Way of the Samurai: A Beginner's Guide to Warbands: Bushido

By Matt Skidmore 19 Oct 2017 0

I readily confess that I am no Sun Tzu, but hopefully, I can share a few hints and tips that should help new players get started with Red Unit Studios' Warbands: Bushio, an addictive game of turn-based warfare set in feudal Japan. If you are unfamiliar with what it is about then may I suggest that you start by checking out my review on Pocket Tactics, or even Martynas’ review here on Strategy Gamer for a different perspective.


The Anatomy of a Unit

The units in Warbands only have a few statistics, which all have a very obvious effect.

  • Agility determines a unit’s movement range and the unit turn order for each round. Remember that it is possible to postpone a unit’s actions until the end of the round. For instance, you may want to hold back a melee attack until an enemy has been softened up by some ranged assaults.
  • Toughness represents the number of damage dice that a unit can roll, and the number of wounds that a unit can withstand. Hence, an injured unit will be less effective at inflicting damage.
  • Armour is used to absorb damage. Heavily armoured units, like the Nodachi Kasira, can be a little more gung-ho, since the loss of armour does not reduce the number of attack dice rolled.
  • War Point Cost reflects a unit’s overall strength. The total number of war points that can be used to build your warband are limited by your experience or a particular scenario’s restrictions.

Special Eqipment

Rarity and Honour

The rarity of a unit is indicated by the colour of its base. Remember that as a unit fights it will earn honour points and eventually progress to higher levels. Rarer units have the potential to reach higher levels.

  • Common units are grey, they can only reach level three. Try to replace these as soon as possible.
  • Green units are classed as rare, they can reach level four.
  • Blue, or 'epic' units can reach level five.
  • Yellow units are legendary and can reach the highest level, which is six.

The amount of honour that a unit must earn to reach the next level increases with each level. Also, the higher a unit’s war point cost then the more honour points required. When a unit reaches level two its agility will increase. At level three the unit will gain a new ability. Fourth level units earn an extra armour point. At level five they will gain a second new ability and legendry units that reach level six will be awarded an extra point of toughness.

Assembling your Warbands

You can create up to four colour-coded warbands. The red warband takes part in arena battles and should include your best legendary units. Green and Grey warbands are used for face-to-face battles and the blue warband specialises in single-player scenarios.


Ranged units are vital as they can attack over longer distances without fear of counter attack. An archer’s accuracy is reduced by one die for every six hexes of distance. The rifle-wielding Harquebusiers suffer no such reductions, although they cannot move and fire on the same turn. The Yumi Guard with its Steady Aim ability is a good starter.

The well-balanced renegade with its nasty pitchfork attack and the heavily armoured Tate-Mochi are two great value low-cost units. At the other end of the spectrum, the Kensei are an expensive but popular offensive unit. They may only have one armour and two toughness, but their Kenjutsu Master ability allows them to throw an additional three extra damage dice, which massively increases the chances of a hit.

Overall, there are no hard and fast rules about the makeup of your warbands, but a balanced approach with a good mix of ranged and melee units seems sensible.

Spend, Spend, Spend

You can spend your hard earned money on new scenarios, battle cards, and units. Initially, it pays to focus on purchasing new units. Getting legendary units into your warbands as soon as possible makes sense as you can immediately begin to work on improving their level. Legendary units are also needed to qualify for arena battles.

Money is in short supply, so regularly battling other players for achievement rewards and working your way through the single-player scenarios is essential.

Done and Dusted

Relying on the luck of the draw to acquire legendary units can be both lengthy and frustrating. At some point, you may want to try some Hearthstone-style crafting. Duplicate units and weak units that you no longer require can be dissembled into dust, which can be collected and used to purchase legendary units of your choice. Rare and epic units that have reached maximum levels can be exchanged for a lot of dust and since they no longer improve it is often more beneficial to dissemble them – you are going to need a lot of dust for those five-point legendaries.

using dust

The Art of Positioning

Combat involves rolling six-sided dice. Each die has three sides that represent a miss, two sides show a standard hit, and the final side is a special hit that also improves morale. It is not great odds, but the thoughtful positioning of your units can really improve your chances of successful strikes.

Flanking an Enemy

Position ranged units behind cover to reduce the chances of them being hit. You can also position them directly next to a friendly unit, which will also provide cover without blocking range of sight. It is possible, for instance, to place ranged units behind a Tate-Mochi shield unit that will act as a movable wall. The facing direction of a unit is usually irrelevant. However, surround an enemy unit with three allies and the enemy will roll one less damage dice. You can cause a further one damage dice reduction by flanking an enemy by having friendly units engage from opposite sides. These modifiers are cumulative and allow weak and injured units to still have a chance against stronger opponents.

Try not to leave your units isolated and open to flanking attacks. Ensure that enemy units do not have a clear path to ranged units as when engaged in melee combat they lose two attack dice. Finally, remember that if you attempt to disengage from a combat situation then any enemies you are adjacent too will get to roll a damage dice.

Play your Cards Right

Despite saying earlier that initial finances should be focused on purchasing units, cards are important and can easily swing a close battle in your favour. Your hand of cards is made up of a mix of order cards, ability cards (which are specific to a particular unit) and equipment cards.


At the beginning of the battle you are randomly assigned four cards, which you can swap. At the end of each round, a new card is added to your hand.

Breath of Wind allows a unit to increase its movement by two hexes, useful for flanking an enemy or closing in on a missile unit. Another way to flush out a ranged enemy is to use Provocation to make them involuntary charge two spaces forward. Meditation allows a gunpowder unit to both move and fire on the same turn. If you have high dice throwing units like the Kensei then Test of Valour is an excellent card for improving morale.

Special Equipment

As battles progress, icons representing special equipment cards will begin to appear. Equipment is also available in some scenarios, most notably at the beginning of the Samurai scenario. If a unit ends a turn on one of these icons then he will earn a special bonus card. These aren’t really covered in the rules, so here is a breakdown:

  • Boiling Pots cause one damage point and confusion to all units in a one hex radius.
  • Taiko Drum improves morale by five points.
  • Harpoon causes one point of damage to any selected unit on the battlefield.
  • Whetstone adds two damage dice to the next attack.
  • Freshwater heals two points of damage.
  • Kabuto Helmet repairs up to two points of armour damage
  • Spiked Pit sets a nasty unseen trap for your opponent.

Warbands: Bushido is a game well worth trying, and is available on Steam.



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