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We played the three game campaign described a few posts ago. Simon took the role of the protagonists, with Greg and I alternating playing the changing cast of foes. This was a full test of the v18 Flashing Steel rules, without exceptions, transposed into a Japanese setting to see if it would work.

Interestingly, Simon had no use for the Swashbuckling rules. They just did not come up as a likely set of actions for these particular heroes to employ. This is a good finding as it fits our intention that the rules should be modular and about introducing (role-playing) choices. They were there but not mandatory, and on this occasion the drama of the game did not falter for the lack of them.

All the Special rules worked as anticipated, though we bumped up against (yet) again the truth that core Songs is a very grainy system. The difference between Q4 and Q3 is great. Throw in a Q2, as Simon is wont to do as he hails from the camp that believes in the myth of the Samurai superhero, and you have a very difficult to beat model. Ultimately, Greg managed it by ganging up on him – and this too is the correct finding.

Ultimately, all of these findings confirmed Flashing Steel as a working narrative war-game system. We told each other great stories about heroes, in other words.

Game one wrapped up with lightening quickness. Simon’s men sprinted to the General’s pavilion in a string of great activation rolls. To get the message delivered he had to make two Difficult Quality checks (one to go through the necessary politenesses, the second to actually tell the news that the attack must be delayed). Greg peppered the samurai with arrows, but since he was using true Japanese style and not aiming, had no effect. In a memorable moment, one of Simon’s men apologised and interrupted his conversation to the General in order to step to the pavilion door and calmly drop an attacker with a well aimed bow shot.

Game two looked more promising with the monks in a defensive posture around the gate of their sanctuary. Greg again populated the board with his latest acquisitions from the aquarium, and it looked great. When Simon’s men rode into the courtyard they were jumped on and assaulted with fanatical intensity. But the mounted Samurai hacked their way to safety. One of the monk teppo men discharged his arkebus, but alas, to no effect. The monks were slaughtered to a man, except for one who surrendered – don’t like his chances.

In Game three, the board was dense with broken ground in the form of a woody belt against sand dunes, and the cluttered streets of the village. All movement was reduced to short. Simon’s men had a harder time of this, compounded by the elusive movement of Greg’s troops, transmogrified at the eleventh hour from Ronin to Ninja (more cinematic). It was here that Greg managed to bail up one of the aggressors, surround him and finally cut him down. Elsewhere, horses baulked while trying to jump fences, and ninjas swarmed trying to separate Simon’s men into individuals so they could be dealt with. However, as the ninja casualties approached 50%, Greg conceded the game, set and match.

From a recurring story point of view, we now know that the original battle would have gone ahead, and would (doubtless) have been successful. Therefore, the clan that conducted the kidnapping has suffered a defeat, as well as having lost face for failing to bring their plot to completion. This must call for retaliation. On the protagonist’s side we have a death. A noble death, as Simon gravely observed, but a death, none-the-less. Therefore, should Simon ever wish to bring these heroes back into a new story, he will need to introduce a rookie and nurture him.