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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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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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A 28mm Japanese tower that looks Japanese!

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There’s something distinctive about Japanese towers that even the uninitiated can identify them straight away. However, this characteristic look can be quite elusive, as many of the model Japanese castles I’ve seen for sale to wargamers just don’t capture that distinctive shape properly.

However, that is certainly not an issue with the latest model building I’ve bought to go with my 28mm samurai figures. This wooden yagura ichi tower kit from Tre Games Inc definitely looks Japanese!

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What I love about this model is how it has captured the archetypal sloping base-walls, visible rafters and the complicated roof structure with the interesting gables. The shuttered windows, the holes in the walls for shooting weapons, and the crazy stone-work of the base all add to the look and feel.

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My model is made up from two kitsets: the Japanese yagura ichi tower ($US40), and its accompanying fortified stone base ($US20). The kits are made of laser-cut 1/16″ ash hardwood and 1/8″ birch plywood. Altogether, the completed model measures just over 7.5″ tall, and the base’s footprint is just a tad under 6.5″ square.

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I decided to do a bit of extra detailing to what was already a very good model. The roofs come off each floor, but whilst the floors already had a patterns of wooden panels, the walls were bare. So I simply used a black marker pen to draw in the beams, following the pattern of the exterior beams of the model, and shaded them in with colouring pencils.

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The base was a little tricky, as there are a lot of angles. I used rubber bands and pegs to hold the parts in place whilst they dried, then used a sander to round off the sharp corners. There was also a slight gap between the upper and lower walls, which I filled with glue.

Painting the base was easy: a spray coat of black, followed by a dry-brushing of grey, and finished with a very light dry-brushing of white. The base also comes with a separate set of stairs that you can place beside one of the two doors on the tower.

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The walls were very easy to assemble, despite the complex shape. I pre-painted the beams in dark brown, and the wooden sidings on the walls with a lighter brown, before glueing them together.

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The most extensive change I made was to the roof. The model comes with a roof that resembles a wooden planks. But I thought a tile roof would be more characteristic of a Japanese tower. I used some corrugated card from a craft shop, which I scribed horizontally with a metal ruler to produce the look of tiles.

I then simply glued the card onto the supplied roofs, spray-painted them black and dry-brushed them grey. Finally, I assembled the roof as per the instructions. Fitting the parts together was a little finicky, and overall there are some bits I probably didn’t get to fit quite right. But from a distance it all looks pretty good, and I’m happy with the overall effect.

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So there you have it – a perfect Japanese tower that’ll make a fine centrepiece for my gaming table …

Pros: Most importantly, it really looks the part! Not too many of the visible tabs that mar so many wooden kits. Removable roofs. Everything fits well. A  great price!

Cons: A little smaller than the 28mm Japanese buildings I have from other manufacturers. No interior detail other than the floors (though that is easily fixed).

Overall, very highly recommended!

Tre Games Inc is owned by writer, illustrator and entrepreneur Tim Erickson from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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WW2 Dutch ‘PAG-trekker’ light artillery tractor

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May ’40 Miniatures are currently working on a new model for their range of 28mm WW2 Dutch vehicles: the PAG-trekker light artillery tractor.

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In the 1938-1940 period the Dutch Army ordered a large number of light artillery tractors or Anti-tank gun tractors from DAF (Van Doorne’s Aanhangwagenfabriek) in Eindhoven. In Dutch these were called PAG-trekkers, PAG meaning “pantserafweergeschut”.

DAF built these on both Ford and Chevrolet chassis by converting them to four wheel drive and adding specialised bodywork with three rows of seats for six crew-members, as well as ammo storage in the back.

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They were used to tow the Dutch Boehler 47mm anti-tank guns, and there are also reports of the vehicles being used as staff-cars or personnel vehicles.

When May ’40 Miniatures come out with their range of WW2 Dutch vehicles and artillery, which besides the PAG-trekker will also include the Landsverk armoured car and a couple of different anti-tank guns, I can see a purchase coming on!

Source of above info about the PAG-trekker: The Overvalwagen Forum

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My life ‘on the ice’ – Antarctica 1976/77

Way back in 1976-77, at the tender age of 20, I worked a summer season at the US Navy base at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. I was employed by a New Zealand company that was contracted to do one of the most important jobs ‘on the ice’ … washing dishes!

I took a lot of photos whilst I was down there, all printed as slides. For decades these slides languished in a box at the bottom of my cupboard. Then last year I pulled them out and put a few of them through a slide-to-JPG converter.  Here are the results.  There are some potentially interesting ‘military’ modelling ideas here!

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Doodling with Napoleonic figures

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In a wargaming version of mindless doodling, I recently frittered away an hour or so arranging some of my 28mm Napoleonic figures onto my small wargaming table.

My Napoleonic armies haven’t seen the light of day for a number of years now. So on an impulse, I just decided to set them out for fun in a static set-up.

The figures are arranged to depict a vaguely Peninsular War skirmish. Though I’m not actually sure if all the troops shown here really fought in the Peninsular War – I just pulled out the units that were the easiest to reach in my cupboard!

This is only a fraction of my Napoleonic armies, but you can only fit so many 28mm figures on a 4’x4′ board!

The buildings, by the way are all scratch-built. The trees are cheap Chinese architectural/ model railway decorations. The roads and rivers are by an Australian company called Miniature World Makers. Figures are mainly Front Rank and Perry Miniatures, but with some other makes thrown in.

So, for your enjoyment and edification, may I present the results of my doodling (you can click on each picture to take a closer look).

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