Pirate raid in Kapiti


Today I put on a pirate display at the Kapiti Wargames Club’s open day.  I say ‘display’, because it wasn’t a game as such, but just an excuse to lay out as much of my piratical terrain and figures as I could, in a static display piece.  

I guess I could’ve just as easily played a game on the terrain, but I was too lazy to do so.  Anyway, I just wanted to enjoy talking to the club members and any other spectators, and convincing people that good terrain needn’t be too complicated. 

The display was very much ‘Hollywood’ rather than ‘History’, with various anachronisms evident (eg a Napoleonic landing party in a Golden Age of Piracy game from a totally different century), and some definite confusion in architectural styles (ranging from a Spanish Main village to an American colonial boat-house and church).  

I took a pile of pictures, so here they are for your enjoyment.  They’re all quite large photos, so that you an click on them to get the full-size effect.

IMG_lg_1941An island, somewhere in the Spanish Main.  The terrain is a bunched up felt gaming cloth arranged over a commercial sea terrain mat, with some judicious use of real rocks and sand.  Simple, but eye-catching.

IMG_lg_1964Teddy-bear fur provided some fields of wheat.  Does wheat grow in the Caribbean?  Who cares? … this is Hollywoood, remember!

IMG_lg_1963This was a great excuse to drag out my home-made Napoleonic Peninsular War village, and the Perry civilians for that period.

IMG_lg_1962My Royal Navy longboat rows past a Dutch merchantman to battle the pirate invasion.

IMG_lg_1960The Renadra dilapidated barn kitset made a perfect boat-shed, just by adding some ladders and broken fences as ramps.

IMG_lg_1959To any small kids who viewed the table (and there were quite a few), I gave the mission of finding the pirate treasure.  Looking carefully, they would soon spot this cave …

IMG_lg_1958Outside the town the local garrison are on parade in front of the town worthies … little knowing that a pirate raid is eventuating beneath their very noses.

IMG_lg_1957The Dutch merchantman has now been overtaken by the navy boat as it heads round the point to engage the pirates.

IMG_lg_1955And whilst the pirates attack one side of the island, smugglers are busy on the other coast, moving their contraband inland on a convoy of wagons.

IMG_lg_1953The peaceful churchyard – one of two religious institutions on the island.

IMG_lg_1952And meanwhile the garrison continues its preening and parading in front of the ladies …

IMG_lg_1951… and the ladies continue their preening in front of the handsome officers.

IMG_lg_1950But some soldiers are hard at work at the fort on the point, firing the first shots at the pirate fleet.  The fort is a simple plastic toy I bought at a bring-and-buy.

IMG_lg_1949Some of the pirates have landed, disturbing a trio of young ladies who have been picnicking on the beach under the twirling sails of the (Grand Manner) windmill.

IMG_lg_1948The pirate fleet – including a scratch-built brig by my friend Scott, and my own converted Disney ‘Black Pearl’.

IMG_lg_1945If you look carefully, you’ll see a man praying at his father’s grave in the country churchyard.

IMG_lg_1944Another look at that fat Dutch merchantman – the fat ship, not the fat merchant!  This ship was originally a plastic toy in a boxed game, though it has been given a heavy makeover.

IMG_lg_1943Meanwhile the smugglers are making their way over the bridge and up to the village to dispose of their contraband.  The river, road and bridge are by Australian company Miniature World Makers.

IMG_lg_1940Here’s another look at those pirates landing on the beach, almost under the guns of the fort.

IMG_lg_1939The pirates’ flagship waits off-shore, ignoring the puny gun in the small fort on the point.

IMG_lg_1938One of the the lookouts in the fort tower is blowing the alarum trumpet.

IMG_lg_1937It’s a good thing this is Hollywood rather than History, otherwise that skeleton pirate would be right out of place.

IMG_lg_1936The table attracted a lot of interest right through the day, despite it being a static display.  The longboat is a terrific model by Britannia Miniatures.

IMG_lg_1935Here’s that boat-shed again.  You can also see how a sprinkling of real sand makes an effective touch.

IMG_lg_1934Life goes on in the the higgledy-piggledy village on the hill.

IMG_lg_1933Oh dear, they’re STILL parading.  Haven’t they heard the alarum yet?

IMG_lg_1932Nope, I guess not.

IMG_lg_1947Here’s a couple of the other games we put on … Scott and Paul did a great Flames of War game, with plenty of action.  They even had the screaming sound effect whenever the Stuka made an appearance.

IMG_lg_1946Stephen and Steve put on a lovely 15mm Seven Years War game.

A pirate’s life for me!


It’s odd, isn’t it?  In this age of parents not letting kids play with toy soldiers or toy guns, and schools not teaching about battles and soldiers, we still find that kindergartens and primary schools love pirates.  Some of the most blood-thirsty, villianous, chauvanistic characters around, and yet little Johnny and Sally sit and make eye-patches and cardboard swords (swords?!) in class.  On the other hand, maybe it isn’t so surprising – after all, pirate crews were very democratic, and feminists might approve of pirates like Ann Bonny and Mary Read.

Anyway, I’m not complaining – I love pirates!    So they form part of my wargames collection, and have provided many an exciting and fun-filled game.

It all started when my fellow Kapiti Fusilier, Scott Bowman, mentioned that Games Workshop Historical were coming out with a new set of pirate rules, Legends of the High Seas.  This fired the imaginations of several Fusiliers.  Here was a new period we could get into with minimal cost and painting required, and which could use a lot of our existing scenery.  So we quickly ordered some sets of the rules, and a collection of Foundry pirates.

There was lots of ooh-ing and aah-ing when the books and the figures arrived.  The rules were exquisitely presented, and looked easy to pick up and fun to play.  And the figures – so characterful!  We did a draw as to who would get what figures.  Of course, in the nature of these things, the ones I had hankered after went to other Fusiliers, so it wasn’t long before I put the call out on the Net to buy spare figures, and I had a very generous response, I must say.

A few weeks of painting (which, with the wonderful variety of figures, wasn’t onerous at all), and we had our first crews ready to fight.  Here are some photos (and like all the pics in this post, don’t forget to click on them to enlarge.)




Legends of the High Seas includes rules for ships.  So, as with any pirate wargmer worth his salt, ships there had to be!  My wife works for Air New Zealand and was flying international at that time, so I joined her on a flight to San Francisco.  In the Disney shop there I saw the perfect ship – a radio-controlled Black Pearl.  But I was nervous of carrying such a large toy home, so didn’t buy it .. .and of course instantly regreted it.  Then when Sarah got another San Francisco on her roster two weeks later, I begged a few days off work and joined her again – and this time I shot straight to the Disney shop and bought the model.  Oh dear, the size of my carbon footprint just to get hold of my pirate ship!

With the Black Pearl safely back home in New Zealand, I stripped out the RC gear and cut the bottom off the hull.  I also did a few other small changes such as adding large fighting tops,  making gratings for the deck, and giving her a complete re-paint.  The final result was a stately galleon for my pirates – or, indeed, merely by changing flags, for my naval crew.

Pirtate ship_P2240985

zilveren zeemeeuw2_P2260988

Some smaller boats were provided by an EBay purchase of the old Weapons and Warriors pirate playset.  This set included a number of plastic brigs, boats, trees and even a blockhouse, which with a little bit of work could easily be turned into suitable wargame items.


Scenery wasn’t a problem.  Most of my Peninsular War houses looked suitably Caribbean.   Some cheap plastic palm trees repainted and based, some rocks and sand out of the garden, a blue sea cloth, and hey presto, we were ready to roll.

“Aaargh, me hearties, don’t ye be forgetin’ to leave a comment!”