Showing posts with label obituary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label obituary. Show all posts

Friday, 13 September 2013

The Donald Featherstone Memorial Wargame - Battle At The Crossroads

Last night the Gong Garage Gamers  made our contribution to the Donald Featherstone Memorial Game project on TMP. We'd actually scheduled a play-through of the new 'Longstreet' rules, and went ahead with it as planned, but allowed our choice of scenario to be inspired by the three example ACW games in 'Battles With Model Soldiers' - simple, equal forces, fighting over an uncomplicated terrain. To some extent we were doing exactly what that chapter does; trying out a set of rules using the minimum forces necessary to get a feel for them.

As discussed here and elsewhere we adopted shirts and ties, in homage to the endearing images of  those smartly-dressed (to our modern eyes) gamers of the 1960s. Ralph brought a small libation and the most suitable table covering he could find (he's an ex-member of the Senior Service), we chipped in some glasses and before the game we drank a small toast to the great man.

To Don!

Then on with the game - after Ralph had taken some photos of the set-up for posterity.

The essence of the battle was a simple crossroads, flanked by two cornfields. The Union had to defend it against a Confederate attack. Both forces were equal - two large units of recruit infantry, two smaller units of veterans, two howitzer artillery sections and two rifle artillery sections. The recruits were eager, whilst one veteran unit was cautious and the other seasoned.

This was our first go with the full version of 'Longstreet'.

Ralph took more photos ...

... then we settled down to coming up with a plan. Ralph and I were the defending Union, whilst Caeasar and Bryan took the Confederates. Whilst the forces were equal, which would seem to favour the defender, there were big penalties to the Union morale if they did lose the crossroads,  so it had to be defended with some vigour.

The Confederate commanders - Matchbox Marshal Anderson and Bryan 'Blood And Glory' Sallans.

This is me, looking bemused. iPhone selfie. No duck-face. But I digress ...

We defended the crossroads with our howitzer battery and some seasoned veterans. The veterans are good at defending in close combat, but less effective on the attack than the more eager recruits. The recruits, however, are more vulnerable to enemy fire as they advance into position. We kept our recruits in reserve.

The Confederates went straight for the jugular, launching an aggressive assault, backed up by some useful melee cards. We used cards to up the effectiveness of our artillery, and concentrated on their recruits, trying to break them up before they closed.

The first round of close combat saw our artillery swept away, however.

We brought up a veteran unit on the flank and used deadly musketry to hold the Confederates back.

The Confederates pulled back. A large unit of Confederate infantry can be seen sneaking around the Union flank, but some sneaky card-play held them off for a turn or so. Our ability to bring up our reserve recruits was hindered when they became confused and moved to occupy positions in a nearby wood instead.

Caesar was still optimistic at this stage. The Confederates had settled for peppering us with artillery fire, whilst sneaking the remains of one of their veteran regiments around our flank. Successfully.

The small Confederate unit charged, and won the combat, but not by the crushing margin Caesar and Bryan had hoped for. Our unit defending the crossroads was pushed back, but remained on the objective.

On the next turn we turned the battlefield into a killing ground of musketry and artillery fire, inflicting enough casualties to push the Confederates to their army break point, ending the game.

As with the previous game we seemed to grasp the card-play pretty well, and only made a couple of errors of timing. The attackers have a difficult job in this scenario, but it wasn't entirely easy for the defenders, as teh objective is an exposed position and a unit defending it is subject to a lot of fire. The small number of casualties we took was more testament to poor die rolls on our opponents' part than anything else. We used cards to keep up a steady, effective, fire when we could, trying to score as many casualties on vulnerable units as we could to get the Confederates to their break-point.

All in all this was a very enjoyable game. I did like how the troop rating interacted, with experience being boosted or hindered by the troops' willingness to fight. And the mechanisms were easy to pick up and use; whilst we did spend time looking stuff up in the rules it was more to make certain of things rather than any lack of clarity.

And the important thing, for a game which was played to celebrate the contribution of one man to our hobby, was that we all had fun.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Donald Featherstone (1918-2013)

One of the fathers of modern wargaming, Donald Featherstone, died yesterday after a fall at home. He was 95.

It would be hard to find a wargamer - British wargamer, certainly - of my age who was not influenced by him in some way. He wrote over forty books on wargaming and other military subjects, and the rules and idea in them inspired endless ideas. I was lucky that our local libraries were stocked with his books (as well as wargames books by other authors of the time), and as a teenager was able to read them at my leisure.

Like many others, I have some of his books on my shelf. One of them is one of the ones I used to get out of the library - retired from service and sold off for a massive twenty pence.

Donald Featherstone represented a bygone, more gentlemanly, era of wargaming. At my previous club we used to joke about the photos of wargames events from the 1960s, showing players smartly decked out in shirts and ties. Five years ago we decided to celebrate Donald Featherstone's 90th birthday at our club (not that he ever knew). Our game for the night had already been scheduled as 'Rapid Fire' - a perfect set of rules with which to do such a tribute, harking back as they did to the games of our youth. We included a paradrop, featuring squares of paper dropped onto the playing area - a Featherstone classic. And, finally, we wore shirts and ties. And those who know me will know that for me to put on a tie it must be an event of some real importance. Donald Featherstone was a man who truly merited the wearing of a tie.

(True Fact - It was me who added him to Wikipedia's 'Births On This Day' list for March 20th. Although at some stage the entry has been changed from 'British Wargamer' to 'English Author')

Update: I'm not kidding about the ties.
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