Game Rules

Whithered, prostrated

The world has turned upside down

Snow on the bamboo



Snow on the Bamboo is a strategy game set in the Japanese era of the "Age of the Warring States." Players take the role of a clan leader during a time where any noble can win superiority over the Japanese empire.

The Ming Empire is only interested in nominal tribute provided by the Ashikaga Shogunate, and the vast ocean to the east has no known opportunities, so all activity is focused on the islands themselves. For the first time in a century new men can ascend to leadership of Japan.

Recently nanban have arrived. Men who we call themselves Porutogaru, but they have not provided any reason to believe they are anything other than barbarous. The fools even eat with their fingers! They bring a heretical religion that demands abandoning the gods of the land and the ghosts of our ancestors, but they offer incredible armor and weaponry in exchange for trade. We will see if their future trade envoys are worth dealing with.

Action points

Each player is alloted ten action points per turn. It is encouraged that a player keep each action point short and sweet, because the more room for interpretation the GM has the more chance random dice will factor into the success of the action.

There are two actions per year, one during the growing and harvesting season and one in the late fall and winter. Players should be careful about conducting campaigns during the late fall and winter if the campaign will be conducted in areas that are prone to heavy winters.

The Imperial Court (and newspaper)

Within the game itself there is an Imperial Court. Though players fight for supremacy amongst themselves there is still an Emperor with great influence. It should be expected that players who act particularly objectionably will be called out by the Emperor, providing all players with a cassus belli. The Emperor can be influenced though, and spending time maintaining relations with the Imperial Court is often worth the time. The Emperor’s word has great influence, even if his power is only nominal, for he, exclusively, can grant cassus belli for any reason.

Additionally, within the game there is a newspaper, called the Imperial Court. This newspaper provides all known public information for all players. Essentially it represents the widely known events reported at the Imperial Court, which would be known by all clans.


Each turn the noble class may provide a number of recruits which can be employed however the player so desires. Peasant recruits will also be provided.

Military units and rules

The armies operate on a scale of 50 men to a unit for peasants. This allows for many different units in battle, giving generals flexibility and allowing for a give-and-take flow to things. It also means that players should expect battles to take place between armies in the thousands, not tens-or-hundreds of thousands. Japan’s population at this point had been gutted by previous wars. That said, it also allows for individuals to distinguish themselves and work there way up into your service.

Players will also be given a pool of unassigned samurai at the beginning of the game. These samurai can be assigned from the pool as the player wants; grouping them into units or performing individual tasks.


Players can arm their units however they believe is best, using traditional Japanese weapons and armor. However, for the default price of 1 wealth per unit the peasants will have default peasant armor, which is considerably worse than the armor of the samurai. Additionally, peasants are generally poorly trained and so the use of the long spear or bow only is recommended for their simplicity.

Samurai will be trained in a variety of weapons, but at the beginning of the game still favor the bow and the polearm (short spear). This does not necessarily mean that there is a penalty for using any other weapons, but provides context for the setting.

Naval units and rules

Naval units are purchased as a squadron of five, and are armed with a unit of bowmen and a unit of sword infantry. The player can choose whether to favor one or the other. Bowmen are required for ranged attacks against enemies, and infantry are required for boarding and defending against boarding. It is up to the player to decide his priority, but a default squadron will favor archers. Eventually gunships will become available, but this requires the player to gain western guns, and eventually artillery.

Harvests and the economy

On the winter turn players will gain taxes from their harvests and trade. Additionally each harvest has a small random chance of having either a poor harvest or a great harvest. Poor harvests cause a famine in the province which results in deaths, disorders, and other calamities. Players can offset this by using food stored in a granary during a great harvest, or by having the correct starting economic conditions.

Great harvests provide an opportunity to invest the food into a granary to prepare for a future famine or for a campaign; or if not stored provide a small temporary boost to the civilian population’s loyalty. Storage requires the use of an action point, and using the stored harvest also requires a note.

The rest of the economy is dependent upon the artisan and merchant classes, which will provide taxation based on their income from selling goods they make. Players with the dedication can have special industries that provide bonuses for the province it is centered in, but this requires the correct starting conditions or dedicated investment into the industry.


Each player will have various NPCs under his employ who represent powerful factions. Some will be renowned warriors, some heads of lesser clans, and some prominent peasants. These NPCs will have their own agendas and traits and can do as they please, though player actions will influence NPC actions.


Native Shintoism/Buddhism – Your clan favors the traditional religion, the syncretic fusion of Buddhism and Shintoism. This is the vast majority of Japanese religion, and includes worship of the Buddha as a supreme being as well as acknowledging the existance and worship of innumerable local deities.

Christianity – This new religion comes from the foreigners. They require conversion as part of their trade agreements, but it includes giving up the old spirits in exchange for their one-but-three part god as supreme. Accepting this religion will give access to Nanban trade, but will result in a heavy penalty when dealing with fellow Japanese.

Your clan

Every player plays as the leader of a major clan in Japan. These major clans leaders, known as daimyo, are the leaders of various provinces. They generally have several families serving below them in something approaching the feudal system. These lesser clans need to be appeased and dealt with during the approach towards the shogunate, lest they betray their superiors, or work against your heir to assume control at your death.

These clans will have various capabilities, territories, and tendencies that will be determined at clan creation.

Clan creation

To create a clan follow the below steps:

  1. Choose a clan name (if you choose a historical name for a major clan you will be automatically assigned their province, but can choose their traits).

  2. Choose a clan leader name (clan name followed by personal name) and age.

  3. Choose a province, if applicable. Send your top three choices in order, first come first serve.

  4. At game start all players follow the native Japanese religion (a syncretic Shinto-Buddhist religion). Opportunities will come randomly which will allow for conversion.

  5. You have 1,000 points to spend among the following:

  • Populace loyalty – This defines how loyal the overall populace will be, this includes all classes.

0 – A mutinous population ready to rebel at any moment

50 – Easily influenced and possibly rebellious

100 – Bribable, but otherwise loyal

150 – A loyal population that will stick by their lord unless circumstances force a change.

200 – Fanatically loyal. This lord’s family has been so good to the populace that they will not rebel under any circumstances, but this status can be lowered depending on circumstances.

  • Capital fortifications – This is defining the fortifications of your capital. Any other towns or cities you wish to fortify will require active in-game orders.

0 – No fortifications, just a village or city.

50 – Minimal fortifications, a simply built wooden fortified manor

100 – Simple earthworks with wooden palisades

150 - Palisades and a basic castle defenses around multiple buildings laid out with defense in mind

200 – A well developed castle in the center of the city with high wooden walls atop earthworks, with towers, gatehouses, and other defenses expected of a modern fortification

  • Total peasant population – This population occupies a caste below the samurai, but above the untouchables. On the top of this two-level group are the farmers, and at the bottom are the artisans. Increasing points in this category increases the number of peasants you can recruit (either as a levy or permanently) before your economy is reduced.

0 – Minimal peasantry outside of those necessary to maintain the farms and economy.

50 – A few hundred unemployed peasants spread through the province.

100 – A few thousand available peasants throughout the province, centered on the capital.

150 – Many available peasants to be put to whatever task their lord has available.

200 – There are as many peasants as rice fields, a huge reserve.

  • Noble population – This includes your lesser noble families and the samurai pledged to your family or the lesser families. This is your professional (hereditary) warrior class. Every death from this class is one less family available for future generations.

0 – There are a few dozen samurai employed by the daimyo’s house, and a single lesser noble family sworn into service.

50 – The daimyo’s house employs around 100 samurai, and a few lesser houses, which each have less than 20 samurai employed.

100 – The daimyo’s house has around 500 samurai employed, a few lesser houses with a few dozen samurai split between them.

150 – The daimyo’s house has around 700 samurai employed, with several lesser houses with a few dozen samurai each.

200 – The daimyo’s house has around 1000 samurai employed, with several lesser houses employing another 300 samurai between them.

  • Infrastructure – This category defines the development of roads and stations in your province, as well as providing security. Poor infrastructure encourages banditry and limits your ability to track invading armies or receive messages and news.

0 – Little to no infastructure, your towns have roads only where people have trodden down the grass through constant movement, and your towns are disconnected altogether.

50 – Your towns and cities have paths between them that have been trodden out by travellers, but they are difficult to navigate and cannot handle carts or palanquins.

100 – Your capital and any other major cities have paved roads for major thoroughfares, and major cities have roads that can handle carts and palanquins.

150 – Your capital has a paved path leading towards Kyoto, and all internal towns and cities are connected by unpaved but well maintained roads, all paved roads have regular stations allowing for the swapping of horses and safe rest stops, as well as giving bases for patrols.

200 – Your major cities are all connected by paved roads and any city or town in your province has at least one paved main street. All of your roads have regular stations allowing for at least twice daily rest stops and ample bases for internal patrolling.

  • Economic conditions – This category defines the prosperity of your artisan class, which in turn determines how much industry you have available to provide necessary materials and taxes.

0 – Your people are destitute. Craftsmen are non-existent and anything needed is imported, which is almost impossible with so little money.

50 – A few craftsmen are able to supply your people’s basic needs, but trade is barely happening

100 - You have enough skilled craftsmen to supply some trade, and a normal amount of profit and taxes can be collected.

150 – Your craftsmen are skilled and productive, you provide your people with all that they need and also supply nearby provinces.

200 – Your craftsmen have begun to specialize, select one industry to function as a speciality, your internal production is superior and you always have the products of this industry available, as well as gaining an export bonus for these items.

  • Agricultural conditions – This category determines your food availability, which is the primary determinate in your tax revenues as well as your ability to supply both internal garrisons and offensive campaigns.

0 – Your people barely scrape by, and seedstock is barely enough to maintain year-to-year supplies. You must import any food your soldiers require, whether in garrison or on campaign.

50 – Your people have enough food to be comfortable, but you do not produce enough to store between harvests, let alone supply military campaigns. At this level and beyond an offensive military campaign requires a year’s notice (two turns) to store enough food to supply it, but garrisons are automatically supplied for defensive protection.

100 – You have enough food that a bountiful harvest can be stored, if you have the facilities.

150 – You have enough food to export some if need be, and campaigns are fully supplied so long as the army has a secured supply line to the home province (no longer require a year’s notice).

200 – You have excess food such that in the event of a famine you will automatically have enough stocks to survive without putting any aside (permanent one time use).

  • Starting army – How big your permanent peasant army is at the start of the game. Your noble army is determined by your noble population category and is automatic.

0 – You have only your nobility to rely upon.

50 – You have a small garrison of permanent peasant troops to supplement your nobility.

100 – You have an average garrison of permanent peasant troops.

150 - You have a good number of permanent peasant troops.

200 – You have a large peasant army to supplement and be led by your nobility.

  • Starting navy – This determines how many squadrons of warships you have at game start.

0 – You have no warships.

50 – You have a single warship squadron (five ships) with each having a contingent of archers

100 – You have three warship squadrons

150 – You have five warship squadrons

200 – You have seven warship squadrons, as above.

  • Subordinates: Each subordinate costs 50 points to create (except the legendary warrior) in the creation portion of the game, after that available agents will be posted in the newspaper and can be bought, or will be provided by random luck. When buying they will consider the monetary offer and the circumstances of their employment.

Skilled general – This man has experience leading armies. He will provide you with a bonus when he leads men in battle.

Skilled admiral – This man is experienced in naval affairs. He will provide a bonus to any squadrons he leads.

Loyal second – This man is your right hand man. Such trusted individuals are few and far between.

Renowned priest – Whatever your choice in religion, such a man provides status and esteem among the faithful, as well as providing advice in regards to the affairs of the spirit. He can also be used to convert members of other faiths.

Legendary warrior (100 points)– These men are the names that will live in legend far beyond the current age. Using them in battle provides a substantial bonus to the unit they are attached to, or alternatively they can be used to train units with matching weaponry, providing a smaller, but permanent bonus to any units they have trained for at least two years. Choose their weapon specialty when selecting this option. If you provide these men with a dojo and a relative, young man of the lesser nobility, or your loyal second he can train them in addition to leading a military unit (but they cannot train units while also having individual students). After five years of continuous training his student enters your service as a new legendary warrior, but during training the chance of death is slightly increased for both the trainer and trainee.

Nanban lover – This man is fascinated with the nanban to an unseemly degree, and increases the chances of contact, and improves Nanban relations after contact, so long as he lives.

Wife – A good wife can provide a man with many children. Without this character your leader is assumed to be unmarried.

Son – An heir, a spare, and many others to provide military and diplomatic representatives. Without this character your leader is assumed to have no children. You may also use this to select a daughter if you so choose.

Yadoya – Such men meet many individuals, both savory and unsavory. A loyal innkeeper can provide knowledge of things no other man can provide.

Sekitori – A professional bureaucrat from the lower classes, one who has earned a salary in your house’s service. This man will provide you with assistance in dealing with the merchant class, which is so low that a man of your class should not associate with them beyond what is necessary.

Ishiku – This man can help in the construction of buildings for your clan. He will be instrumental in building non-standard buildings, and may provide a bonus in building standard buildings.

Shokunin – This master of his craft provides a bonus to a specific industry in the province in which he is situated. Prominent peasant families can provide young men to study with this master to learn his craft if he has a dojo if the master accepts him, but there is a chance that the young master will choose to take his services to a new clan after he completes his studies. Specify the industry that this individual has mastered when creating him.

Metsuke – This man can increase the loyalty of a population by seeking out and destroying rebel elements, foreign spies, and other disloyal elements in a city. The appearance of a metsuke is always met with fear, because he is vested with ultimate authority in judging the loyalty of an individual or group. It is best if such officials are provided with an escort to provide protection and to follow through on his judgements.



Granary – 3 wealth – This is used to store a bountiful harvest, if you have one. Without this the excess food cannot be stored, but you gain a bonus among all classes because the extra food is distributed among them for the season.

Docks – 5 wealth – This provides a small trade bonus, and allows the construction of basic ships of both trade and war. These basic ships are required to stay along the coast, for they are not ocean capable.

Modern docks – 8 wealth – This provides the opportunity to reach out to non-Japanese powers for trade. Ocean-ready ships can be constructed, including the powerful warship-class Atakebune.

Castle – 10 wealth – Upgrade the castle in a specific city to the next class up. The classes are defined in the “Capital fortifications” section. Non-capital cities are first upgraded from “No fortifications” to “minimal fortifications.” The capital upgrade is based off of its initial status.

Shrine – 2 wealth – A small shrine to your chosen religion in a sacred area. This can be upgraded by spending 2 wealth per upgrade to increase the prestige of the spot. These areas attract the faithful and increase both the province’s overall faith and the chances of gaining a named priest.

Dojo – 5 wealth – A dojo should not be judged by the modern term (though that is applicable). A dojo is any building devoted to providing teaching towards a craft. This area will allow a portion of the population to be devoted to learning the craft (whatever specialization you choose). A legendary warrior can also build an independent dojo to teach up to 10 students at a time, but they all suffer the expected death penalty.

Other buildings may be built depending on the player’s wishes, money spent and any experts who are available to help.


In the Age of Warring States diplomacy functions differently than the modern westerner interprets it. It was not uncommon for daimyo to send emissaries to lesser nobility and try to convince them to turn traitor on their lord. It was also not uncommon to see these lesser nobles agree and turn traitor. Marriage is one of the only reliable ways to seal an agreement, and exchange of hostages to ensure cooperation is the norm.


Ninja, while not strictly historically accurate, will play a role in the game. Individuals who specialize in the art of espionage and irregular warfare are few and far between. Such actions are considered beneath a noble family, but still they are often found necessary.

Ninja will be entirely controlled by the GM, they cannot be gained as an NPC, nor can they train any NPCs in their craft. Instead, players must spend action points, first to find clans that train in these arts (random chance of success) and then second to employ them. To employ ninja: a task and a monetary offer must be made. If the offer is accepted the NPC clan will attempt to complete the contract. Regardless of success that ends the agreement. There is also a small chance of employing a small group of ninja to be used for one campaign as a unit in the army. This paramilitary group will be relatively weak in direct combat, but effective in asymmetric warfare on the battlefield or during a siege. These mercenary groups will not be useful in attempting assassinations and other such tasks, which should be contracted out separately.

Generic spies

Players may spend one or more wealth to employ a spy where they want. This spy is generic and provides information and may randomly succeed in specialised tasks. The more wealth spent the more likely the spy will be successfully planted, but wealth spent does not change the effectiveness of the spy.