Category Archives: Colonial New Zealand Wars

Gathering the forces for my colonial New Zealand Wars game

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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Poster_side 2_Raa Maumahara

 

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Video trailer about colonial New Zealand Wars

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A trailer has just been launched of a new video documentary about the colonial New Zealand Wars. The film will describe the Battle of Ruapekapeka that took place in 1846 (click on the link below to view the trailer).

Great Southern Television is working on this interactive online project for Radio NZ on the New Zealand Wars. It will include a documentary, podcast, battle reconstruction and online museum, telling the story of the 19th century wars between the Crown and Māori.

Ruapekapeka was one of the largest and most complex pā (Māori fortifications) in New Zealand, that was designed specifically to counter the cannons of the British forces. It was the site of the last battle in the Flagstaff War, between Colonial forces and warriors of Ngāpuhi led by Hone Heke and Te Ruki Kawiti.

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In this screen-grab from the trailer, as well as the heading picture at the top of this posting, we see men of the 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot, recognisable by their black facings and cap bands, advancing through the bush.

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Soldiers struggle to drag a cannon through the rugged bush. In late 1845 the Colonial forces, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Despard, began a two-week advance over 20 kilometres (12 miles) to bring artillery up to the pā.

The ordnance included three naval 32-pounders, one 18-pounder, two 12-pounder howitzers, one 6-pounder brass gun, four mortars, and two rocket-tubes.

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The above picture is another scene of the cannon being transported through the thick undergrowth.  This isn’t a screen-grab, but a photo taken by one of the film crew.  It gives a good impression of the tough job the soldiers would have faced.

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To show the care taken to get the uniforms right in the video, take a look at my painted Empress Miniatures 28mm figures depicting the same regiment.

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A group of soldiers from the 58th patrol past some ferns and toitoi plants, typical of the New Zealand landscape.

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Back to the video, here’s a screen-grab of a group of Māori warriors doing a haka, or war-dance.

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This close-up of Māori shooting through the loopholes at the bottom of the pā palisades shows the combination of traditional and western dress adopted by many warriors.

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During the bombardment of the pā, the defenders took cover in bomb-proof shelters. Lieutenant Balnevis, who took part in the siege, commented in his journal that Ruapekapeka was ‘a most extraordinary place, a model of engineering, with a treble stockade, and huts inside, these also fortified. A large embankment in rear of it, full of under-ground holes for the men to live in; communications with subterranean passages enfilading the ditch.’

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Early on the morning of Sunday 11 January 1846, a British foraging party noted the defenders were unusually quiet. The small group of British troops pushed over the palisade and entered the pā, finding it almost empty. They were reinforced, while Māori tried to re-enter the pā from the back. After a four-hour gun fight the remaining Māori withdrew, abandoning the pā.

Some say the pā had been left almost empty because the defenders were holding a Sunday church service, others say it was a deliberate ploy to draw the British forces into the rugged bush.

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Here are some of my Empress Miniatures doing a traditional haka.

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Another view of my Māori warriors, in this case playing their part in a tabletop reenactment of the Battle of Boulcott Farm, which took place that same year near Wellington.

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The video includes some great shots of Ruapekapeka pā, both physical reconstructions and computer generated images. Here you can see puffs of black powder smoke issuing from the loopholes at the bottom of the palisades.

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In this shot you see a portion of one of the many huts inside the pā.

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Traces of Ruapekapeka pā can still be seen to this day.

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The presenter of the video, well-known journalist Mihingarangi Forbes, appears in a clever scene where we see Ruapekapeka pā  as it appears today, then as the camera pulls back the pā of 1846 starts to appear through the magic of CGI.

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The palisades and huts start to appear.

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Now we see the thick bush that edged up to the palisades of the pā.

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My model pā was designed and 3D-printed by Printable Scenery. It includes palisades of various sizes, several huts, and an ornate gate. The carvings on the latter are of a somewhat apocryphal design!

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In my pā, you can even see Chief Hone Heke (left).

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Next Saturday my miniature figures will take part in a tabletop recreation at my local library as part of the inaugural Raa Maumahara National Day of Commemoration of the New Zealand Wars.

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As the New Zealand Wars committee chairman Peeni Henare has said: ‘Learning the history has to be a path to reconciliation. We can’t say there won’t be resentment. The commemoration is simply to inform the people of Aotearoa-New Zealand. Once it is in our psyche, the day will grow in importance. It is beautiful, brutal, illustrious, deeply moving history.’

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Display game to commemorate colonial New Zealand Wars

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On Saturday 28th October I’ll be hosting a public display game of the colonial New Zealand Wars, as part of my country’s inaugural Rā Maumahara National Day of Commemoration of the New Zealand Land Wars.

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This display game will take place in the Paraparaumu Public Library, so will likely get a completely different type of spectator than at at a wargames event or show. Most will never have seen a wargame before, let alone one that depicts local history.

We’ll be using The Men Who Would be Kings ruleset for colonial wargaming, though this will be a bit of a test for us, as I don’t think anyone here (including me) has played these rules yet!

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Because I am hopeless remembering even the simplest of numbers, I wanted to have a more detailed quick reference sheet for The Men Who Would Be Kings than the one supplied in the rulebook.

Therefore I have developed a couple of new posters (see below), which I plan to blow up to A3 and pin above the table, so we can easily refer to them in-game for the most commonly used rules.

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But overall this’ll be very much a display game, rather than concentrating too much on the game-play. The aim is more to engage with the public to promote knowledge of the somewhat forgotten history of the colonial New Zealand Wars.

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I think this display will fit well with the vision of the New Zealand Wars committee chairman Peeni Henare, when he said, ‘The commemoration is simply to inform the people of Aotearoa-New Zealand. Once it is in our psyche, the day will grow in importance. It is beautiful, brutal, illustrious, deeply moving history.’

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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Pt2: Crown forces of the New Zealand Wars (1840s)

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Here are the forces available to me for a British/colonial army for the New Zealand Wars of the 1840s, using The Men Who Would Be Kings wargames skirmish rules to fight my Māori war-party.

Rather than the blue jumpers worn by British regulars in the 1860s regulars, in the earlier 1840s conflicts they wore red shell jackets.

Some of these figures also feature in my 1860s force, for example the sailors, militia and rocket tube, as they can adequately cover both time periods.

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I’ve also been able to add one more militia unit, dressed in a rag-tag collection of civilian clothes and part uniforms. This could perhaps represent a hastily-recruited militia or Civic Guard unit.

That’s it for my figures and terrain, and a tabletop to play on. Now I just have to purchase lots of 6-sided dice, and then it’s game on!

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Crown forces of the New Zealand Wars (1860s)

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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