Sengoku: Beginning a Samurai project in 15mm

Having been involved in a large Samurai project at the club many years ago, it was never going to take much to rekindle my interest/obsession in all things Japanese and the Sengoku period in particular. The catalyst, as it turned out, was when Mike decided to start it in 15mm and demoed the Peter Pig ‘Battles in the Age of War’ rules using some borrowed figures. The game was very enjoyable and captured the flavour of the period well. Over the next few weeks I began idly thinking about how I would go about doing it. A purely hypothetical exercise of course. . . .

So, inevitably, planning led to realisation. I’ve come to understand that it’s important to plan as much as possible before starting a project, primarily to avoid having to change basing halfway through, or ending up with a look you’re not happy with. The choices and decisions came down to: rules, figures, basing and heraldry.

Which rules to use was an easy decision, the aforementioned ‘Battles in the Age of War’ from Peter Pig. I figured that once the army got to a hundred-odd figures, I’d be able to play ‘Sword and Spear’ or ‘To the Strongest’ to keep the enthusiasm going. I decided to depart from the BAW basing of 30mm squares, and instead use 40mm squares with 5 or 6 figures per base rather than 3 figures on the 30mm ones as I thought this would look better and give the units a better ‘mass effect.’

Having decided to do the Sengoku-Jidai period, figures came down largely to a choice between Two Dragons, Old Glory and Museum. I wasn’t going to use Peter Pig as I just don’t like the figures. Plenty of people do however, and their range is certainly comprehensive enough for the period. Initially I had a good look at Mike’s Old Glory and Two Dragons, the decision was a close one but I felt that the Old Glory just shaded it. I got some Museum figures as well, and they were possibly marginally better, especially the cavalry, but the range wasn’t finished yet and there wasn’t enough figure variation for me. All 3 manufacturers are different sizes, so it would be hard to mix them, but both the Old Glory and Two Dragons ranges are extensive enough to be used on their own. The Two Dragons sashimonos are a bit bigger than the Old Glory ones, so I think I would use Old Glory figures with Two Dragons sashimonos. However, after ordering some figures, I found out that Khurasan Miniatures had a Sengoku range in development. This required a bit of a rethink, so I decided to carry on with the Old Glory figures, sashimonos and all, while waiting to see what the Khurasan range is like. The greens look excellent. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this range is going to go ahead now).

The first time we did Samurai, we went for a basing style that aimed to emulate the colours of Japanese battle screens. So we had bases of a pale sandy colour with patches of sand painted in quite vivid dark greens. I thought I’d revisit the idea, so decided to go for the sandy brown bases with green tufts and to evoke the trees dotted around the screens I’d add the occasional bush to some of the bases. I make my own tufts with a ‘Flockit’ applicator. This is a bit of an indulgence to be honest, and you’d have to make a lot of tufts before it were cheaper than just buying them, but it does give you more control over size and colour. For the bushes, I used bits of a loofah for the branches with some clump foliage added. Loofah is extremely tough, it comes as a hollow cylinder, so you can cut it into rough squares, using the inside of the ‘tube’ as the base, then tease out the ‘branches’ to a more irregular shape. I dyed the loofah in cold tea a few times to give it a brown colour, though I usually paint it as well. The foliage is best applied with some ‘tacky glue’ in this case I used Grass masters flock cement.

^ Some loofah bushes

^A ‘test base’ using Museum figures. Initially I thought about bare thorn bushes, but after seeing them I decided instead to go with foliage. Also, the number of figures per base would have to come down to 4 or 5, and the green needs to have a stronger contrast with the brown.

When it comes to heraldry, there is a lot more information out there now than when we first did Samurai. The world has thankfully moved on from a couple of Two Dragons booklets and bits of information strewn through half-a-dozen Turnbulls. The excellent Samurai Archives site has plenty of information and some fine work has been done on the forum there by ‘Evalerio’ in collating information on banners and sashimonos. For the Mon I decided to make my own decals, which is not nearly as hard as you may think. Making your own means you are not necessarily limited to which clans you can do by what decals are commercially available. You can also make sure that your decals fit your sashimonos and noboris properly. I used Expert’s Choice clear decal paper for inkjets. You don’t have to be able to use an art program, you can just take an image from Samurai archives and paste it into Word, then resize it as you want and copy the image as many times as necessary. I used the auto-detect setting on a standard inkjet printer. After the ink had dried (overnight to make sure!) I gave the sheet a coat of Microscale decal film. One coat was enough, but if you find that the decals are breaking up, just give it another coat. That’s really all there is to it. One sheet of decal paper costs less than £3 and will give you enough decals for hundreds of sashimonos and Noboris. Initially I printed a load for the Ukita and Mori clans, which arguably could have been done freehand, but as I’m useless at drawing I thought I’d do decals anyway, firstly as a tester and secondly to get the Mon the right size. I do the decals in black, as I usually just use them as a guide and paint over them.

^ An A4 sheet of decals. A lot of the Ukita ones have been used. I may have overdone the Mori looking at it, there’s enough there for about 350 sashimonos.

So, finally, here’s the first group of bases, Ukita Naroie and some Ashigaru. Old Glory figures:

Ukita Samurai:

Mori Terumoto in a honjin. Figures by Old Glory, the ‘horo’ on the back of the messenger is Two Dragons:

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