I'll be posting my Gencon report in a separate thread, but for now, here's the writeup for my 2nd place Theme Deck. I lost to Amanda Martyn's fantastic Alice in Wonderland deck, a win that was completely and utterly deserved.
This writeup was contained in a ricepaper scroll, and my games were played across a laminated map of feudal Japan dating to 1595 (a printed reproduction of this map: http://www.konigunninjutsu.com/images/history3.jpg
although in higher resolution)
The Genpei Wars:
Tale of the Heike
Legend of the Five Rings draws its inspiration from many places, but few can be as important as Japanese history - and few areas of Japanese history can be as important as the Genpei Wars, beginning in 1180 A.D. and bridging the gap between Heian Japan and the Kamakura Shogunate. The most famous leader of this time period - Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first Shogun, was the inspiration for the Mantis Clan's Yoritomo himself. The events of these wars are best known through The Tale of the Heike, a book written sometime after the 12th Century which dramatized the wars. This theme deck is my homage to that era in Japanese history, and its role in creating Legend of the Five Rings.
In creating this theme deck based on the story, I attempted to go beyond just creating a theme in the deck choices. The playmat upon which I play, which can be seen further down, is a period map of Japan. Every card in both decks had their titles altered, through the use of deck-facers, to the person, place or event which they represent in the war. And even this scroll which you are reading is handmade, by me, out of genuine rice paper. On the following pages, you will find a brief description of the wars, from beginning to end, as well as a decklist, complete with short descriptions of why each card was chosen for the deck.
And now, I give you...
The Genpei Wars: Tale of the Heike
In the year 1180, a series of conflicts between the Taira [Lion] and the Minamoto [Mantis] clans of Heian Japan ripped the empire apart. For the next five years, the land would split at the seams as the two powerful families maneuvered and lobbied for power. Ultimately, the Taira would fall from their place atop Japanese society, giving rise to the Kamakura shogunate - under the leadership of the legendary Minamoto no Yoritomo.
In 1177, former Emperor Go-Shirakawa's [Otomo Ouga] relations with the Taira clan and his prime minister Taira no Kiyomori [Ikoma Otemi] grew strained, and the Emperor attempted to oust Kiyomori from his post. The attempt failed, and in 1180, Kiyomori forced the abdication of the Emperor Takakura, Go-Shirakawa's son, and placed his own two-year-old grandson, Antoku [Matsu Yoshino] on the throne. This move was opposed by Takakura's brother, Prince Mochihito [Miya Anzai], who felt that he was the rightful heir to the throne [Claimants to the Throne], and enlisted his allies among the Minamoto, led by Minamoto no Yorimasa [Tsuruchi Kaya], to fight the power-grab. Kiyomori moved the base of his power to Fukuhara [Seat of Power], while Mochihito fled to the Buddhist Temple of Mii-dera, [Mountain Summit Temple] built on the slopes of Mount Hiei and the base of power for the Tendai Jimon sect.
While the Minamoto gathered forces to support the prince, Kiyomori sent his army to arrest Mochihito at the temple of Mii-dera. Feeling unsafe, Kiyomori fled once again, this time to the temple of Byodo-in [High Temple of Toshi Ranbo], in the city of Uji. Kiyomori followed him, and there the Taira troops and the Minamoto troops met in the first battle of the war [In Time of War].
The first Battle of Uji [Three-stone River] began with the Minamoto troops, led by Yorimasa himself, along with several warrior monks, or sohei, from Mii-dera [Dragon], led by Ichirai Hoshi [Togashi Tsuri], crossing the Uji River to take up a defensive position just outside Byodo-in. The Taira forces forded the river, led by Taira no Tomomori [Akodo Sadahige] and Taira no Shigehira [Akodo Bakin], and engaged the Minamoto troops.
Although the bridge's planks had been torn up by the sohei, the Taira forces showered the defenders with arrows as the attackers attempted to ford the river. The monk Gochin no Tajima [Togashi Kisu] walked out onto the bare structure of the bridge first, inciting the enemy to release a swath of arrows, which he ducked over and under, cutting through many with his naginata and earning the title Tajima the arrow-cutter. The monk Tsutsui Jōmyō Meishu [Togashi Hogai] succeeded him on the bridge, taking more than 63 arrows in his armor and fighting the Taira off with bow, naginata, sword and tanto before finally retreating.
Though the defenders of Uji fought bravely, they were no match for the Taira. Yorimasa was struck by an arrow attempting to bring his prince to freedom, and committed seppuku in order to keep from being captured - the first known instance of seppuku in Japanese history. The prince was captured and killed in his flight.
After Yorimasa's death, Minamoto no Yoritomo [Yoritomo Naizen] seized control of the clan and began gathering allies to strike back at the Taira. While in the Hakone Mountains, at Ishibashiyama, Yoritomo's forces were attacked in the night by Taira troops in the Battle of Ishibashiyama [Surprise Attack]. In a bloody battle fought outside Yoritomo's headquarters in Kamakura, the Taira defeated Yoritomo's troops, but the Minamoto fled into the land of the Takeda family, who gave them shelter.
While the Minamoto were on the run, the Taira led their troops to Mii-dera and the Nara temple complex [Lesser Shrine], in vengeance for the monks' assistance of the Minamoto. Although the monks defended with superior numbers and battlements, the Taira, led by Tomomori and Shigehira, were able to burn nearly every temple in the city to the ground, killing about 3,500 people in the Seige of Nara [Raze to the Ground].
Late in the year, the Taira troops, led by Taira no Koremori [Akodo Shinichi], came upon the Takeda and Minamoto troops at Fujigawa, below Mount Fuji. While attempting to attack in the night, the Taira heard a flock of birds, and mistook the noise for a surprise attack, fleeing. The Battle of Fujigawa [Failure of Courage] was never actually fought.
Several months later, the Minamoto began to fight back. In the Battle of Sunomatagawa [Master of the Rolling River], Minamoto no Yukiie [Tsuruchi Taiga] led his troops on a sneak attack against an army led by Tomomori. The Minamoto warriors attempted to attack by wading across the Sunomata River, but the ambush failed when the Taira warriors realized they could tell friend from foe by looking to see who was soaking wet. Yukiie's troops were forced to retreat.
Tomomori followed Yukiie's troops to the Yahagi River, where Yukiie attempted to make a stand by putting up a defensive shield wall along the river. The Battle of Yahagigawa [Prepared Defense] ended with Yukiie withdrawing once again, but the Taira pursuit ended when Tomomori fell ill.
The death of Taira no Kiyomori due to illness in the spring of 1181 and a widespread famine resulted in a cessation of hostilities that lasted nearly two years [Proposal of Peace].
The wars resumed in 1183 with the siege of Minamoto no Yoshinaka's [Tsuruchi Etsui] mountain fortress at Hiuchiyama [Yobanjin Fortress]. While the fortress was well-defended, being built on the side of a mountain and protected by a dammed moat, a traitor in the fortress sent a message by arrow into the Taira camp, revealing a way to breach the dam and drain the water. The Siege of Hiuchi [Unexpected Betrayal] resulted in the loss of the castle but the survival of Yoshinaka and much of his forces.
The Taira, led by Koremori, attempted once again to strike at Yoshinaka, attacking him at the mountain passes which connect western Honshū to the east. Koremori split his forces, attacking Yoshinaka from two sides. Meanwhile, Yoshinaka arranged a large number of clan flags to be erected on a nearby hill, to simulate larger numbers and delay the Taira attack. Dividing his own forces, Yoshinaka began a highly formal battle while sending troops behind and around the Taira. As the sun set, the Taira turned to discover a seemingly huge Minamoto army driving a herd of oxen straight into the Taira lines, trampling the warriors and knocking them to their deaths on the rocky crags. The Battle of Kurikara [Broken Lines] ended with the Minamoto's first major victory, and the turning point of the war.
Pursuing the remaining Taira forces from Kurikara, Yoshinaka caught up with Taira no Munemori [Akodo Shigetoshi] at the Battle of Shinohara [Unwavering Assault], which ended with Yoshinaka once again victorious.
With the war turning against them, the Taira were forced to leave their base at Kyoto and flee south, to set up a temporary court at Dazaifu [Governor's Court]. But revolts by those loyal to Emperor Go-Shirakawa soon forced them to flee again, to the island of Yashima [Teardrop Island].
As they fled to Yashima, the Taira forces, led by Tomomori and Taira no Noritsune [Matsu Ushio], ambushed a Minamoto force sent to intercept them at the island. The naval Battle of Mizushima [Ambush] began with arrows sent between the ships and soon led to hand-to-hand combat on the decks of the ships. Ultimately, the Taira were able to swim to shore and the Minamoto were defeated.
Yukiie attempted to salvage this defeat by attacking the Taira in the Battle of Muroyama [Furious Assault]. But the Taira forces, split into five divisions, attacked repeatedly until Yukiie was forced once again to withdraw.
While this was happening, a Minamoto army besieged a fortress belonging to Seno Kaneyasu, an ally of the Taira. The Seige of Fukuryūji [Find A Way Through It] began with the Minamoto charging across muddy ricefields through a heavy archer fire in order to finally capture the fortress.
Even as the Taira were suffering defeats, Yoshinaka was preparing to seize power from his cousins Yoritomo and Minamoto no Yoshitsune [Yoritomo Kurei]. Conspiring with Yukiie, Yoshinaka plotted to kidnap Go-Shirakawa and establish a government of his own. Although he was betrayed by Yukiie, Yoshinaka attacked the Hōjūjidono and seized the former emperor in the Siege of Hōjūjidono [Allies Become Enemies], making it out of the city before the Minamoto armies of Yukiie, Yoritomo, Yoshitsune and Minamoto no Noriyori [Yoritomo Jera] were able to surround it.
Yoshinaka fled to Uji, as Prince Mochihito had several years before, and attempted to fight at the same bridge on the Uji River. But the Second Battle of Uji [Three-stone River] ended much the way first had, and Yoshitsune was able to lead his men across the river to defeat Yoshinaka.
Yoshinaka's final stand was made at the Battle of Awazu [The General Falls], where he and his milk-brother Imai Kanehira fought off Noriyori's force valiantly. But in the end, Yoshinaka's horse became stuck in a rice paddy, and he was struck dead by an arrow. When Kanehira heard that his friend had been killed, he committed suicide by leaping off his horse with his sword in his mouth.
With the Minamoto united once more, Yoshitsune and Noriyori led the army to Ichi-no-Tani, a Taira fortress on the shoreline. Yoshitsune was joined in the battle by his long-time companion and ally, the monk duelist Saito Musashibō Benkei [Togashi Remi]. Despite the castle's highly defensible position, the Minamoto armies were able to surround it, and the Battle of Ichi-no-Tani [Burn It Down] ended with the fortress falling in flames. Kiyomori's brother, Taira no Tadanori [Matsu Robun] was killed and Shigehira captured as many of the Taira troops fled to Yashima.
The fleeing troops were engaged by Noriyori at the Battle of Kojima [Cornering Maneuver], when the Minamoto were able to cross the strait between mainland Honshū and the Kojima to defeat the remaining Taira on the island.
For the next year, the Minamoto prepared to assault the Taira fortress at Yashima and finish the war. That came finally at the Battle of Yashima [Torch's Flame Flickers]. Yoshitsune, believing the Taira to expect a naval attack, lit bonfires along the mainland coast of Shikoku, fooling them into believing that the attack was coming from land. As the Taira took to their ships, the Minamoto attacked and defeated their enemy, but the majority of the fleet escaped.
One month later, the Minamoto caught the remaining Taira fleet at the Shimonoseki Strait off the southern tip of Honshu, in the Battle of Dan-no-ura [Tides of Battle]. In April of 1185, Yoshitsune's fleet attacked the Taira, beginning with an archery exchange. But the Taira used the tides to their advantage, enabling them to attempt to surround the Minamoto. The two fleets grew closer, archery giving way to hand to hand combat, before the tide changed again and gave the advantage to the Minamoto, instead. The battle was won when a Taira defector revealed the location of the ship holding the six-year-old Emperor Antoku.
The Minamoto archers turned their attention to the helmsmen and rowers of the ship, and Antoku died when his grandmother, Taira no Tokiko [Ikoma Yasuko], threw themselves overboard to avoid facing the Minamoto warriors. The general Taira no Noritsune, in an attempt to take out his enemies at the cost of himself, drowned while holding a Minamoto warrior under each arm.
In an attempt to deny the Minamoto any glory for winning, the Taira attempted to throw the imperial regalia off the ship: the sword Kusanagi [Daimyo's Blade], the mirror Yata no Kagami [Jade Mirror] and the necklace Yasakani no Magatama [Badge of Authority]. While the sword and the mirror were successfully thrown overboard, the mirror was eventually recovered.
The Battle of Dan-no-ura marked the end of the Taira family. Minamoto no Yoritomo, as head of the family, declared himself Japan's first national Shogun [Glory of the Shogun]. The Kamakura shogunate, founded in 1192, would last for more than a century before finally falling in 1333. [The Shogun's Peace].
Mii-dera - Mountain Summit Temple - The first refuge of Prince Mochihito and the first stronghold of Minamoto power during the Genpei Wars, the temple of Mii-dera is a Buddhist shrine located at the foot of Mount Hiei, and one of the four largest temples in Japan. For its connection to the mountains and for its status as a temple, Mountain Summit Temple was chosen to represent Mii-dera.
Minamoto no Yoritomo - Yoritomo Naizen - The leader of the Minamoto at the end of the wars, Yoritomo named himself Shogun. While the Rokugani Yoritomo himself would likely be a more apt representation, Naizen, no stranger to brazen arrogance himself, is an apt stand-in for his predecessor.
Minamoto no Yorimasa - Tsuruchi Kaya - An old man, Yorimasa was a prominent poet as well as a pre-eminent politician and military mind. As a respected old man of many talents, Kaya was chosen to represent Yorimasa.
Minamoto no Yoshitsune - Yoritomo Kurei - The chief general of the Minamoto, Yoshitsune is represented by Yoritomo Kurei, the only legal Mantis with the "General" trait.
Minamoto no Yukiie - Tsuruchi Taiga
Minamoto no Noriyori - Yoritomo Jera - Taken together, both Yukiie and Noriyori are prominent lesser generals in the Minamoto clan, and Taiga and Jera serve the same role as commanders in the Mantis armies.
Minamoto no Yoshinaka - Tsuruchi Etsui - Once an ally of Yoritomo's, Yoshinaka would later come to betray him, as Etsui's Kolat contacts may eventually cause him to betray the clan he has served for so long.
Saito Musashibo Benkei - Togashi Remi - A sohei, or warrior monk, Benkei's legend began when he dueled 999 swordsmen while posted at the Gojo Bridge. Collecting their swords, Benkei was defeated in his 1000th duel by Minamoto no Yoshitsune, and would become Yoshitsune's retainer until both of their death in Yoshitsune's rebellion against Yoritomo. As a monk and a duelist, Remi was chosen to represent Benkei.
Emperor Go-Shirakawa - Otomo Ouga - The retired emperor was a steadfast ally of the Minamoto up until Yoritomo's ascension to the Shogunship. As one of the few printed personalities with imperial blood, Ouga was chosen to represent the emperor.
Prince Mochihito - Miya Anzai - Mochihito's influence in the war was short-lived, as he died in one of the first conflicts, but it was important - it was Mochihito's rebellion that would spark the conflict. As another of the few personalities printed with imperial blood, Anzai was chosen to represent the prince.
Gochin no Tajima - Togashi Kisu - The first to defend the bridge at Uji was Gochin no Tajima, known as Tajima the arrow-cutter. A sohei supporter of Prince Mochihito, Tajima is said to have leapt over and under a barrage of arrows, cutting through many with his naginata. As a magistrate, representing his support of the prince, and wielding what could be a naginata in his artwork, Kisu was chosen to represent Tajima.
Tsutsui Jōmyō Meishu - Togashi Hogai - Tsutsui was a member of the Mii-dera sohei, who fought alongside the Minamoto at the first Battle of Uji. According to the Tale of the Heike, Tsutsui was said to have killed more than 25 opponents as the lone defender standing on the broken bridge of Uji, with bow, naginata, tachi and tanto, finally retreating to be replaced by Ichirai Hoshi, with 63 arrow sticking from his armor. As the unbreakable monk, Hogai was chosen to represent Tsutsui.
Tomoe Gozen - Tsuruchi Ayame - One of Minamoto no Yoshinaka's closest servants, Tomoe served as a mighty warrior and great archer until Yoshinaka's death. For her prowess with the bow, Tomoe is represented by Tsuruchi Ayame, the Master Archer.
Taira no Kiyomori - Ikoma Otemi - Kiyomori was the leader of the Taira clan at the beginning of the conflict, and it was his support of the child-emperor Antoku that incited the Genpei Wars. Otemi served as the leader of the Lion clan at the beginning of Lotus edition, and later supported the extremely young Yoshino as clan champion - enough of a parallel for Otemi to be chosen to represent Kiyomori.
Taira no Tokiko - Ikoma Yasuko - Tokiko was wife to Kiyomori, as Yasuko is wife to Otemi.
Emperor Antoku - Ikoma Yoshino - Antoku was elevated to emperor when he was only two years old, and it was this that ignited the wars. Yoshino was young enough when he took the championship that he was an apt parallel to Antoku.
Taira no Munemori - Akodo Shigetoshi - When Kiyomori died, the clan was left in the hand of Munemori, just as Yoshino left the Lion clan in the hands of Shigetoshi.
Taira no Shigehira - Akodo Bakin - As the highest-ranking Taira general and a son of Kiyomori, Shigehira led many of the battles in the early part of the Genpei Wars. Thus, Akodo Bakin, chief shireikan of the Akodo Army, was chosen to stand in for Shigehira.
Taira no Tomomori - Akodo Sadahige - An important leader in the Taira, Tomomori was often found at the side of his brother Shigehira, helping to lead armies into battle. Although there are no other legal shireikan of the Lion army, Akodo Sadahige, commander in the Akodo Army, serves to represent Tomomori.
Taira no Tadanori - Matsu Robun - Kiyomori's brother Tadanori served under him as general and commander, and thus is represented by the highly-ranked Lion commander Matsu Robun.
Taira no Noritsune - Matsu Ushio - the governor of Noto, Noritsune is most famous for his death: at the final battle of the Genpei Wars, the Battle of Dan-no-ura, Noritsune sacrificed himself to drowning in order to hold two Minamoto soldiers underwater. This sacrifice most closely represents the deathseeker way, and so the deathseeker Matsu Ushio was chosen to represent Noritsune.
Taira no Koremori - Akodo Shinichi - The son and heir of Taira no Shigehira, Koremori led the Taira armies into defeats at Fujigawa and Kurikara. At the battle of Yashima, he is said to have fled and committeed suicide. For his ability to run away from battles, Akodo Shinichi was chosen to represent Koremori.
The Shogun's Peace
Glory of the Shogun
Proposal of Peace
Claimants to the Throne
In Time of War
1x Fukuhara - Seat of Power - When Kiyomori seized power and installed his grandson on the throne, he declared Fukuhara, present day Kobe, to be the seat of imperial power.
1x Byodo-in - High Temple of Toshi Ranbo - Byodo-in was a temple complex and one of the places which protected Prince Mochihito in the early days of the war. The most famous hall in Byodo-in is called the Phoenix Hall - and so a phoenix-related temple was chosen to represent this Buddhist complex in the city of Uji.
3x Dazaifu - Governor's Court - When the Taira power was broken at the Battle of Kurikara, the clan's army fled first to set up a temporary court at Daizaifu, far in the south of Japan. The court only lasted a short while before being forced out by local revolts. This small, temporary court is represented by the Governor's Court.
3x Yashima - Teardrop Island - The last stronghold of Taira power was set up on the island of Tashima. As the only Samurai-legal island, Teardrop Island was chosen to represent Yashima.
3x Hiuchiyama - Yobanjin Fortress - Hiuchiyama was a fortress controlled by Minamoto no Yoshinaka. The fortress was built on rocky crags and highly defended, and so the mountainous Yobanjin Fortress was chosen to represent it.
3x Nara - Harmonious Temple - Early in the war, in vengeance for their support of the Minamoto, Taira no Kiyomori decided to take vengeance on the monks of Mii-dera. The Taira armies burned down the entire city of Nara, with its many temple complexes, in the Siege of Nara. For its militaristic bent, and for the flavor text that could just as easily been spoken by a monk of Nara, the Harmonious Temple was chosen to represent Nara.
2x - Battle of Uji - Three-Stone River - Fought across a river, the Battle of Uji is easily represented by Three-Stone River.
2x - Battle of Ishibashiyama - Surprise Attack - Attacked at night, the Minamoto were defeated in this surprise attack.
2x - Seige of Nara - Raze to the Ground - The Taira destroyed nearly all of Nara and burned it to the ground in retribution for the monk's support of Prince Mochihito.
2x - Battle of Fujigawa - Failure of Courage - The battle that didn't happen, Taira attackers were scared off in a dramatic Failure of Courage by the sounds of a flock of waterfowl.
2x - Battle of Sunomatagawa - Master of the Rolling River - Although the Minamoto attempted to master the river attack, they were undone when the Taira could identify them in the dark by the wetness of their armor.
2x - Battle of Yahagigawa - Prepared Defense - The Minamoto prepared a solid defense - a shield wall - to fight off the Taira, but were still defeated.
2x - Seige of Hiuchi - Unexpected Betrayal - The well-defended Hiuchiyama fortress was only defeated when a traitor in the castle sent the secret to its defeat out through a window.
2x - Battle of Kurikara - Broken Lines - Using a variety of unique ploys, the Minamoto finally broke the Taira lines by stampeding a herd of oxen into the frightened army.
2x - Battle of Shinohara - Unwavering Assault - Unwilling to give up, the Minamoto continue assaulting the Taira by again attacking the army retreating from the Battle of Kurikara.
2x - Battle of Mizushima - Ambush - Though they planned to intercept the Taira on their way to Yashima, the Minamoto were themselves ambushed at sea and soundly defeated.
2x - Seige of Fukuryuji - Find a Way Through It - In order to take a Taira fortress, the Minamoto find a way through muddy ricefields under heavy archer fire.
2x - Battle of Muroyama - Furious Assault - Although the Minamoto attempted to attack the Taira here, the Taira split into five armies and furiously assaulted the Minamoto lines in sequence until they were forced to retreat.
2x - Siege of Hojujidono - Allies become Enemies - Betraying his clan leader Yoritomo, Yoshinaka attempts to sieze power himself, only to be betrayed by his ally Yukiie.
1x - Second Battle of Uji - Three-Stone River - In a repeat of the first battle of the war, Yoshitsune defeats Yoshinaka's troops at the river Uji.
2x - Battle of Awazu - The General Falls - Despite a valiant defense, the general Yoshinaka was felled by an arrow and his abortive attempt to sieze power failed.
2x - Battle of Ichi-no-Tani - Burn it Down - Attempting to take the last major Taira fortress before Yashima, the Minamoto burn the Ichi-no-Tani fortress to the ground.
2x - Battle of Kojima - Cornering Maneuver - The Taira troops fleeing from Ichi-no-Tani are cornered on the island of Kojima and defeated.
2x - Battle of Yashima - Torch's Flame Flickers - The Minamoto used torches and bonfires to trick the Taira so as to catch them from a different direction.
2x - Battle of Dan-no-ura - Tides of Battle - The movement of the tides determined the winner of this final battle, and allowed the Minamoto into position to definitively defeat the Taira.
1x Kusanagi - Daimyo's Blade - The legendary blade of the Imperial Regalia.
1x Yasakani no Magatama - Badge of Authority - The legendary jewel of the Imperial Regalia.
1x Yata no Kagami - Jade Mirror - The legendary mirror of the Imperial Regalia.