Friday, 12 June 2009

The Ii Red Devils (in 6mm)

A while back I mentioned that I had been looking into collecting Samurai models and here are the results.

These are 6mm scale samurai from baccus miniatures. For my first historical wargames army I choose to build an army for Warmaster Medieval - Games Workshop's recent rejig of the Warmaster game to cover Medieval armies. I choose this game for two main reasons, firstly I really like the fantasy version and it's grand scale approach to warfare. Secondly, because they have actually bothered to produce a Samurai army list, which few others have managed.

Fields of Glory are doing one and you can get one for DBM, but I find both of these games a little fiddly and over fussy.

Of course Warmaster is designed primarily for 10mm scale. But I choose 6mm scale because I it makes for even larger and more impressive forces and because Baccus is dead cheap. I picked up a 1000 point army at Salute for only £40 (including the cost of the bases). A 10mm scale army of the same points value would have cost as much as twice that.

These are Senngoku Jidai (or age of warring states) Samurai. This period encompasses the 16th and early 17th century and was a period of near constant civil war as well as great military change. The Samurai became less important as new weapons such as the arquebus, brought by Portuguese traders, placed greater emphasis on large formations of lower class retainers called Ashigaru.

Unit of foot samurai armed with yari (long spears).

Yari Ashigaru unit. The difference between the models in this scale is not huge. The Samurai are slightly heavier armoured. So I painted the somewhat differently to make them stand out.

Ashigaru Teppo unit. Teppo was the Japanese word for Arquebus. Though it's hard to see here, this unit actually includes both arquebusiers and archers. This was quite common during this period as the archers could keep up fire allowing the Arquebusiers to reload.

A unit in Warmaster consists of 3 stands of 40mm X 20mm. The number of models on the stand doesn't matter as long as the stands are the same size. In this last image the stands are positioned side by side for maximum fire effect.

As can be seen, the painted detail at this scale is pretty low. The point is to make the models look good (or at least decent in numbers).

I choose to make my Samurai army represent the army of the Ii clan as lead by Ii Naomasa. It took me quite a while to come up with a theme for my army. I was very keen to ground it in some kind of historical fact. I'm not a purists, but I didn't want my army to stand out as obviously ahistorical and I wanted a good hook to build my army around.

I found my hook in the rather excellent Samurai the World of the Warrior by Stephen Turnbull and published by Osprey (they of the million and one military history books). This is an unusual Osprey book as it is something of a prestige piece of over 200 pages, though it contains the usual excellent illustrations and photos. I picked it up in a discount bookshop in Brighton for an absolute bargain price of £5.99. It's a great overview of the Samurai class as a whole through its history and a nice introduction if you're thinking of getting into Samurai wargaming.

In one chapter I stumbled across the story of Ii Naomasa and immediately grabbed it for my army concept. I am surprised the story hasn't been turned into an Anime or Manga, it seems so ideal.

At the start of the 16th century the Ii family were retainers of the Imagawa family, who had ambitions for conquest. This lead them into an attack on the province of Owari. At the time this was ruled by a minor Daimyo (warlord) called Oda Nobunaga. Unfortunately for the Imagawa, Nobunaga was to become the first of three great unifiers of Japan and would have conquered the whole country if he had not been assassinated by one of his own generals.

The attack turned into a disaster and the heads of the Ii and Imagawa clans were both killed at the battle of Okehazama.

This disaster lead the new head of the Imagawa, Imagawa Ujizane to become somewhat paranoid. So much so that he accused the Ii of plotting against him. He had the head of the family and his brothers and sons murdered. Only his grandson, the four year old Ii Naomasa survived, hidden in a buddhist Monastary by his aunt, who was a Nun.

When he grew to adulthood Naomasa went seeking his fortune. With no way to reclaim his ancestral lands he offered his services to another local Daimyo. He fell in with Tokugawa Ieyasu. This turned out to be astute, Ieyasu was the third great unifier and would go on to found the Tokugawa Shogunate that would rule Japan for 250 years.

Naomasa proved valuable to his master , saving him from an assassination attempt in 1576 and helping to capture Takatenjin castle in 1581. He rose quickly through the ranks.

Naomasa fought with Tokugawa at the battle of Nagashino were the Takeda clan were defeated with ranks of arquebus fire. At that battle Naomasa observed the Takeda retainer Yamagata Masakage in action. He dressed his followers in red armour and Ieyasu suggested that Naomasa follow the practice. Naomasa did, but took it to even greater extremes. His samurai were clad entirely in red lacquered armour, right down to their spears. This was unusual for Samurai armies, which generally did not adopt any standard uniform. Naomasa himself took to wearing a helmet with huge golden horns.

A reconstruction of Naomasa's famous golden-horned armour

The red armour and reputation for ferocity of the Ii troops caused them to be nicknamed the Red Devils. Naomasa himself was sometimes referred to as akaoni (literally red devil).

Naomasa fought for Ieyasu for a numbr of years and ultimately at the battle of Sekigahara, which established Ieyasu as Shogun. Naomasa received a bullet wound in the elbow at this battle which Ieyasu tended to personally, suggesting something of the high regard in which the soon-to-be Shogun held him. Naomasa was well rewarded after the battle with lands in Omi province. But Naomasa never fully recovered from his wound and died in 1602. He was ultimately succeeded by his son Ii Naotaka who maintained the family tradition and the Ii family would continue to be influential up until the fall of the Shogunate in 1868.

The Red armour was enormously appealing for me, both because it looks striking and because I have painted an all red army before (Warhammer Dwarves) and know how to do it. Along with Naomasa's own story this made for a highly characterful army.

So far I have two each of the Yari Ashigaru and foot Samurai as well as four units of Teppo Ashigaru complete. I still have two more Ashigaru, two more Samurai, 2 units of mounted samurai and the army commanders to paint. Once these are done I will post some pictures of the complete army in all its red-armoured glory.

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