Tori Gate

No, it’s not a headline from the Sun Newspaper regarding a scandal in the Conservative party but the first piece of scenery that I have made for Test of Honour. A very straight forward and easy piece to finish, it is the simple Tori Temple Gate from the Sarissa Precision range.

Japan-TORI-TEMPLE-GATE-SAMURAI-JAPANESE-28mm-Laser-cut-MDF-scale-Building-B002-181361053102Made from Laser cut MDF, assembly is very simple using PVA glue. Painting is just as straight forward. There seem to be a lot of questions as to how easy is it to paint MDF. The answer is very easy. I just use the same paints (Vallejo) that I use on my miniatures, unless I am painting a large area. In which case, match pots of emulsion from B&Q (other DIY superstores are available) also work very well.

Completed Tori Temple Gate

Completed Tori Temple Gate

So, once I had assembled the gate, I sanded down any obvious mis matches on the pieces to get a smooth surface.  I left the main gate separate from the base and just sprayed it with Army Painter red. The first coat will bring out any imperfections and it is easy to remove these with another sand over with fine wet & dry paper. Once this was done I just resprayed it a couple more times to build the colour and that was that. I’m not sure if it’s the right shade of red but it will do for me!

As for the base, this was just as easy. I took a fairly large brush and simply dry brushed it, with out priming, in a Dark Grey. I think that I gave it a couple of coats to cover the wood. This technique ensures that the laser etched detail is not covered. I then repeated the dry brushing with a Medium grey and then again with a lighter grey until I was happy with the effect. I picked out the etched cement between the flag stones using a small brush and a watered down pale grey to get the effect shown above. It was a simple but laborious job to follow the pattern.

Tori gate & warriors

Tori gate & warriors

So with my first piece of scenery made the next job was to sort out a playing surface. Of course I could use one of my other mats but I have a cunning plan for Test Of Honour. I think that it is an ideal club night game and my intention is to put together a ‘Pick up Set’ where by I can just grab a couple of boxes of Scenery and figures and head off to the club knowing that everything is there, ready to play. The solution to a playing surface can be found at Aldi at the moment if you are quick! For just £6.99 you can get a 1 metre by 2 Metre green Awning mat. Cut it in half and you have two ideal sized mats for Test of Honour, so if you ‘go halves’ with a mate, you pay just £3.50! Here’s mine:

Aldi Mat

Aldi Mat

OK, it’s not as glamourous as a Cigar Box mat but then at the price…If you look on the Test of Honour Face book page , I’ll post some pictures of how it looks with scenery and figures on it later. If you follow this link, you can see details of the mat online:


You will also notice from the pictures I have some trees in Blossom. The story behind these is that I picked up a job lot of trees that were being discontinued by a supplier two years ago to sell on the stand at Salute – just £1.99 for a pack of two. Nobody wanted trees in Blossom and these were left over after the show. I decided that they would look nice on my table and here we are two years later and I cant get Blossom trees at such a price to sell for love or money…. They still look nice on my table though!

So if my playing surface and scenery box is taking shape, how am I doing with the figures. As usual for me, painting is slow but I am getting there. I now have six spearmen done.

My war band takes shape.

My war band takes shape.

The basing isn’t really finished – I need to add some grass tufts or even better flowers but I haven’t quite decided on the final scheme. I am also waiting on some decals to add onto the back banners.  They are ready for tonight’s game though. Next up, the archers and I will give a bit more information on how I went about painting my war band.

Close up of Spearmen - I'm not sure why they look so happy.

Close up of Spearmen – I’m not sure why they look so happy.

In the meantime, you can see the range of Samurai items that we have in stock, including the superb Sarissa Japanese buildings range, here:


Sarissa also make a really nice range of Far East buildings that are also very suitable for more rural settings:


If it is paints that you are after:


Turning Japanese!

Well, it turns out that have I succumbed to my urge for something different and my Easter present to myself was a copy of the new Test of Honour game. I am not an ‘early adopter’ by any means and get far more pleasure from deferring a purchase than actually making one! However, I had played a couple of games and had really enjoyed the simplicity of the game mechanics. The fact that I had a great deal of fun playing the game also helped – I don’t remember laughing so much in a wargame but that may have had more to do with the poor Japanese movie impersonations that were being carried out as each Samurai moved…

My first game - unpainted figures!

My first game – unpainted figures!

I had also been slightly put off by the chatter on some social media pages by the apparent problems with the Wargames Factory/Warlord plastic figures. Having seen the completed figures for myself, I thought that they looked pretty good and the painted ones that I had seen had convinced me that I could work with the figures in the set. So I grabbed a box whilst I still could and spent some of my spare time over Easter building and painting Samurai.

I wont do a full unboxing review – there are plenty on You tube and other forums but here are my general thoughts. First of all, I think you get a good deal for your money. In effect, you have a complete game for £35, including, albeit 2D, card board scenery. As well as all of the cards, tokens, rules, and markers that you will need to play, you also have the sprues & parts to make 35 Samurai and Ashigaru miniatures. All you need to supply is a Tape measure and a 3 foot playing surface. You do have to assemble those plastic figures though…

Ashigaru Archers Assembled!

Ashigaru Archers Assembled!

So first things first, yes the figures are plastic! If you don’t like plastic figures then jog on son, you’re in the wrong aisle! Metal figures are available from other suppliers and may just cost a tad more than those figures included in the game. Are they complicated to put together? I don’t think so, you’re not going to be building the Battleship Yamato. Each figure has about 7-8 pieces and there are some clear assembly sheets included in the game. You just need to take some time to look at them.

Are they fiddly to put together? Hell! Yes! I lost count of the number of heads that I dropped and even with my small fingers, the parts are a challenge to handle. Don’t even try to rush the assembly, you will get into a mess. Here’s my best advise on how to proceed.

Spearmen assembled and undercoated

Spearmen assembled and undercoated

First of all, you need to be seated comfortably, at a decent work station with a nice cup of tea and plenty of time – don’t rush!

Study the assembly sheets and match them up with the correct sprues – Spearmen, Archers and Samurai.

You need a good sharp pair of clippers, A good scalpel and a sanding sheet, whether it’s an emery board or something similar, what ever suits your budget!

For assembly, use a good polystyrene glue – I prefer the Revell Contacta glue with a needle applicator. Don’t use super glue – it may be faster but the beauty of polystyrene glue is that you will have some working time to position those fiddly parts. Because the glue melts the surfaces you will get a bit of ‘Fill’ to hide the joints and actually the bond will be better than superglue once the glue has dried. Here’s a tip, when you put the glue onto a piece, don’t immediately slap it onto the model. Wait a few moments to let the glue start to melt the plastic and then put the part into position. It will stick into place but you will still have some working time to position it to your preference.

Start with one of the simpler models. Either a spearman or bowman using the one piece torso. Once you get the hang of assembly and become familiar with the pieces you can be more ambitious and start to try different poses and combinations.

I found that the best assembly method was to stick a pair of legs together. Then attach these to a base. From there it was easier to handle the model and build the figure from the waist up.

Once you have built a few of the models, you will find that it becomes easier & faster as you become familiar with the process. The real joy of plastics though is that you will be able to customise and convert your models to make a really unique warband.

the warband takes shape

the warband takes shape

It took me about a couple of hours to assemble my first 12 models. In fairness, I was taking my time and as I became familiar with the different pieces I started to change the poses and think about conversions.

I also wanted to start to paint the models. Once again, they look to be a challenge but I am going to opt for a simple approach. For a start I don’t intend to spend too much time on research. I have one book on Samurai in my home library ( The Book of the Samurai by Stephen Turnbull)  that I have been flicking through and the rest of my information has come from the Test Of Honour Face Book Group. If you haven’t joined , then it is worth it just for the pinned post at the top of the page which has some fantastic links to resources.


For me the process of painting will be just to produce some gaming figures and not to get too involved in historical accuracy. If I really get bitten by the Samurai bug, I may revisit that statement but for now, my intention is to produce a couple of small warbands that I can use at the club to take a break from my Napoleonic Games. So at the moment, my ambition goes as far as painting the 35 figures in the box and perhaps building a few nice scenery pieces.

Painting the warband

Painting the warband

You can see my progress so far. I’ll use these test models to see how I get on and to figure out the best way for me to paint the models as a batch. At the moment I have simply primed them with Army painter black, dry brushed them with neutral grey, Faces and hands are dark Flesh and red for the Trousers(?). There’s a way to go yet so I’ll return to these in a future blog. In the meantime, I’ll finish this entry with a picture of the limited Edition Samurai that came with the set. I really enjoyed painting him and his ninja mates….


Banzai! The limited edition Samurai takes on some North Star Ninja’s!

You can see our current stock of Samurai and the Test of Honour range in our shop Here:


If you need tools, click here:


You can get glue here:

Adhesive and Glue

At the time of writing, most of our products are available post free to most worldwide locations!

A Test of Will Power…

I believe the technical term in wargames circles for unbridled enthusiasm on the release of a new game or product is ‘frothing’. With all the product that crosses my desk, you would think that I am immune from such a condition but I’m afraid I am just as likely to get excited about new releases as ever. Of course, we are entering the peak ‘New Release Season’ as manufacturers and designers get ready to launch their new products at Salute down in London, so there is plenty to froth about.

Three forthcoming releases have caught my attention. Unfortunately for me, none of them are from periods that I already have troops for and so whether I actually get to play the games will be another matter. That said, for now I’m happy to dream about painting the miniatures that I may never actually own…

New from Warlord Games, Test of Honour

New from Warlord Games, Test of Honour

First up is the new game from Warlord, Test of Honour, a skirmish game involving Samurai Warriors and their retinue. Warlord have been very clever in marketing this game in that it involves repackaging the Wargames Factory plastics that they have recently acquired. If you would just like to have a look at the rules, they are available as a free, yes, free download from the warlord games web store. Just click this link to go there:


The game isn’t actually released until late March and of course, Arcane Scenery will be stocking it – watch out for our special offers around launch time! Having the rules will give you some idea of whether the game is for you.

I mentioned that the miniatures are the repackaged Wargames Factory figures but it being a Warlord release they have supplemented the plastics with some very nice metal sculpts, an example of which is shown above. I know that plastics in general and the Wargames Factory figures in particular are not to everyone’s cup of (green) tea but once assembled and painted, the models do look very nice. I am particularly taken by the Archers and the Cavalry.

Test Of Honour Mounted Samurai

Test Of Honour Mounted Samurai

Of course, Samurai are a bit of a speciality subject and not everyone is going to want to refight the sort of skirmishes that you see on the big screen where the Samurai warrior can take out a group of enemy in three moves whilst barely twitching an eyebrow. You either like this stylised ritual approach to combat or not. I suspect it is a bit of a marmite subject for wargamers. That said, I find myself drawn in two directions. I really admire the discipline, tradition and self sacrifice shown by the Samurai whilst acknowledging that such a regime would drive me mad! I reckon that a group of English Longbow men would have sorted out the Samurai as effectively as they dealt with the French without all that messing around – now there’s a sentence to start an argument…

Samurai Armour is just beautiful!

Samurai Armour is just beautiful!

Of course, the other attraction is the beautiful arms and armour of the figures and the colours and designs used on the armour and clothing. I suspect that in attempting to paint these figures I will be stretching both my eyesight and painting skills but the thought of having a small Samurai band in my show case is too much of a temptation. Just to prove the point, once I had seen the release details of Test of Honour, I was inspired to dig out the only Japanese figures in my lead mountain and get painting! I have three ninja figures that I acquired sometime ago from Northstar games and so I thought that I would give these a lick of paint.

Northstar Ninja!

Northstar Ninja!

Ninja aren’t exactly representative of the Samurai that I have been frothing over but they are close enough. I decided to paint one in traditional blacks and greys, the other in Reds. The third I am still thinking about! It’s got me in the mood to paint more Japanese warriors, whether Samurai, ninja or the humble foot soldiers of various types. It will be a nice change from my Napoleonics for sure! The fact that I need only paint 6 to 20 models to be playing Test Of Honour is a big draw. If it grabs me the way that I think it might I can gradually add to my  Samurai entourage!

Now what colour should I paint the third one?

Now what colour should I paint the third one?

There are of course other Japanese rules sets out there if you fancy a change yourself, and of course plenty of figures for sale. Two recent releases spring to mind,


Written by Craig Cartmell and Charles Murton, this is also a skirmish rules set for mythical Japan.


Is part of the Osprey series of Skirmish rules and is supported by some beautifully sculpted figures produced by Northstar.

Of course, if you are going to jump into this period, you will need some scenery and I would suggest you look no further than the Sarissa Precision range of


and also very useful, the


I think though ,the attraction of getting everything in a box, rules, dice, figures, cards, scenarios is too attractive a proposition to miss out on so I will be adding Test of Honour to my repertoire of games – I’ve just got to persuade a couple of my gaming buddies to join in!

I did mention three games that had caught my eye. The other two? Well I’ll cover those in a future blog but here’s a clue, one involves Africa and the other, some spooky goings on out West…


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