TGN Review: GCT Studio’s Bushido: New Dawn rulebook

Bushido, by GCT Studios, is a fantasy skirmish game that draws its influence from many different Far Eastern sources. The Jwar Isles, where the game is set, consists of many different groups all vying for power. Which one will you command to glory?

GCT has recently released the first full rulebook for the game. The book is the culmination of several years of work, including what was essentially over a year as an open beta with the rules available online. The rules are still available online, but now players can hold an actual rulebook in their hands (something I know I’ve been looking forward to for some time).

In this TGN review, I’m taking a look at the new rulebook. Is Bushido the new master, or just a lowly student?

As-mentioned, Bushido is a true skirmish game. The standard-sized games are between 35 and 50 rice (as the points are called in the game) and your average model costs generally 5-7 rice. So in a big game with a lot of low-cost models, you may have 10 models on the board or so. Most of these models are characters, representing specific individuals, each with their own unique abilities that they bring to the table.

The game follows an alternating-activations style where one player will activate a single model and when they are done with that activation, their opponent will choose a model to activate. During a turn, models will change condition from Rested to Tired to Exhausted (or in some cases, directly from Rested to Exhausted if they choose to do a complex action). Play passes back and forth until all players’ models are exhausted, after which a new round starts.

The combat system in the game is somewhat reminiscent of the one used for Confrontation in that a model’s combat dice is split into attack and defense. The difference lays in the fact that this is done in secret. Your opponent doesn’t know how many attack dice your model is going to roll or how much they’re going to spend on defense. When both players have chosen, all dice are rolled at the same time. The player with the model that has initiative (usually the player who activated the model attacking, though some special rules give the defender the initiative in combat) chooses the die that rolled the highest and can add in +1 for up to two other dice that they rolled for attack that didn’t roll a 1. A 6 is worth an extra +1 (so a roll of 6, 6, 3 would be worth 9. 6 + 2 + 1). This is compared to the defender’s defense dice (also using the same bonus for extra dice and 6s). If the defender’s total is higher, they defend the attack. If the attacker’s is higher, than you note the difference between the two numbers. That is the Success Level of the attack and corresponds to a specific column on the Wound Chart. The attacking model then rolls 2d6, adds in any special modifiers for weapons or special attacks, and goes to the row on the Wound Chart equal to the total. Where the row and column meet indicates how many wounds are done to the other model. Then, if the defending model is still alive, the roles are reversed and the defender totals up their Attack dice and checks it versus the attacker’s Defense dice. In a every combat it is possible for both models to take wounds.

Even more tactics can be found in the use of Ki. Ki is the magical energy that most models create. Ki is gained, automatically, at the start of every round. This Ki can accrue over time if not used (up to a maximum that’s different for each model). Ki can be spent to boost a model’s movement or combat abilities or it can be used for “Ki Feats” which are special spells or miraculous abilities a model may possess. How a player utilizes a model’s Ki is a big factor in how effective it is on the battlefield.

Had enough yet? Tough, there’s more. Models also have special attacks or defenses they can use in combats. These special abilities come at a cost of dice from a model’s melee dice pool (which could then potentially be replenished by spending Ki). These add even more tactics a model can use in combat.

All of these together make Bushido a very deep game in terms of strategy. Different players can utilize the same model in vastly different ways depending on how they choose to spend their Ki or use special attacks and defenses or even just when they choose to activate the model during a turn or how they allocate their attack and defense dice.

Now, on to the specifics of the rulebook, itself:

So the first thing I noticed when I picked up the book is that it’s heavy. At 125 pages, it’s pretty standard for a minis rulebook. But even though it’s a paperback, it just feels… heavy to me. I’m not really sure why.

The next thing I always look for in a good rulebook is a good table of contents and a good index. Having 125 pages of content is nice, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, it’s fairly pointless as you futilely flip back and forth between all of them trying to get the bit of information you want. The Bushido rulebook has both, but even more than that, at the back there’s also a Rules Reference Sheet. It’s basically a “cheat sheet” for all the things that could modify an attack roll and it also has another copy of the Damage Chart for when wounding other models.

The layout of the book puts the rules about 2/3 of the way into the book, first giving us an overview of the world of the Jwar Isles and then some more details about various places and people that inhabit that world. The rules, themselves, follow a logical progression and are fairly easy to follow. After the rules there are 6 scenarios for you to use when playing Bushido. Including scenarios for the game is always a big plus for me, as it means right away you have several different ways to try the game out, helping keep encounters fresh, even using the same forces against the same opponents when starting out.

If there’s one criticism for the book, it’s that it doesn’t include any model stats in it. It would have been nice to see at least rules for the models that come in the various faction starters inserted into the book. The stats are available online on the company’s website, but then again, so are the rules.

Another confession time for me: I love the hell out of Bushido. It’s currently my favorite miniatures game. I seem to be on a run of “review my favorite games” here on TGN, but there we are, then. I was very excited when we started carrying them here in the warehouse, as it meant to get new releases, I could just walk out of my office, into the warehouse and pluck it off the shelf. I’m thrilled to get to meet the guys behind the game at GenCon in just over a month.
I do hope you still find the review helpful and that my confessions of love for the games I’m reviewing don’t diminish how useful or honest you find them.

Oh, and we’ve got a giveaway for this one.
GCT has offered a free copy of their New Dawn rulebook to one lucky winner of our TGN drawing. How do you put your name in the hat this time?
Hmm… how about you post your thoughts on the review, plus your favorite Kung Fu movie.
Personally, I love Kung Fu movies. 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Half a Loaf of Kung Fu, Drunken Master, even the two Kung Fu Panda movies. I’ve got them and more at home (including one of those “50 movie packs” that a family member gave me for Christmas one year).
So what’s yours?
For me… hmm… I’d say a 3-way tie between 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Druken Master and Heroes of the East.