Five centuries of warfare in New Zealand

I’ve just had an article published in Wargames Illustrated (Wi409, January 2022). The issue’s theme is ‘wargaming around the world’, so the publisher asked if I could do an article about the history of warfare that took place in New Zealand.

If my commission was to consider warfare that actually happened here, as apart from the overseas wars that Kiwis have taken part in, it seemed to me that I needed to concentrate on the roughly five hundred years from when Māori first arrived here in the 13th century, to the colonial wars of the mid-19th century (OK, I now realise that’s more like six hundred years – maths was never my strong point!).

This meant taking a non-eurocentric view, as most of those centuries the warfare was between Māori tribes. Inevitably Europe did start to make an impact towards the latter part of this period, first with the introduction of the musket that asymmetrically changed the face of traditional tribal warfare, and then the full-on direct conflict between Crown and Māori over their land.

So in the article I divided the period into three sub-parts: pre-European conflict; the inter-tribal Musket Wars; and the colonial New Zealand Wars.

My article features not only photos of my miniatures, but also several from my trip to Tawhiti Museum earlier this year, including a particularly eye-catching shot of a haka diorama that heads the story.

The publishers particularly wanted a scenario as part of the article. As I didn’t have one ready, I called on a fellow enthusiast for the period, Australian Mark Piper, who has devoted a lot of time to developing amendments to the Muskets and Tomahawks ruleset to suit fighting in New Zealand.

Mark and I initially thought we would co-write the article, but then the publishers came up with the surprise news that between us we had given them enough content for a two-parter. So Mark’s scenario will appear in Part 2.

Wargames Illustrated commissioned artist Neil Roberts to paint the impressive cover picture, featuring a Māori chief with tattoos based on those of Hongi Hika as sketched in 1820.

The Māori cover highlights that this issue contains content about wargaming set in New Zealand. But not only from my article. There’s also a great article in the same issue by one of the developers of the Tribal ruleset, Aramiha Harwood.

What makes Aramiha’s article especially interesting is that he is himself Māori, and so can provide a unique viewpoint on the warfare experience of his people. His article even starts with a pepeha, the traditional Māori greeting which Aramiha describes as ‘a means of placing the self in the physical and the social worlds we occupy today, while also tracing our history through our ancestors and the canoe (waka) we originally travelled to Aotearoa (New Zealand) on’.

I hope these articles give a shot in the arm for wargaming set in New Zealand. But, if nothing else, I trust that they inform people all over the world about the little known but incredible history of my country.

Meri Kirihimete me te Hape Nū Ia! (Māori for ‘Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!’)

3 thoughts on “Five centuries of warfare in New Zealand

  1. Great work Roly. Do you know if WI is available on Amazon? I would be interested in reading on my recently acquired secondhand Kindle.

    BTW: I have a copy of the Osprey NZ Wars book. Osprey can be variable quality but this one is excellent.

    1. I think Mighty Ape sell WI in NZ. And, yes, the OSPREY on the NZ Wars is great, as is their other one on Maori fortifications.

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