Bakumatsu, Samurai

The Aburanokōji Incident

A Test of Honour game

The Shinsengumi was a police force raised by the Tokugawa in the dying days of the Shogunate to police Kyoto for anti-Bakufu extremists. The core of the unit was a group of swordsmen from a kenjutsu school owned by the Shinsengumi’s leader, Kondō Isami. The Shinsengumi sprang to prominence when they conducted a remarkable raid on the Ikedaya inn, killing and arresting several anti-Shogunate activists.

By 1867, splits were starting to occur. A group led by Itō Kashitaro left the Shinsengumi to form their own Goryō Eji group, taking with them some former pupils of Itō and the commander of the 3rd Shinsengumi squad, Saitō Hajime. The group gravitated towards the anti-Tokugawa faction and began meeting with activists from Satsuma.

Unknown to Itō, Saitō was reporting the group’s activities back to Kondō Isami. Either because he feared the group were plotting to kill him, or that they were planning to defect to the anti-Bakufu rebels, Kondō decided to act. Itō was invited to a party at Kondō’s residence where he spent a convivial evening. On his way home, somehwat the worse for drink, Itō was set upon by Shinsengumi and killed. His body was dumped at a cross roads in Kyoto along Aburanokōji (oil alley).

The rest of the Goryō Eji were presently informed that Itō’s body was lying in the street. Seven of them set out with a palanquin to recover the body. As they were putting the body in the palanquin they were ambushed by a large group of Shinsengumi. Four of them managed to escape, but three were killed.

The game:

Information on who the Shinsengumi attackers were is a bit murky, but I’ve assumed that the group included commanders Nagakura Shinpachi, Harada Sanosuke, and Saitō Hajime as well as Shimada Kai.

The seven members of the Goryō Eji start in the middle of a crossroads. The Shinsengumi start within charge distance in all 4 of the streets. I used 14 Shinsengumi. The Goryō Eji must try to get as many people as possible to escape, except Tōdō Heisuke and Hattori Takeo (the latter seemed not to have tried to escape). Any figure that ends a turn more than 8″ away from an enemy has escaped.

All of the Shinsengumi count as armoured as does Hattori Takeo. All are armed with katana, except Hattori Takeo who is armed with 2 swords, and Harada Sanosuke who has a spear.

Loss of nerve tests should only be taken if within 3″ (the action takes place at night, and otherwise everyone would be testing), or you could dispense with them altogether.

Shinsengumi spring the ambush

Suzuki and Mōnai are cut down along with 4 Shinsengumi

Shinohara and Tomiyama escape, but Hattori is killed by Nagakura Shinpachi.

Kanō, though wounded, manages to escape.

Tōdō is surrounded and cut down.

So, by the end 3 had escaped.


The Shinsengumi:

Name Attack Agility Strength Wits Honour Actions
Saitō Hajime 5 5 5 4 5 2
Nagakura Shinpachi 4 4 4 4 5 2
Harada Sanosuke 4 4 4 3 5 1
Shimada Kai 4 3 5 3 5
Others 3 3 3 3 4

The Goryō Eji

Name Attack Agility Strength Wits Honour Actions
Hattori Takeo 5 4 4 3 5 2
Tōdō Heisuke 4 4(+1) 4 4 5 2
Shinohara Tainoshin, Suzuki Mikisaburō,  Kanō Washio, Mōnai Arinosuke, Tomiyama Yahei, 3 3 (+1) 3 3 4 1


With Test of Honour there is a big difference between characters that have 2 actions and characters that have only one. This is fine if you’re playing ‘cinematic’ or ‘heroic’ type games, or even if you’re comparing professional warriors with unenthusiastic part timers in an age of mainly hand-to-hand combat. In this instance however, all the participants are capable swordsmen and it’s a bit too much of a gap between the 1-action characters and the 2-action ones. However, making them all 2-action may make it a very slow game, that’s 42 counters in the cup….

Alternatively they could all be single action characters, perhaps with a free dodge action per turn.

Shinsengumi figures are all from the excellent Bac Ninh Miniatures Boshin War range. The others are mostly Perry Miniatures.


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