Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Fighting with Featherstone ...... again!

Don Featherstone’s ‘Battles with model Soldiers’, was in essence written as an introduction to wargaming and so it was quite appropriate for it to be the first of his wargaming volumes that I accidentally stumbled across as a teenager, as it became my easy to follow introduction to wargaming. 

It holds a starter scenario, using just 4 identical units per side on a symmetrical battlefield and some simple rules for the unsuspecting reader to dip their toe into this strange world, where plastic Airfix figures are moved from the floor, to a ‘proper’ battlefield on the tabletop!

Since the scenario is short enough to play quickly, I am going to take the opportunity to show play under the Featherstone rules and then compare that to a modern set of introductory rules to see what 5 decades has done to the way that introductory rules are presented.

Please use the ‘read more’ tab for a discussion on Don’s book and an AAR that demonstrates some game mechanics.

I am holding a copy of Don Featherstone’s ‘Battles with Model Soldiers’ (thank you Iain), with the vibrant red cover and it is transporting me back to the mid 70’s, when a chance find of this title in a bookshop in a near-by town, pressed all of the right buttons for a life time passion of wargaming to follow. 

Reading the book again in 2020, one becomes aware of the gentle care being taken by the author to introduce the reader to wargaming without scaring them off! there is a lot of hand holding and it does not assume any prior knowledge, necessary of course, since this was a newly emerging hobby (note, John Curry has made this title available again as an e-book, available at Amazon, under his plan to get many of these older titles back into our hands).

His scenario, designed to teach the basic principles of wargaming, is in fact presented in three phases. The first has each player with two infantry regiments, to learn some basic wargame concepts. The second introduces cavalry and finally the third has artillery join the fray. The battlefield terrain is limited and set up in a symmetrical manner, so each side has equal forces and an equal terrain mix. The only thing that may give one side an advantage is the question of which player goes first.

For our replays, we will take that third scenario and use the dispositions that Don gave us. 

Copyright of Don Featherstone / John Curry

Above, this is the schematic sketch that appears in the book, giving a simple pleasure for those who can recall it.

It requires a simple set-up and my table today will reflect his old school look. Interestingly Don notes “Most wargamers have leanings toward sand tables” - I remember that being the case or at least spoken about, but I always wondered how this teenagers bedroom floor would support that weight ...... or even get parents blessings!

Fighting with Don Featherstone.
By the time one reads the rules and associated discussion for this battle, it becomes striking that the fundamentals of what we do has not really changed, but rather the way we do it has, as we have hit various moments of innovation in the meandering history of the hobby.

For these rules, units are formed by figures mounted on single bases and casualties are removed as singles. It is the head count of the unit that tells us how many fire dice we get and what the melee values are in combat. 

The sequence of play is structured with movement first, followed by firing and then melee, which sounds pretty straight forward, but the movement is simultaneous, with orders written for each unit and which are revealed simultaneously.

On that subject, Don says “This method is currently in use among practically all experienced wargamers, certainly in Great Britain”. This sentiment may well reflect the biggest difference between then and now.

Units can move or fire in a turn - not both. This has a very interesting impact on the post melee morale test, because the side that fails the test must retreat a full move .... but that move does not happen until the player's movement phase of the next turn, when the unit must be given a retreat order, which means of course it will not be able to fire that turn, so an attacker that follows up can do so without facing any defensive fire. So a retreat can have big implications for a unit and for the opening of the game.

Cavalry does not really properly represent the period as they are always mounted. They can charge, but can’t fire. The result is that you get napoleonic style charges going on, but not the skirmishing / dismounting and holding ground type of use.

In this introductory system (and we must keep reminding ourselves that that is what it is and not needing to expect more) Infantry move 12”, cavalry 18” and artillery has a maximum range of 36”.

By the end of playing this classic scenario, I saw that the capture of the wall is not of prime importance, rather it is unhinging of the wall position that becomes paramount, so that it becomes useless to the enemy. 

The system is subject to the variables of the dice, but then many games are and I don’t mind that, as this usually opens a game up and helps tell a good story. Despite the 'simple' label attributed to the rules, it felt a bit ‘mathsy’ to me and is not helped by the absence of the main rule charts being set out on a single page or two, rather than being spread throughout conversational text. 

So moving to an AAR, which is wargaming with Featherstone in 1970.
Set up lines, with artillery limbered. Note the confederate
cavalry furthest from the camera in relation to the
paragraph below.

Both sides made the obvious moves. At the start of turn 2, both armies could reach the wall, but if the Union moved to the wall, Confederate cavalry, which had moved out to their right, would have their flank, so they stood still instead, which would at least allow them to fire.

Union cavalry (counting as 11 troopers) on the right, frontally charged a Confederate Infantry Regiment (22 men), who had moved, so they could not fire in the fire phase at the charging cavalry (which we might think of as defensive fire) and so this contact simply became a melee in the Melee Phase.

The 11 cavalry are worth 2 points each (for 22 points) and the 22 defending infantry are worth 1 point each (also for 22 points), so this is an evens combat. A side gets 1 dice for every 5 points of men, so here, both sides will get 4 dice, but the cavalry will increase the value of each dice by 1 for the charge. The total value of a units dice results, halved, become the casualties inflicted on the other side and that number of figures are physically removed, as this little system is all about head count.

Once the casualties are removed from both sides, the fight moves to a post melee morale test based upon the remaining head count in what appears to be a unique way, but perhaps it was common in its day. Each side takes its remaining point value in men and multiplies that figure by 1 D6, the unit with the lower score fails the test and must retreat a full move. As a unit becomes weaker, the chance of it being the one to run away increases ..... but all you need is the strong side to roll very low and the other high and all of that may change in a moment!

To example that, in our game, towards the end of play, the Confederate cavalry delivered a devastating frontal charge against a Union infantry regiment .... ‘the end’ I thought, but no, the cavalry bounced off them, after they failed the post melee morale test. The consequence was that the cavalry would spend the next turn retreating and if it wanted to later charge again, this time, the static Union unit would get a chance to fire on the charging cavalry. Suddenly neither of these units really wanted to mess with each other.

Musket fire can be powerful, but first you need to hit with your D6 per 5 men firing. Range gives a fairly big penalty to each of those dice, even close range has a penalty, but for each dice that scores a hit, the dice is re-rolled to show how many casualties are suffered.

EDIT - this is wrong, each dice rolled is adjusted for range and cover and it is the remaining value left on the dice gives the casualty number, so firing is a one stage process, it is artillery alone that uses the above method - Thank you Ross and StuRat (in the comments).
The cavalry are about to break the confederate left
and unhinge the wall!

Our game ended during turn 4. The Confederate Infantry on the left had been seen off the table by charging Union cavalry that did a follow-up charge. The Confederate infantry in the centre lost a melee test to enemy infantry and was marked with a retreat order. In turn 4 that Confederate unit retreated, but the attacker followed up and worse, the now victorious and free Union cavalry unit, struck the retreating Confederate unit in the flank .... it was the end of any Confederate hopes.
A desperate situation for the retreating Confederate
regiment, as cavalry strike their flank. 

By the end of play, I thought the scenario and rules had pretty much delivered all that it needed to for a learning experience, except with the absence of any sense of command and control. I use multi mounted bases with dice for casualty markers and I would imagine that removing figures as casualties, would make some units look a bit silly as they could potentially reduce down to one man (this is what effectively happened to the second Confederate unit) and in Don’s AAR, you are left with a sense of units fighting to ‘last man standing’.

Overall it was good fun. I think you could use these rules as a basic model and include some house rules that would get you to a short sharp action that might meet your own opinion on how these things should play out. But of course, in any case, it was nice to put a game on simply for the sake of a very influential man and his book.  

Fighting with the Perry Brothers (Firepower)

While the table was up, I re-ran the game using the Perry Brother’s Firepower rules from their 28mm ACW Battle in a Box, from where I also got the figures for this game. These could be described as an introductory set for 2015, making them broadly comparable with what the Don Featherstone book was doing 50 years ago, though perhaps the Perry’s have the advantage that their audience is likely already more familiar with wargaming principles.

This is a nice hand sized (A5) rule set, with just 7 pages of rules. Movement rates are based upon the rolling of D6, so are randomised and therefore even our small scenario can open up in different ways and be less ‘chess-like’. 

Leaders bring some command element as they provide bonus dice for nearby units that are testing for movement or morale. Just add an extra dice when rolling and then discard the weakest dice, a simple, but nice mechanism.

The sequence of play is quite dynamic as each unit in a turn can perform (only) one action from the list of move / charge / fire/ rally, but of course this is similar to Featherstone who was not allowing a unit to move and fire in the same turn either.

It is a buckets of dice game, with units in cover able to make ‘save’ rolls. Hits are recorded and when a unit reaches 9 hits, it is simply removed from play, though cavalry and artillery are a little more brittle.

With the morale test (on both fire and close combat) being casualty based and with unit break levels being lower than say in Neil Thomas’ One Hour Wargames, units will likely only stay in front line combat for around 2 turns, sometimes 3 if lucky, before being exhausted one way or another.

Anyway .... the fight!
In this system the cavalry cannot dismount, but they can fire their carbines, so a race to the wall by cavalry seems a good opening. The Confederates win the die roll for who should go first and start their random movement with the cavalry ..... they max out with a 24” move! which gets them to the wall. By contrast, when the Union cavalry attempt to move, they get 12” on their dice rolls.
With the wall secure, the Confederate advance
drifts to their left.

The Union artillery doesn’t move, so that it can fire at the cavalry now at the wall. The range is 22”, so it is better they use shot rather than canister, also for artillery shot, the protection of the wall is ignored. We are looking for a successful ‘to hit’ roll and then a D6 is rolled for casualties, so in effect, not really much different to Mr. Featherstone’s method.

The Confederate commander is close to their artillery, so that he can give them a bonus die for movement, which does over a couple of turns, get them out onto the right wing faster.

All casualties whether by fire or close combat, generate immediate morale tests. I like this as it puts a brake on units fighting to the last man and can collapse positions or halt attacks and open the game up.

Since a unit can either fire or move in a turn (not both), there is an inclination, due to the lethality of fire, to move up within fire range and then stop to engage in firefights, rather than charging home and taking a risk that the randomised movement allowance might result in you falling short of the target and receiving another turn of gruelling musket fire on the way in.

And so, with everything in musket range, firefights now break out along the line. Smoothbore and rifled muskets are not differentiated, though the shorter range cavalry carbine is given it’s own stat line. The range of the carbine is obviously shorter than the musket and the Union cavalry find themselves out ranged by enemy muskets and they are suffering badly from being targeted. It is not long before they are removed from play.
The Union cavalry on the right hang around within
musket range for too long and are targeted.

Artillery has a good range, but causes relatively few casualties, though against cover, the target cannot get saves against hits and so the union guns start to bring their fire onto the infantry behind the wall.

The Confederate infantry on the left are getting the worst of it and have suffered 5 hits, but their position is key, because they are protecting the left side of the wall from being enveloped and the infantry unit there is getting off a lot of effective fire, while not taking many casualties.
A very useful device for measuring firing angles.
I got this from Charlie Foxtrot for just £1.50

Suddenly the left Confederate wing collapses and the Confederate infantry behind the wall know they must pull back, but they take heavy casualties in doing so and break on a failed morale test. Hit again by long range fire musket and artillery fire as they retreat, they again fail their test and are pushed off the table. 

At this point, the Confederates have lost 3 units to the Union 2 and a natural conclusion allows the game to end. It is turn 7 and this length of game is very typical for these rules with low unit density.

As a comparison between a 1970 introductory set and a 2015 one, it is interesting to see that largely, both are doing the same thing,  but in different ways, though the nature of artillery fire is very similar.

The randomised movement in the Perry game is not necessarily a modern or better implementation of movement and indeed is not that common in modern rules, but the application of firepower and morale tests is more easily managed, with results being very visual on the buckets of dice results, rather than having to do the mental maths of Don’s game ( such as 13 men x a ‘5’ result on a D6 to get a morale score of ....... wait a minute, err, 65 - Yikes, I really did have to write that down to make sure it was right :-) ).

Interestingly neither set gets involved in line of sight dialogue or the effect of the woods terrain on either formation or movement. This seems odd, but how could a new player notice its absence and so it is all part of keeping the rules trim and stopping rules overload.

You can see some military precision in Don’s rules, for example artillery limbered can move 18” with a penalty of 3” for limbering and /or unlimbering, so from this, we could limber up (3”), move 12” and then unlimber (3”) to consume the entire movement allowance and be ready to fire in the next turn. We can do a variable of that and limber up (3”) and then move the rest of all their allowance (15”) and end that movement still limbered up, so you ‘have to’ unlimber when you want to fire and that will take a whole turn because you can’t move and fire in the same turn.

By comparison, in the Perry rules, artillery is only in one of two states in a turn, moving (called redeploying and which has a randomised movement rate) or firing. Per turn, you just either move or fire as you see fit.

These authors are essentially doing the same thing, but the Featherstone rule seems more intuitive to actual battlefield manoeuvre, while the Perry rule cleverly absorbs the whole limber / move / unlimber thing into a single act of redeploy.

Which you prefer is really just a personal choice and for what it’s worth, my older school credentials have me preferring the intricacies and exactness of the Featherstone method.

Overall, the Perry rules are much slicker and I suppose if you wanted to encapsulate the journey of rule development in the last 50 years into a single phrase, ‘getting slicker’ probably does it.

I wanted to compare some other introductory style rules here that would fit with the theme, such as an old Terry Wise set from his ‘Introduction to Battle Gaming’ and the Neil Thomas ‘An Introduction to Wargames’ book, but the post is already at 3000 words and my brief to myself this year is to cut down a little on being wordy and to keep these posts a little more concise, though of course there is scope for some more of this in the future :-)

Resource Section.

My sister webspace COMMANDERS is a bit more snippet based than here. Link.


  1. Great post Norm. I think that your conclusion that the last 50 years has mainly seen an increase in "slickness" is a pretty reasonable one. Would have loved to have seen the Neil Thomas version included, mind!

    1. Thanks, I probably dipped back even further than you usually go this time :-)

      Neil Thomas will happen, perhaps with the Terry Wise for another pairing.

  2. I enjoy these rules comparison trials on the gaming table. Sometimes, the more things change, the more they remain the same. So, you are a Featherstonian? That is good to know.

  3. Hi Jonathan, A Featherstonian of the Airfix Generation! As a youngster, my library had all four volumes of Featherstones Wargames Through the Ages, at any one time, I always had at least one of them out, cornerstones of the hobby that they were.

    You will know from previous posts that I don’t think older is better, but revisiting and a certain amount of reminiscing certainly has its place :-)

  4. Don't worry about the brief to yourself...ga ahead and run the same scenario through the other rule sets too...this was a most enjoyable analysis and well worth reading the 3000 words!

    1. Thanks Keith, I actually had 5 more sets lined up to look at, so I may have saved you more than you know:-)

  5. Great post again. Don’t cut down on the word count - I like a good long read!

  6. Thanks, I suppose that if there was ever a time to justify a ramble, it would be good old reminisce about games, rules and glories past :-)

  7. A most enjoyable comparison of the two introductory sets of rules. As you point out the many similarities. Except may be the amount of patience required to move units made of single figures.

  8. Thanks Peter, yes, even our modern skirmish systems that are returning to single based figures, are typically seen with MDF sabot bases to unify them for movement.

  9. An interesting comparison, Norm. I recall reading the Featherstone introductory books as my initiation into war gaming. I was 23 years old, having gone through my entire kid-hood not knowing war gaming was an actual thing. With figures (this even though I recall comic book ads for ACW. AWI etc figures and guns - but I knew bally well I'd never see those things).

    I actually didn't mind the 'mathsy' stuff. For ACW (my first war games army) we used volley groups of 6, 1 die per, halved for long range, halved again for cover, dispersion, etc. Imagine 17 figures firing at long range against a target in cover: 2 dice plus 5/6 of a die, rolls 1 + 4 + 5/6 of 3 = 5 + 2 and a half = 7 and a half.
    Quartered = 7 and a half / 4 = 1 and seven-eighths ~ 2. 2 hits.

    Actually, you didn't need to be so precise. Ever heard of 'approximate arithmetic'? Very powerful branch of mathematics. Should be taught in schools. You'd go like this: 1 + 4 + 5/6 of 3 = a bit less than 8. Quartered = something over 1 and a half, which will round to 2. One gets quite quick at it.

    One thing about the Featherstone rule sets is that I never cottoned to 'saving rolls'. When I discovered the Charles Grant system, and ran it through my amendment process, I much preferred that method of modifying 'hits' to determine casualties.

    There is nothing more teeth grindingly irritating that to watch, again and again, your boys rolling 6 hits for 2 casualties, whilst taking 4 hits for 3 casualties. You'd be surprised how often that happens. Out of curiosity I ran Don Featherstone's Plattville Valley action through an analysis of hits to casualties. Sure enough, overall the Confederates rolled more hits and scored fewer casualties than the Union.

    The 'penalties' for shooting I handle differently, though mathematically it's the same. Still using volley groups, the Die Range is the maximum die score that counts (per volley group). For example, suppose I use a volley group of 6 figures, with a Die range at short range of 5, reducing by one successively for medium and long range. This avoids the arithmetic.

    At short range 24 figures firing roll 4 dice. Say the scores are 6,5,2,2. Then, as the 6 exceeds the Die range, it is ignored. The hits scored are 5+2+2=9. Then I modify for casualties. I won't go into details except to say with my system, the maximum possible will be 7, but something like 4, 5 or 6 will be most likely. The minimum possible will be 2 casualties, but that is extremely unlikely (odds of that getting close 300,000 to 1 against).

    Yep: to this day, I'm a 'casualty removal' man, when I'm not playing grid war games.

    1. Thanks Ion for a detailed and illuminating comment. In your Plattville Valley analysis, was that advantage to the Confederates just simply what fell out of a game or two simply because of the way the dice fell, or were there other influences pushing results in favour of the Confederates?

      I must say, in my early years, I coped admirably with he maths, but I think that may be more about being at the right end of the age spectrum and the fact that numeracy and that style of calculation was simply how it was, we were sort of brain trained.

      I compare this to today with calculators, automatic tills, computers and even our currency went Metric instead of Imperial etc and for many of us, once we leave school, we don't have to apply maths to much degree.

      I do like the use of average dice (2,3,3,4,4,5) and that really was something that seems can be labelled old school, as despite being such a brilliant device for flattening out results, is never seen in our modern game - I even wonder how many of us actually have one in our dice collection.

      As you know, I 'dabble' a bit in home grown rules and generally through play testing get somewhere that feels right to my take on the subject, but really, until your post, I never even thought about what analysis would make of it and what is really going on under the bonnet, all those +1 bonuses etc and saves, must throw things around quite a bit, thanks for such an interesting insight.

    2. Hi Norm. In the Plattville game, it was just the way the dice fell. There was no inherent bias - I'm not suggesting that. What bugs me about saving rolls, is that what looks at first sight a good result suddenly turns into a bad one. And vice versa, of course, but then you're looking at a bad roll by your opponent suddenly look like a good one [:-(]. That it goes for both sides is no consolation. One of the virtues of my method is that if you score hits at all, then you're guaranteed to do some damage.

      I've tended to stay with D6s rather than D5s (av dice) simply owing to their relative availability (I have probably close to 100 D6s; I have 2 D5s).

    3. Thanks, so in effect, results are all over the place, simply because of the number of variable available to 'luck'. I have seen good games spoiled by consistent bad dice rolling by one player.

      yep I think the Average dice will soon be collectors items :-)

    4. RE: Average Dice.

      I enjoy there use. Honours of War uses average dice so this is not only a relic of Old School gaming.

    5. I hadn't realised that, that is nice to hear.

  10. I was looking at this scenario only yesterday with a view to maybe adapting it to the grid-based Portable Wargame at some stage. I think I played it as a grid game a few years ago, using Mexican Adventure troops, and with a farm rather than a wall. It is a classic setup, though.

    1. Kaptain, I doubt we are not alone, I know 'Steve the wargamer' has run scenario 1 previously and last week put scenario 2 up on his blog. With this and several other titles available again on Amazon Kindle, we do have a chance to put right the regrets of 'clearing out and moving on' of those titles that were important to us at the time.

  11. Another enjoyable post. The rules in my original copy of the book appear to be a bit different. In particular, the rifle fire is one stage: roll a die per 5 men and the number on the dice is the number hit. No to hit roll and no saving throws but there are die modifiers for range and cover. The artillery does have the roll to hit then roll for effect.

    I've also noted that the rules in this book appear to be the only time he used the dice x figures rule to determine the winner of a melee! Oh well, they got me started anyway!

    1. Ross than you for the observation. i have both 1st edition hardback and the Kindle rules, so I just dived into both of them, in the hope that they was some discrepancy and that I had not joined the stupidy stupidy club ..... Alas, I have and have obviously got the artillery and musket rule mixed .. Doh.

      Yes, the morale roll following melee does seem somewhat unique, but I am guessing he was looking at a way for basing rules to ensure that a melee was decisive after one round.

  12. You have the firing rules wrong for Featherstone. the score on the dice after the deduction is the number of casualties.

    For artillery, you do roll the die again for casualties.

  13. Thanks Stu, as per above, I wrote myself a cheat sheet out to bring all the rules into on place. I have just checked them and there is error, winking at me! thanks for pointing out, have amended the text .... and now a replay is called for :-)

  14. I used to get this out from our local library as a kid. Constantly! I bought a reprint of the title a couple of years ago and it brought back so many good memories.

  15. Hi Simon, i recently picked up Napoleonic Wargaming by Charles Grant, specifically because of an early teenager good experience. It is surprising how many of the pictures / graphics in the book just give an instant recall.

  16. Thanks Norm a lovely explanation of the principles of the Featherstone way.I admit I am a lover of the original exponents of wargaming and find their articles and books the perfect antidote of the current reality.Thanks for all your efforts.

    1. Thanks Robbie, in some ways we 'moved on' from those authors with too much haste, they certainly have a charm which seems to have been difficult to replicate

  17. Interesting reading Norm. As someone who only came into the hobby in recent times with modern rules it's interesting to see the origins and evolution of the hobby.

  18. Thanks, your view of new compared to old, rather than the other way would be interesting, a sort of reverse engineering' of context.

    1. Interesting idea, may have to give it a go sometime.

  19. Another absorbing read Norm and the Featherstone battle is very heavy on nostalgia for me. Interesting the comparison with the Perry set too. I graduated from Featherstone ACW to Terry Wise ACW then to Johnny Reb II and finally to 'original' F&F. Between Wise & JR I had an interesting experience trying to get to grips with the Newbury ACW rules, possibly the most complex set of rules I ever tried to learn, I recall taking them on the Norfolk Broads for a weeks holiday and must have spent hours studying them but still failed to come to terms with the level of complexity and gave up on them. Do you remember them Norm? For me the publication of F&F in 1990 was a watershed moment and they remain my favourite set (in the original form) to this day.

    Thanks for taking the time to write up your games, every time I see one of your ACW games I am just so tempted to give the period a shot again, maybe in the smaller scale.

  20. Hi Lee, when I think of all those small rulebooks, with the pastel paper type covers, mostly put out by TableTop, I must of had pretty much every set going, but Newbury, especially their ancient, were tough going, never-the-less, I played most of these and of course pre-internet, there was never anyone to tell us whether these things were for the good or not, and their rules were used in some of the national competitions. I wonder if there was a sense that you were a ‘real’ wargamer if you could penetrate all of these rules. For the most part, I think I played mostly with WRG.

  21. As one of the founding fathers of the hobby Featherstone was entitled to publish simplistic rules as the hobby was still in its infancy. However, I expect anything to evolve after fifty plus years and wargame rules are no exception. So it is a bit disappointing to me that the Perry rules do not seem to have wandered too far off from Featherstone’s. Based on what I have read in this post I strongly suspect that the Perrys’ ruleset is a commercial quickie merely designed to compete plete their box sets without too much depth rather than a serious effort at coming up with an improvement and natural progression at simulating warfare. That said, well done Norm for another great write up!

    1. Hi Mike, on the subject of the Perry rules, they Seem to sit right in the middle of the influences of Featherstone, Neil Thomas and Black Powder (with which they have a close working association with).

      I’m not sure that these started out as a cohesive whole, as the infantry rules were with the infantry boxes, the cavalry with the cavalry boxes and the artillery rules never materialised. Because they were written for a soldier type, I wonder at what point they became knitted together, as the Firepower rules seems like V2 of the rules, by making them cohesive and having leaders and artillery added. The original had things like the drummer would give a +2 to movement and the leader help rally etc, and with single mounted figures, a game would have had more a Rebels and Patriots or Sharpe Practice look to them.

      They strike me no better or worse than other introductory rules in terms of simulation, but they are very pretty, slick and give a fun game and I suppose from the perspective of an introductory game, and allowing a game that doesn’t need a load of units, that might be the more important consideration.

      I think most gamers will want to add their bits to them :-)

  22. Excellent post Norm... very enjoyable... PS. I suspect Don got fed up moving single figures as well, if this letter he wrote in reply to me is anything to go by! :o)


  23. Thanks Steve and I enjoyed your recent playing of scenario 2. What a great letter. It is funny, as soon as my eyes fell on the typed text and seeing that in association with Don’s name, I immediately thought ‘Wargamers Newsletter’ and there a couple of paragraphs down, it is confirmed. Nice touch.

  24. Would love to see the Terry Wise/Neil Thomas games!

  25. I'm sure it will happen :-)

  26. Interesting post plus ca change! I guess he was a bit before my time, Terry Wise ACW airfix guides rules were the first rules I owned/was aware of ( even though I didn't play ACW, it was in a sale in WH Smiths) the first rules I tried to teach myself was WRG ancients and renaissance, which was too many charts and presumed more knowledge than I had,probably fine if there was somebody to explain stuff to you, I think the current crop of rules tend to be better( or I have more knowledge?)
    Delighted the book has proved useful to you!
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks Iain, yes enjoying the book and Wise is about to get similar attention. It’s great to think of how these wargame books were actually being on book shelves in the high street - this completely stopped for years, until Neil Thomas got into Waterstones (UK book store) and what better way for an unsuspecting soul to suddenly get ensnared, than while just browsing, with some time to kill.

    2. Iain - would that have been 1977/78 and they were 35p? It’s how I got my copy!

    3. Yes in Great Yarmouth, during the summer! I also picked up the ECW guide and some modeling guides, they were the main reason I got them, the wargame stuff hung on their coat tails!
      Best Iain

    4. Excellent - I have a secret twin! Mine was from Staines. There is a photo of it on my blog.

  27. As always Norm and interesting read. I came to these books late as I never had access to them living in a small village. They make for a wonderful read and I have played games with them, but simply not for me. Still I love having them in my library as they are a great resource and still have good dieas in them.

  28. Hi Steve, lovely to look back on and smile, but there is also some fantastic stuff around now - we are lucky that such a niche hobby with loads of smaller niches within it, has been and is, so well served.

  29. A most interesting and absorbing read, I am really tempted to dig War Games out and give the ancient rules a run out if only to get reacquainted with the battle of Trimsos.

  30. Hi Phil, I found the backwards glance over my shoulder more rewarding than I had anticipated and plan to do a little more. I have been looking up some of the John Curry republishings of old rules for Kindle, to see if there is anything else that I would like to dip back into. It would be nice to see Trismos on your table :-).

    1. I may take up the challenge, no elephants or chariots unfortunately but I will get the Romans ballista painted up first.

  31. I enjoyed this read very much Norm. It’s not so much nostalgia for me bc I’ve never played or read these intro rules, but I liked the compare and contrast of the rules and seeing how thinking has changed over time reflected in the game mechanics. These are basic intro rules and so naturally more simple but that is not a negative. And is serving the fun purpose of getting the troops on the table and having a nice game; hopefully providing motivation to get more figures painted for the pocket ACW armies. 😀

  32. Thanks Stew. I think you can look at the Featherstone rules then and at say Neil Thomas rules now and regardless of what else they are doing, they are definitely getting figures onto the table for for people just to enjoy moving some armies around and if their success was purely measured in those terms, it would be enough.

    Yes ... more painting is happening :-)

  33. Thank you for your comprehensive post, Norm. Having a late start in the wargaming world, I need to know the history. Warmest regards, Dean

  34. Thanks Dean, I think regardless of the point that one generally enters or discovers wargames, that moment will always hold a special memory for the gamer, but it is probably true that those first pioneers of the hobby, will always sit in a Hall of Fame.

  35. This must be one of my favorite blog posts out there, ever!

    Like you, I cut my wargaming teeth on Featherstone's "Battles with Model Soldiers"- I still have my copy. I must have read his chapters on "stepped-up situations" countless times.

    I remember it was a birthday present from my Dad, wrapped up together with four boxes of the Airfix HO/OO Napoleonic figures. Talk about a gateway drug!

    After reading this, I'm tempted to give the scenario a go using a modified version of Osprey's "Rebels & Patriots", or even the OHWG rules.

  36. Robert, thanks very much for commenting. For a certain generation, I'm sure these sort of posts stir up a host of good memories and what a great gift combo from your dad. For similar reasons, last year I bought back into Napoleonic Wargaming by Charles Grant.

    The scenario would stand up very well to Rebels and Patriots and the Neil Thomas rules. I will be doing a return to it shortly with similar.

    I have seen your most recent blog post at Serrez les Rangs! and your figures are beautiful and game size exactly at the level I like / space necessity demands.

    Again, thanks for posting, these sort of comments make blogging all the more worthwhile.



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