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Ye Olyde School: Donald Featherstone’s War Games through the Ages Series -Update –

Ye Olyde School: Donald Featherstone’s War Games through the Ages Series -Update

Wednesday , 25, November 2015 4 Comments

I received my copy of War Games through the Ages Vol. 4 the day after the review was posted and would like to complete it here.

I was not disappointed with this volume and glad the set is finally complete. Along with the review I also found the Diminishing Role of Cavalry chapter to be of interest. The modern reader may wonder of the importance Featherstone gives to the subject but the volume begins with the Civil War and when the book was printed in 1976 the most popular gaming period was the Napoleonic Wars. The very next chapter, Formulating Rules, recommends simulating troop’s reaction to the greater volume and lethality of firepower of the modern age. The tendency of troops to take cover and a marking system to indicate if one’s figures are kneeling, crawling or lying down are covered.

For many of the wars, the fighting assessment (FA) is enhanced by a chart listing the different campaigns and ratings of the opposing commanders (below average, average and above average). These charts were a pleasant surprise and surprisingly inclusive of many commanders. Mostly, the ratings stay the same throughout the war (Lee always remains above average – even at Gettysburg) but there are some nuances such as Sherman listed as average at Vicksburg but above average at Chattanooga. Some leadership charts for other periods are not as detailed but nevertheless are useful.

I tend to regard myself as historically literate, especially as it pertains to military history but was surprised to see that Featherstone in the Spanish American War gave the Americans a FA of 22 versus 25 for the Spanish. A read through the chapter soon makes the reasoning behind his judgment clear and instills a curiosity about how the Americans pulled it off despite having many ill-disciplined and poorly supplied troops facing an enemy that usually had better armaments available (at least in Cuba).

For World War I, Featherstone stated that he omitted charts for the numerous armies participating as these forces “….were so varied numerically and physically, in their alternating morale levels and in their equipment, over such lengthy and widely diverse periods that it is probably impossible to compile Assessment Charts whose accuracy is of any value.” I don’t know about that as the World War II chapter has a multitude of FA charts listing various campaigns. They are simplistic in some ways (Axis stronger early war, FA’s almost reversed after 1942) but his listings are impressive and cover topics such as the Polish Campaign, Russo-Finnish War, Norway, France and Low Countries, Western Desert 1940-42 and even the Abyssinian and Eritrean Campaigns in 1940-1941. The major campaigns are covered (East Front, Sicily and Italy and NW Europe) but by necessity are very general in nature. Finally, there are two general FAs for the Far East.

My guess is that Featherstone was not as interested in World War I as other periods and it’s a good bet he had other projects going as he was finishing up this series. I’m currently writing an article on the Romanian Army during World War II and the War Games throughout the Ages series informs a lot of the content and structure of the project. Maybe one day I can create FA’s for World War I.


  • Cirsova says:

    WW1 is rather overlooked and skipped over in war gaming. The main reasons I’d always heard was that it was just the right combination of horrifying and boring that it was not a conflict that could be made ‘fun’ outside of the realm of primitive and romanticized air warfare.

    When juxtaposing the Flying Circus with half a million men dying to gain 20 feet of ground, it’s no wonder why there are plenty of Red Baron flying games but almost zero well known trench warfare simulations.

  • Scott says:

    Cirsova I agree but do think there is some room in WW 1 for various exciting simulations outside of the trenches. One idea that immediately comes into mind is the fighting in the German African colonies.

  • Jeffro says:

    I played Strategy & Tactic’s 1918 and the WWI edition of Axis & Allies.

    Both sucked.

    It’s literally some of the worst gaming I’ve ever had to sit through.

    Those early tanks look badass, though.

    (I think I liked Wings of War better with WWII as well.)

    • Scott says:

      I have a copy of GMT’s “Paths of Glory” and have never been able to devote time to learning the rules. The title itself puts me off and a quick read of the rules reveals that most of the game is waiting to muster resources so one can conduct an offensive. Realistic, yes, fun no.

      Also played the S&T WWI and agree it is not exciting.

      That’s why I think that any “exciting” WW I simulation would have to highlight some esoteric aspect of the war. I think miniature war gaming is a good tool to explore. A fast paced PC or even shooter game could cover Stormtroopers in 1918 rushing forward and winning by not getting bogged down by attacking strong points and making their way to enemy artillery in the rear. Maybe have a character that gains experience with each raid or offensive (if the character is lucky enough to survive).

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