Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wargames Factory: Samurai/ Ashigaru Reviewed

Hi, I have the privilige to share a review of a fellow wargamer called General Lee of the Lead Adventure Forum which he made about the Samurai and Ashigaru infantry sets of Wargames Factory. I'm really pleased with this opportunity as I now have reviews of the entire Rising Sun range of Wargames Factory! Enough talking up to the guest bloggers review!I’ve always loved the look of Japanese medieval warriors. Massed ranks of ornately armoured soldiers, brightly coloured back banners fluttering in the breeze, and the sun gleaming off thousands of swords and spears. A fully arrayed 16th century Japanese army must have been a spectacular sight, but I don’t think you would want to be on the receiving end.

Until recently, it would have been quite an investment for wargamers to build big Samurai armies in 28mm scale because only metal figures existed. But over the past few months, Wargames Factory have released four (yes four) multi part plastic sets: Samurai Warriors, Ashigaru armed with pikes, Ashigaru missile troops and finally, mounted Samurai. This review will concentrate only on the former three sets and the review of the mounted Samurai can be found here.I am aware that Wargames Factory has a pretty bad name. The quality of some of their earlier sets has varied greatly, I will admit that. However, before any of you turn away, I would like to ask you to read on, perhaps this review will confirm what you already knew, or it may surprise you. What do you have to lose? Maybe 5 minutes of your time? Everyone still here? Great! First of all, I’m not an expert on the period or on Samurai/Ashigaru. I have just began to do some research. I will therefore refrain from using the proper terms regarding weaponry and uniform items.

The box

The box artwork of Wargames Factory products leaves much to be desired. I think we have all seen some examples. The box shows a picture of a digital render. To be frank, it looks bad. I once heard someone say, “aesthetics is everything’ and I would heartily agree, especially when it comes down to retail (that at least is one of the few things that Games Workshop do well). When I opened my boxes of Samurai/Ashigaru however, I was pleasantly surprised. I had already seen some images on the internet so I knew they had potential.

The sprues and assembly

Let’s start with the Samurai boxed set in the ‘Rising Sun’ range. The box is labelled as ‘multi part figures,’ and indeed they are. There are enough parts to make 25 Samurai (five identical sprues in the box). The sprues all stack together nicely, so no mess on your desk. The quality of the plastic is good. It is a bit harder than the plastic we all know from Renedra and GW which makes removing mould lines a bit harder. The detail on the parts is great! I know that the detail in their previous sets was soft in some places (or virtually none existent) but no complaints here. I would even go as far as saying that the details are as crisp as the Perry plastics. Nice folds in the clothing and the armour segments are well defined. I also love the facial expressions which look very life like (which again was a major issue with WF’s previous sets)

There are nine different head options per five figures which is great I think, it gives you a lot of variation. The helmet crests are excellent! Really nice detail. There are five back banners per sprue which are all identical, which is a shame. You can arm your Samurai with spears or swords. All of the weapons are nicely designed and look proportioned. The legs come in two pieces which I’m not really a fan of, but I’m sure has something to do with tooling/casting.

Now over to the Ashigaru. Both sets of Ashigaru are quite similar so I’ll tackle them in one go. Again, the box art is pretty horrendous. They really have to do something about that because it looks like something you could buy at a discount store. As with the Samurai, you get 25 figures per box. The close combat Ashigaru are armed with spears. When I put a couple of them together, I noticed that you really have to push the spears into their hands. In fact, you need to bend the thumb of the hand slightly in order for it to be able to hold the spear. To be honest, I’ve never seen such a thing. On the one hand, it is quite curious, on the other, it does ensure a tight fit and looks quite convincing. A lot of people had gripes with the fact that most Wargames Factory figures have hands that resemble Playmobil toys, well……not here! Great detail overall.

You can even make a full command group which is great. One banner and drum are provided per sprue. The banner especially is great because neither the Samurai nor Ashigaru missile troops have them on their respective sprues. Five back banners are included and you can choose between ten different heads. The back banners are all the same and are actually the same as those of the Samurai. The Ashigaru sets came after the Samurai and clearly show that WF have again stepped up their game. The faces look even better than those of the Samurai. The only complaint I have is that the detail of the faces is a bit softer than the rest of the parts, so do be careful with your paints.

Here's a picture of a fully assembled Ashigaru spearmen ready to serve his lord! I quite like this pose as he looks as a guard of a castle or his lord.

The Ashigaru missile troops which can be assembled as bowmen and arquebusiers share many of the parts of the close combat troops. The heads, back banners and torsos are the same, which is understandable, because it saves time designing entirely new ones and probably reduces tooling costs. There are enough parts to make 20 of either. That leaves five figures that can be turned into standard bearers (this is where the spare banners from the spearmen box come in handy!), musicians and leader types.

The conclusion

The detail really is very good. I’m sure there are people who are unwilling to believe me, but I’ve seen them in the flesh. Nice facial features, clothing and gear are all very well defined and look natural. I like the fact that they are multi part, which will give you plenty of variation throughout your army. However, this does mean that there are less figures per box.

Most WF infantry boxes have 30 figures for $20,- (14.85GBP at Wayland Games) Because there are so many parts per sprue, you can “only” build 25 figures. So not the cheapest plastics out there. In addition, I found the Samurai as well as the Ashigaru quite fiddly to put together. There is no clear instruction manual in either of the sets and it doesn’t really become clear which arms are supposed to go together. This can become a problem when you want to glue your harquebuses in place (they come separately) I really think that is a big let-down so I would not recommend these sets to the novice modeller/gamer.

And as a consequence, it took me quite a while to put a single figure together. Perry and Warlord Games plastic sets are far easier to build than these. On the other hand, you do get quite dynamic poses, which are not as stiff or awkward as some people claim them to be. All figures come with 20mm square bases, which is nice. So to conclude, apart from the packaging and some minor design issues I can only say that these are excellent figures. Anyone interested in the period and who likes plastic multi part figures can safely order these sets. The negativity surrounding Wargames Factory in my opinion is based on their earlier output. Their plastic Samurai and Ashigaru are a major step forward and I can safely recommend them. Just give them a chance!

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peter said...

Really nice looking figures! Thanks for the review!


Wargame News and Terrain Blog said...

Hi, no problem interested in some painting 28mm miniatures? :)

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