SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play ©2011 GMT Games, LLC GMT

SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play ©2011 GMT Games, LLC GMT
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
GMT Games, LLC
P.O. Box 1308 • Hanford, CA 93232–1308 •
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
2. Victory Conditions
Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Weekly Cycle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
The Tokugawa player wins instantly if Ishida
Mitsunari (shown on the right) is killed or
Toyotomi Hideyori (the gold-colored disk
shown in 3.4) is captured. The Ishida player
wins instantly if Tokugawa Iesayu (the black
Leader block shown in 3.2) is killed. If both
sides win instant victory in the same battle,
the Ishida player wins.
Combat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
2.2 Victory Points
Victory Conditions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Locations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Game Pieces . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Initial Setup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
2.1 Instant Victory
Special Rules . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Historical Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Design Notes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Ishida Mitsunari
Victory points are counted if the end of week 7 is reached with
no instant winner. Players score two points for each castle and one
point for each Resource Location. The higher total wins the game.
A tie in victory points is broken in favor of the Ishida player.
3. Game Pieces
1. Introduction
Sekigahara is a 2-player game depicting the campaign in the year
1600 that founded the Tokugawa Shogunate. One player assumes
the role of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the most powerful daimyo in Japan. The other becomes Ishida Mitsunari, champion of a warlord's child
heir. Each leader assembled a coalition of daimyo and fought a
7-week contest for control of Japan. The war was decided at a
crossroads called Sekigahara, where disloyalty and defections turned
the tide of battle from Ishida to Tokugawa.
A complete game of Sekigahara includes;
•1 22x34 inch map
•1 and 1/2 sheets of stickers
• 96 rectangular blocks (48 gold and 48 black)
•2 gold disks
•1 square block
•2 decks of cards (one for each coalition)
•2 draw bags
•2 reference cards (identical)
• this rulebook
If you have any questions or comments about the game or its
components, you may address these to GMT Games ([email protected], or you can post a message to the Sekigahara discussion board on or
3.1 Colors
Tokugawa pieces are black, Ishida pieces are gold. Blocks on the
board should be aligned so that only the owner can see each block’s
3.2 Blocks
Each block represents roughly 5,000 warriors. Each block corresponds to a single daimyo (leader), whose mon (symbol) appears on
the block. The historical name of that daimyo can be found on the
cards that have corresponding symbols. The strength of the block
is the number (1–4) of mon printed on it.
Sample Ishida block
Sample Tokugawa block
3-mon block
(from the Uesugi clan)
2-mon block
(from the Maeda clan)
Some blocks also have attached gun or cavalry ability, indicated by
a gun or cavalry stencil.
Applying the Stickers
Apply the gold-colored Ishida Mitsunari labels to the
gold-colored blocks; and apply the black Tokugawa Ieyasu
stickers to the black blocks. All blocks and disks receive
only one sticker except the square Turn Track block which
receives a black and a gold sticker. There are no stickers for
the small cubes.
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
Some blocks represent a daimyo (leader). These are marked with a
nobori (banner). Most nobori have a single dot, but the protagonists of the campaign, Ishida Mitsunari and Tokugawa Ieyasu, are
marked with nobori of three dots.
Single dot
Leader block
Ukita daimyo
Three dot
Turn Marker: A flat square with the Tokugawa mon on one side
and the Ishida mon on the other is used to mark the turn, the move,
and the player who moves first this week.
Front side
Leader block
Tokugawa Ieyasu
3.3 Cards
Cards represent the allegiance of each player’s armies. The greater
the number of cards in a player’s hand, the greater the support of
his troops. Cards are used to bid for Initiative (6.3), to move (7.2),
Force March (7.3.3), and deploy units for battle (8.2.2).
This daimyo's blocks may
deploy into battle
Back side
Cubes: Black and gold cubes are used to represent control of the
resource areas on the board. Cubes are also used to track Impact
delivered during a combat, on the Impact chart.
Board: The board represents central Honshu, the largest island of
Japan, where the majority of the fighting took place. The board
contains the map and the locations in play, the Impact track, the
Turn Track, and the Recruitment Boxes.
Swords indicate a Special Attack ability
Daimyo's name
Setup Information
Initiative bid number
Six gold Ishida blocks
with the square setup
symbol start here
Each side has a deck, and will use only that deck for the duration
of the game. When the game begins, shuffle both decks and place
them face down to form two draw piles.
All discards and card plays are public (played face up) at the
time they are played. Discard piles cannot be examined by either
Two gold Ishida blocks
randomly drawn are
placed here
When a card draw pile is expended and the player must draw a new
card, shuffle the stack of used cards to make a new draw pile.
3.4 Other Components
Disks are units that can be destroyed like a block, but cannot
move or fight. There are two disks in the game, each attached to
a castle.
Toyotomi Hideyori
(see 9.1)
Sanada Masayuki
(see 9.2)
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
Indicates the
Toyotomi Hideyori
disk starts here
Capital and
also a Resource
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
4. Locations
4.3 Castles
4.1 Locations in General
A location is a place on the map (typically a city) connected by roads
to other locations. It is represented by a circle, and may include a
castle. Any number of blocks may occupy a location. Blocks on the
map begin and end every turn in a location.
4.2 Resource Locations
Resource Locations are wealth-producing zones, popular trade routes,
and other important regions. Together they loosely represent the infrastructure of the nation.
Resource Locations are red (regular locations are white). The last
player to move a block onto or through a Resource Location controls that location. Use a cube to indicate control. Until a Resource
Location is first claimed, it is owned by neither player. Resource
Locations provide one victory point at the end of the game (2.2)
and bonus recruitments during the Reinforcement Step (6.2).
Castles are attached to locations on the board. Each castle has a
natural alignment with Ishida or Tokugawa, indicated by its color.
Castles are controlled by a player if he has blocks at that location
and his opponent doesn't. If neither player has blocks present, the
castle reverts to its natural alignment. During a siege, the castle is
controlled by one player and the location attached to it is controlled
by the other. Whoever controls the most castles during the Reinforcement Step receives one additional card (6.2).
4.4 Recruitment Boxes
Each player has a Recruitment Box. At the beginning of each week,
new blocks are placed in these boxes. During the week, players may
Muster (7.2) these forces onto the board. The Ishida player also has
a Mōri box, from which Mōri units can enter Osaka (see 9.3).
4.5 Capitals
Two Locations, Kyoto and Edo, are capitals. They begin the game
affiliated with Ishida and Tokugawa, respectively, and are framed
in corresponding color. Capitals are Resource Locations and supply
a Leadership Movement Bonus (7.3.4).
The diagram above shows the starting setup. Randomly drawn blocks are depicted with a question mark.
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
5. Initial Setup
5.1 Procedure
• Set the turn counter to Week 1.
• Shuffle the two decks separately.
• Each player draws 5 cards from his deck. (This small starting
hand represents the limited organizational capacity of each army in
the early stages.)
• Separate the blocks with geometric shapes in the lower right
corner, and mix the remaining blocks into two draw bags (one
for each color).
• Place blocks on the map as described in rule 5.2. All blocks are
placed so that only the owner of the block can see its identity.
Exception: The 5 blocks in the Mōri Box which remain face up.
5.2 Place Blocks
5.2.1 Blocks with Specific Locations
• Each player draws 5 cards. The player who controls the most
castles draws a 6th card.
• Each player draws from their bag a number of blocks as written
on the reinforcement track on the board. (Two blocks in weeks 2,
3, and 4; one block in weeks 5, 6, and 7.) The player who controls
more Resource Locations draws an additional block. (In the case
of a tie for most Resource Locations, both players draw an extra
• Place the blocks drawn in the player’s Reinforcement Box.
Skip the Reinforcement step on the first week of the turn, as both
players already have their starting cards and blocks.
6.3 Turn Order Step
Each player bids for turn order by placing a card from their hand
face down on the table, and they are simultaneously revealed. The
player whose card has the higher number in its bottom corner is
the winner.
Place the blocks which have a geometric shape in the lower right
corner on the map in the Locations that have the matching symbol.
One block appears on the board for every symbol printed on the
map. Note that 5 Ishida blocks have symbols matching the Mōri
box, where these blocks begin the game.
The winning player chooses who will move first for both turns in
the present week. Place the Turn Marker on the Turn Track, on the
“A” space with the color of the first player face up.
5.2.2 Randomly Placed Blocks
6.4 Turns A and B
After placing the designated blocks, mix all the rest into two draw
bags, one for each player. Then fill the locations that are indicated
for random blocks. These locations are designated on the board
with a +1, +2, or +3 symbol. The number indicates the number of
blocks that should be drawn at random from a bag and placed there.
Before drawing these blocks from the bag, the player must specify
for which location on the board they are being drawn.
5.2.3 Reinforcement Blocks
Add the first wave of reinforcements. Each side draws four blocks
from their bags and places them in his Recruitment Box.
6. Weekly Cycle
The game is played in seven weeks, each of which contains two turns
(A and B). Each week of the game includes the following steps, in the
order listed below.
6.1 Turn Sequence Outline
Both players must discard the card they played.
Each Weekly Cycle consists of two turns—A and B. Each turn
consists of the First Player conducting Movement and Combat, followed by the Second Player conducting Movement and Combat.
When Turn "A" ends, move the Turn Marker to “B” and play the
“B” turn. The player who was first in the “A” turn is also first in the
“B” turn.
After the “B” turn, advance the Turn Marker to the next week and
begin the Weekly Cycle again. After 7 weeks the game is over.
Turn A:
First player Movement Phase
First player Combat Phase
Second player Movement Phase
Second player Combat Phase
Turn B:
A. Reinforcement Step (6.2)
B. Turn Order Step (6.3)
C. Turns A and B (6.4)
6.2 Reinforcement Step
Advance Turn Marker to the next week space. If already on Week
7, the game is over.
Each player receives new cards and blocks, as follows:
First player Movement Phase
First player Combat Phase
Second player Movement Phase
Second player Combat Phase
• Each player discards half of their hand (rounding in the player's
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
7. The Movement Phase
7.3 Movement
7.3.1 Movement in General
7.1 in General
During the Movement Phase a player may move none, some, or
all of the stacks of blocks they control on the board. A stack is all
of the blocks in a single location. The number of stacks that can be
moved is determined by the number of cards spent for movement.
Mustering and Overruns can also occur in the Movement Phase.
CARDS FOR MOVEMENT: At the beginning of the Movement
Phase, the active player discards either zero, one or two cards from
his hand to permit the following degree of movement:
• 0 cards—No Movement: No stacks may move. Any number of
cards may be discarded from the hand and replenished.
• 0 cards—Minimal Movement: One stack may move or the player
may conduct a Mustering action (7.2).
• 1 card—Limited Movement: Three stacks may move. In lieu of
one of the moves the player may conduct a Mustering action.
• 2 cards—Total Movement: Every friendly stack may move and
one Mustering action may be conducted.
The player then proceeds to make the moves allowed by that decision, moving stacks in any desired order.
The source of a move is a single location. From that location, all of
one player’s blocks (that did not Muster that turn) may be moved,
up to the limits as set forth below. Blocks move along roads from
one location to another. Blocks which begin the phase together
need not travel on the same roads, nor finish their move together.
Movement must follow these restrictions:
• No block may be part of more than one move per turn.
• A stack must complete its movement before another stack may
• No road segment may be traversed by more than one stack per
Movement Phase.
7.3.2 Movement and Enemy Units
Moving blocks must stop when they encounter enemy units unless
enemy units can be Overrun (7.4).
7.3.3 Movement Distance
The Base Movement Rate is one location per move. This can be
increased by one location (+1) for each of the following cases:
Mustering is the act of placing blocks currently in the Recruitment
Box onto the map. A player may Muster at most once per turn. Under Minimal or Limited Movement, Mustering can occur instead
of one permitted stack move (i.e., one stack movement must be
foregone in order to execute the Mustering). Under Total Movement, Mustering can occur in addition to all stack movement.
• Highways: Blocks that make their entire move on a highway may
move +1 location.
• Leadership: Blocks that begin the move in the presence of leadership (7.3.4) may move +1 location.
• Force marching. Blocks that force march may move +1 location.
The active player may initiate a force march by discarding one
card from their hand. A force march applies to a group of blocks
that begin, finish, and move together. Only one force march can
be in effect for any given block at a time.
Movement Restriction: Mustered blocks may not move in the
same turn they are placed.
EXAMPLE: A stack that has Leadership, follows a Highway for its
entire move, and does a Force March, can move three extra locations.
7.2 Mustering
Where Blocks Arrive: Blocks can be Mustered only to Recruitment locations. Recruitment locations are locations labeled with
the mon (symbol) of a friendly daimyo. Recruitment locations are
color coded, black or gold.
Two Options: A player has two options on how to Muster as
described below:
A. The player may bring any (or all) blocks belonging to the same
daimyo from the Recruitment Box to a Recruitment location that
has the matching daimyo mon. These blocks must be displayed to
your opponent to prove that they match.
B. Alternatively, a player may Muster to any friendly Recruitment
Location a single block of any daimyo. In this case, the block need
not be displayed.
Mustering Into Combat: Blocks can be Mustered into a combat situation only if the combat was initiated by blocks on the
board—an attack cannot come from the Recruitment Box, but it
can be supported from there.
7.3.4 Leadership
Leadership increases the Base Movement Rate of a stack by one
location. Leadership can be a leader, a castle, or a capital (or any
combination of the three). If a player uses a leader for the increased
movement, the leader block must be declared to the opponent. If
a castle is used, it must be aligned (matching color) and controlled
by the active player. If a Capital is used, it must be a capital (Edo
or Kyoto) marked with the matching color.
7.3.5 Movement and Force Sizes
Large forces move more slowly than small ones. For every multiple
of four blocks a moving contingent exceeds, its movement capacity
is reduced by one location. Thus, movement capacity is decreased
(–1) at the 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th block (see chart below).
To each block’s movement capacity, apply a size penalty according
to the largest group in which it travelled during its move.
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
7.3.6 Movement Chart
The following chart summarizes movement and movement modifiers:
Base move:
1 location
Leadership Present:
All Highway:
Force March:
1–4 blocks:
5-8 blocks:
13–16 blocks:
9–12 blocks:
17+ blocks:
–4 (cannot move)
7.4 Overruns
7.4.1 Overruns in General
Overruns occur when a large force overwhelms a small force. An
Overrun can occur during Movement or after a retreat. Overruns
can also be caused by retreating blocks (see battles), Mustering
- Box (9.3). In order to
blocks, or bringing units from the Mori
Overrun an enemy force, the Overrunning player must have at
least four times as many blocks present as the enemy. The strength
of each block has no effect.
7.4.2 Overrun Procedure
Overruns are resolved immediately. (This applies regardless of
whether combat has been declared.) Overrun units are destroyed
and the victorious player suffers no casualties. If an Overrun occurs
during a move, the moving blocks may continue their move. Forces
already committed to battle in a location offer their strength to any
Overruns against their foes.
EXAMPLE: The defender has one block in a location. The Active Player
moves one stack consisting of two blocks into that location. He then moves
another stack with two blocks into that location. At that moment the
Overrun occurs, the defending block is eliminated and the active stack
may continue to move. The first stack contributed to the Overrun, but
has already moved and may not move again.
7.4.3 Overruns and Castles
Enemy units who control a castle cannot be Overrun. Furthermore,
forces within a castle automatically lend their strength to any Overruns occurring against a besieging force outside.
The Ishida player (gold blocks) plays two cards during his Movement
Phase to allow all his stacks to move. This allows him one Muster action
which he does first. He can muster one block of any designation to any
friendly recruitment location, or he can muster all blocks that match a
mon to the recruitment location marked with that mon. He cannot do
both. The blocks mustered may not take part in movement this turns and
are not shown in the example.
His other moves are depicted in the diagram above. For this example,
no cards will be played for Force Marching.
A. First he activates the location marked “A” in the diagram. Since this
space contains a friendly controlled castle, it qualifies for the Leadership
Bonus of +1 to movement. He sends all five blocks down the Highway
path. It can move two spaces (1 for the base move, 1 for the Highway,
1 for Leadership and –1 for 5-8 blocks). Note that if one block is left
behind the stack could move three spaces and reach Kuwana.
B. Next he moves stack B. Since stack A has used the highway between
Kyoto and Minakuchi he cannot use that road. (No road segment may
be used twice in a single Movement Phase). The move has to end in
Kyoto or the stack has to use a different route. He decides to end the
move in Kyoto.
C. The single leaderless block at C can move only one space.
D. The stack at D can move two spaces—a base of one plus one for the
Leadership block.
E. Stack E has the Leadership Bonus but cannot use the Highway
Bonus since its entire move is not along the Highway. It can move
two spaces.
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
8. Combat
8.3 Impact
8.3.1 Impact in General
8.1 General Rule
Combat occurs after all movement. Combat must be declared in
every location on the board where opposing pieces appear together.
These declarations are made one at a time, with combat resolved
immediately following each declaration. Combat will be a battle
or a siege, the latter if either of the forces is inside a castle. After
combat is resolved in a location, a new location is selected, until all
such locations are resolved.
Effectiveness in combat is measured in Impact. Impact is recorded
on the Impact Track using small cubes. Each side tracks their cumulative Impact separately.
8.3.2 Base Impact
The base Impact of a deployment is the number of mon on the
block. This can be from one to four.
8.3.3 Impact Bonus
8.2 Battles
8.2.1 Battle Procedure
Combat is resolved as a battle if neither force is inside a castle.
Deployments produce Impact. The side with the higher Impact is
winning the battle. All blocks involved in a battle remain concealed
until deployed.
The Active Player (the attacker) starts the battle by making the first
deployment. Next the defender can respond (see Initiative 8.5).
When the battle stops, the side which has delivered the most
Impact will be the winner. A tie in Impact favors the defender.
8.2.2 Cards and Deployment
Cards are used to deploy blocks into battle. Each card can deploy
one block. The card used to deploy a block must have the same
mon as the block. Cards and blocks with different mon cannot
be played together. Exception: Cards of all daimyo designations
may be matched to the sole Ishida block and the sole Ii block. As
a reminder, these blocks both feature a card-shaped rectangle in
the corner.
No card may be played, nor block deployed, twice in the same
Ishida block
Ii block
8.2.3 Deployment Procedure
The active player plays a card face up, and selects a block from
among his undeployed forces whose mon matches the card. The
block is indicated by placing it face up next to the main stack of
blocks. The card is placed face up on the active player’s side of the
board. The player counts the Impact of the deployment and adds
it to their total Impact on the Impact track
8.2.4 Initial Deployment of a Leader Block
A leader block deploys without playing a card if no deployments
have yet been made with a card by that side in the present combat.
Leaders who deploy without a card are immune from Loyalty
Challenge (see 8.6).
Add one point of Impact for each block of the same daimyo already
deployed (on the same side) in the present battle.
EXAMPLE: A player would score four Impact if he deployed a 2-mon
Tokugawa block into a battle in which he had previously deployed two
other Tokugawa blocks (the number of mon on the previously deployed
blocks has no effect).
8.4 Special Attacks
8.4.1 Cavalry and Gun Impact
Cards with a sword in the corner enable a Special Attack. When
used to deploy a block with a cavalry or gun symbol, an attack of
that type is launched. In a cavalry or gun attack, add two points of
Impact for the cavalry or gun, and another two points of Impact
for each block featuring that type of attack already deployed on the
same side in the present battle. If a cavalry or gun block is deployed
without a Special Attack card, do not count cavalry or gun points
towards its Impact
8.4.2 Double Cards
Double cards feature two identical mon
in each corner. Double cards allow the
deployment of one or two blocks, both
of which must match the mon of the
card. The blocks are deployed one after
the other. (The second block can thus
gain a +1 Impact Bonus for matching
the daimyo of the first.) Neither of the
blocks so deployed can initiate a Special
Attack. A double card used to deploy a
block that can match to any card (Ishida
and Ii blocks) loses its ability to deploy a second block.
8.5 Initiative
Initiative rests with whichever side is losing the battle. That player
has the opportunity to deploy blocks one after the other in order
to take the lead. Once he does take the lead, initiative reverts to the
other player. Initiative is passed back and forth between the players
until one player, who holds the initiative at the time, declares that
he will deploy no more blocks. When that happens initiative shifts
permanently to the other player, who may deploy as many more
blocks as he wishes and is able. When that player also declares he
is finished, the battle ends.
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
Once a player declares he is finished deploying, he cannot resume
deployments later in the battle. He may still play Loyalty Challenge
cards (8.6) against the other player’s deployments.
8.6 Loyalty Challenge cards
8.6.1 Procedure
Loyalty Challenge cards are marked with
a nobori (banner). They are played out
of turn, immediately after a deployment
by the opposing player, to challenge the
loyalty of the block thus deployed. If the
deploying player can show from their
hand another card capable of deploying the block just deployed, the block
remains loyal. The card shown to refute a
Loyalty Challenge returns to the hand of
the player that showed it. If the deploying
player cannot produce such a card, the
block turns sides, aligning instead with the player who played the
Loyalty Challenge. Move the block to the challenger’s side of the
battle. Count Impact for the block on the challenger’s Impact table.
When the battle ends, they revert to the former owner.
8.6.2 Loyalty and Special Attacks
Blocks which switch sides do not execute a Special Attack (8.4) at
the moment of their betrayal (even if indicated on the deploying
card) but can later contribute to Special Attacks for the side to
which they gave their loyalty.
8.6.3 Loyalty and Double Cards
A Loyalty Challenge card may be used to challenge the use of a
double card. Only one additional card must be displayed to refute
the challenge, even if two blocks deployed. If the challenge is successful, both blocks defect to the challenging side. The Impact bonus
(+1 Impact for matching the mon of the first block) enjoyed by the
second such block is still counted.
8.7 Losses
8.7.1 How to Determine Losses
After a battle both sides take losses according to the Impact delivered against them. Both sides lose one block for every 7 Impact
delivered by their opponent (always round Impact down). The losing
side in a battle loses one additional block.
EXAMPLE: A player wins the battle and had 5 Impact delivered
against him—he would lose no blocks. His opponent, who lost the battle,
had 9 Impact delivered against him—he would lose two blocks.
8.7.2 Selecting Losses
The attacker suffers damage first, then the defender. Players select
which of their own blocks to lose. First must be selected any blocks
which defected to his opponent, then any other blocks which
deployed, then any blocks which did not. The identity of the lost
blocks is revealed.
8.7.3 Effects of Losses
Blocks lost in combat are removed from the map and never return
to play. Keep defeated blocks on the side of the board, visible to
both players.
8.8 Retreats
8.8.1 Retreats in General
The loser must retreat thetr remaining force to a single adjacent location contiguous by road to the site of the battle (or castle [8.8.4]).
There is no limit to the size of a force which can move together in
retreat. Overruns do not apply prior to the retreat.
8.8.2 When the Attacker Retreats
The attacker must retreat to a location from which some of their
forces entered the battle (potentially a castle, but not an Off Map
Box) or if that is impossible to any other location. The attacker can
- Box (9.3).
never retreat to the Recruitment Box or the Mori
8.8.3 When the Defender Retreats
The defender retreats, if possible, to a location containing no enemy
units, and from which the enemy did not enter the combat location.
If there is no such location, the defender may retreat to any other
adjacent location contiguous by road—including a location from
which the attacker entered the battle and/or a location containing
enemy blocks (8.8.5).
8.8.4 Retreats into a Castle
A castle can harbor retreating units, if the battle took place in a
location with a castle. A castle is a valid retreat destination only for
that side which controlled the castle prior to combat. If a castle is a
valid retreat destination, the retreating player may leave up to two
blocks in it. If there are more blocks remaining, these must retreat
elsewhere, as a group.
8.8.5 Retreats into Combat
It is possible for a retreat to cause another battle (or Overrun). If
so, execute that battle immediately and resolve its consequences.
The retreating blocks are the attacker for this new battle. If the
retreating force enters an existing battle, the retreating blocks are
added to the forces in conflict. It is possible for a retreating force
to join a besieged force inside a castle and exceed, until the next
time combat is declared, the stacking limit of the castle (see 8.9.6).
This would in effect change the siege into a battle.
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
8.9 Siege combat
8.9.5 Siege Combat Restrictions
8.9.1 Sieges In General
Siege Combat has the following restrictions:
• No gun or cavalry Special Attacks may be counted.
• Loyalty Challenge cards cannot be played by either side.
When combat occurs in a location with a castle, it is possible that
one side will choose to remain inside the castle. If so, the combat
becomes a siege. For a force to remain inside the castle, it must own
the castle, and it must be two blocks or fewer. (Disks do not count
toward this limit.) The side that owns the castle is the side that had
unit(s) in the location first (before combat broke out).
8.9.2 Declaring Blocks Inside or Outside
Blocks can be inside or outside of the castle. The number of blocks
that can fit inside a castle is limited to two. When combat is designated, and not before, the side that owns the castle may choose
whether to be inside or outside of the castle. If outside—a battle
occurs; if inside—a siege. A force consisting of more than two blocks
must always choose to be outside. No blocks can remain inside if
some blocks are left outside. A force may elect to fight outside the
castle even if in a previous phase it elected to remain inside.
If the active player owns the castle and chooses to remain inside,
then no battle or Siege Combat occurs in this location this phase.
8.9.3 Disks
Disks are always considered inside the castle, regardless of the
disposition of the blocks. Disks do not count against the two block
castle limit. Disks are units that can be destroyed like a block, but
cannot move or fight. Only the results of a siege can affect the disk,
never a battle.
8.9.6 Besieged Blocks
Besieged blocks may not be moved out of the location containing
the castle. Blocks that are part of a besieging force may freely move
away from the site of the siege during their Movement Phase.
If other blocks enter the location containing friendly besieged
blocks then all blocks are counted in the battle. Any battle that
occurs in any location automatically includes all blocks in that
location, regardless of the presence of a castle.
8.10 Card Replenishment
Card replenishment occurs immediately after a battle, siege or Overrun is resolved (after losses and retreats but before any follow-on
battles generated by those retreats). After each battle or siege both
sides discard all cards they played during the combat and draw back
an equal number from their draw pile. Both sides also draw after a
battle, an additional card for every two blocks lost (round fractions
down). After a siege, the defending player draws one card for every
block lost. A card is not drawn for losing a disk.
8.9.4 Siege Combat Procedure
The attacking player holds the Initiative throughout the siege and
there is no limit on the number of blocks the attacking player may
deploy. The defending player plays no cards during a siege nor
does he deploy any blocks. Follow this procedure for each Siege
A. The attacker deploys (8.2.3) as many blocks as he wishes.
B. When the attacker is finished, damage is inflicted on the defending force. No damage is inflicted on the attacking force in
a siege. One defending block or disk is lost for every 7 points
of Impact (the attacker may deliver less than 7 points of Impact
in a siege, but the defender will not be harmed.)
C. The defender chooses which block(s) or disk to lose. The identity
of those is made public.
D. If all blocks and disks inside the castle are destroyed, the castle
falls and now belongs to the attacking force.
E.If all the defender's blocks and disk are not removed, then both
sides' blocks co-exist in the location. When this happens, the
side that owns the castle is considered besieged (8.9.6). Combat
must still be declared in such a location during every Combat
Phase the co-existence continues.
F. The defending player then draws one card for every block lost
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
In this example seven Ishida blocks attack six Tokugawa blocks. At this
point neither player knows the identity of the other’s blocks—blocks
are only revealed when deployed.
Since Ishida is the attacker he must deploy the first block. His first
deployment is the Mori Leader block, which can be deployed without
the need to play a card (rule 8.2.4). The single mon on the block gives
him an Impact of 1.
Since Ishida now leads in Impact the initiative changes to Tokugawa
who may deploy a block. He plays his Maeda cavalry block with a
Maeda Special Attack card (indicated with Swords on the card) giving him an Impact of 3 (1 for the mon and +2 for the cavalry).
Initiative now changes to Ishida. The total Impact count is currently
1 to 3 which the players should record on the Impact Track.
Ishida plays a double Ukita card that allows two of his Ukita blocks
to deploy. The first block earns 2 Impact and the second block earns 3
impact (2 for the mons and +1 for a previous Ukita block deployed).
Ishida’s total Impact is now 6.
Tokogawa counters by deploying a 3-mon Tokugawa block with a
Tokugawa card. His Impact is now 6 which ties Ishida’s Impact. Since
defenders win ties, 6 is enough to put him in the lead. The initiative
now changes to Ishida.
Ishida deploys a Uesugi block with a Uesugi card for 1 Impact. The
gun on the block cannot be used since the card has no Swords (which
indicate a Special Attack).
Tokogawa plays a 1-mon Tokugawa block with a Tokugawa card.
He earns an additional point for the previous Tokugawa block
deployed. The Impact score is now 7 to 8.
Ishida now deploys his Mori cavalry block with a Mori Special
Attack card. The Impact of this card is 4 (1 for the mon, +2 for
cavalry, and +1 for the previous Mori block deployed). The score
is now 11 to 8.
Tokugawa deploys a 3-mon Tokugawa block with a Tokugawa card.
The Impact is 5 (3 for the mon and +2 for previous Tokugawa blocks
deployed). The current score is 11 to 13 in Tokugawa’s favor.
Ishida has two blocks and two cards remaining but the mons do
not match so they cannot be used. Ishida declares that he is finished
with deployments.
Tokugawa similarly declines to deploy, because he has no more legal
Since neither player can deploy any more blocks the battle is over
with a Tokugawa victory. Each side loses one block for Impact and
the losing side (Ishida) loses another block for the defeat. Ishida
must retreat from the location.
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
9. Special Rules
9.1 Toyotomi Hideyori
Toyotomi Hideyori was the son of Toyotomi Hideyoshi,
the warlord whose death led to the Sekigahara campaign. He was 7 years old when the war took place.
The Toyotomi Hideyori disk is placed at Osaka
castle. If it is destroyed, the regent is captured and the game ends
in a Tokugawa victory. As such, it is the last unit lost in any siege
of Osaka castle.
9.2 Sanada Masayuki
Sanada Masayuki defended Ueda castle with tenacity and creativity, delaying a force of 38,000 under
Tokugawa Hidetada (Ieyasu’s son). As a result of the
prolonged siege, the younger Tokugawa missed the climactic battle of Sekigahara by several days.
A disk (labeled with the Sanada mon) is placed in the circle next
to Ueda castle before the game begins. It represents the cunning
of Sanada Masayuki. Any loss inflicted on Ueda castle in a siege
may destroy this chip instead of a block.
9.3 Mori Terumoto
- Terumoto was the most powerful
daimyo of Ishida’s coalition. Ishida feared
- in Osaka
being overshadowed and left Mori
with a high title but no active role. Some
- forces remained in Osaka with their
leader, others traveled into battle with his
son. Those that traveled felt their dignity insulted by Ishida’s treatment of their daimyo.
- forces declined to participate in the cliMori
mactic battle that ended in their coalition’s
defeat. Had MoriTerumoto
been made the
active commander of coalition forces, he
would have threatened Ishida’s primacy
severely, but the f ighting force deployed
would have been far more potent.
- Terumoto (the Mori
- leader) and
four Mori blocks—all marked with a triangle—begin the game
- Box. The Ishida player can bring these blocks
face-up in the Mori
into the game by sacrificing cards. For each card sacrificed (dis- block is
carded) during any Ishida Movement Phase, one Mori
moved from the Mori box to Osaka. The last block brought on is
- leader.
always the Mori
- Box, only removed.
No blocks are ever added to the Mori
These blocks cannot move on the same turn they arrive in Osaka.
If Osaka is attacked by Tokugawa forces, at the moment combat
- Box appear in Osaka and join
is declared, all blocks in the Mori
the battle.
9.4 Ii NAOMASA Red Devils
Ii Naomasa and his warriors, known as
the Red Devils, were some of Tokugawa’s
fiercest defenders. They were first to storm the
field at Sekigahara, though the honor was
designated for Fukushima Masanori.
The Ii clan has a single block, with four mon. It is the only 4-mon
block in the game. It begins the game with Fukushima’s forces in
Kiyosu. There are no Ii cards. The Ii block deploys in battle with
any card (except a Loyalty Challenge).
Game Design and Development: Matt Calkins
Playtesting: Lyman Moquin, Jason Arvey, James Pei, Jonas
Fang, Matt Amitrano, Jeff Paul, Karl Kreder, and Jonathan
Art Director : Rodger B. MacGowan
Package Design: Rodger B. MacGowan
Map and Block Art: Mark Mahaffey
Rules Layout: Neil Randall and Mark Simonitch
Proofreading: Neil Randall, Kevin Duke
Production Coordination: Tony Curtis
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
Historical Notes
Appearing like dew,
vanishing like dew—
such is my life.
Even Naniwa’s splendor
is a dream within a dream.
—Death poem of Toyotomi Hideyoshi
The story of Sekigahara begins with the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In perhaps the greatest career in Japanese history, he had risen
through a feudal system from the bottom of society to its very peak.
- supreme warlord and
Born a soldier’s son, he made himself taiko,
ruler of all Japan.
In 1598, at the age of 62, he was overtaken by illness. His heir was
a boy of 5 years, hastily declared an adult and anointed the new
- Before Toyotomi died he gathered the most powerful men
in Japan into two committees, balancing the power of each against
all others. Oaths were sworn to uphold the boy’s claim, and to leave
undisturbed the balance of power upon which he depended. With
these bare means, the best that could be constructed on short notice,
did Toyotomi hope to secure the youth’s passage to maturity.
In fact it took only two years for the tensions in this system to break
into open war. By the summer of 1600, two armies were rallied and
hurled towards each other, and the victorious Tokugawa Ieyasu
became Japan’s new master.
It had taken decades of warfare for Toyotomi and his predecessor
Oda Nobunaga to subjugate Japan’s belligerent fiefdoms. Their
prize was usurped in a campaign that lasted only seven weeks.
Tokugawa’s shogunate would rule Japan in peace for 15 generations, 268 years.
Ten years before the battle of Sekigahara, Japan’s present and future
lords stood together on a hilltop along the eastern coast. Toyotomi Hideyoshi, at the zenith of his power and abilities, met with
Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had become his lieutenant. Once comrades
under Oda Nobunaga, then enemies in battle, they were now allies,
- o- clan. Here on the hilltop, Toyotomi
united in victory over the Hoj
offered to Tokugawa a fateful proposition. In exchange for the 5
central provinces that Tokugawa’s family had known for generations, he offered 8 provinces eastward in Kanto, further from the
capital, uncultivated, and surrounded by unfamiliar enemies. It was
a daunting proposition, but Ieyasu accepted on the spot.
The day Tokugawa arrived in his new capital of Edo is still celebrated in that city, modern Tokyo. In 1590 it was a backwater, a
haggard castle rising from a swamp. But Ieyasu was more than a
warlord, he was an administrator of genius. From this damp village
in the Kanto he built an economic empire in the course of a single
decade. Ten years later, his annual income (2.5 million koku, manyears of rice) was more than double that of any other daimyo.
Toyotomi had meant to consign Tokugawa to years of fruitless
difficulties, while alienating him from the politics of the capital in
Kyoto. Instead, by giving Ieyasu a large and fertile fief he allowed
the emergence of a natural successor, a first among equals, in the
ranks of leading daimyo. After Hideyoshi died, eyes shifted to one
man; behind the system of fealty, Japan had a dominant power
waiting to emerge.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi was one of the most remarkable men in the
history of Japan. He rose through the ranks in the service of the
greatest warrior of his day, Oda Nobunaga. Ugly and low-born, he
was called ‘monkey’ by his detractors. But his talent was extraordi-
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
enemies that would shape alliances at Sekigahara. He once attended
a tea ceremony with daimyo Otani Yoshitsugu. Otani, who was
ill, left a drop of pus in the cup before passing it onwards. Other
participants were revolted as the cup reached their hands and they
were obliged to drink. To spare the man his agony, Ishida claimed
the cup out of order, drank everything in it, and apologized to all for
being so ‘thirsty’. Otani was astonished and grateful, and years later
would fight at Ishida’s side at Sekigahara. The opposite outcome
obtained when Ishida visited Kuroda Yoshitaka in Korea. Kuroda
was engaged in a game of go, and made Ishida wait. Incensed,
Ishida reported to Toyotomi that Kuroda cared more for go than
war. Kuroda was stung and never forgave the slight; in 1600 he
would be Ishida’s enemy.
nary. He came to be Oda’s most trusted retainer, pairing a series of
brilliant military successes with careful reassurances of complete
loyalty. One story still told today recalls Toyotomi warming Oda’s
sandals by keeping them against his chest. Toyotomi was always
careful to ask Oda’s direction in military matters, regardless how
unnecessary. And Oda delighted in Toyotomi’s prowess. Once,
seeing Toyotomi’s magnificent army, he remarked “His monkey
face has not changed, but who would dare call him monkey now?
Astonishing, indeed, is the way men’s positions alter.”
Toyotomi was a man of fine taste, but he could also explode into
rage at a slight. His elegant death poem, above, is one of the best
in the tradition. But bold indeed was the man who invited him
to tea in a cherry garden only to strip every blossom off the trees.
Ready to kill for such an insult, Toyotomi burst into the building
and saw a single cup of water in which was balanced one utterly
perfect blossom. Fury turned to gratification.
Rage like this could have geopolitical consequences. After fighting a campaign in Korea, Toyotomi received a Chinese emissary
expecting to be named emperor of all lands. When instead he was
acknowledged ruler of only Japan, he exploded and launched a
second war. It was also this anger, or perhaps a general deterioration of faculties, that inspired the killing of his own family. When
his preferred heir reached the age of two, Hideyoshi ordered the
death of his previous (adopted) heir, plus 29 of his family members.
By so doing he left his dynasty in the hands of a single 2-year-old
boy, completely vulnerable to disease or intrigues.
It was Toyotomi’s love of tea that launched his friendship with Ishida Mitsunari. Mitsunari became Inspector-General in Hideyoshi’s
army, but he was not a military man; he was a tea master. Hideyoshi
knew from personal reflection that someone tasteful enough to
perform a superlative tea ceremony had talents that could be turned
to other tasks. To him, rank and birth meant nothing; only talent
mattered. In Ishida he found talent, and he promoted it. Ishida did
indeed have other abilities. He became a skillful administrator, and
in time, a relentless intriguer.
Ishida is the man who would later lead an army to defend the
Toyotomi heir. In the Korean campaign, Ishida made friends and
Toyotomi was a man of such talent and character that he could
inspire loyalty through bold gesture. Many times in his career he
converted a deadly rival into a vassal through an act of disarming
courage or honesty. When asking his enemy Date Masamune to
submit, he revealed to Masamune the tactics he would employ
were they to fight, all while standing defenseless, having placed
his sword in his enemy’s hands. Date was amazed, and surrendered
his lands.
Bolder still, Toyotomi once travelled deep into Uesugi territory
undefended, to meet in person with his enemy Uesugi Kagekatsu.
Astonished by his courage, the Uesugi chose to become allies rather
than enemies.
What other men would have fought for, Toyotomi was given on
account of the strength of his character. To describe the heroic
impression Toyotomi made on his peers, historian Walter Dening
makes apt reference to a story about Hercules:
“O, Iole, how did you know that Hercules was a god?” “Because,”
answered Iole, “I was content the moment my eyes fell upon him.
When I beheld Theseus I desired that I might see him offer battle,
or at least guide his horses in the chariot-race. But Hercules did
not wait for a contest; he conquered whether he stood, walked, or
sat, or whatever thing he did.”
- clan in a siege, news came
Having once trapped the rival Mori
to Toyotomi that his lord and mentor, Oda Nobunaga, had been
murdered by one of his own supporters. Toyotomi wanted to rush
to the scene, but a departure would leave him vulnerable to attack.
- and explained the situaToyotomi presented himself to the Mori
tion. His courage spoke volumes, as did his indifference. Against
- preferred to decline combat as his
so bold a commander, the Mori
troops left the scene.
That moment was the greatest turning point in his career. Returning
to the site of treachery, he found and defeated the disloyal forces.
He had avenged the betrayal, and his recent successes made him
the preeminent warrior in Japan. It was he around whom the Oda
power structure now consolidated—even Oda’s son was happy to
follow Toyotomi. He had completed his rise; he was taiko.
Tokugawa Ieyasu, though of noble birth, rose from broken circumstances. He was separated from his mother at age 2, kidnapped at
age 6, and taken as a hostage at age 9. Perhaps as a result of these
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
events, emotion played little part in his character. He made his
decisions on rational grounds, regardless the emotional toll. When
they were implicated in a treasonous plot, he ordered the death of
his own wife and first-born son.
Like Toyotomi he found it necessary to diminish himself before the
rulers of the day in order not to rouse their suspicions. He took great
pains not to reveal his talents or his ambitions, but some noticed all
the same. An old enemy, Takeda Shingen, noted “Ieyasu cherishes
great hopes for the future... He won’t eat anything out of season.”
Unlike Toyotomi, who made a virtue of his vulnerability, Ieyasu did
indeed act with the overcaution of one who ‘cherishes great hopes’.
When he travelled out of his fiefdom he made elaborate escape
plans should treachery occur.
Beneath the deprecation and caution was an extraordinary mind.
His generalship was superlative. Once when fighting the Takeda
he found himself threatened with disaster. Having lost a battle, he
retreated with only a few troops to a nearby castle, his enemies in
pursuit. On arrival, he ordered the gates flung wide, bright torches
burnt outside the entrance, and a loud drum banged throughout
the night. When the Takeda forces arrived, they surmised Ieyasu
was planning an attack—rather than a desperate defense—and
declined to give battle.
Tokugawa served most of his life under the leadership of his two
great predecessors, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Only
when these warlords died, having unified the nation but failed to
provide an heir, did Tokugawa reap the fruits of their labors. An old
story explains it thus: Oda Nobunaga makes rice cakes, Toyotomi
Hideyoshi cooks them, and Tokugawa Ieyasu eats them.
How much of Tokugawa’s success, then, was owing to good fortune?
Certainly he benefitted from circumstance. Several of his rivals died
at convenient moments: not merely Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi
Hideyoshi but also Takeda Shingen and Maeda Toshiie. But if his
path was fortunate, was there another who could have walked it?
Tokugawa needed generalship and diplomacy to expand his fiefdom;
uncommon self control, in order not to come into conflict with his
lords; and extraordinary management ability, that he could develop
his Kanto domain into the engine of war and commerce that it became. Tokugawa played his hand so carefully, and showed such skill
in its execution, that it would be unfair not to award the majority
of the credit for his accomplishments to his own efforts.
After Toyotomi’s death, Japan emerged in stages from the rigid stasis he had willed for it. Japanese troops were still in Korea, fighting
and losing the second of two successive wars. For a time, Toyotomi’s
death was concealed by the state. Once the troops returned and the
truth emerged, it was Tokugawa who offered the first test to the
new regime’s stability. He assigned a few of his family to political
marriages, something forbidden by the system Toyotomi had given
them. Fractures formed in the committees and sides were taken.
Then the actions of Toyotomi loyalist Ishida Mitsunari brought
the simmer to a boil.
First Ishida attempted to sow suspicion between the most powerful
daimyo, suggesting to Tokugawa that Maeda Toshiie would kill
him when given the chance. Soon after there was an attempt on
Tokugawa’s life. The attempt failed, Ishida was implicated, and a
group of Tokugawa supporters conspired to kill Ishida in return.
Cornered, Ishida fled to the mercy of his greatest enemy, Tokugawa
himself. Astonishingly, Tokugawa let him free and escorted him to
safety. The reasons for this action have been much guessed at over
the years, and several theories have been entertained. First, that
Tokugawa was naïve and thought Ishida a friend. This is highly
unlikely. Second, that he was prone to forgive. One of his favorite
sayings was Lao Tsu’s “Requite malice with kindness”. He had
dodged assassination once before, and had returned the captured
killer to his master, saying that anyone bold enough to creep into
his bedroom and perforate his bedding with a sword was undoubtedly a “valuable man”. Third, and most likely, however, Tokugawa
protected Ishida because he saw in the latter an instigator capable
of unbalancing Toyotomi’s careful system. Political disequilibrium
would give Tokugawa his best chance to rule, and yet he could not
be seen to create it himself, lest others ally against him. As one advisor put it, it was through men like Ishida that soon Ieyasu might
come to rule all of Japan.
Ishida’s close escape did not stop his campaign of intrigues. Instead,
he crafted a more ambitious plot to ignite war against Tokugawa
with the help of daimyo Uesugi Kagekatsu. The Uesugi lived in
the north of Japan, near to Tokugawa’s fief, so disobedience by
the former would be the latter’s to correct. Ishida arranged with
Uesugi that a disturbance would be created, and as Ieyasu went to
address it, an army of his enemies would be organized behind him.
Tokugawa would be surrounded and outnumbered.
The plot was launched in 1600, when Uesugi set about building
a new castle and engaging in conspicuous fortification. Tokugawa
asked that he come to the capital to explain his actions, and received
in reply an insulting rebuff. Citified samurai collect tea implements,
wrote Uesugi, while country samurai collect weapons. The gauntlet
was thrown, and Tokugawa had no choice but to respond.
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
Tokugawa gathered a force and departed Osaka castle. He headed
- one of Japan’s two highways. He
east and north on the Tokaid
moved slowly, taking forty days to reach Edo, and listening all the
time to reports from friends in Osaka. What he heard was the rapid
unraveling of Toyotomi’s political equilibrium. A nation of warriors, Japan demanded conflict and command. Toyotomi’s system,
of peace and divided power, was in fact a vacuum, and that vacuum
would now be filled. Almost instinctively, the nation resolved to
fight. There would be a war, and whether in Toyotomi’s name or
Tokugawa’s, Japan would have clear leadership.
It was a war born of a trap, and it sprang like a trap, catching even
the protagonists by surprise with the rapidity of events. What Ishida
had hoped would be an anti-Tokugawa action quickly became a
crucible for determining Japan’s entire structure of governance.
Would Japan be led by its strongest daimyo, Tokugawa Ieyasu,
or by a caretaker safeguarding the Toyotomi succession? Two
causes opposed each other, and two armies formed to champion
them. Tokugawa’s became known as the army of the East, Ishida
Mitsunari’s the army of the West.
Tokugawa launched a frenzied campaign of correspondence, inviting daimyo to join him in the upcoming war. He wrote 180 letters,
to 108 lords throughout Japan. He asked for their allegiance, and
99 of them offered it. It is an irony that it would fall to Ieyasu, unemotional and incapable of small talk, to win a war through letterwriting. In his messages he said he would depart Edo on October
1st, but when that date arrived he could not yet move because he
was still uncertain who was with him. He remained until the 7th,
when he decided urgency was more essential than certainty.
Ishida Mitsunari gathered the western forces from his position in
the capital region. He and his supporters were able to personally
- Terumoto,
address most of the daimyo they wished to recruit. Mori
one of Japan’s most powerful men, was narrowly persuaded to join
the western army. Another leading warlord, Kobayakawa Hideaki,
was on his way to join Tokugawa forces when he was waylaid and
talked into a change of allegiance.
As the war began, Ishida’s strategy was twofold. First, he sought
to consolidate the castles in the capital region under his control. A
number of sieges were launched, which when successful resulted
in solid control of the area. They sieges were slow, however. It took
eleven days to capture Fushimi castle in Kyoto. Tanabe castle took
even longer on account of the presence of a famous poet and his
valuable library—plus the indifference of the sieging troops, who
often ‘forgot’ to load their cannon with shot. The latter operation
took so long that the units involved were not available to fight at
Ishida’s second priority was to secure the western end of Japan’s
two highways. He made an alliance with Oda Hidenobu, grandson
of the warlord Oda Nobunaga, who controlled Gifu castle. All the
roads west of Gifu, on both highways, were controlled by western
- Terumoto, the
At the same time, Ishida had to negotiate with Mori
- income was second only to
strongest daimyo of his faction. Mori’s
the Tokugawa in all Japan, and his stature was such that he owed
loyalty not to Ishida but to the Toyotomi. As such he took actions
independently, uncoordinated with Ishida’s designs. He moved to
Osaka castle with 30,000 men and declared himself the guardian
of the Toyotomi family, heedless of Ishida’s need for those troops
- into the conflict, had
in the field. Ishida might have coaxed Mori
he been willing to sacrifice some of his own stature. The failure of
these leaders to coordinate was to have enormous consequences in
the Sekigahara campaign.
Ishida gathered his army at Ogaki castle, just west of Gifu. Having consolidated the capital region of Japan, he knew now that
Tokugawa would have to come to him.
As Tokugawa moved to Edo in the early days of the conflict, his
strategy was still extremely fluid. He intended at first to pursue the
northern campaign against the Uesugi, and moved his headquarters
north of Edo, to Oyama, in preparation. Then he changed his mind
and returned to Edo. He resolved upon a new strategy. Rather than
fight small battles around Japan, he would force a single decisive
battle that would resolve all other conflicts in one blow.
Fighting Uesugi was left to Date Masamune and other local daimyo.
Another Tokugawa ally, Maeda Toshinaga, might have been included in the campaign had he not been engaged already against
regional enemies. Tokugawa turned all of his forces to the west.
The westward battle plan had three stages. First, a force would be
deployed to take Gifu castle and establish a forward base of operations. Second, two armies would march from Edo to that gathering
point, one along each highway. Finally, the large army so assembled
would march westward for a climactic confrontation.
The assault of Gifu would enable Tokugawa control of the twin
highways of central Japan, the Tokaido and the Nakasendo, which
he would then use to rapidly deploy his forces westwards Tokugawa
sent an army of 16,000 from Edo along the Tokaido, under daimyo
Fukushima Masanori. Fearing that force might be insufficient,
he sent another 18,000 to follow them. All reached Gifu, where
the plan almost fractured because the two commanders could not
resolve the honor of leading the attack. The night before they were
to begin the assault, they nearly fought a duel before a solution
was agreed: each would lead a separate attack on opposite sides
of the structure.
At the same time, the campaign against Uesugi Kagekatsu proceeded. Eventually, Date and the Tokugawa allies were able to
overcome the Uesugi, in a battle that occurred after Sekigahara
but before word had reached the north.
With the highways under his control, Tokugawa Ieyasu moved to
deploy the rest of his army. In contrast to his slow departure from
Osaka, he returned with alacrity in order to surprise his enemies.
He sent 38,000 men under his son Hidetada along the Nakasendo,
and took 33,000 with himself along the Tokaido, meaning to unify
the forces at Gifu castle.
During the march Tokugawa continued to receive letters pledging
allegiances, in some cases from daimyo who, unsatisfied with their
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
first decision, were choosing sides for the second time. He noted
the fluidity of loyalty, worried for the reliability of his men, and
resolved to test the allegiance of his enemies.
Tokugawa’s Tokaido force completed the march successfully and
arrived at Gifu castle on October 19. The Nakasendo force was
delayed. Weather was partly to blame, but more importantly, Hidetada took up a siege at castle Ueda against the instructions of his
father. The siege drew on under the cunning defense of local daimyo
Sanada Masayuki, until Hidetada eventually abandoned it. By then
he was hopelessly late, and when the battle of Sekigahara broke out
he and his 38,000 men were still 200 kilometers away.
When they first spied the eastern army, Ishida’s western forces
were camped at Ogaki castle, west of Gifu. Tokugawa set his camp
5 kilometers to their northeast. Ishida’s western force numbered
82,000, Tokugawa’s eastern army 89,000. Though of roughly equal
size, the two forces were in very different psychological states.
The western army was closer to home and more rested. Supply
lines were cleaner, reinforcements closer. They camped not far from
Ishida’s home castle at Sawayama. But the early arrival of western
troops had unnerved them. Clearly, their plan to distract Tokugawa
in the north had failed. Further, the eastern army was larger than
expected—Ishida had underestimated the degree of support there
would be for Tokugawa. Finally, since this territory was home to
the western forces, Ishida had more to lose by fighting here. He
had to be concerned about defending Osaka, Kyoto, and Sawayama
from invasion. While Tokugawa might be at liberty to give or refuse
battle, Ishida felt his options narrowing.
Tokugawa put his proximity and confidence to immediate use
by attempting to arrange defections among the western forces. Ii
Naomasa and Honda Tadakatsu, some of Tokugawa’s most loyal
leaders, were dispatched to speak with the retainers of several western daimyo. To Kobayakawa Hideaki they offered a domain of two
provinces, if he were to switch sides and fight for Tokugawa. The
price was agreed, and the seeds of treachery planted.
The betrayal of Kobayakawa had its roots in an old grudge against
Ishida. The former, after leading Japanese forces in Korea in what
some considered a reckless manner, was stripped of much of his
territory by Toyotomi. He suspected truth in the rumor that Ishida
had recommended the action. Though the land was later returned,
Kobayakawa’s resentment persisted.
After reaching proximity with the enemy, eastern leadership considered several strategic options. Ii Naomasa proposed an attack
on Ogaki castle, creating at once that definitive battle for which
the army had been gathered. Honda Tadakatsu preferred a march
to Osaka, which if unopposed would end the war just as decisively.
Tokugawa’s final decision was to mask Ogaki castle with a small
detachment of troops while marching west towards Sawayama and
then Osaka. If successful, the western forces would be cut off from
the ground they sought to defend.
The western army was also unsure of strategy. Notified that
Tokugawa planned to bypass his position, Ishida scrambled for a
proactive plan. A night attack was proposed, only to be rejected
because Ishida felt it suitable only for a weak or desperate army.
Instead, he settled on a night march, to select and occupy ground
for a battle in the morning. For the site of that battle, he chose the
crossroads of Sekigahara.
Drenching rain pelted the western troops as in darkness they departed their camp. They marched westward to a fork in the road
offering different routes to Kyoto and Sawayama. To defend both,
a stand would have to be made at Sekigahara. Hills ringed the road,
and between them there would be room for battle. Ishida’s men took
the high ground all around the site and waited for dawn.
Tokugawa’s night was nearly as restless. At 2:00, despite the storm,
he mounted his horse to reconnoiter the ground ahead. When he
was satisfied with the approach, he woke the army and brought them
on behind him to the site of battle. He arranged his men along the
road, the hills having been occupied, with a substantial force to the
rear to prevent encirclement and facilitate escape. Both commanders, in fact, were careful to ensure an escape route – Ishida stationed
himself at the back near the road that led to Sawayama.
Both sides pressed for combat despite having substantial temporary
weaknesses. Ishida had twice tried to summon the 30,000 Mori
troops at Osaka castle, and they had not yet come. The siege of
Tanabe castle had just finished, and another 15,000 troops were
on their way to join the main force. Tokugawa’s son Hidetada was
late with 38,000 men a few days march to the northeast on the
Nakasendo. Still, each felt they had more to fear from delay than
action. Ishida worried about the integrity of his coalition and knew
that to retreat further would be to sacrifice his home of Sawayama.
Tokugawa held the advantage of surprise against an enemy with
more local resources.
Each army was made up mostly of ground troops, armed with
spears and swords. Each had some cavalry and some arquebusiers.
The arquebus had been revolutionizing Japanese warfare in the
half-century since its introduction, in the process making archery
The morning of October 21, 1600 was muddy from a night of rain,
and hazy with mist. The army of the East launched the battle when
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
Ii Naomasa’s troops, called the “Red Devils” for the fearsome red
lacquered armor they wore, charged the field. Fukushima Masanori,
who had been promised the honor of first attack, plunged forward
immediately as well, assaulting the strong central position of the
stalwart loyalist Ukita Hideie.
Tokugawa’s march northwards and letter-writing campaign, took
just over three months. In that time, every daimyo had to select
a side, raise troops, deploy and fight. Little wonder, then, that the
campaign was so unpredictable, loyalty so fluid, plans and objectives
so often revised. It was an improvised war.
Ishida ordered a counterattack, and to his dismay found that some
of his units refused to move. The Shimazu merely held their positions, not fighting until they were attacked. On the flank, Kikkawa
- troops beHiroie refused a signal to attack, and the 15,000 Mori
hind him were satisfied to wait. Repeated orders were also sent to
Kobayakawa Hideaki demanding an attack, but he stood on the
southern hillside as battle raged in the valley.
In this brief and unstructured engagement, loyalty was as important
as troop strength. Victory went not to the largest army, but to that
which best supported its commander.
Tokugawa, too, was asking Kobayakawa to move. Finally, shots
were fired in his direction, in demand of a decision. With that
signal, Kobayakawa engaged, charging down the hillside to attack
his former allies. The southern end of Ishida’s line was enveloped.
All across the field, western forces were being beaten back, despite
the valor of a few loyalists.
The eastern army began the consolidation of its victory. Tokugawa
Ieyasu erected a court on the battlefield in which to receive commanders and the heads of his enemies. To loyal friends like Fukushima, Ii and Honda, he declared his everlasting gratitude. He
praised the turncoat Kobayakawa and allowed him to lead an attack
of Sawayama castle (now largely a formality). He reserved his greatest scorn for those who had refused battle, specifically the Mori.
Ishida escaped into the mountains, to be caught a few days later
and executed. Ukita, a young daimyo who had fought tenaciously,
was forgiven his involvement but forced to live in exile and abstain
from politics. Toyotomi Hideyori was entrusted to Tokugawa’s care,
and survived another 15 years before being killed for disloyalty.
- were stripped of most of their land and wealth, leaving
The Mori
them bitter and vengeful for centuries to come. Their children
slept with feet pointed east, in insult to the victors of Sekigahara.
- lived, to open
It became a tradition, in Chosho where the Mori
each new year with a ceremonial exchange in which prominent
leaders would ask of the daimyo “Has the time come to begin the
subjugation of the [Tokugawa]?” to which he would reply “No, the
time had not yet come.” (More than 250 years later the time finally
had come, and the rebellion that overturned the shogunate was led
in part by Chosho.)
The Sekigahara campaign was fought rapidly. In seven weeks of
hostilities, the fate of Japan was settled. The whole episode, including
Tokugawa returned victorious to Osaka castle exactly 100 days after
he had left to punish the Uesugi. His dynasty would last 268 years.
It is remarkable that equilibrium so durable could have arisen from
an episode so unstructured and chaotic. But it was not by chance
—after he subdued his enemies, Tokugawa took every measure to
subdue the nation.
After Sekigahara, Tokugawa spent the last 15 years of his life
laying the foundations for the Tokugawa shogunate. (The title
of shogun, inaccessible to Toyotomi for reasons of low birth, was
accorded to Tokugawa.) He transferred the title to his son years
before he died in order to ensure a good succession. He invented
a new social hierarchy and lived to oversee it. To every station in
society he gave responsibilities and obligations. To the samurai, he
gave the duty of martial ceremony, in lieu of martial acts. He set
the nation busy complying with new objectives, and thus weaned
them from violent impulse.
Tokugawa did what Toyotomi could not: domesticate a nation of
warriors. Under Toyotomi, for sake of war, conquest of Japan was
followed by invasion of Korea. Tokugawa instead made warriors into
governors and citizens. Tokugawa rule was known as the bakufu,
which means ‘government from a tent’, or governance by soldiers.
In the strict class hierarchy of the Tokugawa period, samurai abandoned bloodshed and became members of the governing class.
In this transformation we see the magnitude of Tokugawa’s accomplishment. Just as he had throughout his life controlled his
own emotions, now he controlled those of a nation. A great administrator, he created the institutions that turned an entire people
from war to peace, ending an era of chaos and launching an era of
tranquility. The Buddha said “One who conquers himself is greater
than another who conquers a thousand times a thousand on the
battlefield.” Tokugawa Ieyasu did not himself subdue the various
territories of Japan, as did his predecessors. He was fortunate to inherit the fruits of their struggles for unification. But only Tokugawa
conquered the people, because of the three great warlords, only he
had first conquered himself.
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
Design Notes
Sekigahara is an unusual game. The peculiarities of the design are the
product of two priorities: that it depict the conflict in its mechanisms
rather than merely in its particularities, and that it adheres to certain
design objectives that I consider important.
I prefer a game that rewards skillful play and diminishes the effect
of chance. One of my earliest and easiest decisions was to exclude
dice from the design. A die roll generates a two-sided surprise: both
parties are unable to predict the result of a die roll, and thus cannot
plan for it. I prefer one-sided uncertainty (hidden units and cards)
to encourage planning and bluffing.
For playability, I wanted the game to finish in 2-3 hours. This naturally set a limit on the amount of complexity I could introduce into
the rules. Fortunately, as I will explain below, I prioritized realism
over complexity, and found I could accommodate quite a lot of the
former despite a cap on the latter.
There exist in wargaming a series of game types: card-driven, block,
counter. For each of these categories the seasoned gamer will immediately recall a series of games, some classics and some best forgotten, which fit the mold. There have even developed conventions
within conventions, such that we can expect a card-driven wargame
to offer a tradeoff between action points and events, and a block
game to feature step-losses and lots of dice. What this conventionality gains in familiarity it loses in realism. Can the same mechanism
accurately convey different conflicts centuries apart? Some would
say it can, so long as you adjust the incidental elements in the game:
unit values, events, map, ‘chrome’ rules to add color. I began with
the assumption that this would not suffice. Rather than convey the
spirit of the conflict through incidentals, I attempted to convey it
through the design mechanisms themselves.
One could also debate what constitutes the spirit of the conflict,
and what it means to be accurate in design. Wargames usually
achieve accuracy through weight. We forgive a game complexity
if it provides greater realism. But what kind of realism is best? It
may seem realistic to list precisely the fighting value of every unit,
or draw from a deck of historical events, but the commanders in
the war were never privy to such knowledge. Make the game too
‘accurate’ in these regards and you degrade the accuracy of the experience. Fidelity must be declared to realism of ‘details’ or realism
of experience; this design has favored the latter.
I sought to convey the experience of being a commander in the war
of Sekigahara through the mechanisms of the game. Since the war
was characterized by uncertainty—the fog of war so close leaders
could choke on it—so should be the mechanisms (hidden blocks
and cards). Since the war was won and lost over loyalty, a major
mechanism (the cards) was introduced to depict loyalty. Mechanisms were determined not by wargaming convention, but by the
peculiarities of the Sekigahara conflict.
The war of Sekigahara was unusual in several ways. First, the extreme
importance of loyalty and personal legitimacy. Second, the haste and
uncertainty under which it was organized and prosecuted. Third,
the absolute centrality of people, and thus the importance of their
personalities and their safety. Finally, the way honor and the pursuit
of honor dominated behavior throughout the conflict.
No factor was more important in determining the outcome of the
war than loyalty. Neither commander could be certain of his supporters, nor entirely confident in numerical superiority. Battles were
won instead by loyalty and legitimacy. Some troops fought heroically
(like Ii and Ukita), some were passive (Mori),
some treacherous
(Kobayakawa). The final battle, indeed the entire war, was decided
by defections and disloyalty. To model loyalty I introduced the
deck of cards, representing the support of the troops. The bigger
the hand size, the more legitimacy. The possibility was introduced
of a unit brought to battle and then refusing to take part (a typical
occurrence in this war). In order to model treachery, I added ‘Loyalty
Challenge’ cards, which have the additional benefit of making each
battle a tactical exercise of bluff and deceit. Tokugawa has one more
of these cards than Ishida, and the difference may be telling.
Sekigahara was an improvised war. It was a civil war based on people
and not geography, in which over 100 daimyo separately made allegiance decisions. Fighting lasted just seven weeks, with another
seven of preparation. The struggle began and finished with forces
scattered across Japan, fighting local enemies and capturing local
targets. Despite this chaos, Sekigahara was a strategic conflict. It
emerged out of a well-planned trap, and ended in a well-planned
strategic attack. Chaos swept around the feet of our protagonists,
but it did not overwhelm them. I have modeled this uncertainty
with a semi-randomized unit setup that forces each player to open
the game with improvisation, even as other factors (compounding
special attacks, card carryovers across turns, bonuses for castle and
supply control) urgently encourage them to form a strategy. To depict the tension between opportunism and centralization the board
is littered with easy targets but players begin with precious little
organizational capacity (just 5 cards). A few factors are known to
each player; the rest is a blur of uncertainty. Blocks are hidden, cards
are secret and rapidly recycled, reinforcements drawn at random.
Extreme as this may seem, if I have erred it is on the side of overcertainty. No mechanism in the game can reproduce the dismay
of the western army on the arrival of Tokugawa at Gifu castle, far
sooner, and with far more troops, than expected. I happily sacrifice
perceived detail to recapture the authentic feeling of improvisation
and uncertainty felt by the leaders in this war.
There are three figures whose death or capture would have transformed the conflict. Tokugawa and Ishida, of course, and also
Toyotomi Hideyori. Personality drove the war in a more subtle way
as well. Tokugawa’s stronger personality allowed better coordination
of his daimyo. Ishida’s conspiratorial talents helped him set the
initial trap with Uesugi Kagekatsu, but his tense relationship with
- Terumoto may have cost him the war. Given the importance
of people and personality, it was essential that players represent
protagonists and not causes. (Thus the game ends on protagonist
- relationship, in which personal
death or capture.) The Ishida-Mori
interest took precedence over loyalty to their cause, required an
additional mechanism to depict the tradeoff Ishida faced between
strength and primacy.
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
SEKIGAHARA — Rules of Play
Honor was the most nonintuitive of the themes that defined the
conflict. Honor drove daimyo to besiege castles that were of little
strategic importance. Honor caused breakdowns in coordination
amongst allies. Honor is why Torii Mototada’s doomed defense of
Fushimi Castle is still celebrated in the present day. Honor nearly
disrupted the assault on Gifu castle, when two Tokugawa daimyo
proposed to fight each other (for the right of first attack) before they
faced the enemy. Honor led one earlier Tokugawa enemy to burn
incense in his helmet before a battle so that his head would make
a better trophy. (Tokugawa was so impressed he recommended the
practice to his own followers.) How to model a factor that could
create—even celebrate—martial failure in the name of a higher
cause? I settled on two mechanisms, both regarding the dispersion
of cards. First, bonus cards are allocated according to losses in battle,
not victory, with extra cards given to those dying in defense of a
castle. Second, the owner of more castles draws an additional card
at the beginning of each week.
The units that fought in the war were characterized above all by
their clan. A secondary characteristic was the use of guns or horses.
Cavalry did not travel faster than ground units because they were
accompanied by non-mounted retainers. The secondary purpose
of the special units in the game was to reward central organization. Armies that took time to organize became more powerful, as
depicted by the compounding special attack bonuses.
Many clans fought in the war and for game purposes I had to select
- Ukita, Uesugi, and
just a few. In Ishida’s case it was simple—Mori,
Kobayakawa were the strongest and most important daimyo in
the western coalition. Tokugawa had a wider range of mid-sized
supporters, and I chose them based on regional representation and
centrality to the plot. Other worthy names were consolidated under
my selections: Fukushima was supported by Ikeda Terumasa, Date
by Mogami Yoshiaki. Maeda is included for geographical balance
and because it was one of Japan’s strongest houses, though its impact
in the Sekigahara campaign was primarily regional.
Japan was dotted in castles and I include only a few of them in the
game. Gifu, Ueda, and Osaka are essential to tell the story; the others were selected representationally, generally in places where sieges
occurred. Resource areas are meant to depict control of territory,
and so I have scattered them across the map. I have also tried to
convey the importance of the Tokaid
o- and Nakasendo- highways.
In a campaign characterized by dispersed forces and targets, the use
of good roads to centralize and coordinate was essential. Not every
little road could be included on the map, of course, and because
there are always more, I have written the retreat rules to prevent
easy encirclements.
The ability to build riskier or safer armies and to groom your hand
of cards in order to motivate them is one of my favorite elements of
the design. The most powerful army in the game is one of uniform
type—many blocks from the same clan, or many special attacks of
the same variety. This is also the most difficult army to field, as it
takes careful card preparation and a well-timed attack. The double
attack cards are essential for this purpose, and are more valuable than
they first appear. I also enjoy the tension in sequential deployments
of blocks during a battle. Some are at risk of defection (those for
which no more cards are available) and some are not. Players can
be cautious or reckless in their battlefield decisions. There is a thrill
in deploying a potential defector successfully and an even greater
one when you turn an enemy unit to your side.
Elegance was always a priority. One reason for the unusual block
shape is that they can be stacked and thus every army viewed at
once, without flipping or rearranging the pieces. Where the characteristics of the conflict did not dictate complexity, I made every
effort to reduce it in the game. In the words of Einstein, a game
should be as simple as possible, and no simpler.
—Matt Calkins
All author’s proceeds from this edition will be donated to recovery
from the Japan earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.
GMT Games, LLC
P.O. Box 1308, Hanford, CA 93232-1308
©2011 GMT Games, LLC
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