Well, after way too long, finally had Mark over yesterday for a day of face-to-face gaming. The meeting was only arranged the night before, so there was the last-second hemming and hawing about what to play. I finally decided upon Sekigahara, which I got a few months ago, but hadn’t gotten a chance to play. In fact, while I had stickered the blocks for it, I hadn’t even looked at the rules.

However, it’s supposed to be a very short game, and I’d recently seen comments on BGG that even first time players shouldn’t take more than three hours with it. So, I decided we should have plenty of time to go through the rules and get in a game.

It went very well. The rules are short and mostly very clear. The rulebook is about the standard size for a simple wargame… and then you realize about half of that is designer’s notes, and a history of the actual campaign.

I ended up taking Ishida, with no idea what to do. ^_^;

Actually, I managed to tailor my armies to suit my current hand of cards, and used that to force several battles over the first few turns that I handily won. I was generally eliminating about three blocks of his per battle, so he was getting extra cards from his losses. Meanwhile, I took a castle, and started getting an extra card every turn from that. I still ended up about one card shy of his total at the beginning of every turn.

With all this activity, I had gotten a pretty strong position by the end of turn 4, having seized three castles, and several resource locations. I’d also managed to get a number of new units recruited onto the board, and maybe about half of them moved into decent positions. Meanwhile, a very sizable force had been building up in Edo, and moved north along the main highway at the end of the turn.

I managed to get the initiative for turn 5 and went first. With a large enemy force in Takasaki, between two of my forces, I knew I needed to either retreat out of range, or put together a force from both of my armies and try to win the biggest battle yet.

Sadly, unlike the previous two turns, my hand wasn’t agreeing with me, and I couldn’t tailor my force as well I would have liked. It turned out that Mark did have what he needed, a hand full of almost entirely Tokugawa cards. A homogenous army with the cards to back it up is a truly scary thing in this game, as each block of the same clan gets extra value from the previously deployed units. I ended up losing six blocks of the eight in my army. That didn’t even the score in losses, but it sure made it a lot closer.

Thankfully, I was able to pull back a little way down the highway to Osaka, and rush up reinforcements from there to form another decent-sized army to block the path. On turn six, the tables really had turned, as Mark aggressively went after that army with the Tokugawa super-army. And again, he had the cards to back it up, and I lost six out of eight blocks in the new army.

That really did make the losses roughly even between us, and I had to scramble to pull in troops from detached duty to make any kind of blocking force. I even sacrificed a couple cards (I had plenty after those two drubbings) to bring a couple of Mori blocks on board at Osaka.

While all this fighting had been happening back and forth down the main highway between Kyoto and Edo, there had been other events. I had taken Miyazu and Tsuruga in the northwest early, and then gotten into a staring contest with the forces in Kanazawa. The garrison holding down Miyazu castle was part of what I pulled  in to create a new army on the highway. The Uesugi clan had been successful, having routed out the Date blocks with another card-calculated battle, and temporarily holding the recruiting center there. (And then I forgot, moved off, and had to do it all over again.) After the early successful battles near Kiso, I had also managed to send a force south to grab and hold Anotsu, Kiyosu, and Okazaki.

During turn 7A, Mark sent a second force out of Edo along the southern highway to do something about this, and I had to move to collect my scattered forces before they were destroyed piecemeal.

In fact, what I did for my 7B (going first) was for the only time in the game (for either of us), spend two cards to move everything, and try to put myself in the best possible position to win on VPs, despite his victorious armies. Uesugi swept down to take Edo (now empty after two armies had departed from it). My southern forces retreated to Anotsu (to hold the VPs, and get off the highway). And my main army withdrew to Osaka, which I figured as being out of range of his full army.

As it turned out, after two turns of lots of Tokugawa cards, Mark was pretty much out of them. He sent the southern force through Kuwana to Kyoto to take those two resource points (a good move I hadn’t seen), and sent most of his good army north to Tsuruga, where they were joined by his forces in the north from Kanazawa.

The battle started at six to three against me, and ended at four to two against me. I had actually won since I was able to bring my entire force to bear, while Mark did indeed have little he could do.

By our tally the game ended with a score of 15 to 10 for Ishida. A fairly convincing win for me, though I’m glad there wasn’t an eigth turn, because after the disastrous defeats of turns 5 and 6, maintaining my position had become a lot trickier.

At any rate, we both had a lot of fun, and the game lived up to its promise of a quick playing time. It is going to have to get to the table again soon.