Saturday, 12 April 2014

This Week in the Hobby 12/04/2014 - Donald Featherstone's Solo Wargaming

Titian's depiction of me at work this week.
Another week, and very little progress in terms of painting. I've spent the whole week down on the Gold Coast carrying rocks up flights of stairs. This has meant that I have been away from my tiny toy soldiers and unable to paint. However, time is never wasted, and in the meantime I managed to read Donald Featherstone's Solo Wargaming, which is an absolute must read for any wargamer. I think that even if you don't plan to play solo, most of the ideas in this book are so useful in a broader context that it is still worth reading. The chapters are broken down in such a manner that it acts as a sort of reference manual once you have read through the whole of it, allowing the reader to pillage whole parts of the book for ideas without wondering, "where did I read that?" Ideas such as chance cards, random activations, and randomised formations for reinforcements arriving are pure gold and add to the friction or randomness that make wargames less chess like and more subject to the vicissitudes of human behaviour. We can see Featherstone's legacy today in games like Sharpe Practice and Muskets & Tomahawks


I bought the Kindle edition from Amazon, have a look here.

The authors avuncular, conversational style means that I devoured this book without even realising the pace at which I was reading, admittedly it isn't a large book, but I was surprised by how quickly I got through it. This is a testament to the authors talent, rather than a criticism of length. Another great concept that he has is the idea of the campaign diary, which these days can be substituted by blogs or other online journals, but certainly one can take everything he writes on the matter and simply modernise it. This is the first of Featherstone's books that I have read, and I look forward to reading more. Sadly Donald Featherstone is no longer with us, but he has left behind a dearth of work which will, I am sure, provide me with ample hours of enjoyment over the years to come. I am now onto my next wargaming related read, which I will talk about once I have finished it. 

Beyond reading, I have also begun to flesh out my own "Imagi Nation". After reading back issues of Battlegames magazine and after having a look at some of the blogs about people's creations, I am smitten. The Emperor vs Elector blog is a sort of meta site that unites all the disparate Duchies and Margraviates, and is an excellent resource for an aspiring head of state. The modern period is also blessed with some excellent Imagi-Nations, such as  Bongolesia. VBCW (A Very British Civil War) which is supported by Solway, but has a life of its own, is another fertile seam to mine. Particularly if you would like to see your sleepy Hampshire village become a Free State. I found some rather excellent articles online that offer a great introductions to "imagineering" your own country, Arlequin's World's Imagineering an Imagi-Nation  and The Grand Duchy of Stollen's Bolster your imagi-nation.

I spent an evening dreaming up my little patch of land, with a history and some dramatis personae to fill it. I will probably start writing more about it when I return to the UK, but for now my mind is awash with ideas. Admittedly the element of wargaming that appeals to me most from a gaming perspective is the engagement of my imagination. One of the reasons I enjoy the 40k universe so much is the breadth allowed to players to create within it, but still being a part of something that other people are engaged in. After all, if I create a world that is just mine which cannot play nice with another gamer's, then I am only marooning myself. So I am filling my time away from my paints and brushes with bouts of writing, telling the histories and tales of the toy soldiers that bedeck my tabletop and populate my imagination. I was worried about the quality of this fiction at first, but I soon realised that I was actually just writing for myself. So, even if it is mediocre, or even terrible, that is okay, as long as I enjoy getting to know my own creations better. I hope to begin introducing you to them soon too.