Donald Featherstone's Lost Tales .Edited by John Curry.
I've had this volume for a while and never thought of reviewing it until recently. However as a book by one of the 'originators' of the wargaming hobby as it stands today it deserves a second and even a third look. Regular readers will know that I have a soft spot for 'retro' wargaming, often preferring it to some of the gamesey history free twaddle that masquerades as 'historical wargaming' in this 'modern era'. Now that is not the same as saying that ALL modern 'games' are tripe - they are not- but like the curates egg- the modern era of historical wargaming is only good in parts.
In some ways it is a strange book, combining as it does real history and wargaming.
The real history consists of Featherstone's 'War Memoirs' and a short history of the Army Tank battalion he served with . This last has several gameable scenarios within its narrative as well as the rather unusual organisational quirks of 51st Battalion Royal Tank Regiment with its mixture of Sherman and Churchill tanks while in Italy. There is also an essay on 'The Birth of Modern Wargaming' which should set the record straight concerning how what we have today began in the late 50s /early 60s which 'Millenial wargamers' should read . The picture of wargamers of yesteryear in Jackets and ties will raise a smile or three!
As for the 'Wargaming' bit well the main body of the book is a block of Featherstone rules actually a total of 12 sets by either Featherstone himself or Tony Bath covering most of the popular and a couple of more obscure periods. Some a very simple, even simplistic, and many are also rather skeletal in terms of the actual amount of rules given. These are not 'games' in the sense many expect today. They assume some pre-knowledge of period and some suspension of belief- especially with regard to Command and Control and formations This does not mean they are useless. A decent Umpire can use their vey simplicity and skeletal nature as a toolrack to hang his scenarios upon adding scenario specific rules as required. Games using these rules will be fast and bloody- especially in the Horse and musket era. There are no set unit sizes here although there are some suggestions.
Arthur Harman's useful introduction to the rules section of the book points out many of the possible pitfalls and inconsistencies and his point about the suitability of these rules for small actions is well made and to the point and the lack of period detail is also mentioned. However I would opine that such lack may at times be advantageous to the well read Umpire, and as a fan of 'Active Umpiring' the very simplicity has its uses.
To be honest it is unlikely that I'd umpire a game using these rules without some amendments more than once or twice ,as usual I treat rules as a toolbox and feel free to amend as alter as needed in much the same way Donald Featherstone advocated.
So yes I recommend this book to chaps who have an interest in the development of our hobby. Don was after all one of the pioneers.