More Dystopian Legions Previews

Man oh man I’m going to be so broke. Damn you Spartan!

Empire of the Blazing Sun

“The lives of your men are a valuable currency, and only by care and prudence will they buy us our rightful place in the world. Use this wealth well, for Her Divine Majesty abhors the spendthrift.”

Tetsuo Kojima, High General of the Crucible Army, ‘Reflections on Military Life’, 1868

The junior officers of the Blazing Sun are well-versed in the combined arms military doctrine of the Empire’s Three Armies. They are well-trained with a combination of traditional battle techniques combined with the latest in military thinking from armies around the world. This has proven to be a particularly deadly combination.

The Empire’s military academies in Edo, Osaka and Niigata turn out classes of officer-graduates trained in these combined philosophies. These new officers then receive additional training from the ‘finishing schools’ of the Sword or Shield Armies, if they are assigned to a Division in one of these institutions.

During this additional period, officers of the Sword Army Divisions frequently receive more specialised tuition in offensive storming tactics. Conversely, Shield Army officers are often given extra training in defensive warfare techniques, such as creating trench-lines and effectively garrisoning fortifications.

Blazing Sun infantry battle plans typically rely on keeping the opposition off-guard with feints and deceptive thrusts. These are aimed at attempting to manipulate the enemy’s actions as much as to marshal the Blazing Sun commander’s own forces. Only when the enemy has been left totally unbalanced does the killing blow fall, the officers leading their troops to strike hard and fast with devastating force at the point of decision.

The field officers of the Blazing Sun are very flexible in their tactics. Blazing Sun infantry frequently adopt looser formations when carrying out general manoeuvres, the better to take advantage of cover and minimise casualties from enemy counter-fire, especially when advancing across open ground.

However, unlike the Americans, who also employ such tactics, Blazing Sun troops who come under attack will often choose to mount a ferocious blitz in response, sweeping aside their enemies with fierce short-ranged firepower and gas attacks.

Blazing Sun field officers are well versed in exhorting their charges onwards with timely forced marches, bringing the full strength of their forces to bear on the enemy’s weak points before a strong defence can be mounted.

Unlike other nations, the appearance of Blazing Sun field officers can vary somewhat. Some more traditionally minded individuals, notably those with samurai connections, go into battle in ancient regalia redolent of an earlier age. However, the majority of newer lieutenants and captains choose to dress in more modern uniform, often with styling modelled upon the fashions of foreign armies – a living embodiment of the Blazing Sun’s determination to secure its future as a great power in the Sturginium Age.

Tactical Use:
Blazing Sun Commanders place considerable importance in their Lieutenants, as their Ashigaru Sections do not have access to NCOs like their foreign equivalents.

This means that for these Sections to use Command Points to fight to their fullest potential they must stay near to their Officers. For this reason it is a good idea to keep your Lieutenant near your Mainstay Infantry – leading the charge from the front! However, remember to keep them close to their charges, to prevent dishonourable and unscrupulous enemies from picking them off!

Keeping your officers close to their infantry Sections also gives the Ashigaru access to the Lieutenant’sCommand Abilities. The Forced March Command Ability is invaluable when it comes to pressing the advance, whilst the Focus Fire Command Ability makes the Infantry’s weapons even more deadly, allowing them to totally annihilate their enemies at Effective Range!

The Blazing Sun Lieutenant is also a powerful warrior in his own right. Although not able to combat entire Sections by himself, by adding the firepower of his Kappon pistol to a Ranged Attack, or Charging in alongside the Ashigaru, his aid can often tip the balance in the Blazing Sun’s favour. His equipment can also give him the edge in honourable duels with enemy leaders, but be careful not to risk him too often in seeking such glory – his Command Abilities are too valuable!

“Though we command the power of many mighty machines of war in the service of Her Divine Majesty, always remember that it is still the humble Ashigaru who forms the beating heart of the Three Armies. By his skill and courage are battles won, ground held, and enemies kept at bay.”

-Tetsuo Kojima, High General of the Crucible Army, ‘Reflections on Military Life’, 1868

Many years ago, the term ‘Ashigaru’ or ‘Spear Carrier’, denoted a rather humble soldier in the armies of Japan. Not so in the Sturginium Age. The modern Ashigaru infantryman is a tough, highly trained and supremely motivated fighting trooper.

As with their large war engines, the infantry and light armoured forces of the Empire of the Blazing Sun represent a unique combination of an ancient martial traditional paired with some of the most cutting-edge weaponry in service anywhere in the world.

Although not wholly eschewing conventional rifles, most Ashigaru are armed with the Kawachi-Kanpon Type 4 automatic shotgun. Nicknamed the ‘Dragon’s Breath’, this fearsome drum-fed weapon fires a hail of shells filled with incendiary materials developed by the Imperial Alchemical Institute. The ‘Dragon’s Breath’ is very short-ranged compared to conventional rifles. However, within that distance, it is one of the hardest-hitting infantry small arms currently in service anywhere in the world.

The limited range is not normally an issue in the circumstances under which the Ashigaru are most often employed – namely, supporting more heavy armoured units in close terrain or urban areas. The Type 4’s burst fire and destructive projectiles make it very forgiving of being fired from the hip when the soldier is moving. This means it is perfect for the kind of hard-hitting assaults favoured by Blazing Sun military doctrine.

Like the Americans, the Blazing Sun military also favours high mobility warfare, but they prefer a far more aggressive approach. They are not berserkers, however, and attack with a great deal of cunning and foresight, making maximum use of terrain and environmental features to win out over their opponents.

Blazing Sun infantry attacks frequently consist of simultaneous assaults on multiple fronts. Some of these attacks will be feints, intended to draw the enemy’s attention away from the true objective at the key moment, allowing the true attack to break through.

The Ashigaru, like many other Blazing Sun units, also bring the most deadly of the Imperial Alchemical Institute’s offensive weaponry to the fore, in the form of poison gas grenades. Although infantry-issued gas bombs cannot match in any way the terrifying destructive power of massed gas bombardments by heavy artillery, they are certainly capable of causing localised panic amongst opposing infantry, light vehicles and gun crews. The insidious vapours give the Ashigaru a vital edge, especially against well dug-in or heavily armoured enemy troops.

Blazing Sun troops have traditionally fought in many areas where heavy armour has not played a key role. Although increasingly equipped with armour of their own, Ashigaru are taught to face enemy tanks without fear, even when lacking their own armoured support. Ashigaru sections almost always contain specialists trained in the use of the notorious Type 7 Rocket Projector.

Called the ‘Okha’ or ‘Cherry Blossom’, this tubular weapon projects a powerful explosive warhead capable of cracking open a tank or blowing apart a machine gun nest. Combined with the Dragon’s Breath and gas weaponry, this allows well-led Ashigaru to make short work of most opponents.

Tactical Use:
The Blazing Sun Ashigaru are at their best in a well-defined role: getting up close to the enemy, and letting rip with their mighty “Dragon’s Breath” shotguns!

These weapons, when in Effective Range, are the most deadly of the standard small arms currently employed by any nation’s Mainstay Infantry. However, their raw power is offset by their very short-range.

Therefore the main tactical focus for any commander is to get your Ashigaru into close range fire-fights with the enemy without taking too many casualties on the way in.

Thankfully, the Ashigaru go into battle with the best armour protection of any Mainstay Infantry, making them quite resistant to long range pot-shots by the enemy.

However, no matter how well protected, if a Section of infantry takes fire every turn it will quickly lose potency, and so making effective use of terrain and movement bonuses is vital.

Using their ‘Banzai!’ and ‘Double Time‘ Game Cards, Ashigaru Sections will soon make their way across the Game Board. Such speedy advances will quickly confound opponents who rely too much on hunkering down.

When they have closed to Effective Range, the Ashigaru should blaze away with their shotguns, brutally eradicating exposed targets. However if they find their enemy loitering behind Hard Cover, or a useful combination of Game Cards presents itself, a supported Charge using their Gas Grenades can be decisive.

“They are our hidden blades, invisible until the deathblow falls. They march with us unseen, bringing terror to the enemy, and reminding us of our duty. Honour and fear – they are worthy of both.”

Ashigaru Odo Hanamura to his troops, during the march on Havana, 1871

Wherever the armies of the Blazing Sun march, they are accompanied by teams of deadly Shinobi infiltrators. The guardians of an ancient tradition of stealth, spying and assassination, the Shinobi Houses of today are the personal servants of the Her Serene Majesty the Empress Shinzua, and their loyalty to the throne is absolute.

The Shinobi Houses serve as the Empress’ silent enforcers and secret service, both within the Empire of the Blazing Sun and beyond its borders. That they hold enormous influence is undoubted – one of the seats on the Empress’ Council of Seven is reserved for the de facto representative of the Shinobi Houses, known as the ‘Faceless Lord’.

However, none but the Empress Shinzua herself and her aged great-aunt and predecessor Empress Maya, know just how far this influence and surveillance extends – and this is just as it should be. To emphasise this, the Faceless Lord’s seat is perpetually left empty; a powerful symbol to the Council and visitors to its presence that the Empress’ deadliest servants could be anywhere, or indeed anyone – no one is beyond their scrutiny and, by extension Her Majesty’s knowledge.

The skills of the Shinobi are without a doubt, almost the last word in espionage and infiltration. Virtually no target, no location, no security measures, are beyond their ability to breach. Shinobi agents are even thought to have successfully infiltrated the inner organisations of nothing less than the Covenant of Antarctica.

However, given the extreme secrecy of both the Shinobi themselves and the near-unbroken silence of the Covenant in recent years, the truth about this potentially masterful feat of infiltration and whether or not it continues must remain a matter of conjecture.

Near-invisible and silent as death, Shinobi Strike Teams infiltrate hostile ground ahead of conventional Blazing Sun forces. There they will sow terror and discord, assassinating key personnel, ambushing unwary units and committing acts of sabotage that can cripple enemy forces even before they are brought to battle.

Once full combat is joined, the Shinobi continue their deadly harassment, picking off stragglers, shaping the battlefield with well-placed smokescreens to conceal friendly troop movements and generally creating chaos amidst the enemy’s lines with misdirection and confusion.

Shinobi are lightly equipped, as befitting their role as agile and deadly insurgency troops, armed with the traditional blades and other weapons of their deadly trade. Expert martial artists and unequalled in their ability to stalk targets and evade capture, the Shinobi have a reputation for almost supernatural skill in combat among foreign troops.

No enemy commander can sleep securely, and no sentry can afford a moment’s peace when fighting the forces of the Serene Empress, for the death’s shadow may fall over them in an instant in the form of a Shinobi’s deadly blades.

Tactical Use:
Shinobi Assassins are one of the most interesting and tactically flexible Sections available to any player in Dystopian Legions.

As you would expect from a ninja, the Shinobi are physically powerful, fast, hard to kill and blessed with an almost supernatural skill-at-arms. They also have some very influential Model Assigned Rules that allow them to manoeuvre around the Game Board with unparalleled ease – virtually invisible to the enemy. All in all, if you can get a band of Shinobi Assassins close enough to charge , don’t expect the enemy to last long!

However, Shinobi are worlds away from a simple blunt combat unit. They can be used in a great multitude of ways. If they want to advance with the Bulk of the force they can – using their Smoke Pellets Model Assigned Rule to support their comrades advance, laying Smoke Screen Markers that will impede the enemy’s fire.

If they want to go it alone that is an option too. Used with subtlety, they can cross the Board at high-speed to attack the more vulnerable elements of an opposing force. Playing their Special Game Card, Ninjitsu, they can even attempt one of their legendary assassination attempts and potentially take out an enemy Officer!

“He is as inscrutable as a statue, cold as an icy dawn – I doubt that anyone has ever named him a friend. Yet few are deadlier with a blade, and his deft plans and curt orders lead us ever to victory. For these reasons, I march with him gladly.”

Captain Kensuke Sato, on Master Kozo Okinawa

The senior officers of the Blazing Sun land armies are almost invariably Samurai – warriors who owe their loyalty to their superiors in a strong chain of command that reaches right up to the Empress herself.

As fighting men steeped in the traditions of bushido, many Samurai even in the Sturginium Age disdain most conventional modern firearms, preferring instead to take to the field armed with more traditional implements – the katana and wakazashi blades that are their most potent status symbol are also their most common war implements.

Master Kozo Okinawa exemplifies this tradition. The son of an ancient family whose antecedents go back centuries to the dawn of the old Shogunate, Kozo was raised practically from birth to eventually assume the mantle of high military office.

Though he came from considerable wealth, his upbringing was harsh, with virtually every waking moment dedicated to the study of swordplay, military philosophy from inside and outside the empire, and the core tenets of bushido by which he would live.

This intense and rigorous upbringing for such a singular purpose left little time for cultural pleasures or other distractions. While Okinawa’s martial expertise was beyond question even as early as his mid-twenties. He acquired a reputation as a bleak and joyless man, aloof and distant from even his most trusted colleagues. Nonetheless, his skill at arms assured him of rapid success in the field for which he spent so long honing his mind, body and spirit.

Holding the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel of the general staff of the Blazing Sun Sword Army, he is regarded with awe rather than affection by the soldiers under his command. A calculating rather than an inspiring leader, he treats his forces like the cogs of a finely-engineered machine, enacting his complex and subtle battle plans with the detached assurance of a chess grandmaster.

However, when the time is right for the enemy to fall, Okinawa enters the fray himself with the force of a stroke of lightning. A swordsman of fearsome skill, dressed in fine armour of traditional style but thoroughly modern materials, he transforms himself in an instant from shrewd tactician into steel whirlwind, scattering before him any enemy soldiers fortunate enough to avoid his killing blades.

But even those who escape death upon the end of his sword are not safe, for Okinawa, like many of his peers, is adept with the dread poison gas grenades so beloved by the Samurai of the Sturginium Age.

Okinawa is part of the Army of the Sword’s general staff, an adjutant and close ally of High General Uematsu himself, and a former staff officer to the infamous General Oni. He was transferred from the old Wani 3rd Division of the Sword Army only two months before Oni’s fatal mission to Singapore. Since that time, he has spent most of his postings with the Sword Army 5th Division, now based in the occupied Malay Peninsula and heavily engaged in fighting off Britannian counterattacks in the region.

Okinawa has relished testing his skill against the Britannians, and views the widening of the war with perhaps the greatest enthusiasm he has shown for anything in years – soon the whole world shall be an arena, where Kozo Okinawa can measure his skills against the best and brightest of the enemy’s military minds on the fields of honour.

Tactical Use:
Master Okinawa is quite possibly one of the most physically intimidating characters in Dystopian Legions – a great asset for a Blazing Sun forces, and a deadly opponent for their foes.

Although a superb Commander, he does not have any Command Abilities, though he still contributes to the Force’s Command Point Pool.

Although this may appear to be a disadvantage, it is more than compensated for by his battlefield effectiveness as a fighter. Okinawa is without a doubt one of the most powerful Characters out there for sheer combat ability. Leave the bulk of leadership to your other Officers, and use the Master as the warrior he is. Leading an Ashigaru Section charge, he will rip the enemy apart.

However, the Master is not just a deadly weapon in his own right. Rather than simply hacking up a few common line soldiers this character is a superb duellist. When Master Kozo Okinawa challenges an officer in the midst of a Melee, they have two equality undesirable options. Accept and face the mighty Master, or cower behind their own men, weakening their resolve as they do so.

Okinawa’s Special Game Card is perhaps his greatest asset, however. Playing The Divine Blow gives a great Melee bonus to every Section nearby. Using this card at the right moment can turn a losing battle around, or transform a close victory into an utter enemy rout!

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