Land bat­tle fought in minia­ture


No blood was spilt nor any books over­turned when one of the colo­nial New Zealand Land Wars was played out in the Para­pa­raumu Li­brary last Satur­day.

Otai­hanga wargam­ing en­thu­si­ast Roly Her­mans recre­ated - in minia­ture on a ta­ble - the Bat­tle of Boul­cott’s Farm which took place in Lower Hutt in May 1846; one of the con­flicts be­tween Maori war­riors and Bri­tish sol­diers in the Welling­ton-Hutt War.

Satur­day was the Raa Mauma­hara Na­tional Day of Com­mem­o­ra­tion of the New Zealand Land Wars.

Put sim­ply, wargam­ing in­volved two or more play­ers mov­ing ar­mies across a ta­ble dec­o­rated with replica ter­rain and build­ings.

‘‘It re­quires real tac­tics; a bit like chess but any­where from dozens to thou­sands more pieces, and the use of dice and a rule book,’’ he said.

Her­mans, who works at the New Zealand Po­lice head­quar­ters in Welling­ton, first started wargam­ing as a teenager, but shelved the hobby for sev­eral decades to fo­cus on his ca­reer and rais­ing a fam­ily. Then, in his 50s and with more time on his hands, he got back into it.

‘‘I en­joy the fact that to present a wargame ac­cu­rately you need to do re­search. I’ve cer­tainly learnt a lot more about our coun­try’s his- tory from this hobby,’’ he said. ‘‘Some peo­ple say it’s glo­ri­fy­ing war, but it’s not - it’s sim­ply pre­sent­ing his­tory in an­other me­dia to read­ing a book or watch­ing a film such as Utu or River Queen.’’ How­ever, Her­mans also en­joyed the artis­tic side to the hobby. The wargam­ing fig­ures mea­sured just 28 mil­lime­tres tall and started out as plain sil­ver­coloured tin metal. Her­mans then un­der­coated and painted them, repli­cat­ing his­tor­i­cally-cor­rect im­ages from ref­er­ence books.

‘‘It is quite time con­sum­ing and peo­ple of­ten ask how long it takes to paint one, but I never paint just one at a time. I’ll do them in batches. But, for ex­am­ple, paint­ing all the red parts on the fig­ures could be a whole evening’s work. I ac­tu­ally find it re­lax­ing.

‘‘Repli­cat­ing the New Zealand bush was the hard­est part. I strive for ac­cu­racy, not only in the painted fig­ures but also in the ter­rain. For me the look of the wargame is ev­ery­thing.’’

In 2015, Her­mans was part of a team of nearly 100 wargamers who painted 5000 54mm-tall fig­ures for the Chunuk Bair dio­rama at Sir Peter Jack­son’s Great War Ex­hi­bi­tion at the Do­min­ion Mu­seum at Pukeahu Na­tional War Memo­rial Park in Welling­ton.

He helped or­gan­is­ers re­cruit the painters and then worked with Weta Work­shop to help cre­ate and dec­o­rate scenery for the dio­rama.

‘‘It was a huge job. I think we stripped every model rail­way shop in Welling­ton, as well as Peter Jack­son’s own col­lec­tion - him be­ing a model rail­way and mod­el­ling en­thu­si­ast him­self. This project would have been the high­light of my wargam­ing his­tory. It was amaz­ing.’’

Her­mans joked that his wife ‘‘tol­er­ates’’ his wargam­ing.

‘‘But, then again, I could have other time-con­sum­ing hob­bies, such as be­ing out all day on a golf course. And, although there is some cost in­volved, it’s not like do­ing up a vin­tage car.’’

Her­mans said that their four chil­dren never fol­lowed his wargam­ing in­ter­est ei­ther.

‘‘Maybe one day when I’m gone and they’ve ac­quired all my stuff, they’ll reckon they may as well give it a go.’’

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