Category Archives: Empress Miniatures

‘Tribal’ pre-gunpowder skirmish rules – Māori, Aztecs, Japanese, gladiators – oh my!


Tribal by Australian company, Mana Press, is a set of skirmish gaming rules designed for recreating pre-gunpowder inter-tribal conflicts.

The aim of Tribal is to capture the essence of the heroic skirmish style warfare that existed in many pre-gunpowder cultures, who exalted the feats of the individual and their courage and prowess in battle.


Central to this type of warfare (and to the Tribal wargame) is the concept of honour. Honour determines why one is fighting, how battle is conducted, what sorts of tactics (both honourable and dishonourable) are used, and who becomes the victor at the end.


Tribal takes an innovative approach in using playing cards, rather than dice. In fact, you need neither dice nor measuring tapes for this game! Activation, movement, fighting are all driven by a couple of sets of ordinary playing cards. Other than that, you just need some tokens to represent ‘honour’, and of course some figures and scenery.

Whilst the splendid cover features a tattooed Māori warrior, these rules specifically cover other pre-gunpowder fighting than just Māori inter-tribal warfare, such as Vikings, Aztecs, Heian Japanese, and even Roman gladiators. But overall, the rules do have an emphasis on the Māori inter-tribal wars (no doubt based on the writers’ Kiwi backgrounds).


Australian manufacturer Eureka Miniatures actually makes a set of Māori figures specifically designed to work with Tribal, as illustrated in the pics above and below, borrowed from the Eureka website.


Or you could use Empress Miniatures figures for this game – the ones without firearms (like some of those in my picture below). Or, of course, you could use Vikings, Aztecs, Samurai, Roman Gladiators etc.


As they stand, the Tribal rules won’t be suitable for colonial wars, as they don’t include rules for using firearms. But I think I’ve heard that Mana Press are interested in expanding their rules to include them (can anyone confirm or deny?).

From my initial read-through, Tribal seems to be a characterful yet relatively simple game. Of course, this opinion is yet to be borne out one way or the other through actually playing the rules. But at only $10 to download the PDF in two formats (one lavishly designed, the other more printer-friendly), Tribal is a good deal even if you just read the rules rather than actually play them!

POSTSCRIPT: While I was writing the above article, I forgot that I’d already written a overview of Tribal back in June 2016 (and in more detail than the posting above)!!! So if you want to know more about Tribal, have a look at my old article too!


Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Empress Miniatures, Eureka Miniatures, Samurai, Tribal

Crown forces of the New Zealand Wars (1860s)


Here are the British and colonial forces to face my daring Māori in games of The Men Who Would Be Kings. They’re dressed in the distinctive blue uniforms worn by the British in New Zealand during the 1860s. Click on the pics for a closer view.

The combined units in these photos total more than the 24 points that the rules recommend for a field force, so I would select from these units for each game.


Included are three units of British regular infantry, one of colonial militia, and one of Royal Navy sailors. There is also a unit of cavalry or mounted infantry, an artillery piece, and a rocket tube.

They’re a mixture of 28mm Empress Miniatures and Perry Miniatures.



Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Empress Miniatures, Perry Miniatures, The Men Who Would Be Kings, Uncategorized

Māori war-party for ‘The Men Who Would Be Kings’


I’m starting to play round with my existing Māori figures to see if I have enough for a 24-point taua (war-party) for use with The Men Who Would Be Kings colonial wargaming rules.

I have 48 warriors/chiefs, plus a 3-man carronade, all made by Empress Miniatures. Hopefully I’ve got enough figures for a full 24-point Māori force.


The warriors are mainly armed with muskets, but 13 have (tupara) shotguns, and 10 are armed only with clubs or axes. I may mix up the weapons in the units, as I don’t think units would’ve all had the same weapons.


The carronade will only be of limited use, mainly to defend a pā.

I’m not sure yet what I’ll be classing each unit as under the TMWWBK rules, although ‘Irregular Infantry’ 12-man units (at 4 points a unit) rather than ‘Tribal Infantry’ 16-man units (at 3 points a unit) seems the way to go. I’m still pondering how many optional points up or down I should adjust them to best replicate the Māori fighting style.



Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Empress Miniatures, The Men Who Would Be Kings, Uncategorized

Colonial New Zealand Wars of the 1860s


The main campaigns of the colonial New Zealand Wars took place from the 1840s to the 1870s. Over those 30 or more years, uniforms and weapons changed. My NZ Wars wargaming armies have so far primarily  represented the early campaigns of the 1840s, when the British still wore red coats. But I’ve recently painted some Perry Miniatures ‘British Intervention Force’ figures to complete a small  British and colonial army of the 1860s.


My army consists of two sections of British regular infantry, a group of colonial cavalry, and an artillery piece, along with some officers on foot and on horseback.


Overall command of my army is given over to these three mounted officers (probably of much too high a rank for such a small force!). The 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.


There are also a range of officers on foot, including these three doughty chaps. I don’t think such a dandy as the cavalryman in the middle every fought in New Zealand, but I like him as a figure anyway!


On the left is an officer busy writing notes, whilst a Maori scout waits patiently. The latter Perry Miniatures figure is actually a Canadian native figure, but I think he works well as a ‘friendly’ Maori as well.

Standards weren’t carried as a rule in the colonial NZ Wars. But there is some evidence that occasionally a plain Union Jack was used. You also probably wouldn’t have seen too many drummers during the bush fighting – but he is a nice figure, isn’t he!


I’ve painted these cavalry so they can either be used as colonial horse; or as mounted men from the Military Train used as cavalry (as there weren’t any formal British cavalry units in New Zealand).


Here’s one of the British regular infantry units. During the 1860s campaigns, the British soldier wore a blue serge ‘jumper’ instead of his traditional red coat.


Don’t ask me what rules I’ve based these figures for. I don’t base to any particular set of rules, but rather to ‘my eye’ – what looks good to me! Actually, with my busy life, my wargames armies seldom get to see action on the tabletop anyway!


If I ever need to reinforce my small army, these Empress Miniatures sailors from my 1840s army will fit the bill.  Their weapons might not be exactly right for the period, but they give the right look.


Likewise, my 1840s militia will probably do for a colonial unit of the 1860s.

Armed Constabulary

The most obviously missing figures for my army, however, are colonial militia wearing the famous ‘shawl-order’. Neither Perry nor Empress make any suitable figures to represent these men. At one stage it looked like Eureka might produce them, but they couldn’t gather enough pre-interest to make it worthwhile. This also seemed to scare off Empress, who had also said at one time they might produce such figures.

My only hope now is the Perry twins, who of course have a good connection with New Zealand through the work they’ve done for Sir Peter Jackson, and who sometimes go out onto a limb that other manufacturers would deem as unfeasible!


Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Empress Miniatures, Perry Miniatures, Uncategorized

Māori and British do battle at ‘Call To Arms’

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I played my first game of Sharp Practice 2 today at the ‘Call To Arms’ show in Wellington, NZ. It was a colonial New Zealand Wars game.


We had loads of scenery, but the game itself was a simple encounter battle that we played on the clearer half of the table. The left-hand side of the board, dominated by a massive Māori pa, was just decoration.


Three groups of the British 58th regiment, along with one group of Royal Navy sailors faced three groups of Māori warriors. Unfortunately the British diced to deploy straight into a forest, which meant they couldn’t get their groups into formation (see bottom left of the photo below).


The three Māori groups flitted easily across the plain whilst the soldiers were still struggling through the clinging supplejack in the bush.

The sailors managed to push clear of the treeline. But they were immediately dealt several volleys of withering fire from the three groups of Māori warriors, which almost annihilated them. The surviving tars fell back in disarray, passing though two groups of infantry and and disrupting them as well.


In a last ditch effort, the only remaining steady British group charged a Māori group that had entered the bush, but were dealt a smashing defeat by the doughty warriors. This was the final blow, and the game resulted in a stunning loss for the British … um …er … I mean, for me!

As it was our first game of Sharp Practice 2, it’s fair to say that we got lots wrong and were quite confused at times. But overall we enjoyed it.

The table and New Zealand setting received lots of really positive comments, too. As did the fabulous 3D printed Māori pa by It was really nice to be able to present a game that reflected our own history for a change, rather than a setting in Europe or America.

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Besides the pa, we had a few other decorative vignettes on the board that didn’t play any part in the game, such as a colonial farmhouse, a military camp, a Māori carronade, and a huge naval cannon.





Finally, here a few pictures of the other games at Call To Arms that caught my eye. Firstly, a very attractive Napoleonic game that was also fought with the Sharp Practice 2 rules – though probably more competently than we did!.




This fantasy game included some marvellous 3D printed buildings from our friends at


Finally, I was rather taken with this Dystopian Legions game between steampunk British and Prussians.




Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Empress Miniatures, Uncategorized

1860s Māori Wars and WW2 Dutch

I’m eagerly anticipating two ranges of new figures that are hovering enticingly on the horizon at the moment.

Colonial New Zealand Wars of the 1860s

A discussion on the Lead Adventures forum has resulted in two different manufacturers expressing a possible interest in producing figures for the 1860s colonial wars in New Zealand. The discussion thread was initially about Eureka Miniatures‘ new range of pre-colonial Māori, but on page 2 I posted as follows:

I know it is a little bit out of the period Eureka are aiming at, but the missing party amongst the combined Eureka and Empress ranges are western-dressed Māori for the later wars of the 1860s/70s (wearing waistcoats, for example – and even the occasional bowler hat à la Goldie).


Whilst Eureka Miniatures have their new range of pre-colonial Māori, and Empress Miniatures already has a comprehensive range of figures for the 1840s period of the colonial New Zealand Wars, there are few 28mm figures to re-fight the battles that involved Māori and Pākehā (Europeans) during the 1860s and 70s.


Perry Miniatures, of course, do a very good line of British regulars in their ‘British Intervention Force’ range that fit the period (as per the pic above).

But neither the western-dressed  Māori (as per the front cover pic of Osprey’s book on Māori fortifications shown below), nor the colonial troops such as the Forest Rangers, Militia and Armed Constabulary (as per the black-and-white photo below) are currently made.

Pa fight

Armed Constabulary

Further into the discussion, my suggestion was taken up, and it appears that two manufacturers could perhaps be interested in producing figures for the later period.

Eureka are interested if enough pre-support can be garnered. As one of the participants in the discussion said:

What I can say is that if we get enough people to commit then those figures will be sculpted (as I’m told). Just need to get people to say yes and give a number of troops they want.

Once the required number is reached, the research passed to the sculptor, then the figures get sculpted…nothing fancy like Kickstarter…just a bunch of people saying ‘I want this’ and if the numbers are there…then it can get done…

And one of the Empress Miniatures team contributed this to the discussion:

We aren’t in a position to start working on sculpts straight away (production is planned 8 to 12 + months in advance generally) but I can definitely say that this show of interest in the period has persuaded us to look at our current plans for this range.

We do offer a range sponsorship scheme and this ‘can’ jump queues. Perhaps you guys could consider banding together and work something out? If this is of interest then drop us an e mail for details.

So if you’re interested in such a range, please do go onto the Lead Adventures thread and state your interest – we need to have a show of hands to sufficiently entice one or other (or both!) of these manufacturers before they’ll take this up!

Dutch Army of 1940


Much more advanced in production than the NZ Wars figures are a new line of WW2 Dutch troops being produced by May ’40 Miniatures.

I’ve written about this forthcoming range before here, but today the following progress pictures were released on their FaceBook page.  My mouth is watering!

I especially like the Lewis gun team in the pic above, with the gun being supported on the shoulder of the Number Two, who’s gripping the fore-support legs as though it’s more than his life’s worth (which it probably is!).

I’m also really pleased to see a medic (the figure on the right in the pic below) in the range. He will represent my father, who was in the Medical Troops during the May invasion of the Netherlands.



Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Empress Miniatures, Eureka Miniatures, May 40, Uncategorized, WW2

A simple way to paint a Maori pa and other scenery


I recently helped Printable Scenery to write and illustrate an article on how to paint their Maori pa palisade and buildings, using the ‘dry-brushing’ process.


This is a fairly quick way of painting large lots of scenery. The results look good despite being somewhat ‘rough and ready’ to do. This technique is particularly useful for things like rough wood and thatch – perfect for a pa, in other words!

See the full article here.

And here’s a little video of the fully painted pa:

Video #3dprintable #Maori pa printed on #makerbot for #wargamesterrain #wargames

A post shared by Printable (@printablescenery) on


Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Empress Miniatures, Terrain