Two New Zealand Wars armies for ‘Sharp Practice’

Yes, I’ve been a bit lax on posting updates to the blog lately, but that is because I have been beavering away on my New Zealand Wars project. And at last I can show the results – two fairly well complete armies ready for playing ‘Sharp Practice’ in the fern and bush of 1840s New Zealand.

All the figures in both my New Zealand Wars armies are the wonderful 28mm creations of Empress Miniatures. My photos don’t do justice to these figures – they truly are exquisite, and I highly recommend them. I love the posing, anatomy and the way they capture the feel of the period. Not only that, they are a joy to paint – beautifully cast with practically no flash, and with excellent detail that your brush just itches to bring out.

Anyway, on with the show. Let’s take a look at my British and colonial army first:

Here’s my entire British and colonial army ready to do battle. As you can see, the figures are all individually based, which will give me maximum flexibility in organising my armies.  By the way, you might want to click on this photo (as well as others in this posting) to get the full size effect.

In the photo above you can see the British regulars arranged in two companies, along with a company of militia and some civilians, a naval rocket battery, a pair of marksmen and a squad of militia sappers. Each of the bigger groups has a ‘big man’ to command it under the ‘Sharp Practice’ rules, but more about them later.

Here’s a closer look at some of the British regulars. I’ve painted all my figures in the distinctive black cuffs and facings of the 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot. The 58th had been despatched to New South Wales by detachments between 1843-5 as guards on convict ships. They provided the first reinforcements sent to New Zealand when trouble with the Māori seemed imminent. The Regiment eventually formed part of the permanent garrison of the colony, remaining there until 1858, when it returned home.

In front of the company stand two officers and a bugler. Maybe the natty officer checking his pocket watch is Major Cyprian Bridge, who later became known as a chronicaller and artist of the Northern War in New Zealand.

By the way, I’ve sourced the above information from To Face the Daring Maoris by Michael Barthorp, an evocative history of the 58th Regiment in New Zealand, which is not only a detailed resource, but also a thrilling read at the same time.

Militia units also fought in the New Zealand Wars. The Auckland Volunteers are seen here wearing their pork-pie hats, blue blouses or grey shirts, and trousers from British regimental stores.

Empress Miniatures don’t yet make a command group for their range of militia, so I’ll assign them a regular redcoat officer, which seems to be accurate enough from my readings.

Amongst Empress Miniatures’ latest release were this lovely group of militia sappers. I wasn’t entirely sure how I would incorporate them into my games, but they are such lovely figures that I couldn’t resist them. I’m sure I’ll be able to find a role for some sappers in my ‘Sharp Practice’ scenarios.

I’ve tried to paint these guys with the dusty, dirty look of men working in the midday sun.

Rockets were used spectacularly, albeit not particularly effectively, during the Northern Wars. They were hauled up-country from the ships by their naval crews, then loosed against the pa fortifications.

As Barthorp writes:

“Great interest centred on the the rockets, for the Maoris appeared to believe they were a form of guided missile, which could pursue an enemy until it killed him. [Navy Lieutenant] Egerton’s first discharge thus came as something of an anti-climax, since the rocket sailed wildly and ineffectively over the pa, much to the sardonic amusement of Heke, who stood watching the proceedings from the main gate. With the third shot, Egerton struck the pallisade, causing a great deal of noise and excitement within, but otherwise little damage.”

One of my sailors sports a light blue neck cloth. I got the idea from fellow New Zealand Wars enthusiast, Michael Awdry (whose amazingly painted New Zealand Wars figures have to be seen to be believed).  I’m not sure if in the 1840s these blue neck flaps had yet been incorporated into sailors’ dress. But it looks the part, and so I’m happy!

Here are another couple of figures from Empress Miniatures’ latest release that I’m not yet sure how I’ll fit into my gaming. They’re marksmen, one firing, the other loading while lying on his back.

I’ve given them small scenic bases, including logs on which to rest their muskets. You can also see the variety of ground material I’ve used for my bases: mixtures of sand and crushed shells, flock, static grass, clumps of long grass and even paper ferns.

I mentioned ‘big men’ before. These are a feature of the ‘Sharp Practice’ large skirmish rules by Too Fat Lardies.

Big men don’t necessarily represent all the officers, but a selection of the characters to run the narrative of the game. They’re the ones who inspire and lead their groups. You’ll see I’ve got a number of officers (top row), NCOs (middle row), a naval petty officer and even a civilian constable (bottom row).

I’m going to make up a card for each big man. These photos will go on the cards to make it easy to identify the figures they apply to.

OK, one last look at my British and colonials before we move on to the other side. This is quite a big photo, so if you click on it to enlarge it, you can pan down the line to get a good look at the figures.

Now let’s take a look at the other side. Actually, strictly speaking that’s not true, as Māori fought on both sides during the wars. Therefore a few of these guys may end up supporting the British side in some games.

Anyway, here’s my Māori army. Again, the organisation can be changed as I will. Here you see them arranged into a number of small taua (war parties), each led by a big man (or a big woman in one case!). The toa (warriors) are armed with a selection of weapons.

At the front of the army stands Hone Heke Pokai, with a conch blower beside him. He is portrayed here wearing a cloak and a ship captain’s peaked cap. Although he had signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the troubles in the North came about when Heke, disillusioned with the British administration,  cut down the flag pole at Kororareka not once, but several times.

This taua, led by a portly chief, is armed mainly with traditional weapons and axes, though a few sport muskets as well.

I had a lot of fun painting the designs on some of the kilts.  I’ve used my imagination for these, but have tried to keep them along the lines of  Māori design elements I see around me here in New Zealand every day.

Another taua, this one all armed with muskets.  The majority of toa in the Northern Wars were equipped with firearms.  Their pa (fortifications) were specially designed to allow them to shoot from beneath the walls (not from on top as in many other civilisations).

OK, so you’ve now noticed the one thing I haven’t yet done for this project – building a miniature  pa!  But that is indeed on the drawing board.  I am still mulling over ideas on how to design it.

One of the most popular types of firearms amongst Māori was the shotgun.  They called it the tupara, basically a form of the English ‘two-barrel’.

The big man leading this taua is the doughty old rangatira (chief) of the Ngāpuhi, Te Ruki Kawiti.  While Hone Heke tends to get all the limelight, Kawiti was the real warrior brains behind the campaign.    He had spent his life “in slaughter and plunder against rival tribes, and now felt tempted, perhaps encouraged by Heke’s defiance, to test his strength against the white tribe.”

In Empress Miniatures’ second release there was a pack of Māori  women, though their big man .. er, woman …  came in the original release.

This raises a bit of a conundrum, as in general Māori women did not fight in taua, though they might defend their pa when their menfolk were away.  However, there were exceptions.  And this is just a game, after all.  So who is going to say I can’t use my female taua?!

In the above picture you can also see on one of the male warriors in the foreground my attempt at a facial tattoo (or moko).  This doesn’t convey too well in a blown-up photo of this size.  But on the miniatures themselves, especially when viewed on the table, I think I’ve captured the impression of a moko OK.

So here are my Māori big men.  Obviously Hone Heke and Kawiti are there, but also a number of others who can lead and inspire their taua.  They also will eventually get named cards.

So there you have it.  I’m really pleased with the progress I’ve made.  My painting usually tends to go in fits and starts, but this project includes such a range of diverse figures, and in relatively small numbers, that it has been a breeze to do.  And the fact that it depicts history on my own doorstep makes it that much more appealing.

So now it is on with building a pa, making the cards, and designing a scenario for my first game, which I hope will take place in mid July at the Kapiti Wargames Club’s games day here in Paraparaumu, New Zealand.

Oh, and Empress Miniatures, if you read this posting, any chance of a third release?!?!

Spanish Big Man for ‘Sharp Practice’

After a long pause of a year or two, I’ve returned to painting some ‘Big Men’ figures for the Sharp Practice skirmish rules.  These are the officers and NCOs who form such an important part of this highly entertaining ruleset by Too Fat Lardies.

The first such ‘Big Man’ I’ve painted tonight is this 28mm Spanish officer figure from Brigade Games.  I love his portly stature and casual stance.

The sculpt appears to have been based on the Dennis Dighton portrait of Don Juan de Gonzalos, colonel of the Regimiento Imperiales de Toledo, right down to his bushy sideburns and  his pose of smoking a cigarette (Spanish soldiers of the period were notorious smokers).

So that’s the way I’ve painted him, in his brown uniform with yellow facings, as depicted in my trusty Uniforms of the Peninsular War 1807-1814 by  Philip Haythornthwaite and Michael Chappell.  You can see there are a few small differences, particularly with the hat … but the figure gives the overall effect.

I’m now starting work on a Royal Navy officer, also from Brigade Games, to lead my small naval detachment of sailors and marines.

Next step will to be to put together some sort of multi-player scenario involving a swirling melange of various British, Spanish, and French soldiers, naval types, guerillas and civilians, all with differing objectives, and then host a well-overdue game of Sharp Practice sometime in the not-too-distant future.

My NZ Wars scenario comes second in Too Fat Lardies competition

I mentioned earlier that I had submitted a New Zealand Wars scenario (using the Sharp Practice rules) into the Too Fat Lardies’ scenario competition. 

Well, it made second place, and a link to the PDF has just been published on the Lard Island blog:

The topic for the scenario is the Flagstaff War, so its perfect for Empress Miniatures’ new range (of which my first order is on its way down here as I type).

The scenario concerns Hone Heke and Kawiti’s raid on the town of Kororareka in 1846.  I’ve written a backgrounder, briefings for both sides and umpire’s notes.  I’ve tried to replicate the light and airy tone of  the Too Fat Lardies’ other Sharp Practice scenarios … hopefully I’ve succeeded. 

Please bear in mind I am no historian, only a gamer.  So, yes, there probably are historical inaccuracies and liberties taken.  But for me, its all just a game!

So, please, go to the Lard Island blog, download the PDF,  and enjoy!