Saturday, 4 January 2014

The Way of the Horse and Bow

...or the Early Samurai in DBMM.

It has been rather too long since my last blog post, though much of that time was spent with this project.

One of the first armies I ever painted was a Samurai period Japanese army but that was for a friend to use with WRG 6th edition a long time ago. Since then, I haven't been particularly interested in them. When I started researching the Mongols, I used the Invasion Scroll for some ideas and that put the germ of an idea for doing a Samurai army into my head.

I was put off by the thought of doing the lacing for the Mongol invasion period and eventually started to do an early 16th century army, the lacing being less prominent. A few of the Old Glory figures had a look which lent themselves to be painted wearing the older style armour and after doing them I thought it might be manageable after all.

Sometimes, an idle thought like this can lead to a lot of work...

Anyway, I'd already researched the available 15mm ranges and there aren't many which are intended for the 12th and 13th centuries, the time of the Gempei war, the Mongol invasion and the beginning of the shogunate.

This shows the two ranges I chose. Those on the left are Eureka, available in the UK from Fighting 15s.
Those to the right are Essex. I liked each range for different reasons and so had one command's cavalry from Eureka with the remainder by Essex.

During the writing of the DBMM lists for the Samurai, the evidence was interpreted as there being very close co-operation between the mounted and foot. This has been reproduced by having a compulsory double base of cavalry and auxillia (representing the followers). This gives a number of disadvantages - slower movement, less able to exploit gaps, less easy to interpenetrate as many other troop types - but gives some advantages - a bonus in combat being the most important.

When it came down to it, the main reason I decided to do them was that the big base allowed more of a diorama look than a normal size.

These are more of the Eureka figures. Some of the cavalry are supported by monks, just for variety.
The banner is made from wire and paper.

Below are some of the Eureka foot. There is a nice degree of variety with the dismounted Samurai but only two rather similar poses for the followers. The banners - hata-jirushi - are moulded on the figures.

They are a bit pricier than most ranges but the mounted archers in particular are fine figures, with a 'breakwaist' allowing multiple positions. A couple of other poses would have been nice, such as the distinctive position as the bow is about to be drawn. There are also some cavalry carrying swords and naginata though these poses are less impressive.

Eureka also do this command scene. They provide screens though I actually used some from Peter Pig. They are painted with the Hojo kamon.

More Eureka figures.
I started doing the binding on a the bows in red but switched to a light buff as it was more noticeable.

These are Essex figures. I don't often use Essex but these have a much broader ranger of poses and are pretty accurate. The banners are more paper and wire creations. Neither Eureka nor Essex do a mounted banner bearer even though they are shown in the original scrolls - in fact one of the bearers on foot is only unmounted because his horse was killed.

These are some of the hata-jirushi shown on the invasion scroll. Going by the numbers from some contingents, there were a lot of these banners carried in an army. To make things a little easier, the generals have two banners per base, one carried by a foot soldier.

You can also see the quivers. Some of them have a separate quiver which needs to be glued on, as does the sword scabbard. The quivers which are moulded on are probably a bit high but they don't spoil the figure.

The DBMM list allows one command of cavalry to be single based, which gives a bit of flexibility. The figure brandishing a sword has this to replace the naginata he came with. It is, though, extremely unusual to see a cavalryman in scrolls from this period with anything other than a bow in his hand. In the histories, the sword tends to get used once the arrows are expended - I wasn't about the carve them off this figure though. The sword is simply a spare tachi  as supplied by Essex for gluing on in its scabbard. They are thin enough for this and I rather wish I'd replaced them on the Eureka figures as well.

A mix of infantry from Essex. It is possible to have archers (psiloi in DBMM) supporting some of the naginata armed foot (auxillia in 'MM) which mostly helps against mounted attacks. However, these are unusually a compulsory double base. This makes them a bit cheaper but gives less flexibility. The pavises to the rear are simply plastic card with a brass wire support.

There is a good range of variation in the Essex foot.

Here are some more, with the odd head from Peter Pig.

And more, with the peasants carrying sharpened bamboo in the background.

For inspiration and info:
Online - 
The Heiji Scroll
The Invasion Scroll
Going by the scrolls, most samurai had single colour lacing (other than the top couple of rows which were often pale), Some, especially in the Heiji scroll, appear to have leather covering each row. However, for the showier forms of lacing see Lacing patterns. Also see this for the range of colours used.

Books -
 In Little Need of Divine Intervention, Takezaki Suenaga's Scrolls of the Mongol Invasion of Japan (Conlan) (includes line drawings, a translation of the text and a discussion of the invasions).
Warriors of Japan as portrayed in the War Tales (Varley) - mostly about behaviour rather than appearance
Samurai, Warfare and State in Early Medieval Japan (Friday)
There is a handy thread on TMP with more suggested reading matter for the Samurai era, including this early period, here.
Various Turnbull books are handy but most of his stuff covers the Sengoku.