The word is being passed slowly from across the Atlantic that Donald Featherstone passed away yesterday. For all my non Geek friends, Don was a pioneer in the area of tabletop miniature game design (mostly of the historical flavor), or “wargames”. Don wrote dozens of books and articles on the subject– dating back to before I was born. He published a very influential newsletter called, simply, WARGAMER’S NEWSLETTER which had its heyday back in the early 1960s. I’ve owned and read many of Don’s books, but not all of them– there were so many on all sorts of historical subjects. My personal favorites were his books on Solitaire Wargaming, Naval Wargaming and Skirmish Games. I’ve designed a lot of one-off miniatures games in the course of my adult life; virtually everything, including the silly stuff, has a soupçon of Featherstone’s influence in it somewhere. The man to man Napoleonic game I’m working on right now, for instance, has equal dashes of Bruce Quarrie’s Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun and Don’s Skirmish Wargaming in it. When you’re going to steal, steal from the best.
I only met Don one time, during the mid 2000s at a HMGS convention– Cold Wars, I think. He was very frail but his mind was sharp and gleeful. I had drinks with Don and Bob Leibl and Cleo Hanlon. He was amused that people were always assuming he had already passed and used the phrase “rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated” at least once. We didn’t really discuss wargaming or “the hobby” all that much. As I recall, he was more interested in discussing football (not the American version) and some American television programs. It was an odd tete a tete.
If you haven’t read a Featherstone book, you really should. They are mostly in the process of being republished in perfect bound trade copies by John Curry’s History of Wargaming Project. Pricey but worth it– these are almost impossible to find unless you are a really dedicated deep diver at flea markets, boot sales and used book stores. I couldn’t have picked up Skirmish Wargaming and Naval Wargaming without the History of Wargaming Project. Thanks, John Curry. It’s amazing and amusing about how much of our modern miniatures hobby can be traced back to Don Featherstone in England and Jack Scruby in America. Everything.. including your latest hipster big-shoulderpad SF games, Fantasy games, D&D, etc.. everything… owes more than a little to these men and the hobby they created with their tireless work and creativity. Don Featherstone, for such a diminutive, soft-spoken fellow, wielded tremendous influence over the hobby back in its founding and growth years.
A charming man, a great hobbyist and writer… I’ll miss Donald Featherstone. In his honor, the OFM (on the Miniatures Page) is suggesting we run games that “don’t take themselves too seriously”. What can I say? I’m all in on this one.
- Wikipedia Article
- History of Wargame Project (Featherstone Reprints)
- Black Grom Studio Tribute
- Hill Cantons Tribute
- Single Handed Admiral Tribute
- Wargame NZ Tribute
- Steadfast Tin Soldier Tribute
- Big Lee’s Tribute
- Army Rumour Service Tribute
- SP Projects Blog Tribute
- Ian “Thomo” Thompson’s Tribute
- Amazon’s John Curry Page *History of Wargaming guy*