Two New Zealand Wars armies for ‘Sharp Practice’

Yes, I’ve been a bit lax on posting updates to the blog lately, but that is because I have been beavering away on my New Zealand Wars project. And at last I can show the results – two fairly well complete armies ready for playing ‘Sharp Practice’ in the fern and bush of 1840s New Zealand.


All the figures in both my New Zealand Wars armies are the wonderful 28mm creations of Empress Miniatures. My photos don’t do justice to these figures – they truly are exquisite, and I highly recommend them. I love the posing, anatomy and the way they capture the feel of the period. Not only that, they are a joy to paint – beautifully cast with practically no flash, and with excellent detail that your brush just itches to bring out.

Anyway, on with the show. Let’s take a look at my British and colonial army first:

Here’s my entire British and colonial army ready to do battle. As you can see, the figures are all individually based, which will give me maximum flexibility in organising my armies.  By the way, you might want to click on this photo (as well as others in this posting) to get the full size effect.

In the photo above you can see the British regulars arranged in two companies, along with a company of militia and some civilians, a naval rocket battery, a pair of marksmen and a squad of militia sappers. Each of the bigger groups has a ‘big man’ to command it under the ‘Sharp Practice’ rules, but more about them later.

Here’s a closer look at some of the British regulars. I’ve painted all my figures in the distinctive black cuffs and facings of the 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot. The 58th had been despatched to New South Wales by detachments between 1843-5 as guards on convict ships. They provided the first reinforcements sent to New Zealand when trouble with the Māori seemed imminent. The Regiment eventually formed part of the permanent garrison of the colony, remaining there until 1858, when it returned home.

In front of the company stand two officers and a bugler. Maybe the natty officer checking his pocket watch is Major Cyprian Bridge, who later became known as a chronicaller and artist of the Northern War in New Zealand.

By the way, I’ve sourced the above information from To Face the Daring Maoris by Michael Barthorp, an evocative history of the 58th Regiment in New Zealand, which is not only a detailed resource, but also a thrilling read at the same time.

Militia units also fought in the New Zealand Wars. The Auckland Volunteers are seen here wearing their pork-pie hats, blue blouses or grey shirts, and trousers from British regimental stores.

Empress Miniatures don’t yet make a command group for their range of militia, so I’ll assign them a regular redcoat officer, which seems to be accurate enough from my readings.

Amongst Empress Miniatures’ latest release were this lovely group of militia sappers. I wasn’t entirely sure how I would incorporate them into my games, but they are such lovely figures that I couldn’t resist them. I’m sure I’ll be able to find a role for some sappers in my ‘Sharp Practice’ scenarios.

I’ve tried to paint these guys with the dusty, dirty look of men working in the midday sun.

Rockets were used spectacularly, albeit not particularly effectively, during the Northern Wars. They were hauled up-country from the ships by their naval crews, then loosed against the pa fortifications.

As Barthorp writes:

“Great interest centred on the the rockets, for the Maoris appeared to believe they were a form of guided missile, which could pursue an enemy until it killed him. [Navy Lieutenant] Egerton’s first discharge thus came as something of an anti-climax, since the rocket sailed wildly and ineffectively over the pa, much to the sardonic amusement of Heke, who stood watching the proceedings from the main gate. With the third shot, Egerton struck the pallisade, causing a great deal of noise and excitement within, but otherwise little damage.”

One of my sailors sports a light blue neck cloth. I got the idea from fellow New Zealand Wars enthusiast, Michael Awdry (whose amazingly painted New Zealand Wars figures have to be seen to be believed).  I’m not sure if in the 1840s these blue neck flaps had yet been incorporated into sailors’ dress. But it looks the part, and so I’m happy!

Here are another couple of figures from Empress Miniatures’ latest release that I’m not yet sure how I’ll fit into my gaming. They’re marksmen, one firing, the other loading while lying on his back.

I’ve given them small scenic bases, including logs on which to rest their muskets. You can also see the variety of ground material I’ve used for my bases: mixtures of sand and crushed shells, flock, static grass, clumps of long grass and even paper ferns.

I mentioned ‘big men’ before. These are a feature of the ‘Sharp Practice’ large skirmish rules by Too Fat Lardies.

Big men don’t necessarily represent all the officers, but a selection of the characters to run the narrative of the game. They’re the ones who inspire and lead their groups. You’ll see I’ve got a number of officers (top row), NCOs (middle row), a naval petty officer and even a civilian constable (bottom row).

I’m going to make up a card for each big man. These photos will go on the cards to make it easy to identify the figures they apply to.

OK, one last look at my British and colonials before we move on to the other side. This is quite a big photo, so if you click on it to enlarge it, you can pan down the line to get a good look at the figures.

Now let’s take a look at the other side. Actually, strictly speaking that’s not true, as Māori fought on both sides during the wars. Therefore a few of these guys may end up supporting the British side in some games.

Anyway, here’s my Māori army. Again, the organisation can be changed as I will. Here you see them arranged into a number of small taua (war parties), each led by a big man (or a big woman in one case!). The toa (warriors) are armed with a selection of weapons.

At the front of the army stands Hone Heke Pokai, with a conch blower beside him. He is portrayed here wearing a cloak and a ship captain’s peaked cap. Although he had signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the troubles in the North came about when Heke, disillusioned with the British administration,  cut down the flag pole at Kororareka not once, but several times.

This taua, led by a portly chief, is armed mainly with traditional weapons and axes, though a few sport muskets as well.

I had a lot of fun painting the designs on some of the kilts.  I’ve used my imagination for these, but have tried to keep them along the lines of  Māori design elements I see around me here in New Zealand every day.

Another taua, this one all armed with muskets.  The majority of toa in the Northern Wars were equipped with firearms.  Their pa (fortifications) were specially designed to allow them to shoot from beneath the walls (not from on top as in many other civilisations).

OK, so you’ve now noticed the one thing I haven’t yet done for this project – building a miniature  pa!  But that is indeed on the drawing board.  I am still mulling over ideas on how to design it.

One of the most popular types of firearms amongst Māori was the shotgun.  They called it the tupara, basically a form of the English ‘two-barrel’.

The big man leading this taua is the doughty old rangatira (chief) of the Ngāpuhi, Te Ruki Kawiti.  While Hone Heke tends to get all the limelight, Kawiti was the real warrior brains behind the campaign.    He had spent his life “in slaughter and plunder against rival tribes, and now felt tempted, perhaps encouraged by Heke’s defiance, to test his strength against the white tribe.”

In Empress Miniatures’ second release there was a pack of Māori  women, though their big man .. er, woman …  came in the original release.

This raises a bit of a conundrum, as in general Māori women did not fight in taua, though they might defend their pa when their menfolk were away.  However, there were exceptions.  And this is just a game, after all.  So who is going to say I can’t use my female taua?!

In the above picture you can also see on one of the male warriors in the foreground my attempt at a facial tattoo (or moko).  This doesn’t convey too well in a blown-up photo of this size.  But on the miniatures themselves, especially when viewed on the table, I think I’ve captured the impression of a moko OK.

So here are my Māori big men.  Obviously Hone Heke and Kawiti are there, but also a number of others who can lead and inspire their taua.  They also will eventually get named cards.

So there you have it.  I’m really pleased with the progress I’ve made.  My painting usually tends to go in fits and starts, but this project includes such a range of diverse figures, and in relatively small numbers, that it has been a breeze to do.  And the fact that it depicts history on my own doorstep makes it that much more appealing.

So now it is on with building a pa, making the cards, and designing a scenario for my first game, which I hope will take place in mid July at the Kapiti Wargames Club’s games day here in Paraparaumu, New Zealand.

Oh, and Empress Miniatures, if you read this posting, any chance of a third release?!?!

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34 Comments

Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Empress Miniatures

34 responses to “Two New Zealand Wars armies for ‘Sharp Practice’

  1. They are lovely and I have been thinking about getting these figures and now seeing them like this I think I will be getting them.

  2. PanzerKaput, if you’ve been fancying them anyway, I reckon you won’t regret getting them.

  3. lovely little collection you have managed to build Rolly, smart paint job all round.

  4. Thanks, Dave. It’s certainly been fun to paint. And at only 87 figures at this stage, not to onerous (though of course you can never have enough figures!).

  5. Rodger

    Very nice work there Roly. Lovely painting and basing.

  6. Thanks for that, Rodger. Now I’ve just got to get that pa done … and that’ll be a real challenge!

  7. Wow Roly – these are just brilliant! Inspiration to say the least.
    The overall effect of the regulars together is really something. Can’t wait to see some game pictures.
    We are really glad that you like the figures so much and are certainly very proud of them ourselves. There will be more in the pipeline … no promises when though 🙂

    • Wow, that is great getting such a nice comment from the manufacturer! All I can say is that they have turned out so well because the initial sculpting and casting was so good. Feel free if you want to use any of my pics, by the way.

      Ah ha, now you’re talking – a third release at some unspecified time in the future! I guess the wait will give me some time to work more on scenery and game scenarios!

  8. Dave Hornung

    Most impressive paint jobs! I work in 15s & my eyes arn’t that good anymore so I really appreciate the amount of work, especially the shading.

    Dave Hornung, Buffalo, NY USA

    • Thanks, Dave. I must admit I’ve never painted a 15mm figure in my life. I have enough trouble seeing the detail on 28mm figures!

      I have seen some old 15mm New Zealand Wars figures once, but to my view for this period, being fairly small battles, you want the detail that 28mm figures offer.

  9. Anonymous

    Very nicely painted figures, and a great presentation in the article/entry. Good luck with the on hte table top, I am sure you’ll find uses for the sharpshooters and the sappers as you attack a ‘pa.’

  10. Great paint job and wonderfully presented. Chapeau, Roly!

    Cheers,
    Bjoern

    • Thanks, Bjoern.

      Now it is just a minor matter of sorting what could go into a further release!

      • Well, not that minor 🙂

        Doing the research (you remeber our lengthy discussion about artillery on the yahoo group?), prioritising the options and stufff like that can be quite time consuming.

        • Minor or major, I can’t wait!

          Some skirmishing seamen led by Lt Philpott in his long underwear would be good.

          And, yes, some artillery … for both sides.

  11. Giles

    Spectacular work and photos, Roly. Great stuff and very inspiring.

  12. Nice work Roly, they’re a fine look bunch, with the themed terrain too. I look forward to seeing your Pa.

  13. Ion

    Very nice looking forces for both sides… Question about the pa: which kind? The traditional all-round hill fortification, or something cognate to what Jamie Belich called the ‘Modern Pa system’? Although Mr Belich rather overstates his case, I do agree with him in this: Maaori were peerless military engineers.

  14. Thanks for the comment, Ion. I’m thinking a bit of modular pallisading, a bit like this: http://flagstaffadventures.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/stockade/

    I agree with your comments re James Belich, and in particular about the Maori skill in fortifications.

  15. Wayne

    Fantastic work, Roly! Of course you will have to consult with, and get permission from, your local iwi (tribe – for those not from New Zealand) before you can start recreating a model pa. I made a traditional hill top pa out of match sticks as a social studies project when I was at primary school….one of the few fun things I remember doing at primary school. I’m led to believe now to do such a thing in schools without having local Tangatawhenua (‘People of the Land’) to consult with is considered politically incorrect and frowned upon….which is why a lot of NZ kids miss out on learning of our rich and colourful history.

  16. I was intrigued by your comment, Wayne, and so searched the internet to find out more about this. However, I couldn’t find a thing.

    In fact, I found a study guide from the Department of Conservation, which in one of its activities has the children making a model pa. http://www.doc.govt.nz/upload/documents/getting-involved/students-and-teachers/field-trips-by-region/te-koru-pa-historic-reserve.pdf

    Maybe the idea that schools can’t make models pas without consultation is more to do with the move of social studies to a more inquiry-learning basis, where the students would actually want to consult with local iwi as one of their means of deeply inquiring into pa history?

    I also vaguely recall making a model pa when I was a kid at school. However, whatever the learning objective was ta the time, it obviously failed, as I knew practically nothing about pa until I started my interest in this wargaming project!

  17. Roly what a great post and wonderful to see the two armies together, they really are an inspiration. Thank you also for the very kind words and link, you are a gentlemen Sir! I shall certainly be watching with interest as the battles unfold. Love the pioneers by the way, I think they will be heading home to ‘Awdry Towers’ at some point.

    Keep up the good work and all the very best.

    • Thanks for that, Michael. Yes, those pioneers are really nice figures. I;’m currently reading Peter Maxwell’s book ‘Frontier’, which though covering the wars of the 1860s (twenty years later than my two armies here) shows how often pioneers were used during the NZ Wars.

  18. Craig

    Beautiful work, as always. I look forward to seeing the first battle reports.

    • Well, I hope I don;’t disappoint you. Actual gaming is a lesser part of my wargaming hobby. I enjoy the collecting, painting and modelling aspects much more than the actual gaming, for some odd reason. But I do have a target date in mind for these guys’ first battle, at least.

  19. Pingback: VSF steamtroopers | DRESSING THE LINES

  20. alan traves

    Inspired me to place my order with Empress – I have only previously gamed this period in 15mm but these are beautifully painted. Regards Alan

  21. Pingback: Colonial New Zealand Wars of the 1860s | DRESSING THE LINES

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