Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Featherstone review, part 2

Caveat: I haven't actually read the rest of the book. But I have read much of it and heavily skimmed the rest.

The remaining chapters of the book follow a similar format to Chapter Two, in that they look at a specific part of military history (in Chapter Three, one specific battle), and then describe how to simulate that one the wargames table.

A couple of points need to be stressed here. Neil Thomas's book Wargaming: An Introduction (as I've mentioned before), is a very modern, plug and play kind of wargaming book. It's for two players to sit down and knock some figures together, improvise some terrain, and decide if wargaming is right for them.

Featherstone, on the other hand, is for a club. There is nary a two-player game in the entire book. Each project is for a minimum of three people (assuming one is a referee). In more cases, there are five people (two players on each side and a referee).

Also included are tales from the wargames club (as I believe I mentioned before).

Now, this presents an entirely different picture of wargaming than I've been exposed to. It's more focused on doing it yourself, with the whole club getting involved. The referee is there to settle any arguments, and everybody has a good time whether they win or lose. It is a social thing, with all members drawn together for camaraderie by a shared love of military history, sportsmanship and friendly competition.

This is the exact same sort of atmosphere D&D grew out of. The club Featherstone speaks of is similar to the clubs Dave Arneson and the late great Gary Gygax had.

While I appreciate and enjoy Thomas's book, I'm truly happy to have gotten Featherstone's. And I'm kind of glad I got it now, as opposed to 20 years ago; I really don't think I'd have 'gotten' it back then.

"Where are the rules?" I can hear my 20-years-younger self cry out in anguish. "Aargh! Who wants to put up with all this crap? Just give me some rules and let me get on with it! Ah, screw it, here's a nice board wargame where I can sit down and just play."

The difference, as you can see, is an important one. The Thomas book is for players, who can sit down and get on with things. The Featherstone approach, on the other hand, is for referees, for creators, for those who have the vision to create their own world and invite players to join them in it.

And if it weren't for the Old School Renaissance, I would have missed that point entirely.

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