The rebasing of the infantry turned out to be a bit more eclectic than the shooty troops. They draw from two separate collections, one for Warhammer Fantasy with larger blocks of troops, and one smaller that I made primarily for a convention game of Ronin. The army was based primarily on the Eastern army at Sekigahara, while the skirmish troops were based a blue team versus a red team. Together with a few other odds and ends, I had to think a bit about what my focus would be from now on.
I pretty quickly decided to keep the theme of Sekigahara, and to build on the units I have. The more irregular troops were based together, and will be used as unit fillers until the infantry units are large enough, and after that I can repurpose them as ronin units. Given that Field of Glory calls for pretty big infantry units (6-8 units), I'm counting on needing unit fillers for a long time!
Trying to photograph these larger units really made me realize that I need a larger lighting box, sorry for the bad picture quality.
Ashigaru pikemen, "The Red Company"
These boys carrying the Tokugawa heraldry mark are still my biggest unit, with six bases. They are from Perry Miniatures with steel pikes that unfortunately seems to be discontinued. I've drilled the bottom of the bases so that the pikes are stuck into them, which does wonders to keep them from falling off. They still require some care when handling, though. Another two bases of standing ashigaru would neatly finish these off.
Ashigaru pikemen, "The Black Company"
These are also from Perry. These were a complete mess to play with when they were individually based, as they were impossible to carry to the club and the pikes would just fall off in droves! Basing them like this made handling a bit easier, but I'd still recommend shorter spears for this pose.
This unit also got a command groupd with a Tokugawa banner, and they also got spiffy gold accents on both the back of the haori (jacket worn over the armour) and their pikes. Since I've only painted three bases I'm considering what to do with this unit, if I should get enough Perry minis to get it to eight bases or if I should go with plastic Warlords to add to the back ranks.
Ashigaru pikemen, "Kobayakawa's Company"
The third ashigaru infantry unit are made out of the plastic minis that used to be sold by Wargames Factory, but are now sold by Warlord Games as their Test of Honour range. The pikes are a bit shorter, but I think these minis are at their best making up bulk infantry units. I bought a Test of Honour starter box and an expansion as well, so I should have plenty of minis to fill these up to fighting shape over the summer
I painted these up as belonging to the Kobayakawa forces. Kobayakawa Hideaki was a decisive actor at the battle of Sekigahara. His loyalty to the Western army was highly questioned, as he had been disgruntled with the Toyotomi for a long time, due to a slight from Hideyoshi back in the invasion of Korea. Unknown to Ishida Mitsunari, the commander of the Western forces, Kobayakawa kept a secret line of communication with Tokugawa's Eastern army, promising to switch sides.
Kobayakawa was positioned to guard the Western army's flank, but refused to get stuck in when he was needed the most. Yet, he also refused to support the hard pressed Eastern forces. Tokugawa Ieyasu gambled on forcing him to act by orderign his troops to shoot towards Kobayakawa's men, upon which Hideaki made up his mind. He charged towards his supposed allies, practically sealing the fate of the Western army.
Ronin, Tramps and Thieves
This warband of miscreants are a happy mix, primarily from Black Hat but also a hidden ninja from Dixon and an unarmoured spearman from AW Miniatures.
These are based five on each base, unlike the previous ones. Initially I chose five per base because there simply wasn't enough space! However, afterwards I started to think if five might be enough. This way I'll be able to stretch the miniatures over more bases, and honestly I think the bases look dense enough, especially for minis with more energetic poses.
These guys will beef up the other infantry units until I've had the time to paint more ashigaru.
These are troops where I simply only had enough for a base or two. They'll be standing in the back of units, acting as placeholders for now.
Despite being more of a stereotype than actually historically based, warrior monks like these tend to find their ways into any samurai collection! Making an entire unit is far at the end of the to-do list, but these The Assault Group monks look great. If I go for an entire unit I'll try to make them more historical by mixing in "normally" equipped samurai among them.
These Perry naginata-wielders are simply a result of Warhammer Fantasy rules: when playing my army as Empire, there was a big boon for having tiny flanking units of halberds. The painting scheme is way fantasy (purple armour was not standard for rank and file troops), but I like how it works with the yellow.
These retainers from AW Miniatures are ready to dutifully carry the luggage of any unit in need. These are extremely useful as unit fillers, as I can make excuses for putting them in more or less any kind of unit!
Finally, this command base of Perrys can represent a high ranking officer in one of the Tokugawa units, flanked by musicians, a bodyguard and a nobori banner. I have Perry's seated Tokugawa miniature, otherwise this could represent the main man himself, but it would feel a tad wrong as he didn't lead most of his famous battles from the frontline, but rather from a fixed camp.
A snapshot of the army in its current state. It's only about two thirds of a "starting" army for FoG! :O
Next steps for infantry
The obvious thing missing is, of course, "proper" samurai units. I have quite a few Perry samurai that are more or less painted, but need to be fixed up a bit. Once the half-sized units are done, it would be nice to finish at least two units of spear-armed samurai.
I also have a whole lot of unpainted infantry from Zenith, but most of them are in smaller groups of 5 or 10 or so, so I need to beef them up before I can make proper units out of them. I plan to add more through the Kickstarter, once the pledge manager goes live.
Finally, we have plans to play some fantasy themed battles, which makes me want to add something thematic to my infantry. Undead samurai conversions are high on that list!
With the Summer heat comes a less crowded schedule for me. That means the scent of lilacs and drunk graduates is being mixed by glue and paint! A lot of projects are still keeping me from finishing the samurai army, but by using the same basing scheme as my French Napoleonic army, a lot of time can be saved. I'm adding some extra tufts and flowers and stuff to them, to make the ground look a bit more verdant, but by using the same materials I can streamline the work on the two armies a lot.
First out will be the shooty bits of the army. Most of these are Perry Miniatures, and some of the units are still a bit small for Field of Glory. I'll have to decide if I want to get more troops to enlarge each unit, or mix a few together as I have more unpainted shooty guys from Warlord and Zenit as well.
Archery was central to the very existance of samurai. It was their skills in mounted archery that made them the top dogs of the battlefields, and even after that role had changed in the 16th century, archery remained one of the most respected skills. But at this time the sharpshooting skills of individual master bowmen had been replaced by large volleys, often fired by lower ranked samurai or even peasants.
Behold, an almost decently sized unit! These are from Perry, and I made a base with an archer captain with his own conch blower and banner (from the Tokugawa clan). Some close-ups below:
Then I have some left-over monks with bows, from The Assault Group. I got these for a warband back when I briefly played a Japan-based Mordheim hack at my old club. With only four monks, I'll see if I end up just using them as unit fillers or if I'll get a bunch more of them to bump them up. Overall the TAG minis are nice and a bit chunkier than Perry, but close enough to mix.
The use of gunpowder rapidly spread in 16th century Japan, due to how relatively easy it was to to train gunners and the guns ability to pierce armour. A classic misunderstanding of samurai warfare is that samurai considered gunpowder "dishonourable", and that they would rather die than use them. Quite the opposite! Just like archery, marksmanship with a gun was highly respected, and at first it was rare weapon mostly attainable by wealthy samurai. Only later on, when mass production made it possible to afford it, did the arquebuses become a weapon for the masses.
My first unit of arquebuses are a bunch of samurai fortunate enough to afford both guns and servants to reload them. These are some of my favourite miniatures in the entire Perry samurai range:
With too few bases to form a unit in FoG, I'll temporary bolster them with some ashigaru gunners:
Finally, I fixed up an old cannon. This is a conversion of a Warhammer Fantasy cannon, with crew from Perry. Cannon were mostly used at sieges, and at first they would use ship cannon, often quite small ones, bought from European merchants. Later on they started making their own cannon, and that's when you start to see larger pieces.
Again, this one has a Tokugawa family crest on the mantlet protecting the crew.
Next Stage of Shooting
There are a few things I want to do with this part of the army. The samurai arquebus unit is capped at three bases in FoG, so that one is done. But the ashigaru unit needs to be beefed up to six bases. I also have some converted dragoon style samurai, mounted handgunners, which I'd love to make a proper unit out of. But then I'd need to paint up maybe two or three more of them.
The army could use another big unit of missile troops, and I have a whole bunch of the Warlord plastics that would fit the bill. I'm thinking of making these up as mixed units, with both bows and guns. The Japanese armies experimented a lot with how to use guns, and while the European counterparts combined them with blocks of pikes, the Japanese made mixed ranged units. The guns had the killing power, especially up close, while the archers could keep up a stream of arrows that practically "suppressed" the enemy. Each team of around five men would often be led by an officer, who would have his own retainer(s), and they could bolster the unit with their spears if anyone got close enough for a melee.
Finally, I'm thinking of adding some more artillery. Either through Zenit's latest kickstarter, which has a lot of cannon, or AW Miniature's large calibre arquebuses. These were in the grey area between large handguns and small cannon, and would fit the light artillery entry in the FoG army list. You can see examples of those monstrosities in this video:
Next up, we'll check out the infantry units this far. Cheers!
The samurai army is still pretty small, so I'm currently sticking with one goal in mind: bulking out the army with as little effort as possible. Sounds great, right?
That means fixing the paint jobs of a lot of the old stuff I have around, and rebasing it together with a few new additions. I'm trying a new painting method where I start out with a light grey primer, and then use washes to get the shadows. Compared to how I painted the old stuff, with a black primer, it comes out a bit more colorful, but also with less contrast. I'm not sure which one I prefer. Here's six new pikemen that I painted up (left), compared to a base of old ones (right):
At least that makes that unit six bases strong. I also took a bunch of Black Hat figures that I painted up as bandits for a Ronin scenario, and based them. Two bases got most of the spears, and the other two got most of the swordsmen. I can either go for increasing the size of this unit later, or use them to fill out other infantry units where I'm missing a base or two. I found some other odds and ends to fill out the bases, including a spearman from Museum Miniatures and a ninja from Dixon!
Speaking of unit fillers, I had some naginata warrior monks from The Assault Group as well. If I ever decide to make a separate unit of these, I'll have a head start. Otherwise, this base will serve as a unit filler as well.
Same goes with these naginata-wielding ashigaru. The purple armour is [i]extremely[/i] non-historical, but I liked the yellow and purple combination, and actualy re-used it on a part of my 6mm samurai army.
One of the few additions that includes new painted miniatures is this unit of samurai with arquebuses. I already had six painted up, and the Japanese army in Field of Glory: Renaissance can have a unit of 2-3 bases of them. So with a second pack of 6 painted up, we have our third missile unit..
With these 10 new bases, the army is looking a lot bigger. Now that I have quite a lot of the light infantry in place, I should start to focus on heavier infantry and cavalry. Oh, all that lovely cavalry.
Pictured below: a roughly half of what the finished army should look like.
The Ashigaru Backbone
The New Year holiday was a perfect time to get some work done on the light foot troops - the ashigaru. These became more and more essential to Japanese armies as the 16th century went on. As local lords got wealthier and the armies grew more professional, they also grew in size. a big part of that growth was these semi-professional non-samurai soldiers that were pressed into service when their manpower was not needed in the rice fields.
Eventually, these ashigaru would be less and less "semi-professional", and more full time soldiers. The switch from arming them with bows and spears to pikes and firearms was also crucial for this development. In the latter part of the 16th century, the transformation was completed when Toyotomi Hideyoshi declared in 1591 that an uncrossable line between villagers and samurai would be drawn, and that the ashigaru was on the warrior side of that line, officially becoming the lowest rung on the samurai social ladder.
In game terms, it seems popular for samurai armies in Field of Glory to not take a lot of ashigaru spearmen. But since they were a large part of the manpower of a late 16th century army, I have collected several ashigaru, both with pikes, spears, bows and arquebuses. Some of these were the very first miniatures I painted when I got into historical gaming some 8-9 years ago.
The Mini Restoration
Looking at the minis, I realized how much detail I skipped when I painted these the first time. This is actually a good thing, as it should comfort anyone who is afraid to start painting a Japanese army because of all the small details such as the lacing on the armour. You can actually skip them and get a perfectly playable army.
Step 1 in the restoration is to go back and cover chips and other damages in the paint
Step 2 is to give a highlight on some parts that needed them: for example, the black armour on many of these miniatures were just a coat of black primer, with nothing painted over the primer coat at all! So, a highlight on the red and black armour plates it is.
Step 3 is to add some patterns on some of the cloth pieces. Japanese clothes have always used lots of patterns, and even just a few dots and line will add a nice look to your samurai minis.
Step 4 is to go over the lacing, seen only on the kuzasuri tassets (the plates hanging down from the cuirass over the upper thighs). These are some of the trickiest parts for me, and I pretty much just try to draw them as a line, from bottom to top, and then give them a dot of highlight to stick out.
Step 5 is to give the minis a good coat of varnish, with matte varnish over the entire mini, and gloss varnish over the armour plates to recreate the look of laquered iron.
First out are the archers. Later in the period it would be more and more unusual to field large units of archers, and mixed units of archers and arquebuses would be more common. But since I had tons of archers, this is my first legal FoG unit, with 6 full bases. The command team has a ashigaru captain and a big banner declaring them to be part of Tokugawa's forces.
The archers are supported by these arquebusiers. Japanese armies were using volleys to good effect, and staggered volleys with kneeling and standing shooters was a part of this. A mere three bases won't make do though!
The first meat-and-potato part of the army: pikemen! These also come with a Tokugawa banner, and as you see I'm aiming to include a lort of banners in my units. It's just not a proper samurai army if you don't go heavy on banners! This was the first unit I bought when I picked up this army actually, so they sparked a nice nostalgic feeling.
Here is the start of the second ashigaru pikemen unit, under the banners of the Kobayakawa clan. These are from the plastic Wargames Factory range, that I got to inexpensively bulk out the army. They do look a bit wooden next to the Perry miniatures, but they'll do for now.
I also could not get them off their plastic bases, since the bond was so strong that I feared I would break the legs of them if I tried! Since they were glued to bases without the obvious Games Workshop-style gap that my other units had, it was less of a problem to leave them on. Instead, I glued them to sheets of plasticard, with magnetic sheet underneath.
Finally, a quick army progress shot. This is about one third of the size of a normal FoG starter army, and maybe about half of the infantry that are at least somewhat painted. I ordered some more pikemen to fill out the Tokugawa block, and I'll see if I can find another box of the plastic minis, even though they are currently unavailable because of the business deal between Warlord Games and Wargames Factory.
Not a bad start to the new year!
This talk about Renaissance period games at the club is the perfect reason for me to get back to a project that has lingered far too long. A pretty large collection of 28mm samurai miniatures, bought for the purpose of playing playing Warhammer Fantasy more than a decade ago. Much of it got painted, but I never finished the army.
Now it can be found in army transport foam trays, shoe boxes, and probably even in many of the cupboards around the house:
A sad example of a disorganised, demoralised army indeed.
Anyway, now that we are discussing the topic of Renaissance era games, I looked at what I would have to do to get this rabble whipped into fighting shape.
First, I would have to touch up on the miniatures. The painted ones have been chipped and damaged from gaming, mediocre storage solutions and moving houses several times. Others are just half-painted, and the painting level is a bit uneven overall. They all need at least a few brush strokes.
Secondly, I would probably have rebase them. Individual bases work for large battle games such as FoG, and you can count six individual bases as one FoG base. But it is just a drag to pull two hundred individual bases out of a box and deploy them, and a lot of the time it just looks better.
Third, I would have to fill in the missing gaps in the army with either new miniatures or some of the unpainted lead mountains in the darker corners of my wardrobe.
These all sound like reasonable things to do as a side project, so let's get started! I chose six ashigaru (light infantry) pikemen from Perry Miniatures, which were some of my very first miniatures I got way back.
I realized that the painting varied a lot: some of them had more layers of highlights than others, some of them had gloss varnish on the plates, and some details were not picked out in the same way. So I went over them and covered up the chipped off parts, and gave them a more uniform painting scheme. I also gave them a new healthy coat of varnishes, both matte and gloss, with the gloss varnish only covering the laquered metal armour plates.
After that it was just a matter of pulling them of their bases, and see how they would fit on a bigger group base. The steel pikes have a tendency to break off, so I drilled holes in the base to glue them into:
Glossy indeed, but not too shabby. I plan to wait with the actual bases until I have a few units, so that I can get a nice uniform basing solution.
Six down, some 250 or so left to do. Yay!
Italian Wars With a Twist
The Italian Wars were always there in the horizon, even as we got the initial platoons ready for WW2. One major reason was simply that we collectively had a whole bunch of Renaissance style troops already, puff-sleeved men that had served as Empire or Dogs of Wars units in Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Another reason was the period's strong visual and tactical appeal, and the great variation it offered to painting drab 20th century uniforms and tanks
But if we have maintained a rather respectfully historical approach to our WW2 forces and campaigns, several circumstances have lead us to take a more flexible attitude towards the Renaissance. The first reason is simply that we have several players who used to play Warhammer Fantasy Battles, and now look for an alternative for wargaming with large blocks of infantry, now that the game and setting abruptly disappeared recently.
The second reason is that it would be appropriate if a certain someone who already have a large collection of Landsknecht orcs could use them. There are also people like me who have other historical armies that fit the period and never get a chance to field them. For example late 16th century Japanese.
Finally we wanted to be able to play purely historical as well as semi-historical or full on fantasy style games or even campaigns in the period, depending on the players and what they feel like playing at that time.
Playtesting Field of Glory: Renaissance
This means that our criterias for a Renaissance game it that it should be flexible enough for us to introduce semi-historical and purely Fantasy style troops, and enable us to put blocks of 28mm miniatures on the tabletop. After that, it's all about finding a ruleset that is both fun to play and fulfilling as a tactical wargame. We looked at the pros and cons of two games initially, Field of Glory and Pike & Shotte, and decided to try FoG first.
We just had a simple trial evening of pitting four units against each other on a kitchen table to see how the mechanisms work:
It's hard to say anything after just such a simple test, but we did learn a great deal.
There will always be more pikemen.