Te Kawau Strikes North

The following summary outlines a recent engagement between two Māori iwi (tribes) using DBA and my 15mm miniatures. Both armies are of course defined under list IV/12e.

Tension had been building for many years between the rival iwi the Ngāti Whātua and their northern neighbour the Ngā Puhi. In the summer finally tensions reached breaking point following a raid on a one of the hapū (sub tribe) of Ngāti Whātua. Te Kawau seeking utu (revenge) assembled a large taua (war party) of some 1200 toa (warriors) with which he would seek revenge on the Ngā Puhi. The advance north was initially uneventful. The majority of the taua moved north on foot but one hapū moved by sea in a number of waka taua and the double hulled waka hunua.

As the sun reached its highest point in the day Te Kawau ordered his warriors to deploy. Opposite him the rangatira (chief) Murupaenga had deployed the Ngā Puhi warriors. Constrained by a large wood on his left and a swamp on his right Murupaenga dispositions were both complex and deep. Te Kawau’s dispositions were less complex. His extreme left was marked by the 200 warriors at sea who were now poised to land. The majority however formed from near the sea, marked by an abandoned Ngā Puhi unfortified village, and stretched out towards the right. Te Kawau held back selected groups to act as reserves.

Now Te Kawau, tall and cutting a striking figure in his parrot feathered clock, stepped forward and in a loud voice chanted his battle song. The opposing armies listened in profound silence to this bold and commanding oratory.

His warriors suitably motivated Te Kawau decided to act quickly. At the arranged signal the waka beached on his left, allowing their to disembark and from where they threatened the Ngā Puhi right. Elsewhere Te Kawau’s warriors advanced. Equipped with a range of weapons including the taiaha (long-handled fighting staff) and short weapons such as a patu (club) tucked into a belt, the advancing warriors cut a chilling site.

The first clash occurred on the Ngāti Whātua left where the recently landed warriors attacked with great boldness, despite being outnumbered. Te Kawau planned to pin the enemy in or near to the swamps where his enemy would be at a disadvantaged. Soon more Ngāti Whātua toa extended the line attempting to drive the enemy back at 45 degrees causing confusion in the Ngā Puhi ranks.

Above, the Ngāti Whātua warriors who have landed from their waka press their enemy, while below more Ngāti Whātua to advance to press the Ngā Puhi centre.

Increasingly the battle become general as further Ngāti Whātua warriors were committed. Below, the Ngāti Whātua centre and right. The stands with four figures per base represent a major chief and his bodyguard. They are still treated as 3Bd.

The fighting swirled back and forth with individual toa welding their longer taiaha or their patu to gain every advantage possible. Increasingly groups of warriors became isolated and were pushed back. In so doing the victors pressed forward exposing their own flanks.

Above, a view from the sea illustrating the confusing battle near the sea. On the left is a large swamp while on the right the abandoned village.

Despite initial success Ngāti Whātua casualties were mounting. Te Kawau undeterred pressed forward with his right. Again the fighting surged back and forth as one group gained an advantage. The enemy line began to crack and sensing victory a final push was launched in the centre.

Above, Te Kawau (centre and in the distance) has pressed forward and created a hole in the Ngā Puhi line which threatens to expose the Ngā Puhi rangatira Murupaenga (left).

Yet, it was Te Kawau who would be robbed of victory. His left, which you will recall has been fighting outnumbered for some time (above), was beginning to be overcome. Finally, it was overwhelmed. The courageous warriors of Ngāti Whātua were forced back, until they broke. As they broke all hope of utu was lost.

It has been a while since I’ve deployed my Māori on the table, and then usually using the later DBR rules. Many readers would expect a relatively linear battle given that each army comprises 12 stands of 3Bd. This is in fact not the case. Our battle swung back and forth continually in what can only be described as a very confusing engagement. The final result was a narrow 4-3 win to the Ngā Puhi iwi.

Gracchus, Flaccus & Maximus

Like much of the world here in New Zealand we are under a lockdown in an effort to control the spread of Covid-19. For many weeks now all wargaming, at least face to face, has been on hold. However, my son and I decided to attempt some virtual DBA games using Skype. In the ensuing weeks we have played around five games. In the end the majority of engagements comprised battles involving Rome, so these are presented here in something of a campaign, though at the time we had no such plan.

Frustrated by the ever growing restlessness of the Gallic peoples north of Rome the Senate determined to move against the Cisalpine tribes despite the ongoing threat Hannibal posed to Rome. The Consul Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus was dispatched and pressed north engaging a large Gallic army in the Spring of 215 BC.

Above and below the view of the engagement with the Gallic cavalry and chariots massed on the Gallic left.

Gracchus was particularly aggressive and exploited ruthlessly the gaps in the Gallic lines.

However, the Punic threat could not be ignored and in 212 BC Rome moved against the Carthaginians in the south. Having assembled a large army the Consul Quintus Fulvius Flaccus marched south.

The Carthaginians, commanded by Hanno the Younger, deployed along the coast their flank resting on an occupied Italian city. Reinforced with a number of pachyderms Hanno hoped to break up the Roman lines with these beasts. Soon a dramatic battle developed with the elephants repeatedly pressing the Roman centre.

Above and below the Carthaginians are engaged against the Romans.

However, Roman determination was unwavering and slowly the Roman infantry gained the advantage until finally the Punic veterans were overwhelmed. 

Yet before the Punic threat could be overcome events in the north required attention. Therefore in the Spring of 211 BC a new Consul, Gnaeus Fulvius Centumalus Maximus, marched north to confront the Gauls.

Maximus hoped the campaign would be short and therefore planned to suppress the tribal alliance before moving south again. However, the old Gallic commander undertook a series of complex manoeuvres and fell on the overextended Roman right.

Above, the move against the Roman right, while below the Gallic main effort seen from the Gallic right.

The Gallic attack against the Roman right had clearly surprised Maximus whose attack temporarily stalled. This now allowed the Gallic centre to decimated the Romans opposite and secure a clear Gallic victory. 

Yet undeterred Maximus reinforced his army and by autumn was prepared to again move on to the offensive. In due course the Gauls offered battle and again the Gallic commander attempted a series of complex manoeuvres.

However, this time his cunning only created a series of gaps in his own line which he was unable to plug.

Maximus struck with deadly determination, shattering the Gauls and handing them their worst defeat since Telmon.

In the course of three years the Consuls Gracchus, Flaccus & Maximus had inflicted three defeats on the enemies of Rome. Now Rome, emboldened with confidence, could focus on the final defeat of Hannibal…

DBA FAQ Update – January 2020

The team working on the the DBA Frequently Asked Question file have just released an update. This update provides three new entries. These include two clarifications around threat zones including how threat zones are impacted by cities and forts. Finally, the team provide clarification on rivers and how these impact combat and particular rear support. We trust that the FAQ continues to standardise playing conventions between players around the world.

The most up to date file, available as a PDF, can be found in the “DBA Resources” section of this site.

Adventures in Sumatra

The Sultan of Malacca had been engaged in intermittent war with the neighbouring Samudera Pasai Sultanate of Sumatra for many years. With a new campaigning season opening the Sultan of Malacca dispatched another army this time under Raja Ibrahim to further enforce his claim on the Sumatran coast. A sizeable army was gathered and then transported to Sumatra in a large fleet. 

The armies that would finally take the field after several weeks of campaigning along the coast were similar. Both consisted of a core of warriors which were supported by archers and skirmishing troops including many armed with blowpipes. Most importantly both armies fielded a number of elephants. The Sultan of Malacca however dispatched a large number of heavy siege guns and great determination these were dragged along the coast where they subjected a number of Sumatran towns to horrific bombardments. Lacking the resources of Malacca, and abhorring the slow and dangerous modern artillery arm in the field, the Sultan of Samudera had recruited a large body of light cavalry. In all each army now field some 100 elephants and 10,000 to 11,000 infantry along with artillery or cavalry.

Eventually the Sultan of Samudera offered battle and deployed his army near the northern coast. Deploying his army on an open plain he awaited the enemy. The Malaccans, under command of the young Raja Ibrahim eventually arrived on the field of battle only to find their deployment was constrained somewhat by a large wood on their right and a rocky hill on their left. Unperturbed Raja Ibrahim deployed with elephants and artillery in the centre and his infantry to each flank. Raja Ibrahim, perhaps due to his youth was confident his artillery would overwhelm and after a hearty lunch ordered his guns forward to engage the enemy. However, this was his first independent command and his mastery of the sometimes fickle elements of his army were not fully known to him.

Below, the view from the Sumatran lines.

Indeed, he was so focussed on his artillery arm that he failed to send our scouts, or observe the strength of the army opposite. Now to his surprise a large group of ships now arrived on his right and from these ships almost 3000 Sumatran warriors poured on to the beach. Worse, they now moved at great speed against the Malaccan right flank.

Simultaneously the Sultan of Samudera Pasai ordered forward his left flank and to the clash of gongs, horns and drums the elephants and infantry advanced to reinforce the attack on the Malaccan right. 

Above the Sumatran troops as they pour onto the beach while below, the Sultan moves forward against the Malaccan right supported with more infantry and pachyderms. The purple parasol marks the Sultans position.

Raja Ibrahim now was in almost panic as he struggled to realign his army. While his artillery belched fire at the advancing Sumatrans, causing a large number of Sumatran elephants to rout, his infantry and his own elephants moved to the left as best they could. Soon any superiority due to artillery was lost in the chaos.

The Sultan however maintained the pressure and pachyderms of both armies were engaged in to the fighting.

Above and below the clash on the Malaccan right flank. The Sultan engages the at the head of 50 elephants (purple parasol) while Raja Ibrahim (blue parasol) commanding 100 elephants counters.

Below, another view of the battle on the left, this time showing with more clarity the infantry struggle in the steaming and dense jungle.

The elephants, being fickle at best, were easily unsettled and in the ensuring engagements Malaccan elephants routed three times. Each time they fled from the advancing Sumatran elephants they risked destroying their own formations. The youthful Raja Ibrahim was learning another valuable lesson in the art of war!

Above the Sultan, having caused half of the Malaccan elephants to flee, engages another group under Raja Ibrahim (blue parasol). These in turn fled only to be engaged in combat with Sumatran skirmishers armed with blowpipes.

Some of the Malaccan elephants were rallied and thrown back in when the beasts had been calmed. However, the Sultan kept up a determined pressure and led his pachyderms ever deeper into the enemy lines. Soon his 50 elephants had broken a large body of Malaccan archers then turned and pressed their attacks on the flank of the enemy artillery.

Below, the Sultan engages the Malaccan artillery by falling on their flank. He is supported valiant Sumatran infantry.

No quarter was given and in the ensuing bloody combat gunners and artillery were trampled mercilessly. No more would these guns belch smoke and iron at his fortresses along the coast, no more would they fire at the elephants and warriors of Sumatra.

In disbelief Raja Ibrahim fled as his army broke in rout. How could the once proud expedition be so soundly beaten? How would Malacca recover from such a tragic blow? But playing on his mind the most was what fate would await him on his return to Malacca?