Sunday 28 June 2009

The Red Devils march

After more than two months of on and off painting my Warmaster Medieval Samurai army is complete.

Well I say complete...

This army is made up of the miniatures from Baccus Samurai starter army for Warmaster Medieval, with the exception of me leaving out one unit of foot Samurai. The reason for this is that Baccus actually make two types of foot Samurai, advancing and charging. A 1,000 point Warmaster army can contain 4 units of foot Samurai and I want 2 of each. However, the starter army came with 3 advancing units. So, with the first batch complete I now have to order 2 more Samurai units.

This is actually only the beginning of my plans. My Red Devils need someone to fight and so I will have to start work on a second samurai army, again of about 1000 points. My current plan is to do one based around the Shimazu clan of Satsuma who were famous for the feigned retreat tactics and made good use of snipers. It was a shimazu clan arquebusier who gave Ii Naomasa the wound that ultimately killed him.

This is a unit of mounted Samurai. In Warmaster they count as shock cavalry which means they are based facing the narrow edge of the base. This allows more stands to get into combat for extra impact. I have two of these painted up, the maximum allowed in a 1,000 point army.

They have been painted with completely red armour, like the foot samurai, but I tried to vary the colours of the horses with a few different shades of brown or grey and one or two black.

Ii Naomasa himself, though he could also represent his son Naotaka if necessary. He is shown here with an attendant carrying his gear in a horo, or large sack and accompanied by a messenger. In reality a Samurai of his rank would have been accompanied by a hundred or more attendants, weapon bearers, messengers, etc. These two are just a sample.

The golden horns were an addition to the model made with green stuff. They look a little crude, but work well at a distance. Remember this model is 6mm scale and is less than a centimetre tall. The horns were absolutely compulsory, given that Naomasa is famous for wearing them.

Naomasa is based in the traditional Warmaster character fashion on a 2p coin.

Kimata Morikatsu, one of Naomasa's closest retainers. He was assigned to him by Tokugawa Ieyasu himself and served Naomasa then Naotaka for the rest of his life.

His official role was as commander of the Red Devil vanguard and the most senior Taisho. This term doesn't translate perfectly, but can be considered equivalent to general.

In Warmaster terms he is a Samurai hero. He is based on a 2p like Naomasa.

The army here is arranged in an approximation of the Hoshi formation. This was a common attacking formation were missile fire would break up the enemy before mounted Samurai charged in in a wedge formation.

At the front we have three teppo formations, mixed missile troops with hand guns and bows. Directly behind them in the centre are two Mounted Samurai units acting as the vanguard. Their commander, Kimata Morikatsu, is directly behind them. They are supported by a second division of foot samurai directly behind on the left and right.

On the left and right behind the teppo are Yari Ashigaru, low class fighters with long spears who fought like pikeman and guard the flanks.

Behind the Samurai is a middle division of more Yari Ashugaru, with the commander, Ii Naomasa behind them. This was quite common for Samurai armies. The general would rarely engage in front line combat, instead watching the unfolding battle from a camp at the rear and issuing orders.

This was not a question of keeping him safe, but more about ensuring that the battle was well directed. If the battle was lost the losing general would probably commit suicide in any case.

Of course Ii Naomasa had plenty of opportunities to see front line combat, as he would usually command one part of a larger force usually under the command of Tokugawa Ieyasu. This formation shows how they might have fought if the Red Devils fought alone.

At the back is a supporting Teppo Ashigaru unit to guard the rear.

I don't have quite enough units for a proper Hoshi formation. There should be a clear bodyguard covering Naomasa on both sides as well as two rear flanking units and more missile troops at the back, but it gives some sense of how the army might have deployed. Whether this would be an effective formation for Warmaster is less certain.

As before, I have more pictures on photobucket. Take a look at them here

With the Red Devils finished I am taking a break from painting 6mm. I have actually started work on painting a Warhammer Chaos army. Most of the models have been hanging around unpainted for ages so I thought it was about time I got them finished. Once they're done I'll be ordering more Samurai and hopefully soon have enough for a full scale battle. Watch this space.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Hikone castle rises

Ever since I decided to put together a Samurai army I wanted a castle to go with them.

When I decided on 6mm scale it became even more important. The reason for this is that, while I have a lot of scenery for 28mm scale, much of it isn't really transferable to 6mm scale. The hills are fine, they just become bigger hills or even mountains. But 28mm forests don't work so well. I have seen people use large scale trees with their small figures and while they are fine for gaming purposes, they never look quite right.

Most importantly, I needed buildings, specifically Japanese style buildings in the right scale. This is easier said than done. Not many manufacturers make 6mm Japanese buildings. In any case, I was keen to save some money and wanted to do it myself.

Starting with the castle was probably not a sensible idea. But I like a challenge and loved the idea of my army of Samurai lined up with the castle in the background.

I ummed and ahhed for some time before deciding on a castle to model. I thought about creating a generic castle, but was worried that it wouldn't look authentic. I considered Gifu castle, because the Red Devils had fought there and seen some action.

But in the end my eyes were drawn to Hikone castle. This was the castle of the Red Devils themselves and, fortunately, one of the few Japanese castles to still be substantially authentic. Most are reconstructions. This meant I could find lots of nice photographs of the castle for reference.

Of course when I say 'castle' I am really referring to the keep, the large central building within the castle compound. The whole castle is made up of dozens of buildings surrounded by walls. I plan to do more buildings and some walls, but I had to start somewhere.

Hikone Castle keep as it appears today

Hikone wasn't constructed until after the battle of Sekigahara, and was not completed until after Ii Naomasa's death, so it was almost certainly never besieged. Using it in battle would be necessarily anachronistic. But I decided I didn't care. I could play an 'alteranate history' game or use it to stand in for another castle. The chance to build the Red Devil's own castle to go with the army was too good to pass up.

Unfortunately I had a great deal of trouble finding any plans or blueprints for the castle. In the end I relied on a dodgy translation of the Hikone city website, that stated the castle was 21 metres tall and measuring numerous photos to work out the scale of everything. The results are less than precise, but should do for gaming purposes.

I also wanted to be able to put models inside, so I decided to build it with three seperate detachable floors. I am clearly insane.

I started by making the walls of each floor using foamboard (two thin layers of card with a layer of foam in between). Foamboard is nice and thick and can be pinned easily for extra stability. I then gave the first two floors a flat roof. This allowed the second floor to sit on top of the first and the third to sit on top of the second. The flat roofs were made using 1mm thick card.

After that I made the curved roofs out of more thick card. These had to be carefully cut to match the design of the castle and still allow each floor to be detached.

This work in progress shot shows the keep at this stage. At this point I made a major blunder. I measured the heights for each floor, taking into account the added depth needed to clear the roof of the floor beneath. Unfortunately, I screwed up the second floor and made it 10mm too short. It dissapeared under the roof of the first floor. I ended up having to scrap the whole second floor and start again.

After that I neede to texture the roofs. I spent a lot of time looking around for appropriate thin round objects to stick to the rooves to give them an authentic look. In the end I settled on barbecue skewers, which were probably a bit too thick, but look okay in this scale. I cut them into small pieces and glued them on to the rooves covering up any visiable card.

I added windows and wood panels with more card. Finally I had to build the base. All Japanese castles are built on a mound of tightly packed stones for added defence. These mounds are fantastically tough and in many cases the mound of stones is now all that remains of the castle. I build my mound using more foamboard with a flat card 'roof' for the castle to sit on top of.

Completed, but unpainted castle.

Finally I painted it. This wasn't too hard as the castle is mostly black and white. I gave the whole think an undercoat of black primer before painting the walls in two coats of white. The roofs were touched up with more black, to give them good coverage before being drybrushed, first with Tamiya Nato black and the German grey. Finally, I gave the windows a quick go with German grey to simulate pains of glass.

Painted Keep

So far, I have only partly textured the mound, by gluing a layer of small stones. I intend to add smaller stones to fill in the gaps before painting.

Painted keep with partly texture, but unpainted mound

This was an ambitious project and took the better part of a month to complete. I still need to add more, I think a few extra details, like the gold stars on the original castle would look good, but I have to figure out to do them. I also intend to add more buildings, the keep has at least two further buildings attached, and no castle would be complete without some walls.

First, though I think I will do some smaller buildings that I can use as a village. After the Castle that shouldn't be too challenging.

I am very pleased with the three level effect. It means that a good six warmaster stands can be placed inside the castle ready to defend it. Given that Warmaster Medieval has siege rules, this is quite a tempting prospect.

The three levels of Hikone castle keep

If you're interested in seeing any more pictures of the model you can find them here:

Hopefully, I will have pictures of my completed Ii Red Devil army soon.

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.