At yesterday’s open day at New Zealand’s newest wargaming venue – The Winterdale Tavern on the Kāpiti Coast – I put on a colonial New Zealand Wars game.
Well, I say ‘game’, but in fact because of it’s location right by the front door, we decided to make it an eye-catcher for visitors, so it was really just a static display. I actually love doing static displays, as it lets my imagination run wild in setting up a feast of lovely terrain, as well as providing an excuse to jam-pack the table with as many of my models as I can!
Working from the back of the table, the first thing to capture the eye was a Māori pā, which was 3D-printed for me by Printable Scenery
A pā was a fortified settlement or position with palisades and defensive terraces. The pā was constructed of rows of strong log palisades. Behind the palisades there was usually a trench, so that the defending warriors were fully protected as they fired through loopholes at ground level.
Inside the pā is a captured carronade with which the warriors fire on the British, using any old iron as ammunition. The gun is mounted on a wooden slide, secured with blocks and tackle to a couple of handy tree stumps.
In the background is an impressive Māori meeting house and two accompanying huts, all products of Printable Scenery.
Up the mighty Waikato River (truncated to just a little stream on my small table!) chugs the paddle steamer ‘Avon’. This model is based on a real gunboat that started life as a pleasure boat on the River Avon in Christchurch, but was later fitted with sheet metal armour to become one of New Zealand’s earliest warships.
‘Avon’ mounted a 12-pounder Armstrong breech-loading gun on her bow. At the stern was a wooden shed-like structure with loopholes from which troops could fire.
The ‘Avon’ also had a novel self-defence system, with her boiler connected to a pipe running right around the hull, so that scalding water could be sprayed upon anyone attempting to board.
Moving to the middle of the tale, the first thing viewers cud see was this huge naval 32- trying to pound the Māori pā into submission.
Naval guns were really used during the early New Zealand Wars, dragged miles through the rugged bush, for example at the Battle of Ruapekapeka. The crews would then build wooden platforms from which to fire these great guns.
Beside the gun, you can see the commander and his two mounted aides. This photo makes the blue of these rather plain uniforms look lighter than it actually is – in fact, my paint job is almost black, which I’ve achieved by washing the finished figures with black ink.
Emerging from the bush is a ‘taua’, or war-party, of warriors. Half of them are armed with muskets, whilst the others have the double-barreled shotguns that were very popular with Māori warriors. They called the shotguns ‘tupara’, based on the Māori pronunciation of the English words ‘two-barrel’.
I don’t try to paint the intricate tattoos with which Māori warriors customarily adorned their faces and other parts of their bodies. I did try once, but the results looked too clunky and crude. So I think it is better to ignore them, as the skin is quite dark anyway.
The warriors are skirmishing with a firing line of British infantry. The soldiers aren’t in their traditional red coats, but are dressed in the distinctive blue uniforms worn by the British in New Zealand during the 1860s. The officer running out front is wearing a patrol jacket with ornate black braiding.
The unit is being led by a man carrying a flag, even though standards weren’t as a rule carried during the colonial NZ Wars. But there is some evidence that occasionally a plain Union Jack was used.
Right at the front of the table is another line of infantry running forward in support. They’re the grenadier company, as distinguished by the white touries on their caps.
Cavalry didn’t play such a significant part in the larger battles of the New Zealand Wars, but they did take part in a lot of minor engagements. I’ve painted these horsemen as members of the Military Train (i.e. the supply column), who sometimes had to fight as cavalry because the British never brought any actual cavalry units to New Zealand.
Here’s a colonial militia unit dressed in a rag-tag collection of civilian clothes and part uniforms. They represent a hastily-recruited militia or Civic Guard unit.
One little vignette that attracted a lot of attention was this civilian group defending their cottage. Mr Atkinson is still bandaged from a wound in an earlier clash, Mrs Atkinson doles out the gunpowder from a small barrel, daughter Amelia flinches as she fires her father’s pistol, and little Annie brings up a haversack of spare ammunition.
In the field on the right you can see a small Royal Navy shore party. Sailors took a major role in many of the battles of the colonial New Zealand Wars.
Overall, the table attracted a lot of attention, with many people surprised that there are figures and terrain commercially available to recreate the wars that took place on our own doorstep.