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.’’