The next piece of my Japanese village project is probably the most important: some houses! Not much of a village without them to be honest!
There are a few people out there making 28mm medieval Japanese buildings (4Ground, Blotz, Sarissa, TTCombat, Oshiro, etc). I wanted these for skirmish gaming, which means I need interior detail. So that unfortunately discounts Oshiro, which is lovely stuff but resin. I looked at both 4Ground and Sarissa but decided to take a punt on Blotz, and boy am I pleased I did. These are great kits!
First of all, a confession. I’ve not built anything from Blotz before, and judging purely from the photos on their website and the prices I had them pegged in my mind as “cheap and cheerful”, ranked alongside the budget stuff from TTCombat. Not so, these are fantastically well-designed, high quality kits.
The first thing you might notice when unpacking them is that there are a lot of parts, and no instructions. Gulp. Luckily what you do get is a little slip of paper telling you to look on the website, and sure enough there are great instructions online. These have photographs at each stage, and point out any tips or hints as you assemble. Other manufacturers do photo assembly instructions (eg: 4Ground) but these are slightly better. Top marks for Blotz there.
I took a crack at this one first. I followed the instructions fairly closely, although not to the letter. It suggests painting the parts while still on the sprue, which is not normally something I do but the way these kits go together make it work well. You won’t get any unpainted edges, as the kit is cleverly designed to hide them all. For me this is a huge plus. Corner joins on MDF kits really look terrible in my opinion, it’s the same as leaving mould lines or flash on a miniature, it just catches your eye and ruins the effect. Luckily not an issue here, and if you paint everything on the sprue it all goes together beautifully, so that’s the way to go.
I only used three main colours on this kit. The interior plastered sections got a plain white, the wooden frame got a mahogany and I stained all the wooden panels with a brown ink (Liquitex Burnt Sienna, if you’re interested).
It’s similar to the 4Ground Japanese buildings in that the walls have the interior detail but are plain on the outside. You attach the frames to the outside, then you get tons of little inserts with the wood panel effect. This makes a very chunky, solid building with no visible joins. The result avoids the “tacky MDF box” look and to my eye looks a lot more like it’s actually been built from timber.
The door is movable, but I glued mine in place to save faff. I added some of the baking parchment that I use for my wet palette to the door. You could also use tissue paper, or anything that looks right really.
Once I got the walls and roof built it was time to turn to the thatch. The kit includes a big slab of teddy bear fur for this, but my other buildings have thatched roofs made from cotton towels, so I wanted these to match. Either way the process is the same, cut some strips, lay them on the roof and slather it in watered down PVA. You see a lot of people just leave the teddy bear fur at that stage, I think that just looks like teddy bear fur, not thatch. You need to trim it a bit and paint it. This doesn’t need to be anything serious, I just spray paint yellow-brown (Army Painter Desert Yellow) , give it a thin wash of the burnt sienna ink and a quick drybrush (from a tester of Wickes Lion’s Mane) . This is where the PVA on the thatch helps. If you lay it on quite thick the roof will be stiff enough to drybrush easily (plus it’ll be more durable).
The house would probably be fine without a base, I tend to add them to mine as it’s a chance to add in some little bits of scatter and make the building blend into its surroundings. I think it’s these little finishing bits where a kit comes to life and it’s where you get to stamp your own mark on it. I added a horse trough I got from a local model shop out the front, and a 4Ground handcart out the back just to make it look a bit lived in. I’ve also added some resin scatter pieces from Plastcraft.
I’d recommend painting your base before attaching the building, as it actually sits a little above the ground level, and getting in to paint under the edge of the building is fiddly if you’ve already glued it to the base.
This is designed similarly to the small house. The main difference is that there are some exterior plastered sections which you might want to add some texture to (I didn’t bother), and you get two sets of doors. Since it’s larger and has two doors it should probably be divided into a couple of rooms internally. Japanese internal rooms are just made of sliding lightweight screens, I might have a think about what to make those out of and add them later. In my preferred rules (Ronin) you’re allowed to bust these down, but they will block line of sight and allow a bit of sneaking around.
Since it’s got a an internal corner you do end up with one exposed join on this kit. As that’s internal I’ve left it and will try to cover it up if I make an internal partition.
One slightly fiddly bit on both kits are the frames for the porch. Pay careful attention to which way around the various beams fit, as they only go one way. They also aren’t a particularly good fit, unlike everything else in these kits.
The house itself I built as is, but I’ve also made a garden that can attach to the side. This uses 4Ground fences, an Oshiro outside toilet (just for lols), a Woodland Scenics tree and some cabbages made from wedding roses in a little vege patch. I look forward to stomping through the peasants’ cabbages with some haughty samurai and hiding ninjas in the toilet (check out one of the more lurid stories about the death of Uesugi Kenshin for an extreme example of this!)
Highly recommended. These kits have a lot of parts, and do take a little longer to assemble than their competitors might, but you get a better quality result. If you take the option to paint while on the sprue you should save yourself time in painting that you spent on construction.
Price wise Blotz, 4Ground and Sarissa are all about the same. I’ve not assembled houses from either of those others but the 4Ground ones don’t look great from the photos on their site, and I’ve assembled a couple of other Sarissa Japanese buildings and I suspect the Blotz ones are the best you’ll get for this price.