Bushido – Japanese Minka

Bushido like any other tabletop game needs some terrain to vary the gaming area and make your games more interesting. I’ve always been a great fan of making or converting cheap terrain, not only does this save money but it is also a fun part of the hobby and ensures that you have some truly unique terrain pieces on your tabletop.

As this is Bushido I thought it was a good idea to add some traditional Japanese buildings (or at least things that look like them) but as a Bushido gaming table is only 2’x2′ these had to be fairly small, such as small dwellings, Tea Houses or Shrines. Following a quick trawl on the Internet I found some ideal models of small houses (called Minka or “house of the people”) measuring just 15cm x 17cm x 11cm high and packed with conversion potential. These are made by TTCombat and retail (at the time of writing) for only £6.95, this is too good a price to pass up so of course I bought two.

The models come nicely shrink wrapped with easy to understand instructions and comprise two laser cut sheets of MDF plus a laser cut sheet of greyboard (thick cereal packet card) and a couple of greyboard roof sections.

Basic Assembly

To make things faster and easier I’m going to assemble this in multiple sections so that I can paint them more easily. As there aren’t too many parts this isn’t going to be a problem and will make some of the conversions I want to add easier.

The first thing I’ve assembled is the base. This is just a raised flat platform with a plank texture cut into it. It took about 30 seconds to glue (I’m using PVA for this model) the four riser rails to the underside of the base and then add the steps which come in two sections. There are only steps on one side of the building but you could easily add some more using off-cuts of the MDF sheet the parts are on.

Once this was dry (in fact I didn’t wait for it to dry as it was a tight fit so the parts didn’t move while drying) I built the four main walls. To keep them at a right angle while the glue on the joints dried I slotted the parts into the base but didn’t glue them to the base. This was them secured with an elastic band to pull the parts together and left on a warm window to dry thoroughly.

Wall and Doors

The next stage is to add a little colour to the wall and door panels. To do this I’m going to glue pieces of the white card I tested earlier on (it glued nicely without warping) to the outer wall surfaces and the door back panels.

You will need to do these one at a time and let each one dry before you trim it and move on to the next. I’ve found the best way to glue these is to use a large brush and work quickly to put a thin but even coat of glue on the MDF and then press it on to the card. The thinner the glue the faster it will dry and is less likely to cause the card to warp. Once everything is dry you can see that the card gives a much better finish than simply painting the MDF white and is just as quick (not allowing for drying time).


While the card is drying you can of course be getting some paint on the frames. As these are only greyboard I’m going to use artists acrylic which is a lot thicker than model acrylic. This prevents it soaking into the card and causing swelling and gives a better coverage (a lot cheaper too). To add some detail I’m going to paint my screens black so I’m doing the door screen panels now as well. These were done using regular acrylic as there wasn’t much to them but remember not to water down the paint or it will soak in. A good tip here is to save the card pieces you remove from the frame to use as templates for cutting inserts later. The card can also be cut down to use as additional frame details if you so wish.

Once everything is dry glue the frame to the walls taking care not to get glue on the exposed wall sections. I’ve placed the building on the base for this to help align the frames but it isn’t glued in place yet.

Screen Panels

To add some interest I’m going to add some additional screening to some of the panels (I may do a version of this later that has screening on all the panels). For this I’m using some plastic canvas stuff I picked up in the sewing section of my local craft store. These are just plastic mesh (no idea what they are supposed to be used for) and come in various sizes, I got a pack of 10 4″x4″ sections for £2.

Now using the frame insert bits I saved earlier (told you to save them 🙂 ) and a sharp knife I’ve cut out sections to fit in the panels I want to add a grid to.

As this is a soft plastic regular acrylic paint won’t stick to it very well so I’m going to have to use an alternate route to painting them. First I’ve stuck them to a piece of wide painters tape to stop them needing to be handled while painting them and stop them from blowing away. Next I stuck the tape to the top of an old pizza box (any excuse to eat pizza) and gave them a spray with a car primer for plastic body kits. This stuff is formulated to stick to all sorts of plastic (also the best primer for resin) and is a great base for the main colour. Once the primer is dry I sprayed them with a matt black enamel paint (spraying these intricate parts is better than trying to paint them and quicker), the enamel will once again bind well to the primer and give a more hard wearing finish than acrylic would. Now leave them to dry.


While all the bits are drying I’m going to build the roof. With things like this it’s usually to assemble the roof first and then feed glue into the joints afterwards. To help keep everything lined up and in place. Once everything is dry you can remove the roof for painting, you may find that the roof beams are a tight fit in which case now is a good time to give the slots in the walls a file down (removing a tight fitting roof during gameplay can be an issue).

I’m using the card panels supplied with the kit to help keep the ends aligned. Once the roof beans are painted I will be gluing this in place but I don’t intend this to be the final roof. Instead I’m going to be adding lines of corrugated card to look like more realistic tiles.

Touch Up Time

At this point I’m taking five minutes to go over any edges that need a bit of extra paint. Primarily these are the edges and corners where the white card is showing.

Last Leg

Almost on the home stretch now. Once the paint touch up is dry I’m going to finally glue the walls to the base. This will mean that I can handle the model without risking getting my nice white wall dirty.

Next the grills I cut and painted earlier are carefully glued into place. These had curled slightly as the paint dried so I had to use a couple of clamps to hold them flat until the glue had dried.

The card panels have been glued onto the roof ready to have tiles added (I’m not going to cover this in this tutorial due to time but I might add it later).

Finally the doors are added and everything is good to use on the gaming table.

Final Touches

There are still a couple of things I am planning to add as soon as I get time. The first is a tiles roof made from corrugated cardboard as I have already mentioned. The other is to add some hanging lanterns to the corner of the roof using some appropriately shaped beads.

Having now finished the building I can only recommend this model very highly. It’s great value for money and offers so many opportunities for customization you could fill a fair size table with simple variations on this basic shell. I bought two of these and for my next version I’m planning more side screens and red framing instead of brown to look like a Tea House or small Temple.

I hope this has been some inspiration for your own builds and you have enjoyed reading the article.


About Jarec

Long term Wargamer and dice hugger. My preferences tend towards Fantasy and Sci-Fi but I have a strong interest in the WWII and Vietnam gaming eras.
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2 Responses to Bushido – Japanese Minka

  1. SotF says:

    If you want an easy way to improve it even further, take some corrugated cardboard, peel the cladding off one side, measure an even spacing and cut through the exposed corrugation, but not the underside cladding.

    Cut the piece to the size of the roof, give it one or two painted on layers of white glue that’s about 3 parts glue to 1 part water over it, then paint it the color of the roof tiles you want (terracotta or some of the dull, pale blue works well). Then glue it in place, works great to improve a lot of things, I’ve used it both in scratch builds and to improve the look of some of the architectural model puzzles for tabletop use.

    • Jarec says:

      As it happens I picked up a roll of corrugated cardboard for parcel wrapping (it’s for bottles I think) just the other day that only has a card sheet on one side of the corrugation. Was planning to try something similar by cutting strips and overlapping them slightly. Going to do a test piece first as it may not be worth the extra effort.

      I’ll try mixing the paint with glue and water. When I’ve painted brown card in the past I find it tends to absorb the paint too much and you end up using vast amounts to cover a small area.

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