Monday, 1 September 2014

A book that I once thought was rubbish has now been re-published ... and is much improved!

During my life as a wargamer I have bought almost any and every book I have found about wargaming. Almost without exception I have enjoyed them, but one stands out as being one that I thought was truly awful ... Donald Featherstone's COMPLETE WARGAMING.

Now before I start to get all sorts of comments about my audacity to state that I thought that Don Featherstone actually wrote something that was not very good, may I quote from John Curry's foreword to the recently republished – and heavily revised – edition of the book.
As with many of Donald Featherstone's books, there is a story behind the book. The first edition of Complete Wargaming in 1988 was an editorial shambles. The publishers wanted another wargaming book on their lists and so they turned to the author in British wargaming, who duly assembled some wargaming material that had not been used in his previous works. The publishers turned over the material to an editor who obviously knew nothing about wargaming and apparently nothing about history. The ideas, scenarios, rules and historical pieces were assembled into a random sequence that was based on efficient use of the page count; such as putting smaller pieces into the margins of the book wherever they fitted. Unfortunately, the lively correspondence between the author and the publisher as a consequence of this editing has not survived the passage of time. At some point, Donald Featherstone decided it was better to let the publisher get the book into print, 'wargamers, being a group of above average in intelligence and endeavour, would uncover the pieces of immediacy and use them.' Upon reflection, this was probably the correct view.
Thanks to the work of John Curry – ably assisted by Arthur Harman – the book has now been completely restructured into a logical sequence ... and is much better as a result. I know, because I have now bought a copy!

The book is now organised into three sections, with each section having separate chapters.
  • Section 1: reflections on Wargaming
    • Chapter 1: Wargaming for Real
    • Chapter 2: Rules - A Necessary Evil
    • Chapter 3: Planning a Wargame
    • Chapter 4: Fighting in Built Up Areas: A Desirable Wargaming Residence
    • Chapter 5: Weather in Wargaming
    • Chapter 6: Treachery: Double-dealing on the Wargames Table
    • Chapter 7: Civilians in Wargaming
    • Chapter 8: the Fog of War
    • Chapter 9: Surrendering and Prisoners-of-War
    • Chapter 10: Tabletop Terrain
    • Chapter 11: Forming a Club
  • Section 2: Historical Scenarios and Notes
    • Chapter 12: Early Wheeled Warfare – Chariots of the Ancients
    • Chapter 13: The first battle of All Time – Qadesh
    • Chapter 14: Ancient Warfare: Cynoscephelae (197 BC), the Roman Legion, the Roman Civil War and Boudicca's Revolt
    • Chapter 15: Ponderous Pachyderms – Rules for Elephants
    • Chapter 16: The Incomparable English Archer, the Forerunner of the English Infantryman
    • Chapter 17: They Fought for Gold! Mercenaries of the Middle Ages
    • Chapter 17: Wargaming The Thirty Years War (N.B. For some reason there are TWO Chapter 17s in my copy!)
    • Chapter 18: Formal Warfare of the 18th century
    • Chapter 19: War of The American Revolution
    • Chapter 20; Wellington in the Peninsular
    • Chapter 21: The American Civil War – Instant Wargaming
    • Chapter 22: The Sands of The Desert ...
    • Chapter 23: Great-Grandfather's War – The Boer War 1899-1902
    • Chapter 24: They Came in Like Great Birds ...! The Storming of Eben Emael 1940
    • Chapter 25: Pure War - Tanks in the Desert 1940-42
    • Chapter 26: They came From the Sea – Commando Raids – Saint Nazaire
    • Chapter 27: A Battle For All Seasons – Auberoche
  • Section 3: Reference
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book ... which is – to all intents and purposes – a new one rather than a merely revised and re-edited one. Its details are as follows:

Written by Donald Featherstone, edited by John Curry, and published by The History of Wargaming Project (2012)
ISBN 978 1 291 03476 9


  1. Noted Bob and thank you for the info.

    Unfortunately the new edition is unlikely to have had the covers "loved" off it by a enraptured 11 year old Kinch nor will it be signed by the author.

    I might buy it - but I probably won't read it. It would be like being unfaithful.

  2. Conrad Kinch,

    I know exactly what you mean. I have three editions of Donald Featherstone's first book, but love the one with the torn and worn dust cover more than the other two.

    All the best,


  3. I can understand your disparagement of the original random arrangements in the original edition. But I tended to think of the original as a rather ... discursive treatment and found it kind of endearing. The marginal bits gave the whole thing a bit of character. Overall, it was basically a bedside book, nothing really profound therein, and you could flip around as you chose.

    It was never what I would call a great book - Don Featherstones best were 'The War Game' and 'War Game Campaigns' (I'd love to have a copy of the latter) - but an enjoyable one-brain-cell browse, all the same.

  4. It's interesting how we value items amongst all the baggage we collect in our hobby. Mine is a book, which is why I mention it here. My father gave it me as a christmas present in the late 60's. It was I believe pre the Featherstone book and was called "Charge or how to play wargames" by brigadier peter young.It's not that awful soft cover version reprinted in the 80's but a fine hardcover book. Now if my memopry serves me right the reprint was only partial because I seem to remember a lot of pictures and descriptions of the authors imaginary nation and some great conversions of Spencer smith plastics. That book has a lot to answer for heheheh. I have all the featherstone books but they can't quite match the thrill of the hobby that first book gave me.

  5. Robert de Angelis: in my view thje Young and Lawford 'Charge' (hardback) is one of the five great classics of the war games genre. The other four are the two Don Featherstone books I mentioned in my earlier comment, Charles Grant's 'The War Game' and the H.G. Wells magnum opus: 'Little Wars'. There are many fine war games books around, but it is no disparagement of the others (in my view) to list these five as the best of the best.

  6. Archduke Piccolo,

    I bought the original book because I had enjoyed Donald Featherstone's other books so much ... and I was very disappointed.

    I suppose that had I looked at it as a bedside book, I would have viewed it differently. I now know that Don washed his hands of it, and I think that the new edition is much closer to how he envisaged it would be.

    All the best,


  7. Robert De Angelis,

    The first book about wargaming that I read was Donald Featherstone's WAR GAME, but the first one I bought was CHARGE!

    The latter came out some time after the former, and like you I own - and cherish - a hardback version. It is certainly a book that I will keep for as long as I live.

    All the best,


  8. Archduke Piccolo,

    I agree that CHARGE! is one of the top five wargames books ever published, and my list would also include LITTLE WARS and two of Donald Featherstone's books ... and Joseph Morschauser's!

    All the best,



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