Ever since I first started collecting 28mm samurai figures, I’ve yearned for a Japanese castle to go with them. That dream is finally starting to come true!
Over the years I’ve seen a few castle models advertised on the internet, but they were either too expensive, or didn’t quite capture how I thought a Japanese castle should look. But when I spotted the latest new models in Plast Craft Games’ Fukei range, I realised straight away that they would fit both the traditional appearance and the affordable cost I was after.
Even better, I found out that my local friendly wargaming shop (The Hobby Corner of the Paraparaumu Beach Pharmacy) could obtain them – and so the deal was clinched!
I’ve previously bought some Plast Craft models, and have been very pleased with them. But they came unpainted, whereas these latest offerings are fully coloured. I especially like the weathering effects on the white walls, which really look like they have faced the rigours of the weather. The stonework isn’t just a monochrome grey, but gets more ‘mossy’ the closer it is to the ground.
The new models also use a wider range of materials, including pre-cut plastic, MDF, very heavy card and flexible rubber sheet. There are no printed assembly instructions – instead, you download them from Plast Craft’s website.
These models took me only a couple of evenings to construct. The pieces pop out easily, and can be attached with super-glue. The fit of the pieces was good, but I did have some difficulty putting together the first level rafters, roof, platform and balcony of the corner tower. You need to be very careful to make sure the many separate sub-assemblies that make up this part of the model all fit together snugly.
The roofs are made of a flexible rubber material, which means they shape quite well. This material is quite springy though, so you need to use superglue to hold them in place. [I noticed after I posted this article that one of the upper roof corners of the sumi tower has come unglued!]
The main thing I did to improve the models was to hide the visible joints and to paint any bare MDF. For the former, I painted the exposed sides in colours as closely matched as I could get, and marked in the stonework or wooden planks with a fine black felt-pen, as you can see in the close-up picture above.
For covering the bare sides of the MDF, I quickly learned that the easiest way was to paint the back of the whole sheet before popping out the separate pieces. I used a chocolate-coloured acrylic paint that stained the bare surface, but was translucent enough to not show if it splashed onto any of the pre-coloured surfaces.
I also added some bits of vegetation around the bottom edges of the stone walls to further disguise some of the joints, and to merge the buildings into the terrain.
As I mentioned above, I was initially captivated by how much these models really look like my impression of a Japanese castle. But to be honest, I don’t know much about the architecture of Japanese castles. So if what follows looks like I know what I’m talking about, it is only the result of an hour of googling! But this quick research shows that my initial impressions of the models’ accuracy seem to be correct.
The tall sumi yagura (literally ‘corner tower’) is constructed in the sotogata (‘multi-leveled’) style, and has a hip-and-gable irimoya roof. It is built on a stone base constructed in the haphard ranzumi pattern.
This model unfortunately has three quite visible tabs on each side of the lower wooden section. I’m pretending these are extra yasama, or rectangular arrow slits. But in hindsight, I should not have popped out these holes at all, but removed the corresponding tabs on the supports behind the walls – these tabs and holes are really not necessary.
The gatehouse is in the watariyagura style, where a low protective tower spans the gap between the two stone buttresses. The doors open and shut (but are sadly only coloured on one side). Not depicted on the model is the trapdoor sometimes found in the floor above the gate that could be opened to drop stones or oil on attackers.
The two walls of stone and dobei (white mud and clay over a bamboo lattice) are crowned by simple pitched kirizuma roofs. They are pierced by rectangular sama (loopholes) for arrows, and triangular sama for guns. The model does not depict the inside of these loopholes, which should be shaped like hourglasses in cross-section.
Behind each wall is a wooden ishi uchi tana (or ‘rock throwing platform’) on which the defenders can stand.
So, my verdict? Well, I think these models definitely do meet my requirements of looking Japanese at a reasonable cost. Assembly is fun, and (apart from the complex lower roof of the sumi tower) is relatively simple. Most of the visible joints that disfigure so many MDF models are easily disguised. And the models look particularly impressive posed together.
It is fair to say that for wargaming purposes these models may have some drawbacks, which may or may not be minor depending on the rules you use. There are no interiors – and the complex roof assembly means that it would be hard to convert them to have interiors. Also, there aren’t any obvious doorways to get into the buildings!
But, hey, these drawbacks are nothing to the sheer ‘cool’ factor that these models will bring to any wargaming table, even if just arranged as a scenic feature along one edge! So I am more than happy with these models, and thoroughly recommend them.
Missing from this range is, of course, the centre-piece of any castle: the multi-storey tenshu or keep. Maybe it is on Plast Craft’s radar? It would certainly be an impressive model if they ever did make one!