Category Archives: 4Ground

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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Filed under 4Ground, Samurai, Uncategorized

Home improvements to 4Ground’s Japanese shogunate houses

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A couple of novels I’ve been reading over the Christmas break have inspired me to do some home improvements to my 4Ground shogunate houses. You can see the result in the above photo, as some 28mm Perry Miniatures samurai warriors battle it out in the garden (click on the photo for a closer view).

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The novels responsible for this burst of enthusaism are David Kirk’s pair of bold and vivid historical epics of feudal Japan, based on the real-life exploits of the legendary samurai Musashi Miyamoto.

In Child of Vengeance, Miyamoto is a high-born but lonely teenager living in his ancestral village. He takes the samurai’s path awash with blood, bravery, and vengeance, culminating in the epochal battle of Sekigahara.

Sword of Honour depicts the feud between Miyamoto and the esteemed Yoshioka Sword School in Japan’s former capital of Kyoto.

Now, I can’t say how accurate or not these novels are, as I am not too knowledgeable about samurai. However, what I can say is that they definitely provide the feel of the place and period. The characters aren’t just western heroes transposed to an oriental setting, but instead act and talk as thought they really are Japanese – helped no doubt by the fact that the author himself lives in Japan.

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After reading the novels, I decided to pull out my existing samurai scenery. I’ve got several 4Ground buildings, which I’ve been very pleased with (see my 2014 review of these kits). But seeing them out of storage for the first time in a while, I’ve realised that the teddy-bear fur thatched roofs look like … er … teddy-bear fur. You can see this in the above picture that I took a few years ago (with a couple of Kingsford miniature figures in the foreground).

I recall in shows where I’ve used these buildings that several little children seemed to take inordinate interest in the roofs of my houses, more than anything else on the table. Now that I think about it, I even heard one of them whispering to her parents that it looked like my roofs were made out of a teddy – can’t fool kids!

So, some home improvements were in order.

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This morning I took a big brush and sloshed a watery burnt umber artists’ acrylic paint all over the thatch. Once this was completely dry, I dry-brushed the roof with a range of ochres, yellows and even white. The results now look a lot more realistic (and certainly a lot less teddy-like!).

Whilst I was at it, I thought the original wooden verandah roofs and ridge decorations were a bit too stark. So they all received a watered-down burnt umber wash as well.

Hopefully the occupants of my little houses are happy with the renovations. Sayonara!

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

Completed my WW2 colonial French army

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Well, that’s it, I’ve finished painting my 28mm WW2 colonial French army  for Bolt Action wargaming (click picture to enlarge).

In the picture above, you can see in the front row:

  • an infantry squad of 6 men (4 rifles, 1 sub-machine gun, 1 VB grenade launcher)
  • a prone 2-man light machine gun crew
  • the commanding officer and his aide
  • an advancing 2-man light machine gun crew
  • another 6-man infantry squad as per the first one.

These are all Perry Miniatures figures.

In the background are:

  • a 75mm artillery piece with four crew (Perry Miniatures)
  • an R35 tank (Neucaft Models)
  • a Laffly AMD50 armoured car (Mad Bob Miniatures)
  • a Dodge Tanake armoured truck (Perry Miniatures)
  • two Berliet VUDB personnel carriers (Mad Bob Miniatures).

At the back is my desert terrain. After buying the wooden 4Ground model on the right, I later bought the two plastic kitsets on the left by Renadra to compare it with, intending to choose one manufacturer and sell off the other.  But I feel they actually go together quite well, so I’ve to decided to keep them all!

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Here’s the commanding officer of my detachment. He’s a brisk looking chap with his dapper beard and jaunty kepi, his neck wrapped in the local scarf favoured by Legionnaires.

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On the left is the advancing light machine gun crew. Beside them is one of the six-man infantry squads, including a Legionnaire firing a sub-machine gun on the far right. One of the obscured men in the back row is armed with a rifle grenade.

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Here’s the other infantry squad. The third man from the left is armed with the VB rifle-grenade launcher, whilst the fifth man carries a sub-machine gun at his hip.

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A closer look at the Perry 75mm artillery piece. I have left four areas of the base clear of texturing, so that I can simply glue-tac the figures on. This means they can be easily removed as casualties. It also allows me to replace the gun crew – for example, some of these gunners wear French helmets for Vichy or pre-war colonial action, but I could replace them with figures wearing British-style helmets for Free French.

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The Dodge Tanake now has a crew. It looks hot work on that open back under the burning desert sun.

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So that’s it – the French are ready for action. No doubt in the best traditions of wargaming, as an newly-painted army they’ll suffer a crashing defeat!

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Filed under 4Ground, Mad Bob Miniatures, Neucraft Models, Perry Miniatures, Uncategorized, WW2

4Ground’s Middle Eastern house kit

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The sleepy oasis of Sheesh-ki-Baab is disturbed by the rumbling of engines as a French motorised column passes through.

Painting of vehicles for my WW2 colonial French army has paused whilst I’ve concentrated on starting some desert scenery for them to fight over. First project off the blocks has been this 4Ground wooden kit of a Middle Eastern dwelling.

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As with the 4Ground Japanese buildings that I’ve also built, this kit was an absolute joy to put together. The miniature engineering that goes into what appears on the outside a very simple building is surprisingly complex, but all the pieces fit superbly.

The front door and the trapdoor in the roof can open and shut.  The roof itself is removable so that figures can be placed inside the building.

The kit comes pre-coloured. The only thing I did was touch up some of the stones around the roof-line, and disguise the corner joints by painting any visible edges in matching colours.

The entire project took only a couple of hours max!

By the way, the palm-trees are cheap plastic cake decorations (!) from my previous Pirates project.

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Filed under 4Ground, Terrain, Uncategorized, WW2

Call To Arms 2: Samurai

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This second post about my display games last weekend at Call To Arms in Wellington features my samurai scenery and figures.

The games I put on were static displays, one in the morning and then a completely different one on the same small table  in the afternoon.  The samurai were the subject of the afternoon display.

IMG_3280_aThis was actually a quick change from the colonial New Zealand Wars game I put on in the morning.  Essentially the terrain stayed the same, but the buildings and some of the trees have been replaced to quickly convert New Zealand into Japan.

Or, as several wags commented, it was still New Zealand, but depicting the film-set for ‘The Last Samurai’ in Taranaki!

IMG_3300_aThis was a chance to show off my Shogunate period buildings, which are wooden kits from 4Ground.  The river sections by Miniature World Makers also created a lot of interest.

IMG_3301_aSome cherry-blossom trees and a few Perry Miniatures villagers set the scene.   In the background, the banners of the warring Takeda and Hojo clans begin to appear.

IMG_3281_aA view behind the Takeda lines.  The samurai and ashigaru figures are all by Kingsford Miniatures.

IMG_3286_aTwo mounted samurai charge into single combat, whilst their retainers battle it out with bow, arquebus and pike.

IMG_3282_aMy favourite Japanese figures are the set of unarmoured samurai made by Perry Miniatures.   They are really animated, and capture the feel of the TV series ‘Shogun’.  Here two of them battle it out in a field of waving wheat.

IMG_3283_aAnother couple of unarmoured samurai fight on an arched bridge, in the shadow of an ornate torii gateway.

IMG_3284_aIn the temple confines, the last two unarmoured samurai are locked in combat near a large gravestone, whilst a Perry monk watches anxiously.

IMG_3293_aA last look at the temple complex …

In my next post, I feature some other spectacular  games that caught my eye at Call To Arms.

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

Ronin samurai game at Kapiti club’s open day


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I had been kindly invited by the Kapiti Wargames Club to put on a display game at their open day today. Having recently completed painting my samurai armies and constructing suitable terrain, this was the perfect opportunity to give them a public outing.

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As I had a couple of hours to wait until my opponent Paul was able to arrive, I set up my terrain for the morning as a static display of a peaceful Japanese village lying blissfully unaware of the forthcoming battle.  And, yes – those are indeed chopsticks decorating the edges of the table to add a touch of oriental character to the display!

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The terrain consisted of buildings by 4Ground and Plastcraft Games, along with my el-cheapo Hong Kong blossom trees, and rivers and roads by Miniature World Makers.

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I populated my ‘morning diorama’ with some of Perry Miniatures’ delightful Japanese civilians, keeping my samurai figures out of sight beneath the table until the battle was due to start. This kept some open day spectators on tenterhooks waiting to see what the fighting forces would look like when they finally arrived on the table.

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The village scene included this small temple complex, complete with the typical Japanese torii gate commonly found in front of Shinto shrines, where they symbolically mark the transition from the profane to the sacred.

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This little bridge arching over a babbling brook looks peaceful enough here. But little do the mother and child know that this will shortly be the scene of the bloodiest fighting of the day.

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The peace is suddenly shattered as the opposing forces begin entering the village from each side, and villagers scurry to safety. My forces wear the yellow or blue sashimono back flags, whilst Paul’s are the figures with the red and white sashimono in the background.

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I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow description of the battle here, as Paul has already done that on his blog much more eloquently than I ever could. But here are a few shots of some of the milestone events of the day.

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I split up my force to attack each of the two river crossings. Here one of my groups rushes across the little arched bridge to assault Paul’s awaiting warriors.

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My leader in his ornate old-fashioned armour joins the stoush at the far end of the bridge, as both sides feed more and more figures into the fight.

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Paul’s leader, it must be said, turned out to be one tough samurai. Even though he was grievously wounded quite early on, he still managed to defend himself, and even inflict some telling attacks, before finally succumbing in the very last turn of the game.  He is seen here lying rather undignifiedly on the ground, no doubt to have his head removed soon as a trophy.

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Here’s the end of the game, as seen by a passing Japanese seagull.  At the top right is the final aftermath of the fight at the bridge.  Meanwhile, on the left one of my arquebusiers hides behind a rock after my attack at the ford has been resoundingly beaten off by Paul’s men.

We had to call the game quits at this stage.  But a result was still achieved, with me winning by a slim margin once the victory points were toted up.  In fact, we had both despatched the same number of enemy each, but I won because Paul’s losses were of higher ranks.  This included his doughty leader, who died as honourably as any samurai could ever wish for:   ‘The samurai’s life is like the cherry blossom’s, beautiful and brief. For him, as for the flower, death follows naturally, gloriously.’

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I also took photos of some of the other games being played, including this spectacular D-Day beachhead game.  Being a scenery-lover, it wasn’t so much the beautiful figures and vehicles that attracted me, lovely as they were, so much as the delicate portrayal of the waves lapping the beach, forever frozen in a snapshot of time.

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I’m told that despite a valiant effort, this time the Allies didn’t succeed.  In this particular universe, the war would have taken a totally different course.

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Just down the coast, meanwhile, commandos and glider-borne troops were raiding a heavily defended shore installation, with unfortunately much the same result for the Allies.

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These commando kayaks brought back memories for me.  These were the same as the first-ever Airfix figures that I painted as a youngster.  This was the first time I had seen these models since those long-gone days.  Almost brought a tear to me eye!

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I was also rather impressed with this lovely model of a Horsa glider, broken open after landing.

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Many thanks to the Kapiti Wargames Club for hosting us at their open day. Paul and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. And it was great to see so much enthusiasm for gaming from such a wide range of ages. Well-played, everyone!

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Filed under 4Ground, Kingsford Miniatures, North Star, Perry Miniatures, Samurai, Uncategorized

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