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!