Every tabletop game has some “cost to play.” I’m not talking about the initial purchase cost, but the in-game currency that you need to spend for something to happen. Most games have a primary resource and several secondary resources. In Magic, mana is your primary source, while Life and even your deck/hand are secondary sources. You can spend mana to cast cards and abilities, or, some cards allow you to spend life or discard cards to achieve an effect.
Bushido uses a variety of resources, and what makes it unique is your faction/list determines which is your primary source. This has a large impact on the balance of the game. If it all stemmed from a single primary source, the mechanics would fall apart from the inside. It also plays a role in the point value of models.
Bushido’s resources are: Ki, Dice, and Activations. Most factions have lists than can focus on different resources, but from my experience, the factions listed with each commonly exemplify that resource focus.
Ki – Cult, Ito, Ro-kan, Descension
This is the obvious resource for new players. Models generate it and you spend it to cast spells, very much like mana in Magic. When I first got started in Bushido, this led to a lot of feelings of imbalance, as I was running Jung into Ro-kan. Ro-kan are the poster child for Ki focused resource management. They generate a lot, can boost for cheap, and have a variety of abilities to cast. This all felt like, as a Jung player, I wasn’t able to achieve the same spending.
One Ki models were left behind, and boosting was a once or twice a game event, while Ro-kan was boosting almost every turn. My models had 1 or 2 feats that I could only cast every other turn. It wasn’t until I learned to use my other resources, that I saw the balance.
Dice – Jung, Minimoto, Savage Wave, Silvermoon, KKZ
Special Attacks and Defenses cost dice to use, which makes dice the second resource people find. Initially, it appears as more dice=better. While this certainly can be argued, the Wound Table brings it all on a level playing field. 1 dice roll of 6 is enough to keep your model alive even if your opponent rolls an 8. Learning how to split the dice into Attack and Defense, when to boost, these are things that make Dice and even more valuable resource to some factions than Ki.
Methods of reducing your opponent’s dice through States are essential for a lot of factions. If you can bring your enemy down to a single dice, your combat becomes much safer and allows a more reckless attack that the mentioned factions love.
Activations – Jung, Prefecture, Savage Wave, Shiho Wolves, Silvermoon, Descension
This is my favorite of the resources because it is very unique to Bushido. Two activations a turn, and the ability to force the use of an activation on your opponent through combat means Activations are a resource any model can manipulate.
This can be done through sheer numbers (Jung, Savage Wave), traits like Command, Order, and Pack (Prefecture and Wolves) or activation control (Silvermoon).
Sometimes, all a model needs to do is chew up an activation. A Tired model can’t move into an objective and perform a Scenario Objective. A first activation Command can easily mean half of your opponent’s models can’t score them a point that turn.
The beauty of these resources is, while they all tie together, each one is ultimately independent. You can still cast active Ki feats when you’re exhausted. You still get to roll Dice, even if you have no Ki. You can still eat an activation even if you’re at a dice disadvantage.
Running out of a resource will throw a wrench into the turn, but it still leaves you with other options. This leads to the feeling of there always being something you can do, even if it’s just survive this turn to have more resources next turn.
Knowing how which resources your list feeds off of can help you determine your strategy before the first Tactical Roll starts. Do you need Ki? Bring ways to shift Ki around or generate extra. If Dice are more important, know which ways you have to increase your Dice, while taking away your opponent’s. Knowing your Activations can help you determine who you need to keep out of combat range so they’re guarantee botched their actions, and who to throw in your enemies face to tire them out.
Take away your mana in Magic and you don’t get to play. Take away a single resource in Bushido, and there’s still a match to be played, even if it will be an uphill battle.