You'll find a little of everything here. Genres covered in this blog include (so far) prehistorics, fantasy, old west, swashbucklers, pulp, Blood Bowl, Ghostbusters, gladiators, nautical, science fiction and samurai in 6mm, 15mm, 28mm, 40mm, 42mm and 54mm sizes. You'll also find terrain, scenery, basing, gaming, modeling, tutorials, repaints, conversions, art and thoughts in general about the hobby.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Gangs of Old Japan

Yakki fighting in the streets of Edo.
The next few sculpts I've commissioned for Steve Barber are figures I hope to paint into a couple old Japanese street gangs (such as those found in the streets of Edo.) Since I'm trying to sell my bushi (my armored samurai), that leaves my unarmored samurai left over. I have a good selection for some nice chambara duels, but I'd like to build a couple small gangs for a little skirmishing in the streets of Edo.

A part of launching into these projects I enjoy is learning some of this historical aspects of everything. Unfortunately, there is very little in English on the subject of Japanese street gangs. But what little I found was still interesting (I think the subject would be a perfect fit for an Osprey book.) Here are a few types of gangs (keep in mind, this is from memory and from only a few scant sources spread all over.)

"I'm bored, fellas. Hey, I know: Let's dress like nutballs
 and go coo-coo bananas all over the streets of Edo!"
Hatamoto-yakko: With the unification of Japan came peace. And peace brought a lot of samurai without anything to do, especially to the capitol Edo. Some of these bored samurai formed gangs that would take to the streets with crime and violence toward the lower classes. These gangs would sometimes consist of both samurai and some lower-ranking servants, and were collectively named hatamoto-yakko.

Kabuki-mono: Many of the hatamoto yakko (and other imitators) wore outrageous outfits -- items from the west, bright colors, women's kimonos. They also wore their hair in wild fashions, and would partake in abnormal/eccentric/rebelious behavior. (I can't remember where I read it but) Kabuki theater was inspired by the odd behaviors and garish colors of the kabuki-mono.

Machi-yakko: Many gangs were formed from the lower classes within a town (machi) to help protect the towns  people from the hatamoto-yakko, and these two groups would often clash. A western equivalent of machi-yakko might be the vigilante groups of the old west.
Later, the machi-yakko would become more like typical gangs who engaged in robbery, protection rackets and violence. It was the machi-yakko who would eventually evolve into the Yakuza.

Otokodate: Not really related to street gangs -- and not even a historical class, the Otokodate (roughly translating to "noble knight") was an archetype role found in the Kabuki theater, but it still lends itself easily to a role in gaming. The otokodate were samurai or ronin who would use their skill to help the lower classes. Robin Hood would be a good example in western literature. In Japanese movies the otokodate role might include the character Sanjuro in "Yojimbo," or more famously, the samurai in "Seven Samurai."

Others: And, of course, there were also just your regular gangs of bandits, robbers, thieves, killers, fugitives etc., those like you see in "Seven Samurai" and "Yojimbo."

The New Figures
So I've kept the new Steve Barber commissions simple. The first is a swordsman similar to one of those you can see among the henchmen in "Yojimbo." I will be able to convert it to carry a sword or yari.
Green modeled from a bandit in "Yojimbo."
It also comes with a separate head so that you can mix and match, giving the figure a low-ranking peasant head, or a higher-ranking samurai head. This figure will be the basic pose that will fill the ranks of my yakki/kabuki-mono.

The next sculpt will be a samurai in the act of drawing his katana. He'll be wearing travelling clothes (haori jacket, geta sandals and straw hat.) His head is also separate for easy conversions. This pose will be versatile, being able to fill the role as a gang boss, a travelling ronin or samurai noble.

I have a third sculpt in line. The pose is meant to hold a spear, but can easily hold a sword as well. He will fit in with any of the gangs or can serve as a peasant. Existing figures within the range can finish off the edges of a gang.

The makings of a machi-yakko?
I have a bunch of peasants armed in a variety of ways. So I already have a good basic machi-yakko gang. The new figures will form the hatamoto-yakko/kabuki-mono. They'll be the "evil" side of the skirmishes (though, they'll be prettier) in my games.

For painting, I LOVE the concept of the Kabuki-mono, only because I know I'll be able to explode my palette with the new figures; no more muted colors and darks and browns. I can break open some bright reds, yellows, greens and blues, and see what garish designs I can come up with to paint on the clothes.

Final note: For what I think is an excellent (movie) representation of kabukimono vs. machi-yakko, I recommend you see the movie "Ichi the Blind." It's essentially a Zatoichi movie, but with a woman cast as the blind sword master. The protagonists are the local gangsters (machi-yakko,) who are shown as a benevolent organization serving their town. And the antagonists? Well, they have kabuki-mono written all over them. If you've been patient enough to get this far, click this link and enjoy a clip from Ichi. See if you can spot the kabuki-mono:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

GW Halberdier command group

Here's the front line from one of my halberd regiments by Games Workshop. These are all older minis (and all lead!)

The color bearer is actually a crewman from the great cannon set. I removed his ramrod, drilled out his hand and added a piece of brass rod to be the new flag staff.

I still have some samurai in the works. I have some new ideas for when the new bunch arrives.

I'm also thinking about doing a typical street in Edo, but instead of doing full-size buildings, I plan on doing a line of false fronts to serve as a simple backdrop to my games.

In the meantime, most of my hobby energy will be directed to helping fulfill rewards from the Machinas Indiegogo campaign.

That's all the news for now!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The sad parade

I thoroughly enjoyed building, painting and racing these cars, but now they're lining up to be shipped out to our most loyal Machinas drivers. I've held a few back for myself- only those that have larger 1:32 scale copies, but most of what you see here will be going out all over the world to race, burn and explode in the name of his glorious generousness, The Oppenheimer.
All praise Saint Machinas! All praise The Oppeneheimer!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Last Machinas update/Samurai news

The Icon of Saint Mercury. One of the first
cars I made, and now it's image will be
 preserved as one of the base
vehicles for playing "Machinas."


The Machinas campaign is close to earning a third deck of cards (which would allow for 12-car races! And yes, you can race that many vehicles without too much down time. That, and it would all fit on a dining room table.) The campaign is also just hours from finishing, so there's no time to lose!

So this will be my last post asking to take a look and pledge if you haven't yet and were thinking about it. Machinas is certainly not everyone's cup of tea, but I love the innovative pack mechanic. What's this "pack" mechanic? check out Ed's video on the basics:

The rules can easily be translated/modded to run normal auto races, air races, hydroplanes, horse races and more. I've been working on the Rocket Racers version on and off, but I want to see how well Machinas does first.


The first Steve Barber figure I ever painted was this peasant,
and it's a sentimental favorite of mine. In the future, I may
commission Steve to do either another peasant or a Sohei.
I've commissioned Steve Barber to sculpt a couple more samurai. One is a little Japanese henchman/gangster/bandit, similar to those seen in "Yojimbo." I've seen the finished green, and it looks great!

This week, Steve is starting on a second figure, this one a ronin/samurai in kimono, hakama, haori, and wooden geta sandals, in the act of drawing his sword. He'll make a great boss figure for my new gang.

I know not many (any?) of you collect 42mm samurai, but I'm pumped to be getting some new figures to add to my favorite range and collection.

Why do I commission all of these figures? I'm running out of space, and this helps me control my figure purchases. Also, though I'm only getting a few figures at a time, I'm getting exactly what I want (and Steve's sculpting prices aren't too bad!)

If you only collect figures to paint, I recommend you try a few figures from this range for something different. It's also nice to have a range of samurai where painting the lacing is not an impossible task.

Monday, February 17, 2014

GW: Another halberdier

This halberdier is a little different than the others from last week; this one is part of my proper Warhammer Empire army I collected back in the early 90s.
I remember a few years ago, GW pushing an idea of organizing Empire army themes around military orders (as well as state armies,) so I named my group The Order of Katzbalgers. The colors are red, white and black with a few blue accents.

A few years ago, I also posted photos of the gunners and crossbows of my army. Here are a couple of those pics, as well as a photo of one of my cannon. This is all I have painted for the army so far. I have four more cannon, and full 24-man units of knights, greatswords, spears and two of halberdiers. A general, his herald, and 10 pistoliers will complete my Katzbalgers/army repainting project.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Machinas: Last call

]The Oppenheimer asks for you to take one last look at the Machinas Indiegogo campaign. Pledge if you want, but glory still be to all!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mordheim Reiklander

Here's another of the older GW figures I'm repainting. I have many more old GW figures ready to paint, but I need to get some more 30mm lipped bases to proceed.

I made the large, impractical cape from green stuff. It wasn't a deliberate decision to put the cape on this figure; this was simply the nearest available figure to try out my cape-making skills at the time.

Monday, February 10, 2014

GW Empire halberdiers

Here are a couple more old Empire halberdiers by Games Workshop, from before the dark times (no skulls or spikes on these sculpts!) These figures were originally plug-and-play; there were three or four bodies with a socket/plug in the center of the body. Then you could plug either a halberd, sword and shield, crossbow (which I have a few of,) or two-handed sword into the body.

I just chose colors at random, but the two figures here appear to be (after some post-painting research) halberdiers of Nordland (blue and yellow) and Ostland (black and white.)

I'm enjoying painting my old Empire collection this way -- rebasing on lipped display bases with flasgtone sculpting. I have a few figures reserved for proper regimental basing (including a couple 20-man regiments of GW halberdiers from 1991.) But I also have loads of other characters and regiments that I will probably continue to assemble and paint more individually (for display or skirmishing, but not for playing Warhammer proper.)

Here are a few of the plug halberdiers along with an Empire hero:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Machinas: Less than two weeks left

Check out the Machinas Indiegogo campaign. If you've already seen it or pledged, then pass the word along. The Oppenheimer will thank you with a glorious rain of bullets, missiles, metal, and fire!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Small Japanese house

This actually isn't new, just changed a bit. The original version of this building had a thatch roof, which looked fine; I just wanted something a little more urban. The only changes are the addition of a new roof (just card and basswood and planks painted on;) and a coat of white wash on the side panels. The interior is still the same, nice and open with plenty of space for a few samurai to spill blood.

I've commissioned Steve Barber to do a bandit figure, but more in the vein of an urban bandit (Kabukimono/otokodate.) I don't plan on doing any more full structures such as this one, but I'm thinking about at least putting together a long, semi-3D length of streetfront from 17th century Edo to serve as a backdrop to some Japanese gang streetfights. By "semi-3D," I mean that the facade will actually be built up with wood, not simply painted on a canvas.
It's still just a thought; I haven't done so much as a sketch. But I think it wouldn't be too difficult nor take up too much space. I still need to find some decent reference material.

If it happens at all, it will have to wait until the Machinas Indiegogo campaign is over and my obligations to it fulfilled. And if you haven't pledged or seen the campaign (which I'm sure you have by now, as much as I've been harking on it here on my blog,) go check it out at the link I provided!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Custom tetsubo (and a Machinas game)

One weapon none of my samurai are armed with yet is an iron-studded tetsubo. So I went ahead and made my own. I started with a large-diameter length of brass rod and took my time filing it down until it had four long sides.

I drilled a hole in the end of the handle to accept a large ring I've seen in numerous photos. Then I cut studs out of a "rope" of green stuff I had sitting around. I glued the studs down, and that was that. After the superglue has had ample time ti fully set, I'll use a file to even out the taller studs.

I'll eventually get another copy of the figure shown in the photo, who will wield this bad boy in some wicked Japanese street fights. A final note: I'm not quite sure if this is a tetsubo or a kanabo. I know there is a wooden version of the weapon as well as an iron version; mine will be the iron version.

Machinas Update

You can see how much space the cars in the center of the table are
taking up (not a lot.) We used the three black poker chips to both mark the
inside of the track, and to work as lap counters (removing a chip
after each lap was finished.) This is early in the game, but once the players
figured out the mechanics, they began employing unique strategies.
 I ran a Machinas game for my friends this weekend. It started off slow as they learned the basics of the tables and jockeying for position, but once they knew what they were doing, they really got into it. I knew they were having fun when the sass started flying. They had more fun than I had expected (they're more the Euro-gamer types.)

I only had a couple copies of the first card deck, so there were a couple repeats of weapons, but the cars were still significantly varied that everybody developed a unique strategy to win the race (The guy with spiked wheels was bashing a lot; the guy with Twin .50s was shooting a lot; the guy with tailguns was goading people to draft him.)

It was also great to see passing strategies develop early; the players didn't just set up to pass, they kept an eye on what was going on further ahead when planning their passes (I wrote a strategy guide for passing in Machinas, which will either be posted to Two Hour Wargames blog or released as a free supplement.)

It was a good time. They learned the game and raced a three-lap race in about an hour and a half. One last thing, you can see in the photo the footprint of the game. The actual gameplay area in the center is barely a foot square. Then each player has his "dashboard" cards in front of him. This table (about poker size) easily had space for a six- or seven-player game. The game, with extra cards, and a little extra space (a dining room table perhaps) can accommodate a 10-player game.

Haven't pledged yet? Go check out the Indiegogo Machinas campaign.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Empire Hero

I grabbed a random figure out of the old Warhammer pile (don't worry, it's not a pile, just a bunch of dusty primed figures on the shelf.) This figure is a Warhammer Empire hero by Citadel. This is one of the original figures I bought when I first started painting in 1990-ish. Long live lead!