Gathering the forces for my colonial New Zealand Wars game


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.

Raa Maumahara

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


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.


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


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.


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


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


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.

Poster_side 1_Raa Maumahara

Poster_side 2_Raa Maumahara


22 thoughts on “Gathering the forces for my colonial New Zealand Wars game

    1. Thanks for that, Vince. I’m actually a little nervous now, because the event is being publicised. Doing a public display game is quite different from a demo game at a wargames show. Plus I’ve got to be ready for any sort of conversation that the game might create with spectators, who could have all sorts of attitudes to the day in general …

      1. Hi Roly
        Hopefully the game will generate some discussion and help raise awareness of the New Zealand wars. I think if you explain to people that wargaming is not about glorifying war but more about presenting players with decisions to make you might alleviate some of the potential issues. Explaining how the Maori were able to negate some of the British tactical advantages would also help the discussion I think.

  1. These look stunning – and the various tress etc to recreate the NZ bush are great too – I have been tempted to buy some of those eBay 30 trees for $6 type deals a few times but have not done so yet – these look good!

    1. Thanks, Keith. The Chinese trees can be hit or miss in colour (I had to dye one lot that were too garish). But with a little bit of work, they actually come out quite well, especially if you mix them.

  2. Hi Roly
    The rules author states on page 31 that Tribal Infantry with training or skill to use firearms at longer distances should be represented by Irregular Infantry.
    On that basis I would have the Maori in 12 man groups but give them a mixture of Tribal and Irregular attributes. You could also given them ‘fierce’ to give them some extra punch. Historically the Maori were at a numerical disadvantage so having them in 12 man groups rather than 16 would be more appropriate.

  3. Nice work Roly,
    We had a lot of interest in the Waikato Wars oriented show we did in May that I think I mentioned to you. Not sure if you saw the images of the figures and table we made. It was an art show and we left the figures unpainted to represent ‘ghost warriors’. We are actually going to use it as a tiny film set this summer and I am very interested in how you solve the ponga/shrub problem as we need to add a lot of the same kind of material. I think we will do a black wash and slight silver on the reliefs to help our camera’s relative exposure.
    In terms of public presentation/discussion and socio-cultural sensitivities, I found it was good to emphasise the fact that wargaming is more about the complexity of narrative than ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. Of course it is possible to argue that the NZ Wars never actually ended and all of their consequences are very much with us. A dose of sensitive historical context doesn’t go amiss either – especially the link between the wars, land confiscation and ongoing poverty among Maori communities etc. The spectacle and fascination with the accuracy of the kit and the tactical questions are a great entry point however, into discussions of the important histories.
    All the best with it and I look forward to hearing about how it all comes off.

    1. Thanks, those are really useful comments. I don’t recall seeing photos of the ghost warriors etc – would love a link if you have photos of them online. For ferns, I found some large plastic ones in the One Dollar Shop. Cutting off the little frondlets, and using hot glue to attach them to little bases, I came up with some reasonably effective ferns. I also glued some onto trunks for the ponga. I spray-painted the bottom of the leaves black, which gave them some definition on the edges, and shading underneath.

  4. That is a grand looking collection there Roly, but my goodness it is an expensive excercise putting together a collection from Empress is it not?

    1. I’ve got them in dribs and drabs over the years, so never had a big order. I haven’t looked at the prices for a while, but as I’ve now realised I really haven’t got enough Maori figures, I guess I’ll find out soon!

  5. Here’s a link to the facebook site for the project:
    There are a fair few ghost warriors in the photo section and some interesting articles giving contemporary perspective to the historical events. We also used The Men Who Would Be Kings but actually simplified it even further so that the public could have a go. Follow this link to see our ‘lite’ rules:

    1. Cool page! Whilst I had been following your adventures, I had missed seeing the miniatures aspect!

      Good idea about the stripped down TMWWBK rules. One question – pins are mentioned for being taken off, but there is no mention how you get them in the first place?

      1. We put pins on commanders or members of the unit if they sustain a lot of injuries in any single volley or confrontation.

  6. Hi Roly
    David Houston here . We’ve met a couple times via southern statigists games.
    Very nice looking game .
    I was thinking of using TMWWBK rules my self . Any chance of you sending me the QRS you developed pls ?
    Also I expect you’ll already be aware but , in case not Messers Mersey and co are currently developing an off shoot set of rules ( being I gather a combination of TMWWBK and Pikemans lament ) due out Jan next year for FIW – ACW period which I thought would work well for this conflict too , called from recollection “ rebels and patriots “

    1. Hi David. Nice to hear from you. Yes, I can send you the QRS – what is your email. Also, look out for the next Wargames Illustrated – I’ve got a game report in issue #369. No, I hadn’t heard about those new Dan Mersey rules – they could indeed be of interest for this period.’

  7. The New Zealand Wars have been something I’ve dreamed of getting on the tabletop for years (little between Sharp Practice and TMWWBK) and your site has always been an inspiration! I know this post is a few years old, but I was wondering if you’ve tweaked your stats/lists for the unit types at all? What characters is have you used with the Royal Navy types. Have given Sharp Practice 2 another try? I just love looking at you miniatures and tables (the WW2 stuff as well…I’m currently building my own French colonial force)!

    1. Hi. Unfortunately I haven’t done any tweaking or stats since the TMWWBK game described in this posting. I haven’t been back to Sharp Practice, either.

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