The slowest pirates in the world

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This has got to be one of the longest paint-jobs I’ve ever done.  A measly eighteen French flibustiers and militia from the Blood and Plunder range by Firelock Games have taken me months and months to paint.

There’s nothing wrong with the figures. In fact, as you can see, they are absolutely exquisite sculpts. But for some reason my heart wasn’t into painting them. Maybe because it is that I have already painted pirates before? Or maybe it is just my whole painting mojo needs a refresh? I’m not sure.

But, anyway, here they are at last. I still have eight boucaniers and seamen to paint (and, again, seem to be continually putting off starting them). And I have a Dutch faction ordered from their Kickstarter – I hope my mojo comes back before they’re due to arrive next  year.

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Above: My French captain orders his men into the fight.

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Above: The flibustiers in their snazzy blue coats and red breeches.

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Above: French ‘special character, Francois L’Olonnais.

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Above: The Milice de Caraibes (militia), which I painted in Bourbon pearl-grey uniforms.

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Cardboard Māori buildings and pā

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The Virtual Armchair General from Oklahoma City has just announced a range of easy self-assembly cardboard designs of Māori building designs in 25mm.

Sold as a set, by printing as many of the component pages as desired, a complete pā (fortification) of virtually any size and shape can be assembled.

The set comes with sections to make the outer palisade, then the primary inner palisade, complete with trench markers to lay inside to indicate warriors under cover and capable of defending the wall at point blank range. Additional trench markers allow complete trench complexes to be laid out, ensuring the entire pā can be defended.

PDF files are, of course, delivered postage-free via email as soon as your order is processed.

It’s over to you whether you prefer the 3D-printed houses and pā by Printable Scenery, or these new cardboard ones by VAG. The former aren’t pre-painted, of course, but are fully … er …3D. The latter are full-colour, but the detail is two-dimensional.  Your choice!

Meeting House 1

Supply Hut 3

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Pre-orders for 28mm Dutch Landsverk armoured car

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The long-awaited Landsverk M36 is on the May ’40 Miniatures website right now!  It’s in the web-shop under the pre-orders section.

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This model will not only be of interest to collectors of WW2 Dutch armies, but also those who are building up German forces, as they used captured Landsverks.  In fact, the model includes decals for both Dutch and German versions.

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These pre-orders are not to actually order one or more of the models.  Rather, they are purely meant for May ’40 Miniatures to gauge interest and see where we stand.

There’ll only be a limited stock, so they are looking at how to go about fairly distributing what should be available – but will cross that bridge when they get to it.

If you’re interested, please ‘place an order’ for one or more Landverks. Don’t add anything else, as these ‘orders’ won’t actually be processed – they’re just to gauge interest.

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Display game of the colonial New Zealand Wars

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Our display game of the Battle of Boulcott’s Farm (1846) took place today at the Paraparaumu Public Library. This was to help mark the inaugural Rā Maumahara National Day of Commemoration of the New Zealand Wars, fought from 1843 to 1872 between many Māori groups against British and New Zealand forces supported by other Māori allies.

Last year a petition to Parliament organised by Otorohanga College students called for a national commemoration day of the New Zealand Wars.  They felt the wars fought on our own soil had been forgotten in comparison to our involvement overseas during WW1 and WW2. As a result, the government instituted 28 October as the new annual ‘Rā Maumahara National Day of Commemoration of the New Zealand Wars’.

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With the release by Empress Miniatures a few years ago of a wonderful range of figures for this period, the wargaming hobby was well-suited to contribute in a small way to the day. And thus our display game in the Paraparaumu Public Library was born.

The intent of the game was more to engage with the public, than to actually play the game seriously. So we had a leisurely game with lots of stops to talk to spectators, and even to be photographed by a local paper.

In fact, we had already got some decent media pre-coverage the day before in our major daily paper (click on the picture below to read the full article).

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We interacted with quite a few people during the day. Some had come specially to see the game, others just happened by. As you can imagine, a display in a public library got a totally different crowd than what you would get at a wargames show.

But everyone we spoke to (and we made a great effort to ensure we did speak to everyone) seemed very interested and engaged, with some people spending a considerable amount of time chatting with us, either talking about the history of the New Zealand Wars, or curious about the hobby in general.

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We thought the game would also be slow because we were all newbies to the rules we were using – The Men Who Would Be Kings. However, aided by a quick reference chart I drew up, the game went remarkably smoothly, and we even had time to run it through twice on the day.

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I can’t comment too much on the narrative of what happened in each game, as it was a fairly hectic day chatting to people, learning the rules etc. The incidents I particularly recall were:

  • a party of Māori warriors trampling through tents to charge the sleepy British outlying picket site
  • the  garrison of the stockaded farmstead taking too much time stirring in response to the frantic bugle blowing from their over-run picket
  • a war-party of Māori scambling right over the palings around the farmstead, only to be blasted away by a close order volley from the defenders inside the stockade
  • the Hutt Militia in a nearby village milling around in confusion rather than marching straight towards the sound of gunfire to reinforce the beleaguered farm.

Suffice to say everything that happened seemed to reflect what either did or could have happened in reality.

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Unfortunately I was a bit disappointed by the photos I took.  Because of the continual public interaction, I didn’t have time to set up and take as many photos as I would normally do, so the selection from which to pick the best shots for publication was quite small!

Nevertheless, I do hope from these few photos you can see that the display achieved its purpose of promoting the history of the New Zealand Wars. And of course we all played our part seriously, as you can see Bala Menzies doing in the pic below …

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New video and VR tour of Battle of Ruapekapeka Pā (1845)

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Radio NZ has just launched a 30-minute online documentary about the 1845-6 Northern War in New Zealand.  It is about the Battle of Ruapekapeka, but also covers some other battles from the campaign.

The video has been timed to mark the Rā Maumahara National Day of Commemoration of the New Zealand Wars, which takes place this Saturday (I am also hosting a New Zealand Wars display game  on Saturday to mark this important event).

You can see the whole documentary on the Radio NZ website.

I found it a very moving film. It shows the battle from a Māori perspective, when in the past we might have seen it more from an Anglo-centric point of view.

I’m a little surprised the movie still depicts that the defenders were at a church service when they were surprised by a British raid. There has been a newer theory that the Māori intentionally tried to get the British to attack and chase them through the empty pā and into the bush, where the Māori would then have the upper hand.

From a wargamer’s perspective, the video contains some amazing animations and reenactments. I thoroughly recommend it.

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British camp

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British forward position shelling Ruapekapeka Pa

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Ruapekapeka Pa

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Cutaway view of the dugouts, tunnels and trenches at Ruapekapeka Pa.

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Radio NZ have also produced a terrific virtual reality tour of the battle-site.

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Gathering the forces for my colonial New Zealand Wars game

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I am putting on a colonial New Zealand Wars demonstration game at the Paraparaumu Public Library on Saturday 28 October to help mark our National Day of Commemoration of the New Zealand Wars.

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Today I started gathering together the resources I’ll need for a game set in 1846, using Dan Mersey’s The Men Who Would Be Kings colonial wargaming rules.

The Māori warriors

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Obviously one of the first essentials will be a force of Māori warriors. These are the beautiful 28mm metal figures produced by Empress Miniatures in the United Kingdom, and painted by yours truly.

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At this stage I’m still not sure if I’ll have them grouped as three 16-figures as prescribed in the rules for ‘Tribal Infantry’, or if they will be regrouped into four 12-man units to be classed as ‘Irregular Infantry’. It is a bit of a conundrum as historically the Māori warrior fell somewhere between these two types.

The rules call for forces to usually total 24 points, so if I do use the 16-man ‘Tribal Infantry’ units at 3-4 points a unit, I’ll have nowhere near enough figures.

You’ll see my Māori force also has a carronade available if we choose to use it in the game. This model is based on the famous ‘Kawiti’s Carronade’ used in the Northern War, and which can still be seen at Ruapekapeka Pā to this day.

The British and colonial troops

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I have far more figures for this side than I do for the Māori – an imbalance I must address in due course. So not all these troops will take part in the game. These are again figures by Empress Miniatures.

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The force consists of two units of the 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot, who are ‘Regular Infantry’ under the rules. They are accompanied by a unit of colonial militia, whom I am going to class as inferior to the regulars.

There’s also a unit of Royal Navy sailors, who will be classed as ‘Irregular Infantry’, but with good fighting skills – sailors could almost be regarded as the ‘shock troops’ of this period. The sailors have two pieces of artillery that might or might not be used in the game – a Congreve rocket tube and a massive 32-pounder cannon.

Finally, there’s a pair of officers and a pair of marksmen. I don’t think they’ll play a part in the game, but might still appear on the table as vignettes.

The bush

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An essential part of any game set in the New Zealand is the archetypal bush that covers much of the country. I’ve gathered quite a selection of trees and shrubs from a variety of sources, mostly via cheap eBay stores. The latest find are the palm trees on the right.

What is missing of course are the large fern shrubs that should cover the ground, as well as the huge tree-ferns you often find in the New Zealand bush. I haven’t found a good source for these as yet.

The rules

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As mentioned, I’ll be using Dan Mersey’s The Men Who Would be Kings rules. These are generic rules for the entire ‘colonial’ period (thus the above cover illustration that has nothing to do with the New Zealand Wars!).

As we’ll all be newbies to using these rules, I’ve put together a Quick Reference Sheet that includes all the basic things we’ll need to refer to often. But it only lists the actual troop types and weapons applicable to our game, so for instance you won’t see any cavalry listed on my QRS.

I’m still tinkering with the various abilities and points values, so the QRS shown here may not yet be the final. If any TMWWBK  players have any thoughts or suggestions, please let me know.

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Video trailer about colonial New Zealand Wars

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A trailer has just been launched of a new video documentary about the colonial New Zealand Wars. The film will describe the Battle of Ruapekapeka that took place in 1846 (click on the link below to view the trailer).

Great Southern Television is working on this interactive online project for Radio NZ on the New Zealand Wars. It will include a documentary, podcast, battle reconstruction and online museum, telling the story of the 19th century wars between the Crown and Māori.

Ruapekapeka was one of the largest and most complex pā (Māori fortifications) in New Zealand, that was designed specifically to counter the cannons of the British forces. It was the site of the last battle in the Flagstaff War, between Colonial forces and warriors of Ngāpuhi led by Hone Heke and Te Ruki Kawiti.

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In this screen-grab from the trailer, as well as the heading picture at the top of this posting, we see men of the 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot, recognisable by their black facings and cap bands, advancing through the bush.

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Soldiers struggle to drag a cannon through the rugged bush. In late 1845 the Colonial forces, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Despard, began a two-week advance over 20 kilometres (12 miles) to bring artillery up to the pā.

The ordnance included three naval 32-pounders, one 18-pounder, two 12-pounder howitzers, one 6-pounder brass gun, four mortars, and two rocket-tubes.

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The above picture is another scene of the cannon being transported through the thick undergrowth.  This isn’t a screen-grab, but a photo taken by one of the film crew.  It gives a good impression of the tough job the soldiers would have faced.

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To show the care taken to get the uniforms right in the video, take a look at my painted Empress Miniatures 28mm figures depicting the same regiment.

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A group of soldiers from the 58th patrol past some ferns and toitoi plants, typical of the New Zealand landscape.

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Back to the video, here’s a screen-grab of a group of Māori warriors doing a haka, or war-dance.

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This close-up of Māori shooting through the loopholes at the bottom of the pā palisades shows the combination of traditional and western dress adopted by many warriors.

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During the bombardment of the pā, the defenders took cover in bomb-proof shelters. Lieutenant Balnevis, who took part in the siege, commented in his journal that Ruapekapeka was ‘a most extraordinary place, a model of engineering, with a treble stockade, and huts inside, these also fortified. A large embankment in rear of it, full of under-ground holes for the men to live in; communications with subterranean passages enfilading the ditch.’

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Early on the morning of Sunday 11 January 1846, a British foraging party noted the defenders were unusually quiet. The small group of British troops pushed over the palisade and entered the pā, finding it almost empty. They were reinforced, while Māori tried to re-enter the pā from the back. After a four-hour gun fight the remaining Māori withdrew, abandoning the pā.

Some say the pā had been left almost empty because the defenders were holding a Sunday church service, others say it was a deliberate ploy to draw the British forces into the rugged bush.

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Here are some of my Empress Miniatures doing a traditional haka.

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Another view of my Māori warriors, in this case playing their part in a tabletop reenactment of the Battle of Boulcott Farm, which took place that same year near Wellington.

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The video includes some great shots of Ruapekapeka pā, both physical reconstructions and computer generated images. Here you can see puffs of black powder smoke issuing from the loopholes at the bottom of the palisades.

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In this shot you see a portion of one of the many huts inside the pā.

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Traces of Ruapekapeka pā can still be seen to this day.

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The presenter of the video, well-known journalist Mihingarangi Forbes, appears in a clever scene where we see Ruapekapeka pā  as it appears today, then as the camera pulls back the pā of 1846 starts to appear through the magic of CGI.

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The palisades and huts start to appear.

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Now we see the thick bush that edged up to the palisades of the pā.

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My model pā was designed and 3D-printed by Printable Scenery. It includes palisades of various sizes, several huts, and an ornate gate. The carvings on the latter are of a somewhat apocryphal design!

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In my pā, you can even see Chief Hone Heke (left).

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Next Saturday my miniature figures will take part in a tabletop recreation at my local library as part of the inaugural Raa Maumahara National Day of Commemoration of the New Zealand Wars.

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As the New Zealand Wars committee chairman Peeni Henare has said: ‘Learning the history has to be a path to reconciliation. We can’t say there won’t be resentment. The commemoration is simply to inform the people of Aotearoa-New Zealand. Once it is in our psyche, the day will grow in importance. It is beautiful, brutal, illustrious, deeply moving history.’

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