System: Hordes of the Things
Publisher: Wargames Research Group
Hott In The Pacific
by David F Stuckey
Further to my article on the Maori magic and myths (see Ragnarok 10), I thought that gamers might be interested in a few details about the peoples of the Pacific as fighting forces, with particular reference to the HOTT rules; although the scope of the article should hopefully be broad enough for most gamers to use these forces in their favourite system.
Polynesian and Island Peoples
Basically there were few races in the South Pacific with a specific warrior caste, and even in the cases where such sub-tribes existed, the entire male, or in the case of the Hawaiians and Trobrian Islanders part of the female population, would be fighting against raiders or invaders. The simplest way this could be depicted is as barbarians or rabble, led by Heroes as command elements.
Weapons available to the islands are limited; mostly short jabbing or throwing spears adopted from fishing implements, with the very rare stone axe thrown in. Normally, these latter were too precious and hard to make for the tribes to use as weapons, as good quality tool stone is rare in the coral/volcanic atolls of the pacific.
Apart from hand-thrown objects, there ore few ballistic weapons available to the Islands. No bows or slings, although certain islanders did excel in the art of knife-throwing using blades of sharpened shells.
New Zealand and Coastal Islands
As I pointed out in my previous article, the various tribes of the Maori ranged from pacifists to raiders, and thus showed a spectrum of 'military' organisation. What they did have, however, was a plethora of resources for the making of weapons, and some rather interesting tactics.
The major weapons of the Maori were the Taiaha, or Short Spear and the Mere, or edged club. The Taiaha was a wooden spear comparable to a Greek javelin: about a metre long, with a wooden spear blade at one end, tapering out into a wide flat edge at the other extreme. The blade was often edged with stone or shell and the other end, although wooden, was often quite sharp enough to do damage. Often decorated along it's length with carvings and inlaid shells, It was rarely if ever thrown but used as a stabbing/parrying weapon.
The Mere (pronounced as merry) is nearly a unique weapon, shaped somewhat like a comma with a handle at the tail in the same style as a tennis racquet. The material used ranged from whalebone to hardwood to polished stone. in the case of high caste warrior chiefs, the later could be nephrite jade, and was often a piece of art with curves and intricate designs incorporated in the shape of the weapon. Common features, however, were the razor edges and broad flat surfaces that made it a very effective close-order weapon. Brought down on any part of the human body this 2kg device could smash skulls or break bones and skin with ease and was a hideously difficult weapon to parry; thus there were in some tribes, a ritual of use for this weapon, which restricted its devastation to only those enemies considered the most threatening.
Some tribes did use slings, adapted from bird-hunting tools, but in general the Maori was purely a short-range spear throwing people, using quickly prepared thrown sticks.
With the great variety of organisation, a Maori force could be given virtually any kind of order, though it lends itself particularly to a grouping of spears, with mere troop treated as either axes or clubs, or a hybrid of the two. The force could include magic users along the lines of Druids and Heroes can also be included.
The Aborigines of Australia were in a difficult and demanding environment, and were so impoverished of resources by climate change both natural and induced that there was virtually no warfare between tribes. Not only did no tribe have a great deal to steal, they were too busy trying to survive against nature to fight amongst themselves!
Having said that, the Aborigines were the only South Pacific peoples to develop, and refine to a high degree, the ballistic weapon. Apart from the boomerang which was also developed by the Egyptians and Amerindians, they also developed the spear thrower; a primitive lever which doubled the thrust of a thrown spear, and thus improved range and accuracy. With these, the Aborigine gathered most of their meat, but rarely used them as weapons.
An Aboriginal 'army' would be a true rabble, with no central command units, probably striking and running at an enemy force in a guerrilla-style battle. A force of Goblins would be a close parallel, but even Goblins have some ideal of military command structure.
Scenarios for conflict
The obvious occasions for combat are the basic ones of expeditions of trade/conquest arriving from foreign lands and running foul of the locals. In the case of the Aborigines, this would be caused only by an intrusion into sacred sites of cave paintings of ancestors, rather than any 'economic' reason. The Islanders and Maoris would resent this same intrusion, but could also see newcomers as rivals to trade and rare resources, such as stone for tools, food plants, fishing and game areas and trading routes.
A trading colony or suchlike bivouac would be a legitimate target for attack, particularly in the case of Island or Maori raiders seeking tools and resources, particularly metals and goods beyond their ability to create for themselves. This would undoubtedly lead to a very promising idea for campaigns and long scale battles between natives and conquerors.
Ed Note: Hordes of the Things is a generic set of Fantasy wargames rules produced by the Wargames Research Group and was reviewed in Ragnarok 1. A second edition is now available and was reviewed in Ragnarok 43. HOTT has won the Best Fantasy Wargames Rules category in the SFSFW Awards five times out of seven! For further details regarding price and availability, send an SSAE to Wargames Research Group, The Keep, Le Marchant Barracks, London Road, Devizes, Wiltshire, SN10 2ER.
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