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"Australian Frontier Wars" Topic

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Happy Wanderer01 Jan 2018 2:05 a.m. PST


I'm kicking off 2018 with a new series of posts aimed at an under gamed period of colonial warfare – British colonial conflict on the Australian continent aka the Australian Frontier Wars.

This subject does not get much main stream press and has little available on it. My purpose is to provide a solid base for gamers to possibly look at this period in colonial history as a potential gaming topic (1788-1900 ish) and try something unique…or at least different from Zulus and Mahdists!

We shall look at some of the story behind the wars, the types of troops involved, engagements fought, figures to use and generally the war-gaming potential just like any other colonial conflict. It is from this perspective that the series of posts shall be focused – a gamer's perspective.

Sometime this topic can be ‘derailed' by shifting away from the conflict side of things and devolve into other realms of discussion. This is not the purpose of the this post nor the blog entires – so please, enjoy some new content and maybe even a fresh look at something that is not that well known about.


Happy Wanderer


Personal logo chicklewis Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2018 7:59 a.m. PST

Truly an interesting subject. I'm having Denisovans painted now,for this same purpose, but they won't look as well as your gorgeous native Australians !

I will be following with interest.

M C MonkeyDew01 Jan 2018 9:13 a.m. PST

Very good. thank you for posting and looking forward to further installments.


Cyrus the Great01 Jan 2018 10:43 a.m. PST

This should be fascinating reading. It's certainly a subject I know little about and your paint jobs are top notch!

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2018 11:41 a.m. PST

I too shall look forward to further installments.

So many wars. So little time and shelf space.

axabrax Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2018 12:09 p.m. PST

Should be interesting. Love your paint jobs on the aboriginals. Watch out for loudmouth thumpers trying to tell you that you aren't allowed to game it because they don't approve of the politics. Happened to me on another forum once…

Happy Wanderer02 Jan 2018 12:35 a.m. PST


Thanks for your kind/encouraging comments…that warpaint does look cool if I say so myself

Denisovans will do the job..they no doubt look familiar ;-)

I shall be posting related material for further investigation into the topic regards resources I've found useful and shall be providing background from some of the harder to find resources that not are easily obtained.

"@ loudmouth thumpers"
I've explained my position on that – 'nuff said…

…more to follow.

Happy W


mrinku02 Jan 2018 12:46 p.m. PST

Nice to see some attention to this.

Some of my forebears were involved in the Tasmanian Black War in the Coal River country, though details are sketchy.

Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2018 8:32 p.m. PST

Certainly, a "different" Colonial conflict. No reason not to do it but I'm curious to know what objectives you'll give the Indigenous people. As you know, of course, without modern weapons, huge numbers, any larger groupings etc the wars were overwhelmingly one sided. Really a set of massacres.

The Kalkadoon War was a rare but still limited exception:


BTW it surprises me more isn't made of this brave but futile stand in OZ.I doubt if that many people have heard of it.

Happy Wanderer03 Jan 2018 4:10 a.m. PST

"I'm curious to know what objectives you'll give the Indigenous people"

Aboriginals waged a typical resistance style of warfare against the enemies they opposed – their objectives were the same as any other warriors peoples colonised by outsiders.

Typically they conducted raids against settlements, attacks of all kinds against army, police and/or armed settler forces – just as did any other warriors peoples….they conducted raids and attacks across the country wherever white settlement encroached on their land.

They also specialised in economic warfare like few other aggrieved indigenous peoples, clearly understanding the implications of white settlement and the loss of land; burning crops, killing, hamstringing or stealing livestock, terrorising inhabitants, raids on dray convoys…pretty much any other type of warfare you can think of in 'skirmish game scenarios' were on the menu of objectives for aboriginal warriors. …just your typical insurrection type warfare really.

"As you know, of course, without modern weapons, huge numbers, any larger groupings etc the wars were overwhelmingly one sided. Really a set of massacres."

Not true. Many times aboriginal war parties outnumbered their enemy. All aboriginals were not massacred – many fought with great bravery from first settlement for decades thereafter…loss in battle or losses in battle, does not equate to massacres.

They often times defeated white intrusion into their lands, setting back settlement for many years in some regions. The battles of the Murray being particularly notable as were the attacks in the Tasmanian War and South East Queensland Black War. "Massacres' is an off used phrase best reserved for the less savoury aspects of colonisation – not defeat or battle given and sort by warriors, wether they win or not…

"BTW it surprises me more isn't made of this brave but futile stand in OZ.I doubt if that many people have heard of it."

Frankly, not too much is known about any of the aboriginal battles of resistance. Here's a nice link to 8 Australians you probably haven't heard of before…


Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2018 7:24 a.m. PST

Here's a nice link to 8 Australians you probably haven't heard of before…

Thanks for the link but I've studied the topic for quite a few years & have heard of these figures of the resistance.

You may find this article useful:

PDF link

I also think that "massacre" is the bon mot for the slaughter of non-combatants. This was perpetrated by both sides but of course overwhelmingly by the Colonial forces and their native auxiliaries.

Happy Wanderer03 Jan 2018 1:05 p.m. PST

" I've studied the topic for quite a few years & have heard of these figures of the resistance."

Good link Ochoin. No doubt you have heard of notables mentioned in the article if you've looked into the subject – 👌

The section in the link relevant to us from a military/gamers perspective is the info on frontier conflict. There is a lot of diverse opinion in there but a pretty good overall assessment and nicely touches on the subject as a whole.

The conflict described is quite descriptive of wars fought and actions engaged in.

"These included military campaigns, battles, guerilla raids, Native Police and white police actions, government-led punitive expeditions, ‘vigilante violence' or ‘hunting parties', and assorted skirmishes between Australia's Indigenous inhabitants, settler-Australians, and immigrants, and their allies on both sides."

As is stated, conflicts was widespread which shows just how much warfare there was….

"Conflict was widespread insofar as every colony experienced instances of combat and violence. Some examples were the Hawkesbury and Nepean wars (1790-1805), the Wiradjuri wars (1820s), the Kamilaroi wars (1830s), clashes on the northern rivers (1840s) (New South Wales); the frontier wars of Victoria's western districts (1840s); fatal fights between overlanders, settlers and Aborigines on the Murray River, the South-East, the Flinders Ranges and Eyre Peninsula (late 1830s to early 1850s) (South Australia); the ‘Black War' (1827-1830) (Tasmania); Aboriginal resistance around the Swan and Murray Rivers (1829-1834) (Western Australia); the MacIntyre River war (1840-1849), the ‘Mandandanji land war' (1842-1852), the Kalkadoon war (late 1870s-1883) (Queensland); and the unofficial war in the Northern Territory to establish cattle empires (1883-1894).

That sure is a lot of fighting…fertile ground from a wargamer/military perspective…and as you know, and is apparent, a lot of resistance warfare.



mrinku03 Jan 2018 1:07 p.m. PST

Any thoughts about rule sets that may suit? Firearms are basically Napoleonic era, but it needs tribal stuff, too. Possibly Death In The Dark Continent with the whites less well armed than usual?

Happy Wanderer03 Jan 2018 3:11 p.m. PST


In my next post I'm putting forward my ideas and suggestions on rules, but really any colonial set, whatever your preference, will get you there.

I have Death in the Dark continent in my stable of rules I use (as you can see from my blog previous posts) and I have got ideas around using those for AFW clashes. As DITDC is kind of a small battle system, they work quite well on a 1:1 scale…definately usable.


Happy Wanderer04 Jan 2018 2:55 a.m. PST


In this instalment we have a look at rules and figures and thoughts around such things related to Frontier War games.

The period lends itself to a number of ways to portray actions and players will usually find their favourite rule set able to be used without too much trouble.

Please pop over and have a squiz…


Happy W


mrinku05 Jan 2018 2:22 p.m. PST


I suspect Congo might suit my own tastes (which are small skirmish), but that's been on my own shopping list for a while.

Who sculpted those Denisovans? It almost looks like the Perrys' work.

Speaking of which, you could convert their plastic Sudanese to Aboriginals, and they have a pending release of plastic Zulus who might also be useful.

Edit: Looks like it was Alan Marsh, who did their Maori.

Happy Wanderer06 Jan 2018 3:45 a.m. PST

I'm going to take a close look at Congo in a later post that I think you should find useful.

The Denisovans are from Eureka miniatures being Alan Marsh sculpts (who also did the Eureka maori).

I think Alan has captured the classic 'look' of the aboriginal tribesman which few other figures have. They mix in well with any Perry figures really.

IMO no other figures properly show the unique features and posing that Alan has captured in his sculpts – they look distinctly aboriginal. It'd be great to have 4-6 more poses for this figure range.


mrinku06 Jan 2018 1:58 p.m. PST

I might do a proof-of-concept conversion from Perry plastics. Tasmanians would need a bit of converting anyway; you've got me gong now, dammmit!

Happy Wanderer07 Jan 2018 9:16 p.m. PST

In this post we take a look at some military (and general) history. The idea with this post is to provide structure around Frontier Wars engagements in a military context. This should enable you to get an idea of the conflict zones and possible areas of interest worth further investigation.

I've capped this chronology at 1831 and will follow up by pushing it up to 1855, which is my selected cut off date at this point for the period I'm looking at just at the moment.

As you can see from this year by year dot points there is alot of military activity. It is in no way complete nor mean't to be. It should prove a useful jump off point to dig deeper at specific topics that either interest you or suit your current miniatures collection.

Happy W

Happy Wanderer09 Jan 2018 8:55 p.m. PST


In this post I round out my chronological military ‘history' of Frontier Wars confrontation. Whilst putting this together it staggered me to see just how wide spread the levels of resistance was by tribes, clans and tribal coalitions vs army, police, armed settlers and civilians. Both sides really were locked in a desperate struggle.

Whilst perhaps not as dramatic in the sense of the 'lightening fast' campaigns of contemporary conflicts like the Indian Mutiny or New Zealand Wars the ‘drip-drip' insurrectional nature of guerrilla warfare in Australia really does define frontier conflict and in many ways best reflects our table top clashes when we play with 50-100 miniatures in a whole host of possible scenarios.

There is much to dig your teeth into here and as you can see the forces arrayed are (and can potentially be) quite diverse.

Whilst I know chronology posts aren't ‘sexy', I think it is important to lay out the historical nature of the conflict early on so as to give players a feel for the subject given how difficult it is to easily sequence in regions of confrontation in what was literally a century of warfare on a whole continent.

Next post we'll return to miniatures again so you'll have a bit more to look at…hope to see you then. Wink


Happy W


mrinku12 Jan 2018 10:07 p.m. PST

I'm currently reading Nicholas Clements' "The Black War" regarding the Tasmanian theatre. Very impressed so far. He provides a link to his thesis, which was the basis for the book, which includes an appendix listing every recorded incident. I've found quite a few that involved my Triffitt ancestors.

Happy Wanderer13 Jan 2018 6:24 p.m. PST


We've had a look at some background to get a feel for frontier conflict up to the mid half of the 19th century – lots going on.

Now a return to some miniatures! In this post I'm showing the conversions I did from the Eureka Denisovan range to create a diverse looking aboriginal war party out of less than 10 figures.

Naturally enough other conversions would be possible but the examples show how easily the Denisovan minis are able to be made into figures that look different enough too create an ‘in motion' warrior force.

Plenty of pics in this post so pop over ;-)


Happy W

@mrinku – Clements' book is excellent reading on war in Tasmania…you will enjoy.



mrinku14 Jan 2018 1:35 p.m. PST

Nice conversion article. Another useful set for conversion here are the "Bollock Naked Spearmen" set in Wargames Foundry's African range.

I'm particularly interested in using those for my Tasmanians, since nakedness was usual.

mrinku14 Jan 2018 4:13 p.m. PST
mrinku14 Jan 2018 5:20 p.m. PST

Hey, Happy Wanderer, will you be looking at the Bushranger aspect of all this at some point? They were in may ways a third faction (fourth, if you separate Colonists and Troopers).

And, is there any way I can help regarding Tasmanian research? We're very well served by online resources here, but I'm planning to wander down the Museum and reacquaint myself with the exhibits there.

Happy Wanderer14 Jan 2018 6:15 p.m. PST

Hi mrinku

Those Foundry spearman could be used. IMHO it's the accurate depiction of facial features and posing on the Eureka sculpts that capture the essence of the Australian native warrior…dealer's choice though…maybe an email to Eureka Miniatures requesting Tasmanian style aboriginal aka Denisovans tribesmen would be worth a thought. ;)

Bushrangers are not a focus of my theme at this point. That said, I have included them as a usable troop type in my Smooth & Rifled adaptation and as a faction in my Congo adaptation, called ‘Outback'.

So they are certainly usable and included in my proposed lists though I'm not specifically focusing on their escapades.

Regards help….

Absolutely! This thread is open to all who wish to contribute in the spirit of the thread as I outlined in my opening post….so yes, if you have local source pics or any info…please post.



Happy Wanderer16 Jan 2018 2:31 p.m. PST


In this post we follow up our look at using the Eureka Denisovan range of figures for our aboriginal tribal warriors.

Now we take a look at how to paint our warriors and get them on the table in quick time to boot. One of the neat things with doing these figures as I've mentioned in a previous post is that they cover the entire period of the frontier wars and will provide good service which ever period you choose to play…not to mention the pre contact period.

These figures paint up very quickly as this post shows so getting your our Koori clan together should not prove beyond the paint skills and effort of any committed or wavering TMPer.


Happy W


mrinku16 Jan 2018 3:34 p.m. PST

I've found that even at 28mm (let alone smaller scales) facial features are often a matter of perception. The same figure will often look fully European when painted with pink skin, fully African when painted with dark skin and fully Mediterranean when painted with olive skin.

Probably more relevant is the hair and clothing, and that is amenable to putty work. I have dropped the idea of converting a Perry Sudanese for the moment, though as the clothing will require major removal, thus my looking at the Bollock Naked guys. I'll be adding hair and beards plus skin cloaks to those ones and expect the result to be strikingly Tasmanian. Weapons are simple wooden spears and clubs (Waddys), so will be easy conversions.

Had hoped to get to the Hobart Museum this week, which has a good section on the original inhabitants, but that will probably have to wait until next week now. They have some stuff on their website, but if photos are allowed I should be able to get some useful images.

HW, those are exquisite models and terrain!

Henry Martini16 Jan 2018 10:23 p.m. PST

I have this strange feeling of deja vu… deja vu.

I've studied this subject in depth over a period of decades and posted about it here and on other fora extensively for many years, and even on a number of occasions had arrangements with figure manufactures lined up… only for them to mysteriously fall silent.

Anyone wanting to know more merely has to search using key words such as frontier conflict and Aborigine.

As I've said in the past on this forum and elsewhere, to truly reflect the unique characteristics of the subject you need to either start with a commercial set that is the best mechanical fit, or write your own rules… as I did back in the early noughties with 'Boomerang', which is intended to represent the larger fights involving hundreds of warriors (but much smaller colonial forces) using 15mm figures. For smaller engagements in 28mm Chris Peers' Old West rule set. 'The Law of the Gun', is currently the best option. I'm afraid the likes of Congo and DitDC simply won't cut it if you want to do more than play those games with different figures. DitDC is also scaled wrong: even where the Aboriginal force numbered in the hundreds the opposing colonial force usually consisted of a mere handful of men, so you'd have one unit on the colonial side, and even then you'd be greatly exaggerating the number of combatants.

There are specific low-level tactical features that need to be represented if you want to be able to accurately reflect the combat dynamics of this conflict, and frankly without doing so I can see no reason to bother with it.

Henry Martini17 Jan 2018 5:04 a.m. PST

While your enthusiasm is to be admired Happy, as long as this subject remains dependent on conversions for suitable figures it will be consigned to hobby obscurity and attract only a handful of adherents.

Sorry if this appears to be a cynical assessment, but it's based on my own long-running experience of trying to generate interest and enthusiasm for the subject, often in the face of vehemently irrational opposition from a minority. I can only wish you the best of luck in your endeavours.

mrinku17 Jan 2018 5:26 p.m. PST

Productive trip to TMAG this morning, got some good reference photos.

Henry, lack of people to play with hasn't stopped my projects in the past :) Point taken about DITDC's scale… it's not suitable for Tasmania at all. Not fully convinced that an Old West set of rules would suit too much either, since both sides have much earlier weapons; the Tasmanians are essentially fighting with sticks, the settlers with Brown Bess muskets.

It's a bizarre mutual guerrilla war for the most part – even the troopers were parcelled out in small packets of 8-10 men, often with no officer. Native raiding parties were on the order of up to 20 men.

Heck… I'm almost tempted to dust off the Mordheim or LOTR rules and adapt those.

Henry Martini17 Jan 2018 7:30 p.m. PST

Whatever rule set you use needs to incorporate certain essential mechanical features mrinku, such as visibility and firing arcs. To understand why see the comments on Happy's blog.

TLotG's weapons table does include the musket, but it's the core mechanics that qualify it rather than weapons covered, which in any game system are really just window-dressing and if not covered can always be house-ruled.

It's also flexible on the point of figure characterisation, which might not be so important for those who are only interested in playing the frontier. I have to admit that I chose it with the wider colonial Oz picture in mind so that I could have individually distinct bushrangers, police, leaders etc., while the much more numerous Aboriginal warriors would be less individualised.

Almond17 Jan 2018 8:11 p.m. PST

Happy Wanderer and I used Smooth and Rifled in our recent game set along Parramatta Road around 1816.

I thought it worked perfectly for this period.

Happy Wanderer17 Jan 2018 10:14 p.m. PST


For such a large period many approaches are possible. I know DiTDC seems like it might not be usable but in fact for some frontier conflict actions I think it is a remarkably good fit in many respects. It all comes back to the focus of play you are striving for…massed small battle actions or very low level skirmish actions…one rule set will generally not handle both these types of games that well…though many claim they do.

If you play DiTDC as essentially a 1:1 game system, which it can certainly be tasked for,you can portray 'small battles' if these are your rules of choice. Another feature is its ability for very small forces to hold off much larger forces – a feature of a number of AFW confrontations. DiTDC does this perhaps better than any other colonial rule system out there (that I know of).

As Almond says, we played what I think is probably the best scale of game to engage in when fighting the numerous clashes of frontier conflict – perfect for Tasmania mrinku. The group/no group sequencing of Smooth & Rifled is a very clever way to inject unit and individual behaviours, both of which can change from impulse to impulse. I will be posting a nice battle report of our clash at Cleland's Cabin in the coming weeks ;)

Whilst S&R requires small learning curve it includes many nuanced elements of weapon technology and troop type characteristics and behaviour, all blended into a dynamic impulse system of activation. There really is a lot packed into a relatively small rule book and I think it provides one of the best avenues for depicting frontier conflict.

These will be the first rules we will be looking at once we get past the discussions on aborigine warfare as the scale of game and low figure entry requirement (15-30 minis) makes them perfectly suited for introducing frontier war games and allow people to 'have a go'.

That said, I have ideas around the use of TMWWBK as another avenue for players to engage in frontier games. Whilst perhaps the rules are less nuanced to ‘accurately' depict frontier engagements they do handle larger forces and in an eye pleasing and somewhat less fiddly manner than S&R…really, there is something to suit any one's taste and with period rules adjustments you get close to a fair representation of what the period is about…

..something for everyone which is as it should be…

…the road to Parramatta…


Henry Martini18 Jan 2018 2:02 p.m. PST

I don't know anything about S & R, but if it incorporates firing and visibility arcs it may well work for this subject.

I've said that my own game, 'Boomerang', is intended for engagements involving up to hundreds of warriors. Well, that may be the intent, but when we played regularly we actually mostly used no more than 100 warriors (one 'tribe', in game terms), and the rules worked just fine.

Although 'Boomerang' is mechanically simple, it's its exclusive focus on AFW that permits that simplicity; it's stripped back to only the essentials required to adequately represent its chosen subject, with no extraneous detail that would be needed in a more generalist set of rules.

'Boomerang' features some unusual mechanisms. For instance, the two sides achieve victory in completely different ways. The colonials have to literally 'disperse' the natives by breaking up concentrations of warriors, that is, 'mobs' (groups of bases in contact with each other). Whenever the number of mobs or individual bases increases due to colonial actions a dispersal roll is conducted by the Native side with the aim being to exceed the mob total. If it fails victory is awarded to the colonials… but it's not that simple. The native side can choose to voluntarily split mobs, which may well work to its advantage in a given situation, but which also increases the number of mobs, thereby increasing the risk of defeat should a dispersal roll occur. So there's an in-built tension for the native player(s) between the greater tactical flexibility of a larger number of mobs, and the higher chance of defeat it generates. Mobs and individual bases can also be merged if one or the other includes a leader figure (one per tribe), so while a leader is in play the mob total can be reduced.

For the natives victory is achieved by inflicting casualties on the colonials, with light, heavy, and fatal wounds being assigned increasing values (one, two, and three points respectively) and generating a cumulative 'wound total' as the game progresses, against which a dice roll is conducted whenever a new wound occurs; essentially morale. The number of dice varies depending on whether the scenario is rated as high or low commitment for the colonials: more dice for the former and less for the latter. Scenarios involving military or native police commands are always High Commitment, because for various reasons such units were more tolerant of casualties than 'civilians' (technically NMP officers and troopers were civilians, but they were effectively soldiers. Some Aboriginal people recognised this reality and called them such).

Tactically, at its core the game is about the Aboriginal side trying to get warriors outside the visibility arc but within range of colonial combatants where their missiles can't be evaded. At the same time the colonials are simultaneously trying to break up enemy mobs while avoiding being caught in disadvantageous situations. Again there's an in-built tension in that the chances of increasing the mob total improve for the colonials as they move into proximity of the enemy and therefore increase the risk of suffering casualties.

There's more to it, of course, but that should give you a basic idea of what it's about.

The game features all the types of skirmish that occurred historically, including raids on stations and attempts by colonials to retrieve stock.

Really there's no reason why Boomerang couldn't be played in 28mm with the basic minimum Native force of one tribe. In 15mm it's played on a 3 X 3 foot surface; for 28mm it would therefore be 6 X 6 feet.

Happy Wanderer18 Jan 2018 7:52 p.m. PST

@Henry Martini

Some really interesting ideas in there.

"I don't know anything about S & R, but if it incorporates firing and visibility arcs it may well work for this subject."

S&R does incorporate both firing arc and visibility rules so is very well suited to capture these elements in AFW clashes.

Do you think that in 28mm a 6x4 would be a usable table as this fits in with most gaming surfaces?

Does Boomerang come with a selection of scenarios? ie how is game set up handled?

…they do sound interesting ;-)

Happy Wanderer18 Jan 2018 7:53 p.m. PST


In this post we take a close look at aboriginal warfare. The first two posts will be focused on traditional aboriginal warfare which lays the ground work for understanding the adaptive warfare they engaged in when fighting white settlement.

Whilst I know we have primarily been focused on aboriginal topics in the broader look at the Australian Frontier Wars this is largely because so little is understood or easily accessible on the topic. I guess I'm trying to give you a ‘free Osprey' on the subject so that if you wish to gather a clan together you have an understanding of the background, motive and methods of how they engaged in conflict. This provides background on the native forces so they do not appear a 'faceless foe' in our table top clashes.

The white settlers, British army and police forces will be looked at later but for now lets bring the discussion around the native warriors of Terra Australis.

I hope you find these posts interesting…


Happy W


Henry Martini18 Jan 2018 9:17 p.m. PST

I doubt that 6 X 4 would work for 'Boomerang', Happy. The colonials are usually mounted, and tend to zip around the table quite fast and freely. Any restriction on their movement is mostly self-imposed in order to meet their victory conditions, or when things start to go wrong and they need to remain close to involuntarily dismounted comrades or when they allow themselves to become cut-off or trapped. This freedom of movement demands a deep table, as does the need for room for the game narrative to develop fully. It's the fact that the majority of people have smaller tables that limits the game primarily to the use of 15mm figures.

Henry Martini18 Jan 2018 11:07 p.m. PST

As already mentioned 'Boomerang' includes scenario set-up rules for all the possible types of clashes that occurred historically – although this was the least fully developed section of the rules, and some would require more play-testing. Some of them include special victory conditions beyond the general ones already described, in some cases replacing the latter completely, but usually supplementing them.

There are deployment rules, which depend on the particular scenario being played. To give you a taste of how they work, for face-to-face field engagements (historically the least common type of encounter, but the easiest to set up as a game), the warriors and colonials are subject to restricted deployment opposite each other. For attacks on stations (in 15mm) the table is divided into nine one foot squares, and the defenders deploy first according to random rolls (settlers rarely had advance warning of attacks, so they are assumed to be busy working about the station). The natives can enter via any edge, but any one mob must enter via only one square edge.

BTW, I also wrote mods for Chris Peers' 'A Good Day to Die', which works very well for purely frontier games, and LotOW, although major changes were needed, e.g. in the rules as written there are no facings or firing and visibility arcs.

Happy Wanderer19 Jan 2018 2:34 p.m. PST


Here is a very nice battle report from a game played last week…..the clash at Cleland's Cabin, Parramatta Road, 1816.

Played on Mac's lovely terrain mat, it made for an excellent game. Wink


Happy w



Henry Martini19 Jan 2018 6:11 p.m. PST

That's a very pretty table, Happy. Who makes the gum trees?

Light order and forage caps were everyday wear for British infantry in Australia. You can see this costume depicted in a plate in the book 'Remote Garrison', by Peter Stanley (a long-time activist in the fight to have frontier conflict memorialised at the Australian National War Memorial in Canberra). When on bush patrol against bushrangers in Tasmania a costume made from kangaroo skin was worn, which might also have clothed troops engaged in equivalent duties during the island's Black War. I've been unable to find any images or detailed descriptions of this type of outfit, though.

Aborigines didn't take their defeated colonial enemies captive, and in any event no white man would willingly allow himself to be captured by natives in any colonial conflict. If their morale collapses all surviving combatants on the colonial side should flee, and the warriors be permitted to pursue with the intent of killing, or at least wounding, them.

I know of, and have in the past posted on these boards about, three historical instances of this type: a fight in the early days of the colony of NSW between a party of forty civilians and Gandangarra tribesmen from the Blue Mountains;
the so-called Faithful Massacre in NE Victoria in 1838; the rout of a party of military pensioners defending a station near Port Lincoln, SA, in the early 1840s. Allowing for the sparsity of well-documented frontier fights this is a pretty good tally.

Happy Wanderer19 Jan 2018 7:05 p.m. PST

Hi H-M,

The terrain is mine, the terrain mat is Mac's. The gum tress are custom made by a local suppplier in Victoria…who's name, I'm sorry to say, escapes me right now…I'll need to track him down as I got them quite a while ago. They are lovely though.

I know of Stanley's Book, but don't have it unfortunately. I do have Montague's earlier but very detailed "Dress and Insignia of the British Army in Australia and New Zealand, 1770-1870". It mentions all manner of headdress in use by all regiments in Oz Regiment by Regiment in excruciating detail. You probably have it. Prices are a touch prohibitive on Stanley's book.

Anyway, Montague provides enough rope for players to depict their troops in shako or forage cap for my liking, no different to any Napoleonic troop depiction in any theatre…and who wants to paint up every variation possible…and who does! I have Nap Brits and they are getting pressed into service as they are :-)

I'm going to use my Empress Maori Wars 1840's British for later games set in 1830s-40s..they are in light kit as well, so speak to this transition toward more practical uniforms, such as the Perry Cape Wars British in the 1850s.

I like the way this transition becomes apparent in the British Army as it expands its empire into the nether regions and the realities of empire impress themselves on the troops with the casting aside of tradition for practicality…the Indian Mutiny being a prime example.

…oh…no soldier was taken prisoner…I was there and my warriors took no prisoners!


Henry Martini20 Jan 2018 7:16 a.m. PST

'But all of Parr's men are soon captured'.

A couple of additional observations:

This scenario appears to have been an attempt to recreate a classic ambush, so typical of conventional colonial conflicts. The problem with this is that such encounters don't occur in the historical record for colonial Australia. The closest scenario to the classic ambush to be found there commonly involved a shower of missiles launched from cover followed by a rapid departure on the part of the attacking warriors. The volley would only be followed up where the ambushees responded by fleeing and there was plunder to be had, such as when supply drays were ambushed and their drivers driven off. The example you quote from 1840s Victoria, wherein a party of Military Mounted Police was ambushed by firearm-equipped warriors, only differs from the typical case in the unusual severity of the casualties suffered by the ambushees. The warriors probably still disappeared as soon as they'd fired their volley. There's an exceptional instance from the NT in the 1880s in which the attackers held their ground after the initial volley and continued to launch missiles at and fire on the wagon drivers they'd ambushed, but they made no attempt to close to contact despite having a very large numerical advantage and a couple of them being armed with revolvers.

Although hand-to-hand combat figured prominently in traditional warfare, over most of the continent it featured only peripherally in frontier conflict. Colonials would only be subjected to a physical assault if they were isolated and at a serious disadvantage, such as wounded or caught with unloaded muskets. In fact, some tribes used the tactic of deliberately taunting their opponents into firing off their muzzle-loaders so they'd be unable to fire at their attackers as they charged in. The exception was some of the tribes of northern QLD, whose primary weapon was a two-handed club. Obviously their main tactic was of necessity a frontal charge, which would quickly either succeed or fail; not much of a basis for a good game. I've found only one clear mention of such an attack, on an NMP detachment. It failed, although in the process the officer in command (D'Arcy Uhr, if memory serves me correctly) had his carbine bent by a blow from such a club. There are some references in the literature to massed charges by spear-armed warriors, but based on the accounts I've read I think it's more likely that they were attempting to rapidly bring their missile weapons into range than to close to contact with the colonials.

'Boomerang' represents typical circumstances, so the warriors primarily rely on missiles, and massed charges aren't permitted. Contact with colonial figures may only be initiated by individual bases, and then only in the circumstances described above.

I read no mention of Aboriginal casualties in the game report. We have to accept that the technological asymmetry of the two sides meant that, as in most colonial conflicts against tribal forces, casualties on the Aboriginal side were almost invariably much more severe than they were for the colonials. Also, as mentioned previously, Aboriginal weapons suffered from low lethality, so even if a hit was scored it very often had little or no effect on the targeted combatant's ability to stay in the fight. More often than not it took multiple hits to cause significant impairment.

I think that this game report demonstrates the problems associated with trying to apply unmodified rules intended to represent the characteristics of more familiar struggles to the peculiar circumstances of colonial Australia's frontier conflicts. Doing so inevitably involves varying degrees of fantasisation; fine if that's what you want, but inadequate if historical accuracy is your goal.

Happy Wanderer20 Jan 2018 10:27 p.m. PST


Continuing on with our look at Traditional Aboriginal Warfare we examine the numerous weapons that were available to aboriginal warriors. These same weapons would be used against white settlers from first contact until the early twentieth century.

Whilst seemingly out dated, in many respects these traditional weapons best provided an established warrior people with a sustainable and viable style of resistance warfare. This defied the efforts of many colonial administrations who limited modern weaponry to aboriginals and enabled them to continue to adopt a style of warfare best suited to their natural talents.

After this look at traditional warfare we shall see how aboriginal adaptive warfare evolved in the face of the emerging threat posed by white settlement.




Happy Wanderer21 Jan 2018 4:48 p.m. PST

Hi H-M,

Sounds like you need to get your rules in publication with your thoughts and ideas!….all of which seem very good. Maybe if you could post a Boomerang battle report other people could see how your ideas play out on-table….I'm sure there would be interest there.

My aim is to use commercially available sets with mods – note, the AAR was just that – a brief AAR and not a detailed treatment of rules, mods, casualty rates, etc…don't take it to literally or judge based on a nice quick AAR.

Each to their own regards what and how their group enjoy their chosen period in interpretation is my view – no judgement need be made IMO about how people want to do it…as long as they do!



Henry Martini21 Jan 2018 7:26 p.m. PST

As I said Happy, it's been years since 'Boomerang' has had an outing. Making it more widely available would require a good deal of work, and at the moment my hobby attention is focussed elsewhere. Unlike yourself, as a cynical veteran I have none of the neophyte's excitement or motivation for the period – particularly given the numerous negative experiences that have come with trying to make the subject more widely known, educate the hobby community about it, generate interest in playing it, and persuade 28mm figure manufacturers to add it to their catalogues. It's refreshing to see someone else take on the mantle; I'm 'happy' to pass the baton on to you, however, as I also said I will give the idea of reviving 'Boomerang' consideration when a gap appears in my hobby schedule. If it happens it won't be for quite a while, though.

Are you saying that in your game the British soldiers that were 'knocked down' were in fact only lightly wounded and that they mostly got back up again and stayed in the fight, and that, despite appearances, there were actually considerably more, and individually more serious, Aboriginal casualties than British? If so your game would have reflected the historical reality in terms of the normal casualty disparity. I should also mention that Aborigines rarely took on British regulars; they preferred to avoid them where possible, and the clashes that did occur were almost invariably initiated by the British. Only in the final stages of the Tasmanian conflict did indigenous warriors show a willingness to stand and face the redcoats (or more accurately grey-browncoats :- ), if they wore those kangaroo skin outfits) in open battle.

The game report does unambiguously present a clear narrative which, as I also said, describes a sequence of events that didn't apply on the colonial Australian frontier.

Your third point echoes my final sentence above. We always have the choice of how faithful to the historical reality we want our games to be – but we shouldn't pretend that games that are positioned well towards the fictional/fantastical end of the authenticity continuum are true representations of it. One of your declared objectives is to educate readers about the history associated with this subject, in which case I think it's important to make it clear to them when any of your posts diverge from historical authenticity.

Happy Wanderer22 Jan 2018 2:40 p.m. PST


In this post we look at how aboriginal tribesmen adapted their traditional methods of conflict amongst themselves to meet the new enemy – white settlers. We take a look at how they came to resist and in what for it took shape.

Initially the limitations of small garrison force sizes and slow loading smoothbore weapons enabled the aboriginal peoples to achieve a level of parity in weapon technologies, though the lethality of firearms was much greater than tribal weapons.

The natural bushcraft skills also played a big part in mounting an effective resistance though the mounted horsemen was the colonist's answer to try and remove this advantage. That said, clans and bands once again adapted to try an negate that advantage as well and to a degree never lost an ability to achieve tactical mobility.

What one sees as you look deeper into the subject is that the aboriginal peoples adapted to new tactical and 'strategic' threats in a considered manner – they just did not come out to confront heavily armed white setters and ‘die for honour' or anything like that. Their's was a much more cat-and-mouse game of resistance and fighting.

This series will be in three parts and then we shall swing back to rules, miniatures and stuff like that. By the end we shall have a good grasp of many of the factors that were in play that made the Australian continental warfare unique.

Please feel free to comment one and all on this most interesting subject – thanks chaps…

I hope you find something new that is of interest.


Happy W

Kalkadoon warriors – c.1900.


Henry Martini24 Jan 2018 12:43 a.m. PST

In my 18/1 post I stated that settlers rarely had advance warning of an attack on a station. To qualify this point, what I was referring to was those situations in which an attack had progressed to the point of enactment. Quite often, because of the irregular nature of the frontier, where settlers and native tribes lived intermixed in close proximity and there was usually no clear demarcation line, settlers were served by an effective informal intelligence network. Friendly Aborigines would keep them informed of the plans of hostile tribes, and they (or NMP acting for or with them) were often thus able to forestall or preempt an attack before the mobilised warriors set their plans in motion. Such a situation is related in 'The Recollections of Thomas Davis'(starting on the tenth page, the pages not being numbered), accessible online.

Happy Wanderer25 Jan 2018 4:06 a.m. PST


Part II of the three part series on Aboriginal adaptive warfare. This is a quick introduction touching on weapon use and pre battle rituals and tactics.

In the last post we'll round out our discussion.


Happy W

@H-M: thanks for those details – good stuff.


A new Frontier Wars book release

For those following this thread the following soon to be released book should be of interest.

The Sydney Wars: Conflict in the early colony, 1788-1817

Described by one early colonist as ‘this constant sort of war', The Sydney Wars tells the history of military engagements between Europeans and Aboriginal Australians around the greater Sydney region.

Telling the story of the first years of colonial Sydney in a new and original way, this provocative book is the first detailed account of the warfare that occurred across the Sydney region from the arrival of a British expedition in 1788 to the last recorded conflict in the area in 1817. The Sydney Wars sheds new light on how British and Aboriginal forces developed military tactics and how the violence played out.

Analysing the paramilitary roles of settlers and convicts and the militia defensive systems that were deployed, it shows that white settlers lived in fear, while Indigenous people fought back as their land and resources were taken away. Stephen Gapps details the violent conflict that formed part of a long period of colonial strategic efforts to secure the Sydney basin and, in time, the rest of the continent.


mrinku25 Jan 2018 1:54 p.m. PST

Again a great read, HW!

I've just ordered a set of the new plastic Perry Zulu Warriors (which I was going to get anyway for African projects) plus a Napoleonic British infantry command sprue. Couple of weeks for delivery and I should have some conversions to show.

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