Saturday, 19 January 2013

Bushido figures, a review

Greetings shipmates, as those of you who have been paying attention will know, I've been painting more than a few of GCT Studio's Bushido range of figures for the Hendybadger over at Tales of a Tabletop Skirmisher. So many in fact that I feel I now have enough of a grasp on the range that I can offer a few review-esque thoughts.

To date I have painted the starter sets for the Prefecture of Ryu (plus the ninja model Bikou and the Sumo Wrestler Mikio:

And the Cult of Yurei (plus their rat-man Nezumi):

Now straight off the bat I'll say that before I painted them I thought the Prefecture (PoR) would be my favoured models but the Cult (CoY) blew me away when I got my hands on them. The painting/photography on GCT's site doesn't do the Kairai zombies any favours. When you have them in your hot little hands they are stunning. Unfortunately the PoR demonstrate more of the problems with the range than the CoY do so they wound up playing second fiddle in my affections.

So on to less wishy washy stuff. First of all, these models are not 28mm scale. They even say on the website 32mm but I assumed that was a more precise way of saying "Heroic 28mm". It isn't, and even between the figures the scale is a little inconsistant. Check out the following pair of pictures and you'll see what I mean:


Especially in the PoR group at the top, stand any of those figures up straight and they are about a head taller than a space marine. Except for the Ashigaru with spear (second from right) who only comes up to the shoulder of the Samurai to the left. Then look at that samurai (drawing his sword) and compare him to the rest of the models in the PoR group. He looks like a model dropped in from another range, really huge! Now maybe the character is a giant of a man (I haven't read the backstory) but it does make for some weird group shots. The CoY group is a little more conservative with the model's heights being fairly consistant. I don't mind height variety in a range as people are different sizes and with Bushido being a skirmish game it won't matter too much, they would look odd ranked. The problem is using them with any other range but Bushido, I really don't think they would fit in any Warhammer army for sure. I don't think this is some kind of failing on GCT's part but it does mystify me, why wouldn't you make your models as compatible as possible with one of the largest market shares? Especially when you are only out by a couple of mm each?

The quality of the sculpting and casting though is wonderful. The attention to detail and thought that has gone into the models is fabulous. I've pulled a few examples of my favourite little details out to demonstrate:

I wanted to start with the puppet master as I think he is just superb. From the tiny tools hanging from his belts - each one different, and each a real carving tool - to the gorgous spirit taking form from his smoke and whispering secrets to him while she strokes his head. Absolutely fantastic. The little marionette is ace too, just thick enough to be tough.

GCT have clearly got sculptors who "get" anatomy (Kev over at Hasslefree is another excellent example). Mikio the sumo actually looks believably fat. He isn't a cartoon, the weight is distributed properly and even where the kesho-mawashi (yeah I looked that up) cinches in around his waist has a small roll of fat above it. This also leads in to:

Brilliant expressive faces. Not over exaggerated and with a few exceptions - notably the two ashigaru - they don't have that passive "deadness" that a lot of sculpts have, in fact compare the ashigaru face below:

With the sumo above, she is flat, dead, doll like while he is lively and expressive. Even the deadpan puppetmaster has a presence. Nice work for the most part.

The next three show some wonderful depth of detail and care in sculpting. I've never seen Japanese armour look this nice before, as on the Arquebus Ashigaru and on the helmeted Samurai:

Someone has obviously bothered to actually go and look at real armour as it is just great. While on the subject, it may be a small point but:

Proper bindings on a katana? Almost never see it. Again, very nice.

And the attention to detail doesn't end with the nice stuff either, they've thought about things like "zombies will attract rodents..."

"...and carrion birds". The flat, deadpan masks contrasting with the horror elements of hideous wounds and actually being, y'know, eaten make these so upsetting!

Speaking of the masks, this goblin Nō mask on this one just makes me grin every time.

The geisha is another example of stunning attention to detail in research - the parasol for instance is perfect, all the mechanisms are there - and the sculpting of the cloth is sublime. I have deliberately left out the face as I think it lets the model down. They wanted a monstrous geisha and didn't go far enough (she's just got Joker style scars at the sides of her mouth with big ugly sutures). I think in this case they should have abandoned subtle and gone for a daemonic face amongst that perfect hair, clothes and poise or left her flawless with just the evil within. The halfway house just makes you focus on the sculpting process, trying to figure out what they wanted, rather than on the finished result:

And so that brings us to some of the other small problems. Some of the detail can be a little confused at times, especially the rat piles with the Nezumi. So it can take a little while to figure out what is what on the figures. Another problem is the scale thickness of some of the parts. Not the usual problem where spears are the width of the average sapling, quite the reverse. Some of the weapons especially are so thin that you can break them very easily and the tiny widths mean pinning to repair is very hard. The Kairai with the back banner and two swords is a good example of this problem. The last issue is only on their earliest models and is something that almost every starting miniatures company suffers from:

2D posing, very, very flat and actually a little thin front-to-back. Now this is not all of them, only a few, and only the oldest models. They have figured out the tricks of getting dynamic poses while allowing a model to lie flat in a mold so the newer models have none of this. They are a part of the range though, indeed in the starter set, so I'd feel remiss if I didn't point it out.

So to summarise then!

  • Larger scale than the more common 28mm, some variation in scale across ranges, shouldn't be a problem playing a skirmish game like bushido but limits cross-compatibility.
  • Wonderful crisp casting showing off some inspired sculpting.
  • Older models look "older" as they are missing some of the modern tricks to achieve nice dynamic poses, this isn't a problem for the newer sculpts.
  • Brilliant attention to detail and a commitment to research showing through on the models.
I really like this range, I want to see more of it. The monsters and mythology of Japan and Malaysia (where most of the influences seem to be drawn from) are a rich and largely untapped resource by wargaming companies. Now I just need to get some of my own and try the game out for size.


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