Bushido – Review

I thought I’d shake things up a little this month and share with you my forays into an entirely new game. This is one that has been intriguing me for some time but I’ve never had the opportunity to play it (at the time of writing this I still haven’t played it) despite always trying to find time at Salute every year.

The game in question is Bushido by GCT Studios and I hope that over the coming weeks I can encourage some of you to give it a try and show some ideas I have for scenery and some more insights into the game itself.

For the purposes of this review I’m using the full printed rulebook but the full rules are available for download online by following this link Bushido Downloads, you will need to download both the rules and the errata as the rules haven’t been updated (but they are free).

hotaru smallBackground

Bushido is a skirmish tabletop game set in a world similar to feudal Japan. I say similar for despite all the familiar aspects the game is set in the Jwar Isles, a world where magic and monsters really do exist. Details of the setting are lavishly described in the rulebook (you can’t download this stuff) and really help set the tone for your games as well as providing some excellent ideas for scenery.

The map of the Jwar Isles has two large islands “Jwar” and “Izu” and a number of smaller islands. Much of the description of these is given in the form of a travel journal written by Nido Yaki Tobi. This helps to give the setting a nice comfortable tone as it often wanders off into distracted ramblings about smells and eating fire peppers. Reading this has already fired my imagination to create a board set in Ryu on Jwar island. For those of you that want somewhere different to model your games on the section on places of interest is awash with ideas (The Garrison of the Damned sounds particularly interesting).

There is also a complete section of the calendar of the Jwar Isles and the major festivals if you want to incorporate that into a game or as part of a campaign.

The book dedicates a fairly large section to the factions of the Jwar Isles. In all the book briefly describes ten in brief but only fleshes out the details of five, these being the factions that were originally released for the tabletop game (others have since been released). Each is accompanied with photographs of painted miniatures to both inspire you and make your painting skills feel inadequate.

Even if you aren’t going to play Bushido as a tabletop game I can thoroughly recommend this if you are a Role Player looking for a new setting. The wealth of detail here will certainly be enough to kickstart any new campaign.


The printed rulebook itself is a wonderfully colourful (unlike the cover 🙂 ) A4 softback tome running to 128 pages. Roughly these break down as follows (leaving out things like the index, full page graphics etc..)

  • 40 pages of background
  • 20 pages on factions
  • 28 pages of rules
  • 9 pages of scenarios
  • 19 pages of extras

The scenarios are very good and avoid the usual attrition trap that many games fall into. The rulebook includes six scenarios but you can find all these and a few more in the free downloadable tournament pack.

It’s worth mentioning the extras section as this contains some real jems. Aside from the usual reference sheet and counters that you can print off (or just download from their site) there is good tutorial on making Bamboo with which to adorn your gaming table, this has a good description and nice images (I’ll certainly be trying this once I have the time). The other useful thing is the addition of tactical notes for each of the factions (sorry only those included in the book are covered). These are a great help when trying to decide which faction to choose or for somebody new to gaming that may struggle to win their first few games. (Only the Prefecture of Ryu, the Savage Wave, the Temple of Ro-Kan, the Cult of Yurei and the Ito Clan are covered as these were the only factions available when the book was released).

Festival of the Dragon

The entire book is interspersed with a mixture of full page and inset graphics that help set the tone of the game. These are a mixture of photographs and paintings which really help to bring the book alive.

Ito Shrine
Ito Shrine

One thing to consider if you are thinking of using the downloadable rules is that the rulebook is in full colour which makes some of the examples in the rules section a lot easier to follow.

Game Basics

Even though I haven’t had the pleasure of playing the game yet there are a few things about the rules that are worth mentioning (I’ll post a full review once I have had a game or two).

The game is played on a 2’x2′ table, great for those of use with limited table space. They recommend that between a quarter and half of this should be covered in scenery, which isn’t too much of a stretch, especially as there are several companies making some great MDF scenery for this scale and period.

A typical game lasts between one to two hours using factions of around 35 Rice (Rice is how the points cost of models are represented). Looking at the starter sets most of them seem to be around this value so you should be able to get in a good game without having to buy additional models.

The game is D6 based and you will need around five dice of two different colours (official faction specific dice are available). In reality most gamers will have plenty of D6’s ready to hand. You will also need some tokens in at least three colours (plastic counters of glass beads will work), there are counters that you can print and cut out but these probably won’t last long. Alternately Blotz have recently released counters specifically for the game at a very reasonable price.

Whenever a character activates they can perform an action which can be anything from walking to using a feat or special ability. Actions are classified as either simple or complex and affect what state the character is left in after the action has been performed. Simple actions leave a character Tired while complex actions leave them Exhausted. I’ve yet to get my head around what the effect of this is but I’m sure it will all become clear once I get a game under my belt (I’ll cover things like this when I review the rules in more detail).

Magic in the game is powered by a characters Ki. This is a pool of magical power that slowly recharges over time (and appears to be quick to spend) and can be used to power special feats or to temporarily boost a characters stats.

Each character in the game comes with a card describing it’s statistics and special feats (quite common these days and certainly speeds up most skirmish games). These can be downloaded from the Bushido online store so you can see what each character can do before you choose to buy it (or just proxy up some models and give the game a try before you buy).

There is also the option to buy packs of general or faction specific cards which allow you to add Enhancement, Event and Terrain cards to give more options to your factions and games. I haven’t seen these yet so I can’t comment on what they are like but they sound like a good way to keep the game interesting once you have an established faction choice and want to spice it up a little.

This is as far as I understand the rules so far from a couple of read throughs, overall they look good and I’ll be reviewing them in more detail in a week or so.


Unlike some other games Bushido has a lively and supportive community both on Facebook and their own forum. I would definitely suggest checking them out as they are a great resource for rules clarification, painting ideas and scenery reference as well as just being a nice friendly bunch of people.


This rulebook is absolutely not necesary to play the game and you are probably better to get the download rules and a starter set before you nuy this. That being said this really helps set the tone of the game and is an excellent quality so it is a good, if considered, future purchase.

Score Comment
Setting: 9/10 I can’t fault the setting. It really helps put the game into context and adds to the feel of things
Rulebook: 7/10 While not necessary to play the game the additional sections make it a great secondary purchase
Rules: 8/10 Well laid out although a little quirky in places. They read well and have great examples
Value for Money: 8/10 Not strictly necessary but a good investment for a serious player
Overall: 8/10 Even if you don’t buy the rulebook give the game a try

About Jarec

Long term Wargamer and dice hugger. My preferences tend towards Fantasy and Sci-Fi but I have a strong interest in the WWII and Vietnam gaming eras.
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2 Responses to Bushido – Review

  1. da Gobbo says:

    What a great review, I’ve only played the game a couple of times but I’m absolutely hooked! Have produced a ton of terrain and a couple of boards so far!

  2. Jarec says:

    Thanks. I’m one game down so far and I can see why it is such a great game. Rules are easy but very tactical

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