Colourful ‘Ronin’ skirmish in 16th century Japan

table

Our first-time experience using Osprey’s Ronin skirmish wargaming rules resulted in pretty much of a mixed bag. We found many aspects of the rules worked well and were simple to follow.  But a few of the rules mechanisms did confuse us, which made this first game a very slow one. In fact, it went so slowly that there was only one casualty in the whole two hours we spent playing.

We now need to decide if this was just first-time inexperience, and with a few more Ronin games under our belt, things will become clear.  Or if we should revert to a samurai version of another set of rules we are already quite familiar with from playing other periods, namely the Legends of the Rising Sun variant of Games Workshop’s Legends series.

Anyway, here is the report from our first Ronin game.

The terrain

IMG_3018_aThe terrain consisted of a small post village straddling a straight highway.  The thatched house in the foreground is by … um … 4Ground.  On the left you can see the red torii gate of the temple, which is a plastic kit by Plastcraft Games. The fencing is also by 4Ground, and the latex road by Miniature World Maker.

IMG_3019_aPeasant cottages lie just off the highway, each with a small garden area shaded by cherry-blossoms trees.  To the left a stream babbles quietly under a stone bridge.  A Perry Miniatures coolie lugs his load across this peaceful scene.

IMG_3020_aPedestrians on the busy highway pass a small temple complex, cross the stream and then proceed past the open doors of the village’s communal rice barn.

IMG_3021_aA monk stands on the ornamental bridge in the temple grounds.  A peaceful scene, about to be shattered by the clarion calls of war …

The game

We fought the game with two small but evenly-matched forces.  We each had two samurai (one mounted) and four ashigaru soldiers with different weapons.  These figures are all by Kingsford Miniatures, by the way.

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The main force of Scott’s Takeda clan started by moving towards the highway through a field of long grass. The archer attempted to shoot some enemy at long range, but with no effect.

IMG_3025_aMeanwhile my Hojo clan warriors moved up to the stream from the other side of the board.  My archer also tried a few long shots, but was also unsuccessful.

IMG_3026_aIn the background, Scott makes his next move, whilst my men get ready to wade across the stream. One of my ashigaru carries the distinctive  Hojo banner of  ‘the five lucky colours’.

IMG_3032_aOnce across the stream, my men ran into Scott’s mounted samurai, who had galloped around the edge of the board.  This ‘two infantry vs one cavalry’ melee took quite a while for us to work out under the rules, and in the end it was an inconclusive result, with nothing major happening to any party.

IMG_3029_aMeanwhile Scott’s Takeda soldiers lined the fence alongside the highway, as civilians scampered out of the way.

IMG_3030_aBut, surprise! My mounted samurai had made his way through the village and now suddenly appeared behind the Takeda line.  The soldiers quickly vaulted the fence to get out of the way, whilst one of their number shot a hasty arrow at the approaching horseman – and inflicted a light wound.

IMG_3033_aMy samurai charged in to attack the archer, who was quickly joined by his spear-wielding comrade.  Fighting from behind the protection of the sturdy fence, they wounded the samurai again, causing a fatal wound – the one and only casualty of the game!

At this point we had to finish the game, so victory went to Scott.

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Takeda versus Hojo

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The lack of updates on my blog for the last few weeks doesn’t mean there has been no painting action. As you can see from the photos, my 28mm Kingsford Miniatures samurai of the Takeda clan now have an enemy to fight – the Hojo clan.

The Hojos’ triple triangle emblems on their yellow back banners (‘sashimono’) are drawn with a drafting pen. Their large standard portrays the so-called ‘five lucky colours’.  The foot soldiers’ armour is mainly black, with light blue lacing and clothing.  Their samurai leaders are clothed in different colours according to taste.  

The white diamond shapes on the blue sashimono of the Takeda are done with commercial decals – apart from the large standard which was painted by hand. The soldiers’ armour is mainly rust-coloured, and their clothing various shades of beige or sand.  Again, their samurai leaders are more variegated.

To give the sheen of laquer to the armour and weapons, yet avoid the garish appearance of gloss varnish, I over-painted the laquered areas with a wash of PVA glue and water.  This gave a nice eggshell effect to those parts of the figures, but leaving the remainder of their clothing completely matt.

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of my paint-jobs or their flags. I’ve found it very difficult to research samurai armies. Whilst there are lots of books and websites around, it is such a complex subject. But these models suit my purposes, even if they aren’t absolutely historical. They’re just for gaming, after all!

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4Ground’s shogunate cottage and barn finished

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Having finished building the latest shogunate Japanese buildings from 4Ground, I thought I would take some close-up pictures to show the detail of these neat wooden kits.

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Peasant labourer’s dwelling

According to the 4Ground website, this model depicts a lowland farmstead dwellings, the home to a family of ‘mizunomi’, or farm labourers.  These most simple of houses were made of wooden post-framing, with timber boarded panel walls throughout.

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This photo shows the intricate framework of the 4Ground model. The wooden planks are actually inserted panels that are glued between the frames (sounds complex, but they fit so accurately that it is a doddle to do). The wooden-barred windows and the loft air-vents are beautifully laser-cut pieces. The roof is made of teddy bear fur supplied with the kit.

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In the foreground of this picture we see the house with its roof removed.  The interior walls are fully detailed.  The dwelling is divided into the lower padded earth floor area where many household jobs were done, and the higher timber flooring where the family ate and slept.

You can see the opening door, and once again one of those delicately barred windows.  Note also the little lug in each corner that hold the roof on.  The two rather visible location pegs on the verandah roof don’t show when the thatch roof is back on.

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Unlike a couple of earlier 4Ground kits I made, I haven’t trimmed the edges of the thatch roof this time. I think I prefer it this way, as it looks more natural.

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Village rice barn

This is a lowland rice barn. As described on the 4Ground website, all villages had an estimated field tax burden that they had to pay in produce to their Daimyo.  The rice tax was collected and stored in village rice barns/large outbuildings like this one, called ‘mura bei no naya’.

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While the two kits are based on the same plan, there are differences. For example, the barn lacks the loft-vents of the dwelling, and doesn’t have a verandah.

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The barn has double doors, which are fully operable. And inside, of course, the barn has no raised sleeping/eating floor. 

The roof comes off the barn in the same way as the dwelling. You can see the holes in the ceiling in which the corner lugs on the walls sit.  

All in all, another pair of 4Ground buildings that I am very pleased with indeed.  Dead simple to make, tons of character, strongly built, definitely Japanese in appearance – what more could you want for a samurai game!

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New housing estate in Little Japan

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My Japanese villagers are all abuzz as construction work moves ahead at a great pace in their village. The frames of two new 28mm buildings have recently appeared, one the start of a village rice barn, the other a peasant labourer’s dwelling.

These are both kits by 4Ground, to complement the two larger 4Ground houses and the Plastcraft Games temple I had already built.

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New fencing and gates have also been erected over the last couple of days. These again come from a 4Ground kit.  These are assembled by firstly gluing posts into the bases, then attaching rails to the posts, and finally gluing the boarded fronts onto the rails.  I came up with a couple of tricks:

  • Firstly, I textured the bases after I had attached he rails to the posts, but before the boarded fronts were glued on.  This saved having to do loads of very fiddly texturing under the boards.
  • Secondly, I painted a heavily-diluted wash of black acrylic paint between each board.  This was a tedious job, but I think the end result gives the fences more definition.

My only disappointment with this kit is that the gates don’t open or close (unlike the doors in the 4Ground buildings).  However, that is a very minor beef, and overall I love these fences and gates.

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This picture of the two latest buildings under construction show the clever way that these 4Ground kits are designed. You first assemble these frames. Then the pre-painted interior walls get glued to the inside, and small textured panels are glued on the outside into the spaces between the frames. Doors and windows go in, and the roof is added as a completely separate sub-assembly.  While this may all sound complex, in fact it’s a dead easy process.

I’m so impressed with these 4Ground kits.  They’re not only great-looking models when they’re finished, but they’re absolute fun to make.

I’m looking forward to their next products in this range.  Rumour has it that they intend to make a highland village and a river delta village (think stilts). The lowland and highland collection are also going to include houses for their local rural samurai.

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A busy day in Little Japan

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A spring day in the village of Little Japan, sometime during the Sengoku Jidai (‘Warring States’) period. In the shade of the cherry-blossom trees, a yellow-clad monk stands on the temple verandah and greets an old-timer ambling past. Nearby, a mother is dragging her bawling child to market, while a well-dressed lady waits near the monument in the centre of the square.

Behind them a geisha practises her moves with a pair of fans.  Two workers hurry past, one laden with goods balanced on a pole, the other carrying a mattock to work in the fields.  On the street corner, two samurai  show each other the latest moves with their swords.

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I’ve been quietly plodding along with my samurai project, and over the last week or so have painted these Perry civilians. Today I set them up on my desk, along with two houses from 4Ground, and the temple from Fukei/Plastcraft Games.

Now it is a matter of getting back to painting more of the samurai and ashigaru soldiers, to destroy the peace in this idyllic little Japanese village scene!  A hint of this can be seen in the picture below, as a couple of my Kingsford samurai figures arrive on the scene.

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It’s Waitangi Day!

Carved sternposts of beached 'waka' (canoes) on the beach near Waitangi.

Carved sternposts of beached ‘waka’ (canoes) on the beach near Waitangi.

It’s Waitangi Day in New Zealand – our national day. The day we celebrate (or, for some people, the opposite) the signing in 1840 of our founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi.

Marcus King painting of Treaty of Waitangi.

Marcus King painting of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.  See the Comments section of my posting for discussion about the accuracy of this (and other) paintings.

My most memorable Waitangi Day was back in 1990 (ooh err – that’s 24 years ago now!), when I took part in a major reenactment of the signing of the Treaty. I played the part of one of the five NSW Mounted Police troopers who accompanied the British party.

Me as a trooper of the New South Wales Mounted Police (c1840).

Me as a trooper of the New South Wales Mounted Police (c1840).

The party of NSW mounted troopers at the Old Stone Store in Kerikeri.

The party of NSW mounted troopers at the Old Stone Store in Kerikeri.

Governor Hobson's party at sea on the way to the beach at Waitangi (me on the far left).

Governor Hobson’s party at sea on the way to the beach at Waitangi (me on the far left).

I think this post on M J Wright’s blog is very insightful about the history and controversy behind the Treaty.

An actor playing a Maori chief at Waitangi.

An actor playing a Maori chief at Waitangi.

Well-known actor and announcer Peter Sledmere played Governor Hobson in an (inaccurate) navy uniform.

Well-known actor and announcer Peter Sledmere played Governor Hobson in an (inaccurate) navy uniform.

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Perry’s gorgeous unarmoured samurai figures

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After painting all that intricate laced armour on my Kingsford samurai, I decided for a change of pace by doing some unarmoured samurai by Perry Miniatures.

Well, there might not have been any tricky lacing to paint. But that was more than compensated for by the steady hand required to paint the pattern on the kimono (correct term?) each man is wearing.

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These 28mm Perry figures are exquisite. I’d admired this set for many years. So although I have settled on Kingsford for my armoured samurai, this set by the Perry twins (and several other sets in Perry’s samurai range) will not escape my clutches.

There are three things I particularly like about these figures:

  1. The way they look so Japanese – something indefinable, but definitely there.
  2. The realistic poses imbued with so much flowing movement.
  3. Their wonderful facial expressions, straight out of the TV series ‘Shogun’!

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In the above photo we have the chap with the cherry-blossom pattern who is fighting the man in the striped kimono.  I’m actually not 100% happy with the cherry-blossom pattern, so may redo that once all the other figures are painted.  The striped guy, however, I’m really happy with.  These bases, of course, are still waiting treatment.

I’ve painted just three of the figures from this six-figure set so far. Once all six are completed, with the addition of one more unarmoured samurai from their civilian set, I will have ‘The Seven Samurai’, as per the famous movie.

As you can see from the photos, my painting style is somewhat impressionistic. I find it impossible to obtain the fine brush control that is needed for close-up photos. My figures look their best when viewed from a slight distance.

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