The tabletop scene has exploded in the last few years, creating an endless wave of new content for gamers. While this is a great problem for the industry to have, it can make it difficult for consumers to know where to invest their time and money. In the “What Sets it Apart” series, I will explore the unique aspects of games; what does this game do that no one else is doing? I hope these can help you find the perfect game for you.
First in the series is GCT Studios Bushido: Risen Sun edition. Released back in July 2019, this newest edition of the eastern mythos skirmish game is its best. A tight ruleset with minimal padding, everything in the rulebook brings something to the table. With every sculpt released, the quality of the miniatures themselves is only getting better. One of the lowest entry costs in tabletop gaming today, GCT will continue to earn your patronage through high quality customer service and their dedication to their product.
Many skirmish games boast “scenario driven” in their summaries. Bushido is scenario focused. With three core scenario types (zone control, objectives and Very Important Model, or VIM), the variations on these themes may read minor on paper, but drastically shift your play experience in practice. These scenarios are built around gaining Scenario Points or other criteria to win 1 of 3 Victory Points. Typically lasting 5-6 rounds, the person with the most Victory Points at the end of the game wins.
That is the only way to win in Bushido; have more victory points than your opponent. A board wipe does not win you the game. In fact, killing your opponents last model doesn’t win you the game. The game doesn’t end until the end of the turn when your opponents last model was killed. Meaning there’s a chance you could wipe the board, but without enough activations left to secure the scenario, still lose the game.
This dynamic makes combat a core mechanic, but not essential. In fact, entire factions are built on not winning combat, but simply surviving and disengaging from it. If this was a head to head attrition mashup, there would be no balance to this game. But the moment you filter everything through the scenario, every faction is viable. Every faction has an answer to a problem, it can just take some puzzling to find it.
The combat in Bushido has ruined a lot of tabletop rulesets for me. Combat is fast paced, engaging and cinematic. Unlike most tabletop games, you and your opponent both roll at the same time. Generating a pool of dice based on stats(typically 3-5 dice), you divide your dice into attack and defense dice, regardless of whether you initiated the attack or not, and roll at the same time. You compare your attack to your opponents defense, and vise-versa. This rock/paper/scissors gamble adds a simple dynamic that keeps every combat fresh.
Players counterattacking keeps play from ever becoming dull for the inactive player. There is no “wait 45 minutes for your opponent to move every model in their army.” Turns take 2-3 minutes and there’s a good chance you will be rolling for something on your opponents turn.
The dice in Bushido aren’t always taken at face value. When you roll dice, you take the highest dice for each type(attack and defense) at face value, and add +1 for up to 2 additional dice, as long as they are not face valued at 1. The difference between your opponents dice and yours is then taken and rolled on a damage table.
This makes every roll count. In most games, if your opponent is rolling 5 dice, and you only have 1, you’ll just remove your model from the table because it was going to die anyway. In Bushido, a single defense die rolling a 6 can stop an average attack roll in its tracks. I’ve found “big hits” in Bushido typically fall between 3-4 damage, which isn’t enough to one shot the majority of models. It also makes it that much more rewarding when you do wipe your opponents model off the board with a single blow.
Every combat in Bushido matters, and you’re never out of the game.
There are a lot of traits, abilities, special attacks/defenses in Bushido. This can be overwhelming to new players as it is a lot to learn. But each faction carries its own play style and access to abilities. This means playing a different faction yourself, or even playing against a different faction than you are used to requires you to find a whole new set of strategies. This diversity keeps the game engaging for a community for a longer time period than most games cycle out. With 11 factions, and sub-factions within each, our playgroup rarely plays the same list twice. It’s this depth of experience that keeps the game fresh, as we slowly begin to master the rules.
One of the frustrating aspects as a new player was models not performing the way I expected them too. You hear samurai shark, and a certain play style pops into your head. Every time I put the model on the board, however, it never felt like it got the best of anyone in combat. Over time, I learned how to prepare the rest of the warband so the shark could deliver the big strike I always wanted.
This seems to be the case with a lot of models. Just because they don’t perform the way you expect them to, doesn’t mean they can’t perform. Every model in the bank can make a performance, but you have to play to their strengths.
Tactical puzzles, depth that keeps on growing and a great team behind it all. GCT have a major success on their hands with the release of Risen Sun. It’s too bad it didn’t get the full convention showcase this year after the unveiling last summer. That just means there will be more great material to show of when conventions start back up.