The two families faced each other across the slowly blowing grass. The decades-old feud had finally come to this. Each of the five members of the Hozumi and Kiyozumi families prepared to end the other, staring across the small field with unrestrained hatred. But not all was as it seemed. A keen observer would see a different look in the gazes of the heirs of each family. The fires of hatred didn't burn in either Hozumi Koga or Kiyozumi Hinadori. Sorrow perhaps. Regret certainly and a deeper more primal desire, one that transcends the feud that engulfs the rest of their families. As the eyes of Koga and Hinadori met, the longing between them was obvious to all, but would it be enough to save them, or would they all die trying?
Bushido is a fantasy wargame by GCT Studios set in a fictional universe based around East-Asian myths and folklore, and later this year, it's getting a brand new two-player starter set. The set had a small prerelease at Adepticon, and we were lucky enough to be sent one by GCT Studios to review. In this review, we'll take a quick look at the Bushido mechanics, go through the Starter Set box contents, take a detailed look at the new starter set miniatures, and discuss who the set is for and who can use it.
What's Unique About the Bushido Wargame?
Bushido is a skirmish wargame, where players control a small number of individual heroes, rather than the huge armies of units that you find in traditional wargames.
Tactical Activation System
There are two core mechanics that make Bushido an interesting and tactical skirmish game. The first is the activation system. Units have three stages of activation: Unactivated, Tired, and Exhausted. When a unit activates, it can complete either a simple or a complex action. A simple action makes an Unactivated unit Tired, or a Tired unit Exhausted. A complex action makes an Unactivated unit Exhausted.
This gives you some flexibility in terms of how you control your units, and you don’t need to complete all of a single unit’s activations in one go. This means that you can activate a unit to simple action move, then your opponent activates a unit and you can then either activate the same unit again to simple action move or attack, or a completely different unit.
If a unit is attacked in melee combat, they take an action to defend themselves, with exhausted units suffering a modifier to their rolls. This means that you can swarm heroes and hard-hitting units with lesser units, soaking up their activations and making them exhausted before you move in for the kill with another unit.
Unique Combat System
The second core mechanic is the combat system. Combat in Bushido is risk/reward. When units engage in combat, both units attack and defend simultaneously. So even if your unit initiated the attack, it can still be damaged by the defender. Each unit has a combat stat, which details the amount of dice rolled when they engage in combat. These dice can be split between attack and defense however you choose, and the highest roll for each has to beat your opponent’s roll to hit them and dodge their own attack.
For example, if I rolled two dice, one for attack and one for defense, and got a three on both dice. Our opponent would have to roll three or more to defend against our attack, and three or more to beat our defense. Ties are decided by whoever rolled the most dice for the encounter and if that is a draw, the active player. the player whose model is making the action wins.
Up to two additional dice rolled, that aren't ones, can be used to add +1 to the dice roll. So three dice of two, three, and four in attack would add +2 to the highest roll of four to make six. If no dice are rolled for attack or defense, the roll is counted as zero. This dice mechanic means that you have to not only read your opponent’s intent but judge the odds for attacking. Do you go all-in for attack or defense, or spread the odds across both? It also makes attacking a risk, as you could fail to hit your opponent, but be dealt damage in return.
These two essential mechanics are what make up the core of Bushido’s rules. The depth of the game comes from the different abilities of the characters, Ki powers that some characters have, and the different attack and defense abilities of weapons. These add the detail and tactical elements to the game, and learning these for your own faction, along with those of your opponents gives you an edge in-game.
What's Included in the Bushido Two-Player Starter Set?
The new Bushido Two-Player Starter Set includes:
- Copy of the Bushido Risen Sun Rulebook (Risen sun is the latest edition of the game and this rulebook is also an up to date edition with the errata incorporated)
- Set of token sheets
- Ten brand new Ronin miniatures. Five for the Hozumi family and five for the Kiyozumi along with their unit cards
- Twenty-one cards (two themes, five events, and fourteen enhancements)
Each of the new miniatures comes with an associated enhancement card so that new players can play a basic game, with the rules printed on the character stat cards, before adding in the enhancement cards for additional complexity. It also allows for some storytelling and possible campaign play with some linked scenarios with the character gaining abilities as the campaign goes on.
The new miniatures are made in a brand new material for GCT who usually produce in metal. The two-player starter set miniatures are produced in resin, but they feel like an extremely detailed hard plastic. Most of the miniatures are single-piece, and just require clipping from the name sprue and attaching to their base. The ones that are multi-part have very clean connection points and are very easy to assemble. I'm a huge fan of the new material, and I hope this is a sign of things to come for GCT Studios' production.
How Do The New Bushido Two-Player Starter Set Miniatures Play?
Straight out of the starter set, it's designed to be played in a five vs five game using the two families. The two rice costs are slightly offset, with the Hozumi costing 67 rice (82 with all cards) and the Kiyozumi 71 rice (87 with all cards). This means you can organize a 75 rice cost game easily out of the box, or add in an additional unit to each family to boost it to a 100 rice game.
The Hozumi like their support abilities, mainly around boosting the young and in love Koga. Their theme and one of their events give them a ki boost at the start of the game to start powering up for some big abilities.
- Hozumi Koga - A decent samurai with ranged and melee abilities and a solid armor value. Can't attack his love, Hinadori, and if Hinadori is removed from play (regardless of which side they're on), Koga is removed from play at the end phase of the last turn, as they follow them into the next life.
- Hozumi Daihanji - The senior Hozumi has a decent enough melee pool with the ability to stun an enemy entering base to base contact with them. But they can also encourage a nearby friendly unit, boosting their melee or ranged pool.
- Hozumi Maha - A magic wielder with control abilities that can use ghost tokens as ki, or to reduce wounds. They also have a pulse ability that can draw ki tokens from all units and also causes a wound, with a range determined by the number of ghost tokens they have.
- Taiyo - Slow and not very useful in combat, but reduces all equipment cards bought for the warband by 1 and can also remove a reload marker from a unit they're in base to base contact with, which allows Koga to shoot every turn if Taiyo can keep up.
- Ryokeen - The family's loyal pet. Fast and decent in combat, and made even better with their co-ordinated attack Hozumi ability. They have access to one of two nurture enhancements, Dark and Bright. Dark gives them fear 5 and can boost their weapon strength by taking damage and Light gives them a one inch move each starting phase
The Kiyozumi love their victory points and their theme makes it easier to kick their scoring off along with their Swordsmanship event which gains them points for succeeding in attacks with Kenmeina and for your opponent failing attacks with Koga.
- Kiyozumi Hinadori - Where Koga is a warrior, Hinadori is very much a healer. They can heal two wounds on a model they're in base-to-base contact with for a simple action or spend ki to do it at range. Like Koga, if their love is removed from play, they gain Vengeance, which still makes it difficult to attack with them, and they're also removed from play during the end phase of the last turn.
- Kiyozumi Sadaka - The senior Kiyozumi is surprisingly fast and armed with a naginata with reach. For one ki, they can drain three ki from an enemy within eight inches, which they can use to power their Shroud aura ability that blocks line of sight.
- Kiyozumi Haiboku - An effective archer that gains two reload tokens, which can be a pain to remove. They're not very effective in melee, but they do have bodyguard Kiyozumi to protect other nearby units, and their Nuki Do ki ability makes them much better in defense.
- Kiyozumi Kicho - An effective covert operative with access to camouflage and assassin through ki feats and combo attack as standard. Kicho can go full ninja with the Accepted into the Shadow enhancement which is well worth the two rice cost.
- Kenmeina - A very dangerous unit with the Swordsmanship event as they are very effective in combat and with the ability to gain an additional activation counter each turn, and armour 2, they can cause havoc amongst weaker enemies and hold their own with powerful fighters.
Where Do I Go After The Bushido Two-Player Starter Set?
The Bushido two-player starter set contains ten ronin units that can be used with various other factions. What factions each miniature can be used with is listed on the back of each unit's stat card. Each faction has access to at least one of the units in the starter set, with some having more, like the Temple of Ro-Kan which has access to four. This means that no matter what faction you play, you'll be able to use a least one of the units, and within the theme cards, all of them.
When using the two starter set themes, you have to select a faction to begin with, as Ronin can't be selected as a faction, but which faction you select won't have any effect as the theme card limits to only Ronin units. As a result, picking up some more Ronin units will help flesh out both warbands to 100 rice. The Grey Pilgrim is a very easy eighteen rice cost unit to add to the Hozumi, which would take them to 100 rice and adds a solid melee and ranged fighter. Or a couple of Kami to push out in front of Maha in order to sacrifice to gain more ghost tokens. For the Kiyozumi I like Hiretsuna for some hard-to-attack objective capturing, which would also give you some extra points to add some equipment from the Ronin Special Card Deck, which would benefit both families in the starter box.
What Are Our Final Thoughts on the Bushido Two-Player Starter Set?
As an established Bushido player, I really like the new starter set. With the updated rulebook and tokens, and the awesome new resin miniatures, it's great value. There are some very interesting games playable out of the box.
I would have like to have seen a three-part campaign, possibly as an onboarding tutorial for new players, building up the available forces and introducing rules with a final five vs five showdown between both full families. Experienced players will be able to produce their own multi-stage campaign, but this is a great opportunity to make it easier for new players. This could also have been tied in with a paper gaming mat and a couple of small pieces of card or MDF scenery to really make the set pop for new players. This would obviously increase the cost of the set, and the complexity of production.
The set as it stands is a solid production, and GCT has capitalized on the chance to test out a new material and also update the physical rulebook, all packaged together with some very interesting unit profiles.
Should I Buy The Bushido Two-Player Starter Set?
If you're a brand new player looking to get into Bushido with this set, then this is a perfect place to start. It allows you to test out the rules, mechanics, and unit abilities without committing to a faction. Once you've seen how it all works, you can look into the different factions available with an understanding of how you might like to play and you'll still be able to use all the units from the starter sets in their own family themes, or at least one of the unit in your new faction.
Existing Bushido players will have the value of the set determined by the factions that they play. If you play only one faction, and you don't want the corresponding unit from the starter set, then this might not be for you and if you want the updated rulebook, it should be available separately later in the year when the starter set is released. If you play several factions, then the value improves drastically. Both families are still entirely playable out of their themes, so if you already have some Ronin units, you'll be able to make two working lists straight out of the starter set.
The Bushido Two-Player Starter Set used to produce this article was provided by GCT Studios.