Monday, October 20, 2008

The Sea Dragons Part 1: Collecting a Chinese Pirate Crew with Junk

After my little articles about Collecting Pirate Miniatures and tabletop ships I want to focus on Chinese pirates and the start of my own new Chinese crew this time. You will have noticed Alexander Bews' Chinese pirates from the Legends of the High Seas rulebook (e.g. pages 10 and 126). If they aren't enough to inspire you to start your own, I don't know what could. You can see more photos of them on Alex' website

Alex Bews' Chinese pirate crew (source:

Another inspiring interpretation of the Foundry figures can be seen on Steve Dean's Chinese Pirates gallery:

Chinese Pirates painted by Steve Dean

Miniature Manufacturers
There are various manufacturers of Chinese pirate miniatures. Alex' pirate crew above consists of Foundry and Brigade models.

Foundry has two packs of Chinese pirates, Tsun-Chung's Sea Devils (CUT 3/5) and Ming Tun's Water Dragons (CUT 3/6), plus a single Chinese pirate model in the Motley Crew (CUT 4/8) pack.

The Chinese Pirates from Curteys Miniatures are also shown in the rulebook (on pages 86 and 97). The Chinese Captain is used as the sample model for a Non-Player Crew Ship Captain (page 101).

Figuring I would need quite some models to field an entire Crew I ordered both the Curteys pirates and later the Foundry ones. I got the Curteys miniatures first:

Curteys' Pirate Crew and Captain

Weapons from the Chinese Pirates pack

I was very positively surprised by the many weapons that come with the pirates pack. The pack contains:

4 x Muskets
2 x Pistols
4 x Swords
1 x Battle Axe
1 x Knife
1 x Mace
1 x Halberd
2 x Spears
2 x Polearms
1 x Boat hook
1 x Trident
3 x Shields

I chose to equip most of the models with spears/polearms/boat hook as that is how they are equipped in the game as well.

Ordering the Foundry pirates started with a huge disappointment. I usually log into websites as a resident from the company's home country, and thus I always saw the GBP prices for the packs (£11.00). When I was about to check out after shopping I realized that this doesn't work since I couldn't choose a proper destination for the order. After deleting the cookie in my browser and then logging in as a European I was shocked by the prices: former £11.00 packs (ca. 14€) were now at 17,50€! As I wanted to buy three packs that were more than 10€ more than I expected. I then chose to buy the packs from Miniaturicum, where the packs are offered for 15,95€ each (how crazy is that?).

However, when I finally opened the blisters I was very very positively surprised: each pack contains 8 miniatures! Now this may be old news to the veterans but the pics at Foundry always suggested that there are six miniatures in each pack, not eight. So I ended up with four miniatures more than I expected.

Chinese Pirates 1 (CUT 3/5) - The two models to the right are not depicted on the official Foundry photos

Chinese Pirates 2 (CUT 3/6) - The two models to the right are not depicted on the official Foundry photos

Besides the normal crew members I was looking for some suitable models to represent the Heroes. The Curteys Captain is okay, but I also need two mates and a quartermaster. Browsing the Foundry packs I found the Chinese Command (CH1), which includes a very cool Chinese lord. Unfortunately the rest of that pack is pretty useless for me. I also liked the bandit leader from the Bandits Command & Characters (CH16) so I chose them instead. The other miniatures from that pack may be useful at some point too.

Last but certainly not least: monkeys! Monkeys are too cool to not use them in games of LotHS. Looking for suitable models so far I came across the monkey from the pirate weapon sprue from Black Scorpion and the powder monkey that is part of the Warhammer Empire State Handgunners box from Games Workshop. Buying a £12.00 box to get a single monkey is surely not an option. However, I knew that bitzbox would stock them at some point, so I waited paitently until they arrived, and now I am the proud owner of two of the GW monkeys. They do look pretty cool and are a stylish addition to any pirate captain.

The Sea Dragons

Other interesting miniatures I considered are from the Boxer Rebellion range by Redoubt Enterprises. The Boxers armed with Swords make for a great bunch of rogues and as a pack of 10 models for £9.00 they come at a fair price too! But with the Foundry and Curteys pirates I do have enough models for now.

Lastly, the Tong Gang from Brigade Games' Victorian Age Gangsters make for some excellent character models (Mates and 'Cabin Boys that did good'). I had to search for some time until I found them and I haven't ordered them yet. They are certainly worth consideration - especially since Alex Bews' Chinese pirates are such a great example of mixing them with Foundry. In the UK they are available from Caliver Books.

Chinese Junks
I had a look at several manufacturers of pirate ships in a previous article. Unfortunately I am not impressed with the available Chinese junk models. Junk models indeed. Compared to western pirate ships, the eastern junks look simple enough to try your hand at building one yourself - like in this article on zeitcom. If you lack the time and for the purpose of providing some inspiration, let's have a look at what is available though.

Blaze Away has two Chinese Junks. Looking at them I want to start building my own immediately. Update 25/09/2012: No longer available it seems.

Minimi Miniatures has a Junk for £15.00. Again, this model looks too simple to tempt me to buy one.

Stronghold Miniatures has a Fighting Junk for £33.50 which is worth consideration.

There is a one-of-a-kind 25mm Sampan on TVAG. With a price of $280 + $30 shipping the ship is in the price category of souvenir models. Well, you save the time and effort of assembling and painting it yourself.

However, model ships is where things do become interesting. Trumpeter has produced a breath-taking model of the Chengho Sailing Ship from 1405-1430 (1/60 scale - for comparison: 28mm is 1/65). There is a short unpacking video on youtube, a small review of the box contents on (in German) and a detailed building thread at (in German again, but with tons of photos).

Length: 600 mm, breadth: 245 mm, height: 590 mm

Chengho Sailing Ship from Trumpeter

Another interesting 1/60 model is the Red Dragon by Artesania Latina. In Germany the model is available e.g. from

Length: 480 mm, breadth: 130 mm, height: 440 mm

Red Dragon from Artesania Latina

Compared to Trumpeter's Chengo the Red Dragon seems to require much more assembling work as the kit contains lots of wooden parts whereas the Chengo is a plastic kit. Also the Chengo has a higher breadth, which is always a plus in wargames.

There are probably more suitable model ships, if you have a look around the internet, although I didn't find any other. I will most likely buy the Chengo Sailing Ship once I have painted a reasonable number of my Chinese pirates, because it looks really great (in all meanings of the word) from the photos I have seen.

In my article about collecting ships I also presented a list of manufacturers of cannons. Now this article would not be complete without mentioning minimi's Dragon Cannons. They are equally cheap as their other cannons but with a dreagon's head at the muzzle these are simply perfect for any Chinese pirate ship.

I'll be back with some painted Chinese cutthroats soon!

Until next time,

Update April 24th, 2014: If you're interested in Japanese naval wargaming, check out OSHIRO modelterrain. They have cool Japanese ships in their naval section.

Sekibune ships by OSHIRO modelterrain

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