Wargaming the Battle for Puketutu Pa

Attempting to wargame the Battle for Puketutu Pa brings you face to face with the Challenges of Wargaming the New Zealand Wars. A small group of entrenched Maori bloodily repulses a large number of European attackers. How to make that possible? How to make that a good game?

The DBA (Bad) Example

When I started my New Zealand Wars project in the 1990s I was intending to use my DBA New Zealand Wars variant. At a ratio of approximately 30 men or 1-2 guns to an element that would give the following orders of battle.

DBA Orders of Battle for Puketutu Pa

  • European army
    • 6 Regulars (Battalion companies of 58th)
    • 4 (Elite) Regulars (light companies of 58th and 96th)
    • 4 (Elite) Regulars (Naval Brigade)
    • 1 Settler (Volunteer Pioneers)
    • 1 Artillery
    • 10 Maori
  • Maori army
    • 11 Maori

Using those orders of battle in a standard DBA game would mean the Europeans attackers will swamp the defenders. It would need some special rules to balance it up – balance in the sense of givng both players the chance of winning. Two examples of special rules from my DBA New Zealand Wars variant are

  • the fairly obvious move of introducing Maori Fighting Pa onto the table with significant modifiers
  • the concept of reserved fire – the Maori had very good fire discipline

For Puketutu that might not be enough to balance up the game. I would now relook at how the pro-government Maori were involved in each battle. Although they assisted the European effort by skirmishing in small numbers they did not participate in the British assaults. That probably warrants ignoring the majority of the friendly Maori and, perhaps, just fielding a single skirmisher stand.

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