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"Australian Frontier Wars" Topic

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Happy Wanderer01 Jan 2018 1:05 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 6:59 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 8:13 a.m. PST

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


Cyrus the Great01 Jan 2018 9:43 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 10:41 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 11:09 a.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 Wanderer01 Jan 2018 11:35 p.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 11:46 a.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 7:32 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 3:10 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 6:24 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 12:05 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 12:07 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 2:11 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 1:55 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 1:22 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 2:45 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 12:58 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 8:16 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 7:55 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 9:07 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 5:24 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 12:35 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 3:13 p.m. PST
mrinku14 Jan 2018 4:20 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 5:15 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 1:31 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 2:34 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 9:23 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 4:04 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 4:26 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 6:30 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 7:11 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 9:14 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…


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