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.

5 thoughts on “Te Kawau Strikes North

    1. Thanks Greg.

      I thought something a little more unusual warranted a few pictures and something of a description. The finer points of the engagement were hard to document as it was so confusing. Close inspection of the photos of the fighting on the left perhaps illustrates this.

    1. Thanks for your comment. It’s pleasing to hear people have found the report of interest.

      You will have read of the oratory of Te Kawau at the start of the report. I based that on a description by Pei Te Hurinui’s book “King Potatau – An Account of the Life of Potatau Te Wherowhero the First Māori King”. The chapter on the Battle of Hingakaka, the largest Inter-Iwi battle allegedly comprising over 10,000 warriors, involved a speech as I’ve attempted to describe. I thought the description rather unusual.

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