Category Archives: Colonial New Zealand Wars

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

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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‘The Men Who Would Be Kings’ colonial rules

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I bought this set of colonial wargaming rules today from my mate Scott Bowman’s excellent Hobby Corner in his pharmacy at Paraparaumu Beach, New Zealand (probably the only pharmacy in the world that sells wargaming supplies for stress relief!).

My first reaction to the rules? Wow – I think this just might be the set of rules I have always been looking for!!! OK, this still has to be proven or disproved by an actual play-test. But from my first read-through, the design philosophy matches what I’ve always liked:

  • simple rules (which is my most important criteria)
  • elegant mechanisms that are intuitive rather than gamey
  • neither too few nor too many troops on the table
  • scenario-driven
  • a level of unpredictability
  • Hollywood rather than strictly historical
  • a sense of fun
  • an attractively illustrated and motivating book.

Plus I would have to say these are the most readable set of rules I have ever read. It has nice touches of period-appropriate humour dotted throughout – not too much, just enough to make it an entertaining read rather than a dry set of rules.

There’s a particularly clever device for solo-gaming, called ‘Playing Against Mr Babbage’. Apparently your regular gaming opponent, Mr Babbage, hasn’t been able to make it to the game tonight, but he has sent you a set of instructions to follow. It sounds sort of like playing against the AI in a computer game. Ingenious!

As for this set of rules’ appropriateness for my particular colonial gaming preference, the New Zealand Wars? Well, although Maori are mentioned a couple of times, and there is a lavish full-page picture of the NZ Wars, there aren’t any lists provided for this period. However, it should be dead easy to concoct some, so I think there is indeed real potential that these rules will suit well. Let’s wait and see till after I’ve had a chance to play a game or two.

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Colonial New Zealand Wars of the 1860s

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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).

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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!

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More painted New Zealand Wars coming soon …

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Taking a quick moment to write a brief update. Whilst this blog has been quiet over the last month, I haven’t been idle. I’ve been busy painting another batch of colonial New Zealand Wars figures – cavalry, artillery and staff for the 1860s campaigns.

I’m now just waiting for a chance to photograph them and write a detailed blog post, so keep watching …

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