Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Featherstone review, part 1

I've started reading Featherstone and it has been ... interesting.

Chapter One includes a lot of stuff I found strange, given that he appears to be writing for a first-time wargamer. There are sections on military possibilities, chance cards, time charts, and morale, which are all good. But there is also a long section on surprise and how to simulate this in a game, which I found rather hard going. I'm sure it'll be more clear upon re-reading, but it almost seems as if this chapter is a test. "Make it through this," he seems to be saying, "and the good stuff lies just beyond."

If that was his plan, it worked. I made it through chapter one and on into chapter two, which covered American Civil War battles. Here Featherstone gives a brief description of the conflict, points out how well documented it is (making research easy), and goes through a short but complete description of weapons and uniforms of the opposing forces. With this information, one could buy a few boxes of Airfix or other plastic figures and put together (and paint!) their own armies for a fairly small investment (compared to metal figures anyway).

He also includes rules for such games, which run to about three pages overall, although these pages also include an illustration and a sidebar.

Unlike commercial rule sets, this is just the actual rules. Figure out for yourself how to base your troops, and dig up the historical order of battle -- that stuff isn't here.

Featherstone also shows some of the human face of wargaming, in his vignettes "Down at the Wargames Club".

I am struck by how much the "do it yourself" ethic permeates this book.

Now, for a good basic introduction to wargaming, I'd highly recommend Neil Thomas's "Wargaming: an Introduction", which includes rules and army lists for several periods. It covers some of the same ground as Featherstone, but does it in a much more "starter set" way.

As a comparison many of you will understand: Featherstone is D&D, with supplements. Thomas is the Mentzer Basic Set of D&D, with module B1 included.

I like them both, but the attitude in each is different. And that's okay. Differing attitudes make for a broader coverage of the subject. Each book works, in its own way.

Each book also includes glorious photographs, many in color, of miniatures that are painted far better than I'll ever be able to paint them. But I shall persevere and do my best; my only goal is to not totally embarrass myself with my painting skills. And I think I can do that.

No comments: