Saturday, March 28, 2020

Explosive Project (3 - incl The New Zealand Wars)

It was whilst writing up the last couple of postings, and thinking about this one, that the thought occurred to me to draw up a rough schematic of where the original RED vs BLUE 'Little Wars' eventually led. Not all of what is shown here is contemporaneous with the third quarter of the 19th century, when the conflicts between Azuria and Ruberia are meant to take place.

The affairs of Harad and Tchagai happen a century later, as does the bickering among the Latin States on the other side of the Hypermetric Ocean. Gatonegro fights for its independence from Reina de Oro in the first half of the 19th Century, and the wars between Austereia and Severeia two centuries before even that. But it's the same world, even though not all of it has been realised in armies built and campaigns fought. Not all the projects are mine, although I am or have been one way or another associated with them. I have ... sort of ... expropriated the famous Madasahatta island, renamed Madasagascar.

Oronegro is the brainchild of Gowan Ditchburn, one of his blogs being devoted to it (see here). The Harad (linked here)  project was created by 'Evil Uncle Brian', to which Tchagai was added when I finally succumbed to Brian's invitation (bordering on wheedling) to join it. Tchagai has been the scene of my recent (and as yet unfinished) 'Long Live the Revolution' campaign set in the mid-to-late 1940s. The narrative so far may be seen from here...(link).  The core idea for the 'Benighted Continent (Aithiops)' campaign belongs to 'Jacko' of 'Painting Little Soldiers'.

I was going to add a little more, here, about these campaign projects, but...

...I received by way of response to the first of these 'Exploding Project' postings some very interesting remarks by one 'Roughneck', a fellow Kiwi who expressed interest in developing a project based upon the New Zealand wars. It's a good thing I check out the 'for moderation' archive from time to time, else I would have missed it. Now, we both agreed that a rather high proportion of the battles involved attacks, usually unsuccessful, against fortified places. Here's what he had to say.

Hi Archduke
Long time follower of your blog. As a fellow Kiwi I also have a particular interest in our own New Zealand Wars but like Steve have yet to find a ruleset that really suits the conflict. As Ive gotten older I have found myself drawn to less complex games and have become quite a fan of The Portable Wargame rules. Given the varied nature of the New Zealand Wars I actually think TPW might just do the trick. I feel that to really capture the flavour of the whole conflict it probably needs to be played as a series of campaigns rather than just one off battles. Using TPW as a starting point The Flagstaff War could be played as a point to point campaign culminating in Ruapekepeka, the Waikato and Tauranga campaigns could be simple ladder campaigns as could Titokowarus War. The spread of Pai Mairie could be treated as an area control campaign whilst the hunt for Te Kooti could be a set of linked skirmishes dependent upon supply and hidden movement. As for the actual rules themselves obviously some tweaking would be required but nothing too onerus. I agree that attacking a pa might make for an uninteresting game but placed within the broader context of a campaign with variable victory conditions for each side I think it has the makings of something more enjoyable. After reading Soldiers Scouts and Spies I also see an element of military intelligence being incorporated into the game perhaps in the game set up or deployment phase with the Btitish player having variable limited knowledge of the enemy based on local intel and the Maori player having certain intel advantages to begin with e.g. hidden units or units on blinds perhaps. I'd be interested in your thoughts. regards Roger

What Roger had to say was pretty much on the money, I thought, in his view that the New Zealand wars would be better fought as a series of campaigns. There were battles, sure, but those that did not involve attacks upon fortified places were most often a matter of ambushes, subterfuges, and downright sneakiness. At that Maori proved far more adept than the Imperial military, or the colony's leadership. Given larger numbers and advantages in equipment, no doubt the colonial government figured to make up in brute force what they lacked in subtlety.

Suppose one were to campaign the war in South Taranaki, beginning mid-1868.
The genesis of the war had to do with settlers' encroachment upon Maori land recently 'confiscated' by the Colonial authorities, that threatened the livelihoods of the Maori themselves. Maori efforts, led by Titokowaru, to reach an acceptable compromise came to diddly-squat, whereat that leader reversed his pacific policy. Raid and counter-raid involving tens of soldiery and warriors, led to the encounter battle of Te Ngutu o Te Manu (The Beak of the Bird (?); it might mean 'the Mouth of the Holy Man'). This led to a defeat of the colonial forces so decisive that people began to doubt the permanence of European (pakeha) settlement in this part of the world.

What were the sizes of the forces involved? The European expedition comprised some 350 people,  mostly on foot, organised into 3 company-sized 'Divisions'. Maori had at the outset maybe 60 warriors, though it seemed that during the course of the battle, several more, attracted by the ruckus, joined in. The Europeans were chased several miles. Among their 50 casualties was the famous and popular Major Gustavus von Tempsky (or, as Maori are said to have called him, Manurau, which might be translated as 'one hundred birds', or 'many birds' ), killed during the fighting, close by the pa palisade. 

These are the sort of numbers one might expect in New Zealand's battles, tens, maybe a few hundreds. Although there might be thousands of imperial or colonial soldiers available in a given campaign (The Waikato, 1863), not all will be involved in a given battle.

For such a campaign I'd probably be inclined towards 'armies' of individual figures at 1:1. If using one figure to represent more than one, I would suggest 1:8 as the maximum. Of course, a 600-strong force would be represented by 75 figures at that scale, but we're talking there of an unusually large action by New Zealand standards. At the time Titokowaru was building the Tauranga-ika pa, he had maybe 400 warrior followers. Col. Whitmore went after him with perhaps 800 armed constabulary and 200 kupapa - Maori allies - along with a couple of Armstrong rifled cannon and as many Coehorn mortars. Pretty big forces by New Zealand War standards.  

It is probably just as well Titokowaru's campaign petered out in the full tide of (apparent) success, as Col. Whitmore (rightly, in my view) regarded as the fortifications beyond carrying by his force, even at 5 to 2 odds. Historian James Belich is inclined to portray what he calls the 'modern pa system' as something perhaps beyond the ken of European military expertise. Even if my comment overstates his thesis, methinks he at least equally overplays his argument. The star fort at Tauranga-ika, and its external and internal features, would have been instantly recognisable to a student of Vauban, I believe. 

Yet that to my mind goes much further to the credit of Maori ingenuity and adaptability in the face of overwhelming numbers. Similar situations yield similar solutions. The tutelage Maori got was not from mythical renegade Prussians (Belich is right about that), but from their opponents' approach to warfare, the accident of traditional pa design (buildings and dwellings half sunk into the ground), and their own ingenuity in adapting to the circumstances of firearms and cannon.

So a 'linear campaign' of Titokowaru's war might involve
1.  Surprise raid on a small redoubt (Turuturu-Mokai).  Maybe 60 Maori vs 25 Pakeha.
2.  Colonist's counter-raid on a Maori village.
3.  Attack on Nga Ruahine stronghold (Te Ngutu o te Manu)
4.  Motoroa - Titokowaru's  'strategic offensive/ tactical defensive' campaign - first episode.
     Maori build a pa in a threatening position - a common Maori practice - to invite Colonists to               attack.
5.  Tauranga-ika - second episode (A 'what if' action.  This was no mere star fort, having within it             internal defensive features, that would somehow have to be incorporated in the action).
6.  (What if) Attack on Wanganui (Whanganui) settlement. Possibly could include a Waikato Kingite       contingent on the side of Titokowaru.
7.  If Maori forced to retreat, a bush rearguard action (Waitotara River).

At Tauranga-ika, you could probably play out the action (which never happened) with, say, 100 European Constabulary figures reinforced by 25 Whanganui kupapa allies, against, say, 50 Ngati Ruahine warrior figures defending the fort. The Europeans would be backed with a rifled cannon and a siege mortar.

Why the Maori campaign in South Taranaki was so suddenly abandoned is something of a mystery. The usual explanation is that Titokowaru himself - a tohunga holy man - lost his mana tapu through an affair with another chief's wife. No one would follow one who had debased himself in such a way, or had abused a trust.

I would have liked to have been able to read more of Bob Cordery's campaign design for colonial wars from his forthcoming book. But from what I've seen so far, it seems it would be just the thing for the New Zealand's wars, especially, as Roger indicated, the pursuit of Te Kooti ('Teh Kawtee', for a reasonable approximation of how his name should be pronounced).

Incidentally, I am inclined to think that for Maori, the 'European wars' were really a resumption of the 'Musket Wars', which had been, practically speaking, entirely a Maori affair during the 1820s through to the 1840s. In almost every one of the conflicts between Maori and Pakeha,  the latter had Maori allies and supporters. When Colonel Whitmore interrupted his hunt for Te Kooti to face the threat of Titokowaru, a column of Maori opposed to Te Kooti carried on the pursuit.  Note that there was not even a hint of cooperation between Te Kooti and Titokowaru; theirs were entirely separate campaigns. At that, although the former began earlier and lasted longer, it is clear that Titokowaru was seen at the time as the greater threat to colonial security.

For all the anti-colonialism you hear these days, Maori at the time had no objection to European settlement as such, even welcomed it. I rather think Maori took to European ways.  In 1860, even before the conflict over the Waitara Purchase, one enterprising Maori entrepreneur was running a ferry service across the North Taranaki Bight between New Plymouth and Kawhia on the Waikato coast. Another had built and was operating a water mill some miles outside the New Plymouth town precincts.

But Maori got rather more than they bargained for from Pakeha settlement. Even before 1860 the overall European population in New Zealand exceeded the Maori, though most were in the South Island. By 1870 the major conflicts were over. Only Te Kooti remained at large, effectively a fugitive, the pursuit being carried out mostly by Maori.  


  1. Archduke, you may find these interesting from my blog
    Andy Callan Maori Wars rules
    And the Maori Kaiser 1916/7 as a WW1 era skirmish
    As well as the UTU film.

    1. Thanks for your comment and links, Mark. I have, of course, seen the 'Utu' movie ('Utu' is often thought of as 'vengeance', but I'm inclined to think 'requital' is a better translation). Incidentally, Te Wheke appears to be translatable as 'The Octopus', or perhaps, one who is enraged.

      I don't know Te Reo Maori, but I'm beginning to think is one that likes to layer meanings.

      As it happens, your comment serves as a reminder: I'm pretty sure I have a copy of that magazine in which Mr Callan's article appears. I'm bound to say, though, that as Maori military architecture goes, Mr Callan's pictures scarcely do the subject justice. In my article I didn't mention Vauban lightly!


    2. Hi again -

      I looked up Andy Callan's article, and see where he's coming from. Incidentally he refers to a pair of articles by Ian Knight from Mil Mod 1980 April (sic, actually October) and November, under the title 'Fire in the Fern'. An OK broad brush depiction, though it should be pointed out that Titokowaru's Taurangaika 'kraal' (sic) was never stormed, but simply abandoned without a fight as the Maori cause collapsed.

      By the way, if you even find a copy, I recommend a trilogy by a New Zealand writer Errol Brathwaite: 'The Flying Fish', 'The Needle's Eye' and 'The Evil Day', that deals with the North Taranaki, Waikato and South Taranaki wars in turn. Historically dubious in places (especially the otherwise exciting attack on Rangiaowhia, and with a hint of racism in the telling, yet very readable for all that.

      It was having read those books at school that I surprised the historian James Belich at a University history tutorial in which he was talking about his forthcoming book on the New Zealand wars, by discovering that I knew what he was talking about!


  2. Ian Dury very kindly sent me scans of those Fire in The Fern 1980 Mil Mod articles but I don't think I ever put them online. You can find him on the Continental Wars and Peter Laing MeWe sites (where we migrated from Google+)
    There is also the very fine Osprey book on the New Zealand Wars.

    1. Hi Mark -
      I have a copy of those magazines, too. It so happens I have every Mil Mod from when it 'merged' with 'Battle' Magazine to about the end of 1984, I think. I've not seen the Osprey book.

      Years ago I did some online research into the subject - especially into Maori field engineering and fighting methods - in behalf of a friend who, at the time, was developing some teaching resources into the topic. I'm dashed if I know what I did with the materials! I know I had plans for several well-known Maori pa, and I drew some silhouette figures of warriors and soldiers to be used for demonstration purposes.

  3. There are two Ospreys on the New Zealand Wars. One is on the wars themselves, and the other is on Maori fortifications. My review of the former is here:

    1. A VERY belated thanks, Roly. I missed your comment, not having revisited this posting until now! Thank's for the link. The Osprey number looks like a handy resource.