Australian Frontier Wars – TMWWBK



As mentioned in a previous post  the Osprey rules,  The Men Who Would Be Kings, are an excellent contender for gaming this period. These rules are more toward the ‘hollywood’ end of the spectrum and in that regard suit our gaming purposes well. In this post we’ll discuss ideas related to TMWWBK.



Dan Mersey’s rules have been well reviewed by colonial gamers so I won’t go into any details on that. You can check out TMWWBK reviews with a simple google search. This is a good one to give you an overview of what it’s about and a video review here. Downloadable rosters are available here. The relatively broad troop profiles in these rules allows for an easy translation of aboriginal warriors into the game with some minor period specific tweaks.



In the spirit of the rules the required ‘Essential Research’ viewing is;


FRONTIER WARS, 1770-1900

This section provides details on troop profiles, scenarios and ‘sub periods’ to model your forces on. There is naturally a good deal of cross over though there are regional and time related differences that go to make the Frontier Wars using TMWWBKs one of an evolving European force against a relatively same type native force. This was a feature of the war and the rules show how the evolving technologies impact on the effectiveness of the forces involved.

The troop profiles give most, but not all, of the likely characteristics of the forces engaged in the Frontier Wars. Broad guidelines are given but invariably there are always exceptions to the rule. With TMWWBK representing a virtual 1:1 figure scale game for Frontier Wars games, much variation is possible. Players therefore should use the profiles as ‘go to’ guidelines but not be strictly bound by them, following the suggestions in the ‘Building a Field Force’ section of the rules.




The monolithic nature of Aboriginal tribal warfare dictates that they be treated as a broad class of Tribal Infantry in TMWWBK. These troops cost 3 points per unit. Most Aboriginal warriors relied on ‘massed throwing’ of their long range spears before closing to contact, this being reflected by them using the Woomera, though not all tribes used them.

As a guide, aboriginal tribes of Tasmania, south and central Queensland and the Tiwi in the Northern Territory may not be woomera armed. Some tribes used an ‘enhanced’ woomera to increase firing range, the so called Goose-Neck woomerabut like other woomeras, it was not widely used – so it may only be used by Aboriginal tribes of north-west Northern Territory and the far eastern Kimberley region.

Typically Aboriginal tribesmen were wary of firearm opponents, ‘gun shy’, and so they are given the Gooroobeera rule below. The ferocity of some tribes over others and their tendency toward close combat vs prolonged long range fire tactics means there is no hard and fast rule as to how tribes should be portrayed – individual tribes developed their own way of fighting the white man.

Therefore, in addition to the usual tribal infantry attributes in TMWWBK, aboriginal warriors (using the guidelines above) may be armed with woomeras. This weapon in many respects puts them on a parity with antiquated smoothbore musket armed colonial forces, though the reduced firing number we use (6) reflects their relative lack of lethality. Against more modern firearms they were outclassed.

The huge number of aboriginal clans, their motivations and commitment to their ‘fight’ at various times of confrontation with colonial forces means there can be no definitive classification. Therefore, all aboriginal foot may variously be given an unenthusiastic or veteran rating depending on how you wish to portray them.

Aboriginals may also be taken as musket armed. Their use was limited so only taking a single small unit seems appropriate unless depicting a specific clan, perhaps Jackie-Jackie’s clan on the outskirts of Melbourne, who had more firearms than usual. Treat them as Irregular Infantry, with the fieldcraft and poorly armed trait. The option to take them as sharpshooters is allowed to reflect aboriginals who are well acquainted with firearms and were generally regarded as good shots. Due to the limited availability of firearms using a ‘1/2 sized’ unit for a cost of 2 points is recommended.

Base cost @ 3 points; plus

Additional options as follows;

  • Veteran: any period @ +1 point
  • Unenthusiastic: any period @ -1 point
  • Fierce: any period @ +1 point
  • Antiquated Muskets/Obsolete Rifles: one unit can choose this option, reflecting some use of firearms @ +1/+2 points
  • Woomera: Range 12″ with a Firing number of 6 @ +1 point per two units. Alternatively, four units may be equipped for 1 point, but each unit rolls 1 dice per two figures.
  • Goose-neck Woomeras increase the standard woomera range  to 18″, long range being counted when shooting over half range (9″) @ +1 point

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