DBA for the New Zealand Wars

I wrote variant of DBA in Jun 1996 to refight the battles of the New Zealand Wars (1840-1872). They do not cover skirmishes They are based on DBA and were influenced by the article by Ed White on DBA and the Seven Years War (WI65) and Clive Clapson’s article on the Maori Wars (WI63). As in Ed’s article there are two assumptions:

  1. The first round of close combat also includes short range small-arms and artillery fire.
  2. Troops potency depended on their ability to deliver close range volleys or cold steel.

My mechanism for achieving this differs slightly from Ed’s.

Troop Definitions

Unless explicitly stated, the troop types below use the movement, combat and tactical factors of their ancient equivalents in DBA. As there were few cavalry, combat factors are only given for close and distance combat. The troop types relevant to the Maori Wars are:

Maori (Auxilia).

Tribal warriors fighting in loose formation with shotgun, musket and melee weapons. +3 Close, +4 Distance.

Regulars (Spear)

Foot from the Imperial Military establishment. Includes the British Infantry Regiments and Royal Naval Brigades. +4 Close, +4 Distance.

Militia (Spear)

Part-time local equivalents of the Regulars. +3 Close, +4 Distance.

Settlers (Spear)

Raw local equivalents of the Regulars. Includes both Volunteers acting as Pioneers, and armed Settlers. +2 Close, +4 Distance.

Rangers (Auxilia)

Loose formation troops intended to fight in the bush. Includes both Armed Constabulary on foot, and the Special Volunteer units such as the Forest Rangers; Taranaki Rifle Volunteers; Taranaki Bush Rangers; and the Wanganui Rifle Volunteers. +3 Close, +4 Distance.

Camp followers (Camp followers)

Logistical support and unarmed civilians. +1 Close, +3 Distance. Can’t shoot.

Troopers (Knight)

Mounted troopers, both European and Maori. Europeans include Volunteer Yeomanry, Colonial Defence Force Cavalry, mounted Armed Constabulary, and improvised mounted troops from the Imperial forces. On at least one occasion, mounted Maoris (under Hone Heke) charged and routed Colonial foot. +3 Close, +3 Distance. Can’t shoot.

Artillery (Artillery)

Cannon and mortars of any calibre and type. Groups of Congreve rockets are assumed to have the same effect as a single cannon. +5 Close, +5 Distance.

Ship (Artillery)

Each element represents one or more vessels equiped with cannon, plus associated transport vessels. Is based as, and fights as, two artillery elements.

Fortifications (Camp)

Simple fortifications include palisades, trenches, rifle pits, and fortified houses. Modern pa had all of these, plus bomb shelters. The inside of a Modern pa is bad going.

Tactical Moves

A group move to contact fortifications must be in a single element wide column.

Ships are restricted to movement on water, up to 200p a bound. Each ship element can carry any number of land elements. These do not add to the combat ability of the ship element. If stationary within 50p of land, one land element can be embarked, or one disembarked, each bound. This is assumed to be via boats.

Distance Shooting

Camp followers and Troopers cannot shoot. Artillery has a extreme range of 1000p, and a short range of 200p. An element directly behind an artillery target must also dice as a target. Other foot have a range of 200p.

In general troops who can shoot, must shoot. Regulars, Maori and Rangers can reserve fire to allow a volley at close range. Only these troops had the required discipline. Elements which reserve fire can not shoot until their next bound. Instead they get a tactical advantage if they start a melee before then. It takes a PIP to make all eligible elements in a group reserve fire. An element cannot reserve fire if it shot or fought in close combat in its own last bound, or the intervening enemy bound.

Combat Modifiers

Maori defending fortifications including bomb shelters are impervious to artillery fire.

Extra combat factors:

+3 Any foot defending a Maori battle pa.

+2 Any foot defending other fortifications.

+2 Frontally contacting or contacted while reserving fire, unless attacking fortifications.

+1 Foot shot at in bad going (including Maori battle pa).

+1 Maori, Regulars, Rangers, or Militia, in close combat and supported from behind by two other such elements, provided no rank is in bad going. A Settler element (pioneers) can substitute for one of the rear ranks if attacking fortifications.

+1 Shot by Artillery beyond short range.

Combat Outcomes

Troop Type If total is less than, but more than half: 
Troopers Destroyed if in bad going. If not, recoil.
Artillery Destroyed if in contact. If not, recoil.
Camp followers Destroyed if in contact. If not, flee.
Maori Destroyed by Troopers if in good going. Flee from others in contact. If not, recoil.
Other foot Destroyed by Troopers if in good going. If not, recoil.
Troop Type If total is half or less than: 
All Destroyed

A fleeing move is 50p more than the tactical move. Elements, except those defending fortifications, whose enemy recoil, flee or are destroyed must pursue.


The number of men involved in the NZ Wars was much smaller than those suggested by the DBA figure scale. The figure scales given below assume formations 2 ranks deep. Choose figure and ground scales which suit the particular war you are refighting. Usually European armies will have 12 elements, and the Maori less.

War Paces / Inch Inches / 50 paces Men / Element Guns / Element
Waikato 50 1 64-128 1-6
Northern 33 32-64 1-3
Taranaki 25 2 16-32 1-2
20 10-20 1
12½ 4 4-8 1
10 5 3-5 1



The usual Maori objective was to inflict financial, political, and military losses on the Europeans, while conserving their own resources; they were not trying to drive the Europeans out. Typically the Maori’s built a Modern pa in position which diffult (but not impossible) to access, then basically invited the Europeans to take it. This forced the Europeans to raise an army and try to take the pa as fast as possible. Failing to take a pa quickly would result in unacceptable financial and political stresses for the European Government. Essentially the Maori tactic set up a catch 22 situation for the European authorities. Given the time and expense of getting a European force to the pa, the European commander was always under considerable political pressure to resolve the issue as quickly as possible; this, plus the general (over) confidence in the superiority of the European soldiers, is why assaulting pas was such a common tactic.


1. Getting there.

2. Periods of inactivity.

3. Softening by artillery, if any.

4. Assaults.

1. Getting there

Once the Maori had built a Modern pa, it usually took the Europeans a while to get there. This was for two reasons:

1. Troops and supplies had to be gathered, often from Australia.

2. The army had to get to the pa, which were always situated away from settled Maori populations, hence difficult to access.

2. Periods of inactivity

?? TODO ?? Finish it

3. Softening by artillery, if any.

4. Assaults.


Maori in pa either up or down. If down they are impervious to shooting.

Artillery mainly used to destroy fortifications. Relatively ineffective against Maori troops. Although Maori used it to effect against assaulting British.


?? TODO ?? Find proper references for

  • Ed White on DBA and the Seven Years War (WI65)
  • Clive Clapson’s article on the Maori Wars (WI63)

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