Painted 28mm WW2 Dutch figures

IMG_4126

May 1940: a squad of Dutch infantry cautiously follow a Carden Loyd tankette into a war-torn village.

Yep, I’ve finally started painting my May ’40 Miniatures WW2 Dutch infantry at last!  (The Reiver Castings tankette, by the way, was covered in a previous posting).

IMG_4099

As I always find when photographing anything painted blue, the uniform colour in some of these pictures has come out a lot brighter than it is in reality.  The figures are actually a blueish-greenish-grey, rather than the bright light blue they appear in the photos above. The picture below is the most life-like depiction of the actual colour I painted them, though the photo itself is a little dull.

IMG_4141

The miniatures were sculpted by Michael Percy for Sander van der Ster, the owner of May ’40 Miniatures. Michael has made a good job of capturing the somewhat old-fashioned appearance of the Dutch infantry of this period. The figures are festooned with equipment, and wear the distinctive Dutch helmets.

IMG_4106

Posing is generally good, with all the sorts of stances you need for a ‘Bolt Action’ wargame. I glued the figures onto 25mm washers, and as you can see, the fit is good.

IMG_4119

I particularly like this Lewis gun crew (seen below). I wouldn’t fancy being the guy holding the stand, with the gun yammering away just beside my ear!

IMG_4094

So far I’ve painted just one section of 12 men and their NCO. I have two more sections to paint, along with a heavy machine gun team and a mortar. I also have one section of Dutch Marines, who will look distinctive in their dark blue jackets. And of course not to forget my medical team, who I’ll be painting up in memory of my father.

IMG_4137

Following that, once May ’40 Miniatures launches their Landsverk armoured car and Böhler anti-tank gun, I’ll be adding these to my army of course. And, then, who knows – motorcycle-mounted machine guns, cyclists???

If you are interested to know more about May ’40 Miniatures, check out their website or their FaceBook page.

16681677_1379017905506372_4304133326722232703_n

4 Comments

Filed under May 40, Reiver Castings, Uncategorized, WW2

A Japanese castle complex at last

IMG_0286

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!

IMG_0195

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.

IMG_0199

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!] 

IMG_0198

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.

IMG_0200

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.

Sumi tower

PCG-FK031

IMG_0202

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.

Castle gate

PCG-FK027

IMG_0192

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.

Castle walls

175070222

IMG_0188

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!

IMG_0287

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!

8 Comments

Filed under Plast Craft Games, Samurai, Uncategorized

Sneak peak of my latest Japanese terrain

20170408_182639.jpg

Just a very quick peak at what I have been spending my hobby time on this weekend – the building on the left. More info to come soon when I have completed this little project. Sayonara for now!

7 Comments

Filed under Samurai, Terrain, Uncategorized

What I did on my holiday

adj20170301_141754

This blog has been quiet over the last five or six weeks because I’ve been away overseas on holiday.  For the most part, our trip to England, Scotland, the Netherlands and Italy was a non-hobby related holiday that readers will probably not be too interested in –  but there were a couple of moments of wargaming interest.

The first such moment was an overnight stop in the centre of the UK’s (if not the world’s) wargaming industry: the city of Nottingham. There we met up with Alan and Michael Perry, whom I had last worked with in New Zealand on the massive Chunuk Bair diorama project.

adj_20170301_141812j

We were able to visit Alan’s wargaming room, with its magnificently terrained table, overflowing display cases, gorgeous battle paintings, and antique militaria.

I even sat on the couch where much of their prolific sculpting is done!  To my readers’ probable disappointment, I was so star-struck at finding myself at the very epicentre of our hobby that I forgot to take many photographs – what you see above is all that we took!

Box_and_contents_550

We were honoured with a sneak peek at the Perrys’ latest project, TravelBattle (a complete wargame in a box). They showed us the original one-off prototype of this game that they had made many years ago (sorry, once again I was too flabbergasted to take a photo!), and which they were now designing as an innovative new product in their range.

download

There were a couple of sociable meals with the Perry twins – the first at their local watering hole, the very atmospheric and old ‘Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem’ pub; and the other at a French restaurant with the two Mrs Perrys.

adj_20170309_115034

The other (sort of) wargaming moment was to almost meet Sander van der Ster of May ’40 Miniatures in the Netherlands. My wife and I hadn’t scheduled to visit the Netherlands on our holiday, but the sudden passing of two elderly aunts in Holland meant a quick re-jig of our plans so that I could attend the funerals. This put me within range of a possible meeting with Sander.

However, whilst I ended up only a town or two away from Sander, there were just too many family commitments for me to get sufficient time to travel the final few kilometres to have that face-to-face meeting.

May40miniatures-DSC_4062

But Sander did manage to post my order of  his first release of WW2 Dutch figures to where I was staying in the Netherlands, thus saving me a lot of postage costs to get it to the other side of the world. I’ll report more on these figures in a future posting, after I have got over my jet-lag sufficiently to really examine them closely!

Finally, a curiosity (non-wargaming related) from our trip: take a look what happened to the Leaning Tower of Pisa when I photographed it!

20170324_114332

12 Comments

Filed under May 40, Perry Miniatures, Travel, Uncategorized, WW2

Painting finished – the Seven Samurai

seven-samurai-2

a_20170216_171822

‘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.

a_20170216_171619

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.

cartoon-seven-samurai

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.

c_20170216_171017

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?

la-ca-mn-seven-samurai-magnificent-seven-20160913-snap

10 Comments

Filed under North Star, Samurai, Uncategorized

First three of the Seven Samurai painted

20170209_210233

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.

20170209_210929

8 Comments

Filed under North Star, Samurai, Uncategorized

‘Seven Samurai’ project underway

20170205_151159

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.

20170205_151448

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.

5 Comments

Filed under North Star, Samurai, Uncategorized