Friday, 16 August 2013

Muskets & Tomahawks for the New Zealand Wars

Ok, I admit it. I am a rules snob. There, said it. That was difficult for me to admit but it is true, I am.

(Also, I have blatantly taken some pics of some very cool figures from the Dressing the Lines blog site of good ol' Roly...mainly because not enough of my collection is ready yet! Thanks Roly :) )

This has caused me no small degree of trouble over the years, so many rule sets read or even bought, only to find I hated them and often for reasons I could not pin down. Plenty of times I would take part in somebody else's game and came to hate those rules too...which was cheaper I suppose. Rapid Fire, Kaiser Bosch, Shako (and Shako 2)...the list goes on. It is annoying, it wastes so much time if nothing else. It has made my fondness of Maori Wars gaming nigh on impossible to get to the table...until now....I hope.

I liked the simplicity of the mechanics of Muskets & Tomahawks as soon as I came across it, the game allowed far more complexity but the essence was for straight forward combat. The game is card driven but each card gives the indicated units a number of options, allowing them two 'activations' to perhaps shoot and reload. It is intended for games set during the French Indian wars of the eighteenth century, even the later AWI, periods with native forces, light scout/ranger units and European infantry in linear formations. The terrain is forest, plain and scrub, remote get the idea. The nineteenth century series of conflicts in the then recently settled New Zealand are an excellent match, a great alternative period and theatre; the weaponry used is good match too...just add the odd shotgun to consider. I will need to draw up weapon stats for shot guns with lower ranges but higher impact. The rules have a rule for weapons that can only be fired once in a game turn (the use of all cards in the deck equals one game turn), this rule could be ideal for shot guns but I would also give them a little something extra when used in melee if still loaded.

Pic taken from Roly's site using Roly's great looking game I am sure you will agree.

The rules have a series of troop type stats and it is a reasonably straight forward job to transpose those onto the troop types fighting in New Zealand. Few lessons had been learnt from the eighteenth century and the troop issues continued in the wars against the Maori; there are a couple of minor exceptions for the stats....isn't there always? The British army was supported by parties from the Royal Navy for example, there are certainly no stats for those so I need to look through the stats for an approximation. They are not regular line troops like the infantry, yet nor are they militia. There is a stat for provincial troops, rangers and so on and to some degree the naval troops could arguably use those; yet they are not fleet footed rangers with a knowledge of the terrain and Indian fighting....isn't this fun? There is a stat for 'Torries', provincial troops from the AWI period that acted as simple line infantry. In these rules they do not get to act like line infantry with special 'firing line' bonuses but are more fluid; considered as auxiliaries they may be given orders by regular army officers as well as their is the answer then.

Roly's Very cool looking Provincial troops, note some use of British equipment here and there.

What passed for a New Zealand government in the 1840's did raise some troops of their own, a provincial force that were far more like the rangers of previous times and theatres. They were said to be more effective than the British Imperial troops when fighting the Maori in their own back yard, it seems the rule book Ranger stats will work well for these. of course, the Maori will be well catered for by the rule book's stats for the American Indians.

Roly's Maori break from the fern filled tree line.

So, forces. The rule book suggests a point system for games based around 200, 400 and 600 points, the top figure providing a longer game and needing a 6 x 4 table rather than a 4 x 4 for the other games. My intention is to have three units of ten infantry figures for the British regulars, forming a small company, along with a few officer figures. There will be a couple of six or eight figure ranger units with their own officer and, a must given the nature of the early Maori wars, some local militia and civilians. This force so far is very specific to a scenario but will be easy to tweek as needed. It will come out at under something 600 hundred points but there will be more than enough to play a few games through to allow me to work out what else I can do.


  1. I can see it has potential, but it has not bitten me as a wargames period I would choose. Which is Ideal as we all want something different and diversity of the hobby is a wonderful thing. I look forward to seeing you get this into action.

  2. Hi Clint,

    I think the term potential is correct. It will take some work but there are so many possabilities. It is a bit like Napoleonics, everyone does Waterloo and forgets about America etc. The early colonial period has some great options....although the trees and plants are bloody expensive!

  3. Very interesting posting! Particularly because I (as you know) share your interest in this period.

    Rules-wise, I've tried 'Sharp Practice' for the one game I've had. But the rules you mention seem quite good for the period too. I'll be interested how they work out for you.

    Naval troops, particularly in the latter period of the wars that is not (yet?!) covered by Empress, could almost be regarded as the shock troops. I always found this intriguing, because surely the army are better trained for land warfare, whereas the sailors (one would've thought) would be fishes out of water, as it were? Maybe it was that the close-quarter bush fighting was more similar to the hurly-burly of naval boarding actions than to the regular tactics of the army.

    Finally, for your bushes and trees, don't get too hooked up on having to only get the special types for New Zealand. Much of the growth here was similar to any other types of trees around the world, anyway. So just use your usual forests, throw in some palms, and if you do get just a few model railway ferns, they will add a touch of Kiwiana.

  4. Hi Roly,

    I have high hopes for the rules, I will post a better description and how I see them working next time.

    I agree with you about the naval parties. I think they were also more used to irregular warfare, much like the provincial troops. The British infantry were far more formal and their training still based upon the Napoleonic model; one of the downsides of Wellingtons continued involvement and thinking his Napoleon crushing force was perfect...even this late. Too few reforms and no new thinking. I think standing in front of them at sixty yards was still a bloody stupid thing to do though!

    Thanks for the thoughts on the trees, I shall take that on board...and save some cash too! That said, I do like a touch of Kiwiana!!!