Category Archives: Samurai

Painting finished – the Seven Samurai

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‘One guard for each direction takes four. Two more as a reserve. You’ll need at least… seven, including me.’ [Kambei Shimada in Seven Samurai]

At last my own seven samurai are ready to protect the peasants’ village from marauding bandits. These figures are from are North Star’s 28mm Koryu Buntai set, which I finished painting and basing today. They are modelled after the eponymous characters from the 1952 movie Seven Samurai.

Seven Samurai is set in war-torn 16th-century Japan, where a village of farmers look for ways to ward off a band of robbers. Since they do not themselves know how to fight, they hire seven ronin (lordless samurai) to fight for them. If this plot sounds familiar, that is likely because it has since been copied in other movies such as The Magnificent Seven and A Bug’s Life.

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From left to right in the above picture, you can see:

  1. Gorōbei Katayama – a skilled archer recruited by Kambei. He acts as the second-in-command and helps create the master plan for the village’s defence.
  2. Shichirōji (back row) – an old friend of Kambei and his former lieutenant. Kambei meets Shichirōji by chance in the town, and he resumes this role.
  3. Heihachi Hayashida – an amiable though less-skilled fighter. His charm and wit maintain his comrades’ good cheer in the face of adversity.
  4. Kambei Shimada – a ronin and the leader of the group. The first samurai recruited by the villagers, he is a wise but war-weary soldier.
  5. Kikuchiyo (back row) – a humorous character who initially claims to be a samurai, and even falsifies his family tree and identity. Mercurial and temperamental, he identifies with the villagers and their plight, and he reveals that he is in fact not a samurai, but rather a peasant. Eventually however, he proves his worth.
  6. Kyūzō – initially declined an offer by Kambei to join the group, though he later changes his mind. A serious, stone-faced samurai and a supremely skilled swordsman whom Katsushirō is in awe of.
  7. Katsushirō Okamoto – a young untested warrior. The son of a wealthy landowner samurai, he left home to become a wandering samurai against his family’s wishes. After witnessing Kambei (the leader of the Seven Samurai) rescue a child who was taken hostage, Katsushirō desires to be Kambei’s disciple.

This cartoon picture I found online was quite useful in working out the characteristics of each of the seven members of the group:  Kikuchiyo, Kambei, Katsushirō, Shichirōji, Heihachi, Gorōbei and Kyūzō.

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As I have mentioned in my previous posts, this was a challenging project. Those patterns, which might look reasonably easy in the photos, are actually incredibly small. I used a technical pen for some of them, which worked well initially, though I had some problems with the ink smudging when I got to the varnishing stage.

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Having re-watched the movie the other day, it has been great fun painting each of the characters whilst they were fresh in my mind.

I kept on jumping round as to who was my favourite character – in the end I couldn’t decide between dapper young Katsushirō, pudgy Shichirōji  in his plain peddlar’s outfit, or Kyūzō who looks as though he had just wandered in from a Clint Eastwood western. And of course who couldn’t like the exuberant Kikuchiyo?!

Who is your favourite character in Seven Samurai?

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Filed under North Star, Samurai, Uncategorized

First three of the Seven Samurai painted

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I’ve completed the first three of my North Star ‘Seven Samurai’ figures so far. Painting them has been a challenge to say the least.

I’m definitely no Kevin Dallimore. I’ve been slavishly following his painting guide for this set of figures, but – jeesh! – he paints details so small that I can’t even see them.

And as for picking out the freehand designs on the samurai clothing – I’ve painted the patterns as fine as I can get them, but they’re still twice as large and much rougher than Dallimore’s work! He must have exquisite brush control.

So far I’ve painted:

  • Katsushirō Okamoto (left figure) – a young untested warrior. The son of a wealthy landowner samurai, he left home to become a wandering samurai against his family’s wishes. After witnessing Kambei (the leader of the Seven Samurai) rescue a child who was taken hostage, Katsushirō desires to be Kambei’s disciple.
  • Kikuchiyo (middle figure) – a humorous character who initially claims to be a samurai, and even falsifies his family tree and identity. Mercurial and temperamental, he identifies with the villagers and their plight, and he reveals that he is in fact not a samurai, but rather a peasant. Eventually however, he proves his worth.
  • Heihachi Hayashida (right figure) – an amiable though less-skilled fighter. His charm and wit maintain his comrades’ good cheer in the face of adversity.

So, challenging, yes. And I’ve proven that I’m no master-painter, that’s for sure. But it has certainly been fun. And hopefully from a reasonable distance they’ll be recognisable as the Seven Samurai.

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Filed under North Star, Samurai, Uncategorized

‘Seven Samurai’ project underway

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My latest mini-project is to paint the eponymous characters from the 1954 Akira Kurosawa film ‘Seven Samurai‘.

These 28mm figures are from North Star, and come as part of their Koryu Buntai set. The figures are specifically modelled on the ‘Seven Samurai’, each character recognizable by costume, weapon, and even facial features.

I started with a black undercoat, followed by a grey dry-brush. This is my normal method of undercoating all my figures, as the black provides natural shadow, whilst the grey gives a natural highlight to the covering hues.

I’ve done the flesh tones on all the figures as a mass painting process, but from here on, I plan to paint each figure separately.  I’ll be following the research I’ve done online as to the colours worn by the actual characters. This isn’t as clear-cut as it sounds, because ‘Seven Samurai’ was filmed in black-and-white, so there is some conjecture as to what the actual colours might have been.

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You’ll see the North Star set actually includes nine figures, not seven. The two on the right of the above pic are additional figures from other samurai movies.

I’ll post more pics as I complete this little project.

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Filed under North Star, Samurai, Uncategorized

‘Tribal’ pre-gunpowder skirmish rules – Māori, Aztecs, Japanese, gladiators – oh my!

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Tribal by Australian company, Mana Press, is a set of skirmish gaming rules designed for recreating pre-gunpowder inter-tribal conflicts.

The aim of Tribal is to capture the essence of the heroic skirmish style warfare that existed in many pre-gunpowder cultures, who exalted the feats of the individual and their courage and prowess in battle.

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Central to this type of warfare (and to the Tribal wargame) is the concept of honour. Honour determines why one is fighting, how battle is conducted, what sorts of tactics (both honourable and dishonourable) are used, and who becomes the victor at the end.

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Tribal takes an innovative approach in using playing cards, rather than dice. In fact, you need neither dice nor measuring tapes for this game! Activation, movement, fighting are all driven by a couple of sets of ordinary playing cards. Other than that, you just need some tokens to represent ‘honour’, and of course some figures and scenery.

Whilst the splendid cover features a tattooed Māori warrior, these rules specifically cover other pre-gunpowder fighting than just Māori inter-tribal warfare, such as Vikings, Aztecs, Heian Japanese, and even Roman gladiators. But overall, the rules do have an emphasis on the Māori inter-tribal wars (no doubt based on the writers’ Kiwi backgrounds).

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Australian manufacturer Eureka Miniatures actually makes a set of Māori figures specifically designed to work with Tribal, as illustrated in the pics above and below, borrowed from the Eureka website.

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Or you could use Empress Miniatures figures for this game – the ones without firearms (like some of those in my picture below). Or, of course, you could use Vikings, Aztecs, Samurai, Roman Gladiators etc.

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As they stand, the Tribal rules won’t be suitable for colonial wars, as they don’t include rules for using firearms. But I think I’ve heard that Mana Press are interested in expanding their rules to include them (can anyone confirm or deny?).

From my initial read-through, Tribal seems to be a characterful yet relatively simple game. Of course, this opinion is yet to be borne out one way or the other through actually playing the rules. But at only $10 to download the PDF in two formats (one lavishly designed, the other more printer-friendly), Tribal is a good deal even if you just read the rules rather than actually play them!

POSTSCRIPT: While I was writing the above article, I forgot that I’d already written a overview of Tribal back in June 2016 (and in more detail than the posting above)!!! So if you want to know more about Tribal, have a look at my old article too!

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Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Empress Miniatures, Eureka Miniatures, Samurai, Tribal

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

I should be dead …

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There’s a wargaming superstition that if you reach the bottom of your ‘lead mountain’  of unpainted figures, you’ll die.  Well, I’ve been at the bottom of my lead mountain for a few weeks now, and I’m pleased to say that I’m still hale and hearty!

I’ve had several projects on the go over the last few years, but all have now either concluded, or are awaiting the manufacture of new figures.

 

Samurai:  I’ve painted two opposing factions (or ‘buntai’) for 28mm skirmish gaming, and made a lot of terrain.  But I seem to have used up all my enthusiasm for this period in getting this far.  No other possible factions really interest me.  And I have no intention of taking this period beyond skirmish anyway. So I’ve got enough figures and terrain for now.

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Pirates:  This project has been pretty well completed for some time now.  We only play with smallish units anyway, so adding more figures to my already more-than-enough collection would be overkill.

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18th century ‘imagi-nation’:  I’ve painted all the units that were in the film ‘Barry Lyndon’, so the next step in this project would be to paint some totally fictional units.  I’ve always fancied the green and red uniforms of the Russians.  Whilst such a unit would be imaginary, it would seem stupid not to paint actual Russian figures rather than simply re-colour the uniforms of some other nation.  However, my manufacturer-of-choice for this project, Minden Miniatures, doesn’t do Russians yet.  So this project is now on hold until they do (in 2015, I’m told).

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Napoleonics:  I’ve got more than enough battalions of British, French, Portuguese and Spanish to play a reasonable Napoleonic game.  Adding more will be just repetitive, and I never use all my units at once anyway.  I’ve also got hordes of individually-based ‘big men’ for leading my troops under the ‘Sharp Practice’ rules – but as most of them haven’t even seen action yet, no more are required.

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Colonial New Zealand Wars:  I’ve now got a couple of sides sufficient for  large skirmish games.  Like my Napoleonics, adding to them at the moment would be just ‘more of the same’, for which I really have no need.  However, this is  period dear to my heart, so if Empress Miniatures ever make anything else for this period, I’ll be in like Flynn!

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Victorian science fiction:  I’ve only painted one unit for this, and it is barely Victorian science fiction, being a French Foreign Legion unit as they appeared during Maximilian’s Mexican Adventure.  But I just can’t drum up any more enthusiasm to continue with this project.

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American Civil War:  I have a couple of miscellaneous units painted up , but this period doesn’t interest me enough to buy any more.

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What about starting a completely new period, then?  Well, I hate being at the start-point of a project.  There is nothing out there that is calling to me sufficiently to overcome the hurdle of starting from scratch.

So, where does that leave me?  Well, I’m seeing his as a holiday from painting.  I think I’ll just wait out until either Minden Miniatures (for my Russians), or Empress Miniatures (for new NZ Wars figures) come through.

Another possibility is to do some vignettes to decorate the battlefield, especially for my Napoleonics.  Perry Miniatures and Westfalia are currently making some very nice wagons and other background stuff, such as this lovely little sutler’s cart.

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So, I aten’t dead yet!

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Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Eighteenth century, Napoleonics, Pirates, Samurai, Victorian Sci-Fi

Call To Arms 3: Other spectacular games

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My last two postings covered the two display games I put on last weekend at Call To Arms: colonial New Zealand Wars and a samurai skirmish.

In this last posting about Call To Arms, I’ll look at some of the other eye-catching games that were on show.

Carrion up the Nile

This was easily the most spectacular game at the show.  But unlike my own two games, this wasn’t just a static display, but a fully functional pulp-era game, alive with loads of Indiana Jones-style derring-do.

IMG_3249_aThe huge table was almost entirely covered in an impressive Egyptian city, populated with lots of beautiful little vignette scenes.

IMG_3296_aHere’s one of those vignettes – a market place beside the mosque.

IMG_3272_aIt seems the punishment for short-changing or over-charging is pretty swift in this town.

IMG_3251_aCoach tour to Cairo …

IMG_3289_aThe police station.  Love that chunky Ehrhardt armoured car.

IMG_3295_aA police interview in progress in the station courtyard …

IMG_3294_aA show band in the sand?  With mummies dancing like an Egyptian?

IMG_3306_aOh, it’s all just a movie!

IMG_3308_aDown on the river-front …

IMG_3297_aLast call!  All visitors ashore!

IMG_3250_aThe city-scape of towers and domes.  Note the pyamid complex just visible in the distance.

IMG_3310_aAnd here we are at the foot of the pyramid.  There must surely be a secret entrance.

IMG_3305_aThe entry-level of the pyramid.

IMG_3304_aAnd down in the basement,surrounded by a lava-filled moat, there’s no doubt something special.  At least, that’s what all those gathering adventurers think.

More photos and a game report can be found on Wade’s World of Wargaming.  I must admit that this pulp fiction is an era of gaming I could get into, especially with scenery like this.

Dystopian Wars

I don’t know much about this fantasy steam-punk game, but it certainly looked impressive.   The models were very intricate, and beautifully painted.  I liked the water effect, too.

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Bushido

The delightful little Japanese fantasy game was played with a handful of beautifully painted figures.  The terrain changed from game to game, using a range of typically oriental items, even  including aquarium scenery.

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More fantasy Japan

I’m not exactly sure which rules were being used in this game. But my eye was taken with the dramatic scenery. It included some excellent use of the third dimension (height), which is so often underplayed in wargames scenery.

Plus I loved seeing the Plastcraft Games pagoda, a plastic card kitset I have coveted for some time for my own samurai gaming.

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Filed under Interwar, Samurai