DBA Gaming and Military History-By Musashi

Pre-Samurai Japanese DBA Army III 7ab

I have taken the plunge and ordered Khurasan Miniatures figures for a DBA Pre-Samurai Japanese (III 7 a and b).

The DBA Army list shows these years:  

A) 500-644AD

B) 645-900AD

The years then listed in DBA have it broken down essentially before a big reform movement in 644 and after. Japan really became quite different after the reforms, although as many point out, hardly overnight.  

Here is a link discussing the Taika Reforms: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taika_Reform  

The A list would be in the Kofun Era mainly. Kohun begins around 250 AD and goes up to 538 AD. Kofun refers to the megalithic tumulus burial mounds which characterize the era. Megalithic means these things are honkin huge! It’s so big there are videos showing it from space. One of those videos I have put in my VodPod list on the right of my blog here. Check it out.  

Here is a picture of the largest one located in modern-day Osaka Prefecture:  

Daisen Kofun (5th Century AD)

538 is the year Buddhism was introduced into Japan so that when we go from the Kofun period to the Asuka period. The previous indigenous Shinto religion existed concurrently with Buddhism and remains so even today.  

The Great Buddha at Nara, 752 A.D.

That change heralds the Asuka period which then runs from 538 AD to 710. Both the Kofun and Asuka periods are collectively part of the Yamato clan ruling structure. So you will hear it mentioned as the Yamato period as well.  

Years and names of periods can make your eyeballs glaze over rapidly, but behind the numbers is some of the most intriguing military and cultural history you will ever find. From a conceptual angle, the primary attitude adjustment to make was realizing with Pre-Samurai Japanese is that they are NOT Samurai. They were not unrefined Samurai or inferior from a martial perspective at all.  

The military was based around horse and bow. Indeed the military training and skill needed to be proficient at archery is every bit as intensive and an art form as that of training with the blade. You could easily make the argument bow is more difficult to master at a like level.  

A lot of people including Americans are very familiar with the term Bushido. Bushido mean the “Way of the Warrior.” But the concept of Bushido did not exist until after the Mongol invasions, in the 1260’s A.D. which caused a move to utilize the sword as a primary arm. Before that, the concept  was instead, Kyuba no Michi or “The Way of Horse and Bow.”  

The best link for Kofun period brief history is here: http://countrystudies.us/japan/6.htm  

The Japanese turned archery into an art. Integrating martial training, philosophy and Zen Buddhism into the what could be considered the highest form of bow skills ever achieved! On the DBA table, they may be simply classified as 6 X 4 Bow, but these guys were far more than that! The bow skills on horseback are still demonstrated to this day in ritualistic displays called Yabusame! Note the Costumes Yabusame wear are hunting outfits. The Bow mounted nobles in the Kofun period were heavily armored as you will see in the Khurasan figures soon!  

Yabusame Archer

There are a lot of interesting details about the Yabusame, but I will let the videos suffice for now. Please click on my VodPod videos I’ve posted here about this. It gives you at least a glimpse of the skill no doubt present in the Japanese bow armies! Swords were a reaction to the fear of Mongol Invasions. They needed a more defensive formation which favored swords. But until that happened, the zenith of bow armies was no doubt achieved in the Asuka period!  

As for my DBA Armies, the Mounted Noble and Mounted Archer figures are not yet quite ready. Khurasan Miniatures has been so kind as to let me use these pictures showing the greens from these wonderful looking figures:


Kharusan’s figures are modeled after essentially, the Late Kofun period. Good images from the Osprey book, The Samurai 200-1500AD, show where the inspiration for the models came from. The figures are just gorgeous, so wonderfully sculpted. I hope my painting skills are up to the task! It is so nice to have a place like Khurasan commissioning such wonderfully specific uniforms so we can represent them properly on the tabletop. Khurasan’s website is listed on the right side of my blog. 

The pictures above were from June 2010, and I asked when the figures might be available. I have an order in for them as soon as the ready! Here is the response from him on Fanaticus forums about this:  

They have been sitting at the casters since I got them, about two days after I posted those pics. They get my greens and then when my turn comes they make my moulds. I have little say in the process! I put the infantry and pavises, etc, up for sale first so that people can get a head start on painting them.  

The armored Archers and Nobles of the Kofun and Asuka periods are very different from the Samurai armor that most conjure up in their minds when they think of Japanese warriors. The heavy armor was somewhat bell-shaped.  

Kofun Period Armor

I just ordered the figs so do not have them yet, but am very excited due to the excellent reputation of Khurasan figures. The heavily armored archers are wonderfully accurate in their dress. Here are more pictures used with permission from Khursan of their Pre-Samurai Army:  

Khurasan Miniatures Pre-Samurai

The More lightly armed versions could be retainers, or as is the case in the Osprey book, are very early Kofun period. I’m going to model the B version of the army list with almost all heavily armored models as above, but am going to consider the B army to be right at the start of the period, 645AD so as to allow for this armor still. To make the A list feel different and more lightly armed as is seen in the Osprey book, I will have the vast majority of the bow be these guys:  

Khurasan Miniatures Pre-Samurai

The A list has 2 units of Aux (2 x 3AX) and the B list has 1 unit of 3AX. I am going to use these figures, again the more lightly armored ones for the A list and more heavily armored for the B:  

Khurasan Miniatures Pre-Samurai

 The Artillery unit will be represented by the Khurasan T’ang multiple bolt shooter model which is just wonderful:  

Khurasan Miniatures T'ang Artillery Piece

 Of course I will have to recrew the Arty but no big deal. The Artillery piece applicability is quite good. Quoting Tony Aguilar’s post on Fanaticus regarding this he says,  

According to DBM, the artillery in the Pre-Samurai Japanese list is a either up to 1/4 stone throwers, and the rest can be Oyumi. Also, Art is not available until 612 AD or after, as it was gained from captured Sui invasion of Koguryo.
About the Oyumi it says:

war of 672. It fell into disuse due to lack of skilled maintenance.”Jinshin, was used with great effect in the oyumicrossbows called  stand-mounrtedin 618. Artillery, mostly large  Koguryowere handed over by  artuillery”Captured Sui 


In Osprey’s “SIege Weapons of the Far East (1)” it says about the Pre-Samurai artillery: 


“The crossbow was introduced to Japan from the Koguryo state in 618, when the Koreans delivered two Chinese prisoners of war and several pieces of military equipment. By 672, it was being used in warfare, with reports of crossbows shooting arrows ‘just like rain’, and expression that may imply mutiple-bolt crossbows rather than hand held ones, altghough both are known to have been manufactured in Japan.”  
{End quote}
I’m very excited about fielding the army and learning more about it as I go. I will post pictures once I get them painted. I think the Keyhole Kofun pictured above will be my camp!
And Lest anyone think I’m pro-bow and anti-sword, I have included one Vodpod video of a black and white vintage Sensei performing Tameshigiri. It’s the video labeled, This guy is ridiculous!
 Don’t forget to check out the videos on my VodPod–interesting stuff!  



5 responses

  1. It’s great to see someone psyched-up about DBA as you are. We have many armies of this era in our group already. (Tang, Koguryo, Kaya, Silla, Sui, Tibetans) I can definitely see a campaign in the works for this period!

    July 29, 2010 at 2:31 pm

  2. I guess my long layoff has caused an unusual amount of exhuberance. 😉 It sort of connects me to a lot of fun times and friendships I made in the past in the gaming world. I’d forgotton how much I enjoyed the cameraderie of the whole thing! It doesn’t hurt that you’re fun to talk to Tony!

    July 29, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    • Dave Blackmon

      I think it’s great you are so pumped too. Maybe I can come over your way and we’ll play some. I’d love a campaign in that part of the world. Eventually I’d like to do the Han (II/41), The Sui/Tang (III/20), or the Ming (IV/73).

      July 29, 2010 at 7:02 pm

      • Hey that would be great Dave! I’d be happy to meet you halfway, or if you want to come all the way, I’d be happy to host at my house. You’ll be fed well lol. Just let me know and we can set it up!

        July 29, 2010 at 8:28 pm

      • Dave

        Ok.. cool… I ‘ll see what I can work out.

        July 30, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s