Tag Archives: obituary

Bow your heads. Dr. Kauderer has exited the building.

I learned today that Dr. Howard Todd Kauderer had passed away. I have no words for this. I knew he had been ill. Yet, he was very active in social media, here and there, ran for the Board of Directors of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society fairly recently, and was always, always, a steadfast volunteer on virtually every convention I’ve attended for the past decade. It’s like he just left the room a few minutes ago or something.

Guys like Todd are the salt of the earth. They aren’t drama queens. They are courteous, and thoughtful, and they work like mules so other people can benefit. Without complaint. I’m not exaggerating, here. Todd usually worked registration at conventions, working long shifts (supervising), and usually a longer shift than a lot of people (who were also working like donkeys, I might add).  When the last dollar was counted and the bank drop made, then he would go have fun for himself.  This was a routine.

It would be disingenuous to say we were close, or even buddies. Todd was one of that tribe of people I only get to see 3 times a year. Yet, he was a very pleasant, kindly man to talk to, even if we ran in different social circles.

Todd welcoming his granddaughter into the world (from Facebook)

Todd, thank you for the gift of your hard work, the gift of your intelligence, and your steadfast decency over the years. May God bless you and hold you in His hand.  At the heart of it, our mutual hobby is all about people, and we should never forget the efforts of people who make the world just a little bit better by the application of patience and understanding.



Al Hayden, saying goodbye.

I received word on Facebook, which was later confirmed, that my friend Al Hayden took his own life this week. Words simply fail me. It was an emotionally devastating moment to come home from Cold Wars, wondering why Al had missed a convention local to him, to discover he was in the process of deciding to end it all.

I admit I blinked back tears when I got word from Scott Muldoon late Tuesday night.  Facebook Instant Messenger is not the best medium to convey the news that a mutual friend had passed on, especially by suicide, but what can you do, it’s the modern age.  Maybe the modern age is what did Al in, I don’t know.  His health hadn’t been very good in the last three years.  He seemed depressed.  I know his father had passed on, and his finances were, erm, in disarray more often then not.  Maybe he had taken a good hard look at his future prospects and decided to check out.  Who can say?  I think Al would have preferred to have lived in simpler times.  His abundant imagination was more at home in a world of Big Steam Powered robots and zeppelins than in the modern world.

Al playing Sergeant Slaughter in Bun Bun Land in 2004 (wearing the Pith Helmet)

I know that the advent of Obamacare hit Al pretty hard, he posted many snarky comments on Facebook about losing medical coverage and  how expensive it had all gotten for him.  Maybe he was simply out of options.  We’ll never really know.  I have no idea if he left a note.

What I do know is that the world is a much poorer place without Al Hayden in it.  We live in a world where everyone is on edge, trying to one-up the next guy, to get over on them, to show off and have the last word at someone else’s expense.  That wasn’t Al Hayden.  He was content to smile, nod and let  you make a fool of yourself.  He was a kind, funny and sensitive man.  Not to mention incredibly talented, endlessly patient, wickedly humorous and bitingly sardonic.  I’ll miss him.  I can hardly recall putting on a game in the early 00s without Al participating in it somehow, if it was a PA convention.  Victorian Racing Contraptions, Psychotic Bunny-Murdering Galactic police, Cowboys and Zombies, Big Stompy Steam Robots.. Al was usually “all in” and suggesting ways to make the game better.   Al was a kindred spirit, a great collaborator and a close friend.

Al, I’ll never understand why you choose to do what you did this week. I really wish I had been around more for you,man, I really do. Go with God and may He bless you and keep you in His hand.

Donald Featherstone: an Appreciation

Cover of a a very ancient WARGAMES NEWLSETTER, dating back to the early 60s.

Cover of a a very ancient WARGAMES NEWLSETTER, dating back to the early 60s.

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.

Don in an article from the early 90s.

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.

A reissue cover of a Featherstone title

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.


An appreciation: “Col. G. Hairy Haggis, at your service”– aka William Landrum

56000aFacebook catches a lot of slings and arrows from critics these days, mostly about invasion of privacy. The flip side of that coin is that Facebook creates the opportunity to keep in touch with people you haven’t seen in next to never. So it was today, when I noticed this face popping up in my Recent Friends bar in Facebook.  I had forgotten who owned that face.  It was William Landrum, also known as “Colonel Hairy Haggis” on the many hobby bulletin boards he used to frequent, especially the Colonial Wars Yahoogroup.  So I finally said to myself, “why would he be a recent friend on FB?  He never posts anything!”  I’m not sure if Facebook was trying to tell me something, but when I went to his profile page, It turns out Bill passed away, over a year ago, and I had never heard the news from anybody in the multiple hobby communities online.

Colonel Hairy Haggis, as he liked to style himself, was always a consummate gentleman online and very pleasant in person.  He was also an inveterate tinkerer.  Bill had his own dental supply lab that did a lot of custom work for the dentist community were he lived.   He had access to an amazing amount of tools and was fond of casting his own custom toy soldiers or converting existing ones into outlandish creations.

Hairy Haggis in his shop

Hairy Haggis in his shop
More stuff

More stuff


Back in the late 90s, when I was running a game of my own devising called LE GRAND CIRQUE at conventions, Colonel Haggis was an occasional player and enthusiastic commentator on the game. At one point I created a conveyance called The Dowdmobile, with Elwood P. Dowd of HARVEY fame as the pilot. I didn’t have a giant rabbit to accompany Elwood in his conveyance, so I used the old cop out of “Well, Harvey is invisible, you see…” as my excuse. Colonel Haggis would have none of that. Using a conversion method, he created a giant armed rabbit out of an old Alternative Armies figure. It was fantastic, whiskers and all.  He did that because it “fit”, and he was right.  Bill also participated in my Le Grande Cirque du Wabash game waaay back in Historicon 2000, I think. Those were good times.

Bill Landrum was a wonderful guy; even tempered, creative, funny and a gentleman.  He loved Victorian affectations in speech and manner, and adored Victorian Science Fiction before it became “Steampunk”.   A born storyteller and always up for a joke or ready with a kind word. I wish there were more people in the hobby like Colonel Hairy Haggis. I’ll miss him.

Farewell to Lynn Willis

Lynn Willis

I’m almost a month late in noticing this, but Lynn Willis, prolific game design and Chaosium employee, passed away on January 18 of this year (2013).   Lynn had a large impact on the gaming industry, and he designed several games that I personally enjoyed, such as Stomp, Dragon Pass, Olympica (my favorite microgame, which I have converted into miniatures recently), Bloodtree Rebellion and most notably Arkham Horror (the first version).

Lynn got his start with one of my favorite old companies, Metagaming, and designed two micros (Olympica and Holy War) as well as GODSFIRE, which is notable for it’s odd three dimensional hexes.   After a short period of boardgame design in the late 70s and early 80s, he was primarily associated with roleplaying games.

From about 1980 onward the vast majority of Lynn’s output was in the roleplaying game niche, specifically supporting Chaosium’s flagship CALL OF CTHULHU game.  Still, he found time to branch out and wrote or co-wrote the excellent RINGWORLD and STORMBRINGER RPGs (both of which I had at some point),  RUNEQUEST, several novels, and material for other RPG systems.  He was a versatile guy.  Lynn Willis hearkened back to a great time in gaming (for me, anyway), the late 70s and early 80s.  The gaming world is a little duller with his passing.

Rest in Peace, Lynn Willis.


Sad passing: James McCourt

Jim McCourt

Jim McCourt (left)

Jim McCourt had a tough job. As a D.C. police officer, he routinely encountered the worst part of human nature, and managed it with a cheerful and effortless grace. As these CHAMPS after action reports might attest to, he was no stranger to courage (1, 2, 3) There’s no doubt Jim had guts and determination, along with a sincere community spirit.

Sadly, Jim McCourt passed away last month after a four year battle with leukemia. Jim’s friends and neighbors knew that Jim was a good guy, a good humored pleasant chap that was obviously a great dad to his boys Gregory and Nicholas.

Members of NOVAG and HMGS remember Jim’s amazing creativity and industry, too.

Jim made some fantastic games out of literally, junk and wood bits– always put on for a kid crowd (or adults with a kid spirit). I wish I had more pictures of his efforts. I remember a cute little Napoleonic era game with tons of little soldier pieces made out of small wooden blocks, each and every one of them painted to be British, French, Spanish, Austrian, Russian or Prussian. They sailed around in little boats (also made of wood) to capture other countries. I remember thinking “What madman did this?” followed by “Man, I wish I had thought of that!

Jim in Action

Jim in Action (second from left, in shorts). 2006 Star Wars Game

Sadly, I don’t have many pictures of Jim in action. The pictures here are reposts from a HISTORICON maybe 5 years ago, where Jim put on a Star Wars game using craft he made himself (out of wood pieces and junk). Think about that for a second.. he made everything you see here himself. The game took up the back quarter of the Distelfink Ball room at the Lancaster host. I think the expression on the kid’s faces says it all.

2006 game

2006 Star Wars Game

2006 Star Wars Game

2006 Star Wars Game

2006 Star Wars Game

2006 Star Wars Game

Jim would probably be the last person to accept praise, especially from a guy who didn’t know him personally all that well– we were just on a “Hi Jim!” basis. I think the guy had a certain genius for creating games that kids love and the patience and understanding to run them FOR kids. If HMGS ever considers giving out awards for running children’s games, they ought to call it the Jim McCourt Award.

I’m a little late in reporting this.. I didn’t hear about it until I bumped into John Montrie (Chort) at FALL IN last weekend.

Jim passed on September 3. He leaves behind his wife Christine and sons Nicholas and Gregory. Services were held at St. Patrick’s Church, Washington, DC on Sept. 7. Donations may be made to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or to HEROES (Honor Every Responsible Officer’s Eternal Sacrifice).

On a cheering note, John Montrie approached Christine at Jim’s wake, a little shy and tongue-tied about the subject of offering to host and chaperone Nicholas and Gregory at the next HMGS show (Fall In!)… it’s a hard subject to breach in our over-sensitive environment. Christine interrupted his overtures by asking “So you’re taking the boys to Fall-IN!, right??” And so he did, and so they got to go, and thus in no small measure their dad’s legacy lives on.