Māori attack on the homestead

IMG_3052_aThe peace of Atkinson’s Farm, somewhere in the back-blocks of colonial New Zealand, is suddenly disturbed by blood-curdling yells as a party of Māori warriors descend on the farmhouse.  The Atkinson family run to stave off the attack.

IMG_3050_aaMiss Amelia, still dressed in her Sunday-best, flinches as she fires her father’s pistol at an attacking warrior brandishing his tewhatewha.

Note: The tewhatewha is a long-handled Māori club weapon shaped like an axe. It was designed for scientific sparring and lightning strokes and thrusts, aided by quick footwork on the part of the wielder.  The blows were not struck with the blade as one would with an axe, but rather with the thicker straight front edge. It was common for tewhatewha to be decorated with a small bunch of  feathers to distract or confuse the wielder’s opponent.

IMG_3052_aaMr Atkinson, still bandaged from a wound in an earlier clash, takes command and directs his son Jim (dapper in his town-going clothes) to his position.  Little Annie hitches up her skirts and runs with a haversack full of  ammunition to resupply the defenders. Meanwhile Mrs Atkinson can be just seen in the doorway, musket slung over her shoulder, doling out the gunpowder from a small barrel in her arms.

NewZealand3 - Copy (2)NZ16 - Copy (2)The Māori warriors and the family are all from Empress Miniatures.  My favourites are the delightful set #NZ16 shown above.   The house is a plastic kit by Perry Miniatures, and the typical New Zealand cabbage trees, toi-tois and flax are paper kits from Right Track. The background is my own garden!

burtts farmWith this set, I’ll be able to recreate attacks on homesteads during the New Zealand Wars, such as the attack on Burtt’s Farm in 1863, as shown in Gustavus von Tempsky’s above painting.

illus02Or I can portray attacks from romanticsed fiction, such as the attack shown in the above illustration from the classic 1891 novel Maori and Settler by GA Henty.

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Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Empress Miniatures, Perry Miniatures, Terrain

Settlers, samurai, a standard and a Shorland

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It’s been fairly quiet on the gaming front at the moment, but not entirely without some output.  I’m working on some Empress Miniatures figures from their colonial New Zealand Wars range, including these four colonists defending their homestead, and the three gunners to man a Maori cannon.

I also have the last banner-man for my Kingsford Miniatures Japanese samurai to find a suitable flag design for.  Something nondescript, as he is not really required for either of my samurai clan armies, so will be just a decorative figure.

The Napoleonic British standard bearer in the background is a Warlord figure that came with a set of Black Powder rules.  He comes with a cast-on flag, which (like the samurai flag) has been quite a challenge to paint, because I’m more used to GMB Design’s exquisite printed paper flags.

Finally, I recently dug out a miniature resin model of a Dutch police Shorland armoured car, which I made a decade or so ago in my previous hobby of collecting model police vehicles (before I became a wargamer). From memory, the manufacturer was called something like Transports of Delight.  I can’t see any particular gaming purpose for this model, but I just  love the shape of the Shorland, based as it was on the common-or-garden Landrover.

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Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Empress Miniatures, Kingsford Miniatures, Napoleonics, Police, Samurai, Warlord Games

Colourful ‘Ronin’ skirmish in 16th century Japan

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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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Filed under 4Ground, Kingsford Miniatures, Perry Miniatures, Samurai, Terrain

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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