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" Wargaming Airborne Operations by Donald Featherstone." Topic

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Thortrains16 May 2018 6:14 p.m. PST

My review of a classic book by Donald Featherstone: Wargaming Airborne Operations. I enjoyed reading this "Old School" book of wargaming. Still great stuff after 41 years. Then again, I prefer old school gaming to the new stuff.


Enjoy and Please Share!

Legion 417 May 2018 6:38 a.m. PST

Many of his gaming rules are still very useful and pretty good overall generally …

Dave Jackson Supporting Member of TMP17 May 2018 7:47 a.m. PST

Even if you don't play the rules, you'll always find something of use.

Thortrains17 May 2018 11:29 a.m. PST

Featherstone's first book got the ball rolling for many of us. The result: half a century of fun. I like WW2 myself. Got started with Airfix and ROCO Minitanks. It's a big hobby and you can make a lot of friends and have a lot of fun.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP17 May 2018 1:51 p.m. PST

I found Featherstone's books deeply disappointing and wholly useless.

VVV reply17 May 2018 2:22 p.m. PST

There is a good Osprey on the subject.

Hornswoggler21 May 2018 5:22 a.m. PST

"Advanced Wargames" by D. Featherstone was the only wargames book I could access in the early 70s via my public library. I just used to take it back and renew it every fortnight. I think that one book and the occasional glimpse of a wargame in Callan helped sustain my interest through to my teens.

Regarding his books, I would have to concede that he did rather churn them out. I can see about ten titles by him in my bookcase – some are really interesting but mostly of nostalgia value now, whereas a few apart from having "War Games" somewhere in the title have virtually zero actual wargames content.

In defence of DF, one only has to look at The Courier's wargames hobby timeline (current link?) to see what a hugely influential figure he was, including his involvement in the various spats and schisms that took place in the early days of the hobby!

Fred Cartwright21 May 2018 7:08 a.m. PST

In the U.K. in the 70's standard entry to wargaming for teens was either through Featherstone, Young or Grant, depending on which books the local library had. Mine had Battle and The Wargame, so was a "Grant" man. Didn't see any of Featherstone's books until much later and only got a copy of Charge! about 20 years ago.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP21 May 2018 7:58 a.m. PST

I didn't come across a Featherstone book until after I'd read Quarrie, WRG, Newbury etc in the late 70s. I borrowed one of his books from the public library and although it was written in quite a funny way it was completely useless in terms of any suggestions. The combat mechanism for two ACW battalions was for them to be grouped into battalions of twenty figures (40 in one box of Airfix) and each batch of five got to roll one die to fire. If they rolled more than the other guy, the other guy lost a figure.

It was that reductive. It was as historical and rewarding of strategy as, say, Risk. Nothing in the mechanism referred to the historical period in any way.

I kept trying others and they were just as bad. The one in the Tank Battles in Miniature series was also hopeless. The Eastern and Western front titles gave you a complete and playable set of rules, but the Featherstone one on the desert campaign gave you no such thing.

It was probably radical stuff in 1955 but at a guess it had all been left behind by about 1960.

Nick Stern Supporting Member of TMP21 May 2018 8:13 a.m. PST

I grew up in the US where Featherstone's books were not generally available. I only found "Charge" in 1968 because my family lived in London for a year. I agree with Hornswoggler that Featherstone's contributions are probably more general than specific. Personally, I appreciate that his rules are, generally, easily grasped and playable. By contrast, when I first played WRG at a convention, my impression was of players on both sides of the table holding their rules books open across their chests, arguing their interpretation by pointing to paragraphs in the books. This went on for the entire game. I recently bought a copy of Wargaming Airborne Operations in preparation for gaming Arnhem (using Bolt Action) and I found plenty of useful and inspiring information. I especially enjoy the way he improvised things that were not commercially produced in 1970, like his cardboard cutaway of Arnhem Bridge!

Fred Cartwright21 May 2018 8:50 a.m. PST

I never played any of Featherstone's rules. Only Charles Grant's Battle. That was a usable set of rules and the inspiration for Rapid Fire and some other sets. My brother and I even built the gadgets like the MG cone and the mortar fire template.

blank frank21 May 2018 1:07 p.m. PST

Rapid fire were a development of Z.M. Iwasko London Wargame Section rules 1967? The small arms fire chart is very similar and the use of A to F armour grades. Charles Grant used defence and strike values.

Fred Cartwright21 May 2018 1:41 p.m. PST

The A to F armour grades had been used in several sets before RF came along. I wouldn't be surprised if RF didn't have several earlier sets as inspiration.

Hornswoggler22 May 2018 4:03 a.m. PST

In answer to my own question (see above), A TIMELINE OF THE HISTORICAL MINIATURES WARGAMING HOBBY, which is recommended for all nostalgists, can be found here:


TacticalPainter0122 May 2018 4:33 a.m. PST

If Featherstone did nothing else he alerted the teenage me to the fact wargaming was a possibility. I'd been playing with toy soldiers up until then. The idea I could take it to another level completely fascinated me and gave me a lifelong hobby. I am eternally grateful to him, despite never having played a single game using his rules.

Thortrains23 May 2018 1:02 p.m. PST

If it weren't for Featherstone, I wouldn't have discovered miniature wargaming. I still prefer old-school rules. My favorites are WW2 – later 20th Century and Dark Ages (Vikings, of course.) Featherstone's rules, Airfix 1/76 soldiers and ROCO Minitanks made it all possible. BTW – here's my recent article on the ROCO SWS Half-track (A humorous look at the only half track we had in the 60s!)


PMC31701 Jun 2018 12:55 a.m. PST

Donald Featherstone is one of the greats, really.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP01 Jun 2018 6:03 a.m. PST

@ PMC317

Why do you say that? Lionel Tarr's rules were much more thoughtful.

zoneofcontrol01 Jun 2018 6:59 a.m. PST

4th Cuirassier: ?????

Skarper01 Jun 2018 7:30 a.m. PST

His 'Skirmish Wargames' had a huge impact on me. A pioneer. He provided the groundwork for others to build on. Much of his work is dated, and some was in error, for sure. But his influence is undeniable.

Dave Jackson Supporting Member of TMP02 Jun 2018 5:12 a.m. PST

Ditto for me "zoneofcontrol"…

UshCha02 Jun 2018 10:33 a.m. PST

I started because of Featherstone I will give him that. His rules were poor then and he did little to improve that in his subsequent books. He started it but they were never great in bringing the game to a high standard. That was left to the likes of Barker and the wargames research group. It does surprise me that some folk still like Featherstone and it's clones. I was soon dissolutioned even as a teenager. And advanced wargames was worse except proably 20 years later I did make a version of the hex terrain sown in that book. Having said that Maneouver Group fold flat terrain pays homage to Lionel Tarrs Starlingrad in War Games.

Wherethestreetshavnoname02 Jun 2018 12:03 p.m. PST

"If Featherstone did nothing else he alerted the teenage me to the fact wargaming was a possibility. I'd been playing with toy soldiers up until then. The idea I could take it to another level completely fascinated me and gave me a lifelong hobby. I am eternally grateful to him, despite never having played a single game using his rules."

+1 Tactical Painter

I played my first wargame with Grant's 'Battle' in 1971 but if I hadn't discovered Featherstone's books in my local library I would never have known that wargaming existed.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP02 Jun 2018 3:59 p.m. PST

It was Lionel Tarr who thought up the idea of giving guns an attack factor and tank armour a defence factor, with a die roll added to the former to resolve combat.

A mechanism as advanced as that was beyond anything Featherstone ever put in any of his books.

UshCha03 Jun 2018 10:44 a.m. PST

4th Cuirassier, to be fair he did put some of Tarrs rules in his book War Games but in hind sight one wonders whether he understood how clever it was. Did Tarr ever publish his rules in full?

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP04 Jun 2018 12:58 a.m. PST

@ UshCha

I'm not sure if Lionel Tarr ever published them, but they have been compiled and published:
PDF link

The biggest influence on Featherstone seems to have been H G Wells. DF moved on from shooting matchsticks at the figures, but otherwise, it was much the same.

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