Issue: 27
System: Hordes of the Things
Publisher: Wargames Research Group

The Battle of Maungaiti
by David F Stuckey

Introduction

Further to my rather limited list of possible Hordes of the Things forces for the Pacific in Ragnarok 13, I got together with a couple of gaming friends and we created a gaming scenario for New Zealand HOTT forces, which is herewith presented. Thanks to Malcolm and Ross for this, although they had wanted to be kept anonymous as their club is just a little wary of the Fantasy genre...

Background

One of the great rivers of New Zealand is the Wanganui, a river which starts on the northern slope of the volcanic Mount Ruapehu, curves west to Taumarunui and then turns south to travel to the sea at the city of Wanganui. This river, though not the longest in the country, is the longest navigable river with over 140 kilometres passable by boats from the mouth to Taumarunui. In the time of the Maori, the five tribes along the river formed a trading network that allowed them to share the varied resources of the North Island - When the raiders from the western province of Taranaki weren't pirating the waters and attacking the Maraes (Villages) and Pas (Fortified villages) up and down the river. One large river that feeds into the Wanganui as it passes though spectacular gorge regions lined with bush is the Manganui-o-te-Ao river, itself a scenic and passable waterway, but in the geologic past, another river flowed into the Wanganui at a point below this, which was destroyed by the uplift of the volcano of Taranaki. For our purposes, this river will persist into the time of the Maori at least.

The rivers of New Zealand were in legend the home of the Taniwha, reptilian creatures with the habits of dragons or wyverns that often jealously guarded the areas of river where they settled. Although no Tohunga (Shaman) really succeeded in controlling one, we will assume that the ones involved are immature Taniwha and easily lead.

Now we are ready to form a battle, typical of this part of the world, with suitable actions for a HOTT simulation.

Scenario

Overlooking the junction of the Maungaiti and the Wanganui is the Pa of the tribe of Te Totaraaroha, a powerful chief of this area. For two days reports have come to his ears of the approach of a Taranaki warrior, Kererupuku, and his raiders having the assistance of Te Hapa, a powerful but deranged Tohunga, and a Taniwha of some size. Several of the tribal elders have suggested that the tribe abandon the Pa and move inland but Te Totaraaroha is determined that a stand will be made at this site, and that the warriors of the tribe must smash Kererupuku and his force here, before more suffering and destruction can occur. To this purpose, a Tohunga called Nga Poruporu has agreed to assist, but has doubts that he can control any local Taniwha. Nevertheless, he has powerful magic ready and the Warriors will sell their lives dearly.

Meanwhile the raiding party of Kererupuku is approaching, aware that if a stand is going to be taken, it will have to be at the river junction. He has therefore split his group into two parts: Half the force will attack via canoe, with Taniwha support, while the rest flank the Pa on the land.

Terrain

See the map. The stronghold of Te Totaraaroha is a typical Pa of the Pre-European times, consisting of a central keep of wood and woven branches, with three defensive palisades of stakes driven into the ground and lashed together, with a break every two to four yards to allow the passage of a man. Each of these walls is on a berm or built-up length of earth-work, giving an excellent defensive position.

The river bank on the Pa side is a sheer wall of clay-like mudstone, almost im-passable without ladders dropped from above. There is a jetty with steps cut into the face of the bluff, but this will probably be well defended if the men can be spared from any battle action. The bush is passable only to open order troops moving at half walking pace: It is however the easiest approach to the north side of the Pa.

All the river here on the board is deep and allows Taniwha to travel sub-merged. Also, the canoes can travel at a good speed in both directions, as the currents are not strong, although there is a slight whirlpool at the junction between the rivers. A floating object will move down-stream at about 10 paces per turn and a swimming man will move upstream at about 6 paces per turn less than normal (say 15 paces per turn) while any object in the water will be drawn to the whirlpool at about 4 paces per turn if within 25 paces of the marked centre.

Te Totaraaroha's Warriors:

Te Totaraaroha Hero General 4AP
Nga Poruporu Magician 4AP
Two Mere-armed groups of Warriors Blades 4AP
One Group of bird-sling users Shooters 2AP
Two Groups Elite warriors Warband 4AP
Six Groups armed tribesmen Hordes 6AP
Total: 24 AP

Nga Poruporu's Spells:

Kererupuku's Raiders:

Kererupuku Hero General 4AP
Te Hapa Magician 4AP
Pukutomo, the Taniwha Behemoth 4AP
One group Elite warriors Warband 2AP
One group Mere-armed warriors Blades 2AP
Eight groups armed tribesmen Hordes 8AP
Total: 24AP

Te Hapa's Spells:

Results of the Battle

We played this game three times, using the same set up each time, with the deployments as shown on the map. In the first game, the Taniwha charged into the Pa, killing the Slingers and driving the warriors out into a trench prepared by Nga Poruporu after the Slingers had killed one stand of tribesmen. Fortunately, the Taniwha broke the mystical bond from Te Hapa and was brought under the control of Nga Poruporu and sent to harass the canoe-borne troops as they disembarked at the jetty. As the land borne unit of Kererupuku's forces, lead by the man himself, fell against the entrenched forces, a bloody hand to hand battle ensured, finally ending as the Taniwha, having pushed back the raiders in the river, turned upon Nga Poruporu and panicked the rest of Te Totaraaroha's forces, who retreated in some disarray.

In the second test, Nga Poruporu sent a Wave at the raiders of strength 11, almost shoving them off the board. The Slingers gave excellent fire support to the Elite warriors and Mere troops as they closed with the land-borne raiders, who split and regrouped to the east of the Pa with few losses.

The Taniwha deserted the river forces, leaving Te Hapa and the raiders with him to face a group of warriors on the jetty - which they duly attacked and were repulsed by with three stands lost. The canoes were then beached at the sandy area to the north and they proceeded inland. Kererupuku, befitting his Mana (prestige) slew a stand of tribesmen personally and his command surged against the first palisade, as Te Totaraaroha's troops retreated at a good pace. Casting Mist, Nga Poruporu turned his attention to the digging of a trench between the walls; By the time Te Hapa lifted the mist, a trench within the walls had all but isolated the entire Pa!

Under constant harassment by the Shooters, the raiders lost a Warband in the attempt to enter the Pa via the south but, when met by the remaining forces, scattered to the bush after one turn.

The third attempt was quite spectacular. Once again, the Wave spell from Nga Poruporu drove the canoes back and while only scoring 10, capsized two of the four canoes, leading to Te Hapa losing control of the Taniwha. Although it wandered away, he brought it back under control, as the land forces stormed the north wall of the Pa. The Slingers, who hadn't hit anything up to now, suddenly scored a kill on one stand of Warband, allowing Te Totaraaroha's warriors to push them back to the bush line and the water's edge. Meanwhile the canoeists stormed the jetty behind the Taniwha who suddenly, under a hail of stones, turned on Te Hapa and ate him! Unable to control the Taniwha, Nga Poru-poru let him wander away while the remaining raiders took to their can-oes from the riverside to travel back to Taranaki, the taunts of the Pa's defenders ringing sourly in their ears.

Alternative Suggestions

There are other possibilities in this scenario and area. The Taniwha could be replaced by troops to make a more conventional scenario or, if you wish, the local wild Taniwha could turn up and fight the newcomer.

If we move time forward, a troop of Colonial militia could arrive to keep the peace, and the forces could have one unit of shooters with muskets each. Alternatively, any other HOTT force could be pitted against the Pa and its defenders in any other kind of battle you can imagine.

In any event, do try it out sometime, it might be useful to haul some New Zealand Wars Historical gamer into the hobby.

Figure Availability

The figures used were some converted 15mm Zulus from Essex Miniatures, Unit 1 Shannon Centre, Shannon Square, Thames Estuary Estate, Canvey Island, Essex, S8 0PE. At present, there are only 25mm Maori being produced by Stratagem, 18 Lovers Lane, Newark, Notts., NG24 1HZ. For 6mm, Zulus could do, but I'm sure a few letters to Irregular could see them come up with something.

Ed Note: Hordes of the Things is a generic set of Fantasy wargames rules produced by the Wargames Research Group and was reviewed in Ragnarok 1. A second edition is now available and was reviewed in Ragnarok 43. HOTT has won the Best Fantasy Wargames Rules category in the SFSFW Awards five times out of seven! For further details regarding price and availability, send an SSAE to Wargames Research Group, The Keep, Le Marchant Barracks, London Road, Devizes, Wiltshire, SN10 2ER.

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