Tsuda are made of stern stuff however and although disordered realign themselves,

With anger at having been thwarted the Toyotomi renew their combat against the Tsuda and the Tsuda unit routs. As the rallied Akechi Levy advances, the Toyotomi Samurai are once more brought back into command (Remember the Honno-Ji!). Quickly they are wheeled around towards the Matsuda Cavalry, and advance towards their foe.

Tsuda Samurai are themselves flanked and beaten off

Emboldened by their leader's presence the Cavalry units charge the Toyotomi Samurai. The superior morale of the Samurai tells, and the Matsuda are pushed back. With this Heroic Samurai unit clearing the field against any opposition – the Matsuda cavalry are fearful, but stay. Meanwhile the Akechi Levy and the Tsuda Samurai race to catch that Toyotomi Samurai unit while still engaged.

Little hope of that, as they crush the Cavalry unit (how those Cavalry wish they hadn't been so brave!) They charge the routing Cavalry unit at the stream – cutting them down though not killing the Matsuda Leader.

The heroic Matsuda Leader decides to stand and fight, rallying his other unit of cavalry. Instead of reengaging the Toyotomi Samurai, he advances away from them , sweeping in behind the Toyotomi Bow units, and then wheeling to face their rear

Matsuda cavalry are charged by Toyotomi Samurai

The Cavalry then charges that unit, forgoing the option of charging Hideyoshi himself. destroying the archers in spectacular fashion

Other unit of Matsuda cavalry destroys Toyotomi archers

The Tsuda Samurai and the Akechi Levy continue their race to engage the Toyotomi Samurai; the Levy reaching the stream and crossing it easily to crash into the Samurai's flank. Surprised by this Levy units audacity the Samurai fall back before their assault.

Remainder of Akechi army converges on fierce Toyotomi Samurai

Even with the combat going their way the Akechi Levy is fearful of this distinguished unit. With the bravery of their fellows shaming the noble warriors, the Tsuda Samurai and the Matsuda Cavalry charge the Toyotomi Samurai in flank and rear the Tsuda Samurai inflict damage on the unit, arriving there first, and even taking the head of the Toyotomi Leader. The rest of the brave Samurai are riden down.

And despite resistance Toyotomi Samurai are crushed

With a single unit of Levy Bowmen left, Toyotomi Hideyoshi abandons the field of battle, knowing that Tokugawa Ieyasu will arrive soon, to avenge Oda Nobunaga. While Hideyoshi has more men, his star will not continue to rise after this debacle.

This battle, once more turned out contrary to history, yet in an interesting and believable fashion. Akechi took his chance in crossing the river when his opponent was in disarray, and that almost turned to disaster, with the Heroic Toyotomi unit running rampage in the centre. With some concentration of fire, and that extra Reload Card in the deck, the Akechi force crossed the difficult river with success. That, combined with the decision not to cross the stream with the Cavalry and allow
them to simply threaten, meant that the Akechi were forcing the Toyotomi to respond. I expected this battle to turn into a fight for the hill between cavalry and a fiercely contested crossing by the Toyotomi, but again sometimes opportunity
must take precedence over planning.

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