Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of miniatures wargaming with an emphasis on 15mm World War II and Flames of War.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Japanese Tank Painting Guide

Though Japanese tanks would rapidly fall far behind the rest of the world in terms of both technology and quantity, as late as 1940 Japan fielded the fifth largest armored force in the world! Given that fact, and with the the upcoming release of Banzai, many players are looking into how they should paint their Japanese armor. I contributed to the original Japanese armor painting guide in Rising Sun book, but given Banzai covers a wider time period and range of vehicles, I decided to update my painting guide based on what is available today. Another consideration is that often the available information on Japanese World War II tank camouflage is contradictory, so this represents my current best representation based on available information. If I have any readers in Japan, I’d love to correspond with you on this topic!

Pre-1942, the Japanese used a variety of camouflage schemes and colors – the most common being a hard-edged three-tone scheme. In some occasions the transitions between the camouflage colors were traced with black or dark gray lining. Disruptive stripes of yellow were also used on some vehicles – note, the disruptive yellow stripe could be coupled with the black or dark gray lining between colors, especially on Type 89 medium tanks. The three primary colors were khaki (Khaki-iro) – also known as “Japanese Artillery Brown” with disruptive patterns of roughly 30% mahogany brown (Tochi-iro) and an olive green (Midori-iro). In some cases a fourth darker khaki color is evident - referred to as an "Alternate" to the basic Khaki in the chart below.

Starting in 1942, the Japanese transitioned to a new set of colors in an effort to better standardize its camouflage schemes. The black/dark gray lining and the disruptive yellow stripes were officially dropped. A new three color camouflage scheme was adopted using a new khaki color similar to German Panzer Dark yellow – in some references called “Parched Grass” (Karekusa-iro). The disruptive colors were a dark olive green or drab (likely Tsutikusa-iro) and a dark mahogany brown (also called Tochi-iro in many references, though in some cases the shade identified is darker than the pre-1942 version). In the South Pacific, an additional Willow Green color (Kusa-iro) was specified rather than the darker olive color.  Some tank components, such as guns, also appeared to have retained the legacy “Atrillery Brown” (Khaki-iro) color, though other references have this as a slight variant of the base khaki. Camouflage schemes were generally hard edged, but beginning in 1943 feathered edged camouflage patterns became increasingly evident.


The chart above shows my current best data for the various colors used by the Japanese on their AFV's both before and after standardization in 1942. The Gunze Mr. Colors are taken directly from their commercially available paint sets for early and late war tanks. The Tamiya color equivalents are taken from various recent 1/35th scale kits and represent a major update to older instruction sets. The Ammo of MIG colors for early war come from their WWII Japanese early colors "Smart Set," while the late war colors represent a mix of color matching by eye and converting RAL colors (from Tamiya and Gunze) to their Ammo of MIG equivalent. The Vallejo colors were obtained using color charts and eye matching, while most of the new Battlefront colors come from their painting Japanese page with updates based on the late war examples done by eye based on the current range. I haven't seen the modeling page in Banzai, so Battlefront may have other suggestions. Vallejo Air also has an IJA range which I've added to the table above (with the addition of an olive drab from the same range).

When painting your force, it is important to consider that Japanese tanks were often not re-painted in the field. It is therefore completely acceptable to have a mix of early and late war paint schemes in the same force. The post-1942 schemes should therefore be far more prevalent on vehicles produced starting in 1942 such as the Type 97 Kai (Shinhoto Chi-ha), some Type 95 tanks, any tanks reserved for defense of the home islands, and the various self-propelled guns based on the Chi-ha. Hopefully you will find this chart helpful. I plan to continually update it as additional data (and hopefully new paints!) become available in the market.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

What's on the Table - A Blast from the Past and a New Theater for Flames of War

So my son has reached the age where he's starting to get very interested in miniatures (just turned 8). He's somewhat interested in World War II, but while he really likes the Flames of War miniatures I do, they just aren't speaking to him yet (and 15mm is a hard scale to start with as a new painter). He's painted some fantasy miniatures in the past, but really hasn't had much to do with them, so they tend to sit around a lot. So I hit upon the idea of taking him by the local Games Workshop store to see if everyone's favorite gateway dru... ummmm... heroic wargame set in a dark future would hold any interest. All I can say is - "oh wow." He was captivated immediately - and really enjoyed watching two guys in the shop play a game.

I first started playing Warhammer 40K back in the Rogue Trader days - 1989 - so I have a fairly long history with the game. A quick perusing of all of the normal online forums confirms that, as always, 40K continues to suffer from balance issues and codex creep. While that matters to someone looking for a serious tournament scene, for the dad wanting to be able to build miniatures and play a few fun games with his son, it really doesn't matter at all. As expected, my son really gravitated to the Ultramarines, so we started with a simple tactical squad.


He pretty much absorbed that one immediately and we were able to run a few quick games. Since he'd finished that, I was able to run a horse trade for a Space Marine Strike Force (sadly out of production at this point) so he could round out his force.


Now he's been very motivated to finish his homework and do well on his spelling tests so he can build miniatures with dad! He even gets to use real glue, snippers, and a hobby knife - and for a 2nd grader he's doing pretty well:


I still have a lot of old Space Marines from way back when, but the last time I painted 40K was about 2004. As always, for me building and painting is at least half (nah - probably way more than half) of the fun so I decided to get something new so he and I could build some miniatures together and paint as a team. Owing to the plethora of Norse influences in my life via the SCA Kingdom of An Tir and Vikings on the History Channel, I bit the bullet and went with some Space Wolves. The fact that they've finally released the Wulfen of the 13th Company is also fun, and they have some boss new vehicles since last time I played as well.


I'm going to be using Vallejo paints rather than GW paints for the infantry, so my Wolves will be a little different in coloration than the standard. I'm also planning on continuing to use Ammo of MIG and airbrush shading on the vehicles, which should give my force a fairly distinct appearance on the tabletop. I'm hoping to add some runic elements to the paint schemes, especially on banners and vehicles, as I've studied Norse runestones and have done runic calligraphy and illumination in the past.

Flames of War fans, fear not! I have started a new project for Flames of War. With the Pacific books coming out, and given I wrote the overwhelming majority of the flavor text for Banzai, I've been dying to get started on my Japanese. At this point I'm starting with the Hohei Chutai boxed set (JBX01):


At this point I've got the main set of infantry sorted into individual baggies and ready for clean up and dropping them onto craft sticks for priming and painting. I'm going to go ahead and add the Nikuhaku Teams (JP706) to this painting batch, but I'll likely paint the any guns and gun teams separately. I'm (somewhat) patiently waiting for my swag order to arrive which has the bulk of the Pacific releases in it. Unfortunately finding good late war Japanese armor colors is difficult at this point - you have exactly one choice, it's a Gunze enamel.


For early war, Ammo of MIG makes a set, so I'm hoping they come out with something for late war by the time I'm actually ready to paint vehicles. I've sent them an email asking if they're looking into it, but I haven't heard anything back yet (not that I really expected to - most companies won't discuss unreleased or unannounced products). If all else fails I can mix colors.

So as always, the painting and modeling queue is fairly full at this point, but now that my son has joined in on the fun, it's become more than just a personal hobby and has become a family activity!