A 28mm Japanese tower that looks Japanese!

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There’s something distinctive about Japanese towers that even the uninitiated can identify them straight away. However, this characteristic look can be quite elusive, as many of the model Japanese castles I’ve seen for sale to wargamers just don’t capture that distinctive shape properly.

However, that is certainly not an issue with the latest model building I’ve bought to go with my 28mm samurai figures. This wooden yagura ichi tower kit from Tre Games Inc definitely looks Japanese!

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What I love about this model is how it has captured the archetypal sloping base-walls, visible rafters and the complicated roof structure with the interesting gables. The shuttered windows, the holes in the walls for shooting weapons, and the crazy stone-work of the base all add to the look and feel.

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My model is made up from two kitsets: the Japanese yagura ichi tower ($US40), and its accompanying fortified stone base ($US20). The kits are made of laser-cut 1/16″ ash hardwood and 1/8″ birch plywood. Altogether, the completed model measures just over 7.5″ tall, and the base’s footprint is just a tad under 6.5″ square.

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I decided to do a bit of extra detailing to what was already a very good model. The roofs come off each floor, but whilst the floors already had a patterns of wooden panels, the walls were bare. So I simply used a black marker pen to draw in the beams, following the pattern of the exterior beams of the model, and shaded them in with colouring pencils.

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The base was a little tricky, as there are a lot of angles. I used rubber bands and pegs to hold the parts in place whilst they dried, then used a sander to round off the sharp corners. There was also a slight gap between the upper and lower walls, which I filled with glue.

Painting the base was easy: a spray coat of black, followed by a dry-brushing of grey, and finished with a very light dry-brushing of white. The base also comes with a separate set of stairs that you can place beside one of the two doors on the tower.

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The walls were very easy to assemble, despite the complex shape. I pre-painted the beams in dark brown, and the wooden sidings on the walls with a lighter brown, before glueing them together.

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The most extensive change I made was to the roof. The model comes with a roof that resembles a wooden planks. But I thought a tile roof would be more characteristic of a Japanese tower. I used some corrugated card from a craft shop, which I scribed horizontally with a metal ruler to produce the look of tiles.

I then simply glued the card onto the supplied roofs, spray-painted them black and dry-brushed them grey. Finally, I assembled the roof as per the instructions. Fitting the parts together was a little finicky, and overall there are some bits I probably didn’t get to fit quite right. But from a distance it all looks pretty good, and I’m happy with the overall effect.

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So there you have it – a perfect Japanese tower that’ll make a fine centrepiece for my gaming table …

Pros: Most importantly, it really looks the part! Not too many of the visible tabs that mar so many wooden kits. Removable roofs. Everything fits well. A  great price!

Cons: A little smaller than the 28mm Japanese buildings I have from other manufacturers. No interior detail other than the floors (though that is easily fixed).

Overall, very highly recommended!

Tre Games Inc is owned by writer, illustrator and entrepreneur Tim Erickson from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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‘Blood & Plunder’ pirate game on exquisite terrain

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Last night I played my first game of Blood & Plunder by American company, Firelock Games. Blood & Plunder is a 28 mm historical miniatures wargame set in the 17th century during the golden age of piracy.

When Alix Barclay showed me his exquisite Blood & Plunder figures a few weeks ago, I was instantly hooked, even though I already own a Foundry pirate force.

I quickly bought a small French force, which I am currently painting (to be the subject of a future posting), and I have also ordered a Dutch force from Firelock Games’ latest ‘No Peace Beyond the Line’ Kickstarter project.

Last night was a first go at the rules, so Alix and I kept things pretty basic.  We just played a small skirmish on the shore at one end of the table, with everything else just providing a suitably luscious scenic backdrop.

Anyone familiar with me knows that I am not really a rules person, what with my really bad head for numbers, so that I never remember what dice I am supposed to be rolling. throwing. But the basics of this game seem relatively straight forward.

We were hosted by Matt Barker of Printable Scenery, who put together an amazing Caribbean scene featuring a lot of his company’s products. The buildings, bridges, a galleon, wharves, a crane, even a mangrove swamp, were all designed by Printable Scenery and run off on Matt’s 3D printer.

The only non-Printable Scenery items on the table were my own Disney ‘Black Pearl’ toy converted into a Dutch ship, and a couple of my toy longboats.

Whilst this was just a small test game, the terrain we played on was of the highest quality, and would have done any wargames show proud! Here are just a few photos to give a general impression of this beautiful first game of Blood & Plunder.

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These last three photos were taken by Alix Barclay.

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WW2 Dutch ‘PAG-trekker’ light artillery tractor

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May ’40 Miniatures are currently working on a new model for their range of 28mm WW2 Dutch vehicles: the PAG-trekker light artillery tractor.

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In the 1938-1940 period the Dutch Army ordered a large number of light artillery tractors or Anti-tank gun tractors from DAF (Van Doorne’s Aanhangwagenfabriek) in Eindhoven. In Dutch these were called PAG-trekkers, PAG meaning “pantserafweergeschut”.

DAF built these on both Ford and Chevrolet chassis by converting them to four wheel drive and adding specialised bodywork with three rows of seats for six crew-members, as well as ammo storage in the back.

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They were used to tow the Dutch Boehler 47mm anti-tank guns, and there are also reports of the vehicles being used as staff-cars or personnel vehicles.

When May ’40 Miniatures come out with their range of WW2 Dutch vehicles and artillery, which besides the PAG-trekker will also include the Landsverk armoured car and a couple of different anti-tank guns, I can see a purchase coming on!

Source of above info about the PAG-trekker: The Overvalwagen Forum

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My life ‘on the ice’ – Antarctica 1976/77

Way back in 1976-77, at the tender age of 20, I worked a summer season at the US Navy base at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. I was employed by a New Zealand company that was contracted to do one of the most important jobs ‘on the ice’ … washing dishes!

I took a lot of photos whilst I was down there, all printed as slides. For decades these slides languished in a box at the bottom of my cupboard. Then last year I pulled them out and put a few of them through a slide-to-JPG converter.  Here are the results.  There are some potentially interesting ‘military’ modelling ideas here!

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Doodling with Napoleonic figures

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In a wargaming version of mindless doodling, I recently frittered away an hour or so arranging some of my 28mm Napoleonic figures onto my small wargaming table.

My Napoleonic armies haven’t seen the light of day for a number of years now. So on an impulse, I just decided to set them out for fun in a static set-up.

The figures are arranged to depict a vaguely Peninsular War skirmish. Though I’m not actually sure if all the troops shown here really fought in the Peninsular War – I just pulled out the units that were the easiest to reach in my cupboard!

This is only a fraction of my Napoleonic armies, but you can only fit so many 28mm figures on a 4’x4′ board!

The buildings, by the way are all scratch-built. The trees are cheap Chinese architectural/ model railway decorations. The roads and rivers are by an Australian company called Miniature World Makers. Figures are mainly Front Rank and Perry Miniatures, but with some other makes thrown in.

So, for your enjoyment and edification, may I present the results of my doodling (you can click on each picture to take a closer look).

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Lighting for the wargames table

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Just like a stage production or movie, you need  good lighting too really bring a wargames table to life. Up till now my study’s lighting hasn’t really cut the mustard. But this week I’ve installed a new LED light suspended low from the ceiling, right above the table.

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The stage is set for war! As you can see, good lighting centres your attention on where the action is taking place.  Besides the new overhead lighting, I also still have my existing reading light, which I’ll be able to move around to highlight particular parts of the table.

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Even during daylight hours, the extra lighting helps bring the scene to life.

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From above, you can see how the table is evenly lit, and the colours really come to life.

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By the way, my table is currently set up for samurai warfare. The terrain includes my latest MDF buildings (centre and right above): two 4Ground ‘Jwar Isle’ hovels specially designed for GCT Studio’s Bushido rules – though I don’t play these rules myself.

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One thing to note about these two buildings is that they are slightly over-scale against my other 4Ground and Plastcraft buildings, as the Bushido range is designed to fit with their 32mm figures rather than the 28mm Perry Miniatures figures shown here. But other than the large doors, these houses still work OK.

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A bucolic scene as life goes on under the bright Japanese sun … er … under my new light.

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WW2 Dutch ‘Black Devils’

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The last of the infantry for my 28mm WW2 Dutch army is a section of ‘Korps Mariniers’, or Marines, known as the ‘Black Devils’. As with the rest of my army, these figures are produced by Dutch company, May ’40 Miniatures.

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Marines were professional soldiers – the only all-professional branch in the Dutch armed forces – and without any doubt the best the Dutch could field. They had a strong tradition that went back to the year 1665, when the Korps Mariniers found its roots.

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Marines wore a distinctive dark blue (blackish) uniform tunic or great coat, rather than the olive-green of the regular army.  They were armed like regular army soldiers, but were much better trained to use them. They were additionally equipped with a so-called ‘storm-dagger’. The basic weapons used in Rotterdam were the Steyr M.95 rifle, the Lewis light machine-gun and the storm-dagger.

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There were about 450 Marines in Rotterdam, the home town of the Korps Mariniers, when the German invasion occurred on 10 May 1940. About half were in basic training, and the others were either staff, operational marines or attending NCO courses.

The Marines successfully defended the bridges across the River Maas for four days, preventing German paratroopers in the city centre from rendezvousing with the other German forces. The Germans ended the stalemate by bombing Rotterdam.

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The story goes that when the surrender was declared and the Dutch soldiers came out of their positions, the German commander was expecting a full battalion of men, but was stunned to see only a few Marines emerge in their dark uniforms. He ordered his men to salute them out of respect for their bravery and determination, and labeled them ‘Black Devils’.

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As always when I try to take photos of blue uniforms, my pictures have turned out much lighter than the actual figures.  The blue tunics and greatcoats are actually quite dark on my models.

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Historical information in this posting came from the War Over Holland website. 

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