Sunday, 17 July 2011

Wine, women, and...

Samurai!? Something completely different today for a change.
View of the moon rising from our hotel
Just came back from a few days along the gorgeous Izu peninsula, where we could relax with good food and lodgings, washed down with a few bottles of fine wine.  A really great place to chill out.
It is always a good idea to pamper the Finance Minister from time to time- preferably before the next credit card bill comes in.
On the way back, and most likely of much more interest to wargamers, we stopped off at Odawara to visit the castle there.   Odawara-jo (castle) is a reconstruction of the massive structure which existed there and which was the home of the Hojo clan, until they were defeated and absorbed into Hideyoshi Toyotomi's growing empire.  
The Hojo on the march.
The Hojo used to control the area where I currently live, and in fact I live a few minutes by train from the site of an engagement fought between the Hojo and the Nitta; the Battle of Bubaigawara, which was fought in 1333.

Although a 20th C. reconstruction, Odawara Castle really is impressive and enough of the original foundations exist to make it worth the visit for those interested in such things.
(Click on any photo to enlarge)
close-up detail of roof ornamentation
Fortuitously there happened to an exhibition of samurai armour running at the time within the castle itself, so lots of great resources should I ever get that samurai army I keep thinking about.  
In Japanese of course, but loads of pictures in this museum guide!
Much of the armour was representative of the more "decadent" styles found from mid-to-late Edo times, but there was enough period armour and weaponry on display from the 16th Century, along with some interesting examples of "ammunition" armours for poorer samurai and ashigaru, to make it well worth an afternoon's browsing.
On the way back to the station, we also came across the tomb of two of the Hojo family, Hojo Ujimasa and Hojo Ujiteru, located in a small plot right in the middle of the bustle of Odawara city near the train station.  These gents paid the price for failure, and were forced to commit suicide after Toyotomi's victory.  As you can see, people still bring offerings of food and flowers, and light incense sticks in their memories.

My favourite castles in Japan (of those that I've had the chance to visit so far) remain Hirosaki-jo in Aomori prefecture, which is one of the few originals, and Shiroishi castle in Miyagi prefecture.  Shiroishi-jo is a reconstruction, but was built using original plans and building techniques.  

Still, I enjoyed our visit to Odawara, and on my return found myself taking a second and third look at David's excellent range of Kingsford Miniatures samurai!

click to enlarge

The above photo shows some really nice units of Kingsford's samurai in Vancouver wargamer Steve Knight's collection.  This was from a Korean War (1599) game I had in Vancouver earlier this month with the North Shore Gamers.  We were using an unpublished rule set called Daimyo, that have been used successfully for well over twenty years now.  David, the owner of Kingsford Miniatures, was there for the game but found himself commanding the Koreans that evening!
Samurai surge forward; the Korean commander is clearly not worried.  With me appointed as his Ming Chinese "Ally" general, you'd think he'd have cause to be!
Part of the Korean Horde: some excellently painted Perry Miniatures in the collection of  the other David there that evening; my old friend Dave Smith, who was hosting the game that night.  He also wrote the rules!
All the foregoing has absolutely nothing to do with Napoleonics,  but I hope that some people out there may find it interesting nevertheless.  Napoleonic diehards take heart- my next post is on that Black Powder Napoleonics game we played in Vancouver.  I just need to format the photos first.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Across the Pacific and Back

Back from the land of moose and Mounties, where I had three weeks to relax (more or less).  It was good to meet relatives and friends both old and new, to do some shopping, and even to get in some gaming!  
I was able to take part in three games with my old club (now the North Shore Gamers).  These included two games using Black Powder; an Austrians vs. French Napoleonic scenario and a scaled-down refight of the Battle of Rossbach in 1757.  There was also a Samurai vs. Korean game using our old Daimyo set of rules written by Dave Smith.  Lots of fun all round.
Foundry Napoleonic French about to be snotted by the Austrians.  The shame...
A mouth-watering unit of Samurai- Kingsford Miniatures.
1757, and the Prussians and French go toe-to-toe without any pesky skirmishers in the way.
The Vancouver area has always had a strong gaming community, and even has a very well-stocked source of models, miniatures, rules and accessories in the shape of Imperial Hobbies in Richmond.  Richmond is right next to Vancouver airport, and also happens to be where my family now lives.  So of course I dropped by the store a number of times to browse and to pick up a few items that caught my fancy.  

Francis Munroe, the owner, is into Napoleonics himself, as part of the White Rock Gamers (which includes Chris Leach who was closely involved in the development of the Shako rules).  So unsurprisingly, there were lots of things Napoleonic on the shelves.

I  snapped up a few boxes of the HäT 28mm hard plastic Napoleonic Bavarians.  Now these are not Perry quality, and are at the smaller/ more slender end of the scale, but they were inexpensively priced.  With a bit of care, they should make decent enough battalions which could see service with or against the French as numbers and gaming scenarios dictate.  Among some wargames magazines I bought was an issue of Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy, which fortuitously included some very nice Napoleonic Bavarian and Russian flags in 28mm.  

Other items I ended up with included a pair of 20mm Rafm M5 light tanks to complete my WW2 US tank battalion, and a copy of Mongoose Publishing's Age of Dreadnoughts.   I wanted a quick set of rules for use with my collection of 1/2400 WW1 Austrian, French and Italian fleets, and this set looks likely to fit the bill.  While I was at it I picked up a blue Hotz felt mat to replace my rather tatty piece of mauvish-blue cloth which I currently use for our naval games.

Aside from new purchases, I went through my own collection of books and figures which has been languishing in a storage cupboard since I left Canada for Japan some twenty years ago, and took the opportunity to sort through the lot.  This meant trading off or discarding unwanted items and sending others back to Japan. Among those about to get a new lease of life on my side of the pond is a sizable Indian Mutiny collection, some more 20mm WW2 models, some old Citadel Vikings, and a number of resin and plastic buildings.

One surprising find was a battalion of 25mm Connoisseur late Napoleonic Saxons, which I can't even remember buying!  I'd even painted them, although they need some touching up and proper basing.  Although very "long in the tooth", these look a lot better than I would have expected for such old models.  They have a undeniable charm, and while an individual figure can in itself look rather "gawky", I find that they actually look very effective as a unit- a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.  Certainly not "State of the Art" miniatures but I will have no hesitation in placing them on the gaming table.  

At present they are buried deep inside one of three big boxes that are on the long voyage to the Far East, and when they get here I'll post a few photos.  Back then we were gaming with units of 16 to 20, so I need to order some more in order to have a full battalion for Black Powder.  They will be a nice little addition to our games, and maybe I'll later get myself a few battalions of the Calpe Saxons in order to make up a full brigade.

Next up I'll post more about the games we played, including some neat ideas that were floated about and tried out for Black Powder.  But first I need to get over some vicious jet-lag.