Wednesday, 4 September 2013

No More Heroes...

So Don Featherstone has passed on. Of the "big beasts" of the wargaming world as I was growing up I think that just leaves Phil Barker. Terry Wise, Charles Grant, Tony Bath, Peter Young and of course Paddy G the Young Turk are all gone now. We shall not see their like again, - people who started wargaming as grown ups and defined the hobby as we understand it today.

I'm not sure how important Don Featherstone is to me and my involvement in the hobby. I got into wargaming because:

(1) I was a boy in the 1960s with toy soldiers
(2) My older brother wargamed with his friends

So I discovered Don Featherstone's books after I was pretty much fully committed to the hobby. There was no "eureka" moment, stumbling upon "Wargames" in the library or similar.

Where Don did have a major impact on me (can I call you Don? After all we never met) was in encouraging me to stand on my own two feet. Or rather me & Derek to stand up on our own.

To that extent "Battle with Model Soldiers" was a more significant book. Up to me discovering it in the school library we were takers of rules written by my brother and his friends. After "BwMS" we started to write our own rules. Then Derek found "Wargamers Newsletter" and we were both subscribers.

The standard of writing in WN was such that we felt, at the age of  13 or 14, that we could write battle reports as well as anyone (except for that Western Gunfight lot). From then I never looked back. My work litters the pages of various wargames magazines and now the internet.

An acquaintance through WD, John Curry, has set up the History of Wargaming project and befriended Don so his legacy is assured. His books are being republished for posterity - although some of them have not stood the test of time well.

So good bye, and thank you for your contribution to the hobby. Regardless of your personal impact on me it is clear that without you the hobby as I know it would not exist. 100 years on from Little Wars we enter a new chapter.

14 comments:

  1. I think you are right. Featherstone was prolific and publicised wargaming widely. He seemed popular with his generation too (and that can't be said of all of them).

    I discovered wargaming through Charge!, but, as an enthusiast for the ancient world, then went to the work of Tony Bath, Charles Grant et al.

    Very sad but inevitable as time passes ...

    Rest in Peace

    Phil

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    1. I think there is a wider discussion to be had about his legacy, other than just "he was great". Through WD I met a number of other giants from that period and I would say thay Terry Wise's "Introduction to Battlegaming" and "Battle" by Charles Grant were more important to me personally. But Don was "The Man"

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  2. A sad day for the hobby, I always loved his Solo Wargaming book in particular.
    If immortality is measured by the lives you touch, he will indeed live on for many years to come.

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    1. His position in the pantheon of wargaming writers is unassailable. Unlike Phil Barker he never generated suxch heated opinions.

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  3. My introduction to his books came after I had been a war-gamer already for several years. His work helped encourage me to change direction and get into historical wargaming just at the point when I was starting to loose interest in the Fantasy/Sci-fi games I had played until then. His books gave my hobby a new lease of life and have entertained, informed and inspired me ever since.

    He will be sadly missed, but fondly remembered.

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    1. If he took you from SF to real wargaming then his work was not in vain. Let us raise a glass to that!

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  4. This is all becoming a little upsetting - first David Frost, then David Jacobs and now Donald Featherstone, names, faces and voices that formed a backdrop for my earlier years whether I liked them or not, now passed away in short order

    I first came across Don Featherstone like many others, scouring the shelves of the local library. Battles with Model Soldiers came first then Advanced Wargames (the library never had the original edition) and then the two books on wargaming battles from ancient times and the pike and shot. I faithfully wrote down his rules in a small notebook although I never managed to play them - it was the ideas that mattered. While his style of wargaming may have been overtaken by newer and brasher systems I think his brand of old school gaming still lives on in the spirit of game alike Hail Caesar, albeit now with a harder commercial edge.

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  5. Martin,

    As the saying goes, you realises you're getting old when you start to recognise names in the obituaries that didn't die from drug overdoses.

    I disagree on the "old school" point. Modern old school doesn't seem to me to fit with Don's early books. The obsession with large numbers of steroid pumped figures all painted to the same style doesn't fit with a lot of Don's make do and mend approach. I also think, to the end, that the only rules he ever played with were his own and a lot of his books contain ideas about how you can write your own. To that extent I think it is difficult to say that any modern set inherits his mantle. Neither of Hail Caesar or Black Powder seem to me to have anything in common with Don's writings.

    As for a hard commercial edge, - you should talk to John Curry who has been republishing Don's works. The rest of the hobby is only now catching up with a man who made a living from it!

    Trebian

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  6. Agree with you about Hail Caesar, Treb ... nothing much 'old school' about that (I can't recall DF going for mechanisms with multiple actions for some units and embarrassment for others, to use an obvious example) ...

    I suspect the nearest 'contemporary Featherstone' would be Neil Thomas ... but, of course, DF was a man of his age, a foundation stone of the leisure activity we have all enjoyed and a genuine 'one off'.

    Phil

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    1. Agree on NT - it's a real how-to-get-started book.

      And yes, DF was a "one off".

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  7. What I was trying to say was that the Hail Caesar rules are more focused on playing a game of war for amusement and (possibly) education as opposed to an intensely competitive game that happens to involve miniatures. The difference is that they are also there to sell a load of figures from Warlord (nothing wrong with that of course) which DF never did himself (AFAIK). But I may be stretching a point a bit too far, I'm not entirely sure I know what "old school" wargaming actually means.

    The main thing is that I was sorry to learn of his passing. It would be interesting to know if there is any thought of some sort of lasting memorial for his "services to wargaming".

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    1. I agree that I'm not sure what "old school" wargaming is, as well.

      Let's not get into the "fun" or "amusement" argument...at least one of my followers has strong views on the matter!

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  8. One other minor point, as well as Phil Barker, isn't Charles Wesencraft still around from the "classic" period of wargaming?

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    1. I think CW is still about. Never saw him as one of the "inner circle", but I could be wrong.

      I have both of his books, and they still stand up quite well.

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