6th Donald Featherstone weekend

I spent a very enjoyable weekend at the Wargames Holiday Centre near Basingstoke where Mark hosted the  6th annual Donald Featherstone tribute weekend.

This year we took a trip up the Nile in an effort to rescue Lady Kitchener (I believe) and to relieve a town at the far end of the 24ft (around 7.5m) long table.    We had a strong force of horse, foot and guns along with two paddle steamers and a small gunboat.

long view

Our camp at the other end of the table also had to be protected, as did the baggage waggons accompanying the main force.  I had the unenviable task of commanding the baggage train.  Twice during the game I had to issue the order “Convoy is to scatter”, or otherwise “Every man for himself”!

The Baggage Train

Just to add to the fun a railway train passed across the table at one point, and that too had to be assured of a safe passage.

The objective was for each officer to gain the maximum recognition by destroying Mahdist warriors, and achieving personal objectives unknown to the other players.  The Mahdists were generated in random strength at 20 random points around the table edge, or at half a dozen ambush points.

The Nile was also swarming with crocodiles, but luckily their event card never turned up.

“Keep a sharp look out, man. We’ve had enough surprises today.”

On Saturday evening we held at the dinner an auction of our unwanted wargaming items and books, raising over £600 for Combat Stress.  In addition Mark donates £25 each of our gaming fee, so the charity will be £1000 better off.  John won the “dandy” prize for best dressed gamer at dinner, resplendent in top hat and tails.

A huge thank you to Steve Thompson for creating the game, making the models, painting thousands of figures and writing the rules.  Thanks also to Mark for hosting, Henry for being, with Mark and Ron, instrumental in the whole Featherstone Weekend concept and to the other players Ben, David, Eddie, John, John, Melvyn, Sid, Steve, Steve, Tony and Tony for a superb weekend full of laughter. 

Here you can see two days of gaming condensed into one minute.  Thanks to Ben for this.




Confession time: February 2019

In the style of the Meeples and Miniatures podcast, here is my confession for February 2019.

So, what have I been squandering my pension on?
In February, I bought or paid for:
Deposit for 2 players at the Donald Featherstone tribute game: £200
Plastic soldiers for playtesting the Sudan game for above: £112.39
Plastic palm trees for playtesting the Sudan game for above: £16.17
Bases for 6mm model trees (100): £13.95
Model for my character at the Donald Featherstone tribute game: £4.70
Replacement models for above: £13.98
Plastic bases for 6mm wargames: £35.00
UHU Glue: £5.98
Game (Santorini) for 6mm model houses: £24.81
Model cargo ships for Axis & Allies naval: £7.27

Total February wargame spend: £434.25

This is more than my pension will support, but almost £350 (80%) is unusual spending related to the Featherstone Tribute weekend. This is not only a once a year event, but this year I am paying for two players, and I needed a playtest. Whether that was worth spending well over £100 on models in a scale that I do not normally play is something to review later.  They may well turn up in the Belgican Wars at a future date.


Donald Featherstone tribute weekend 2017

This year’s battle for the annual Donald Featherstone weekend at the Wargames Holiday Centre was Blenheim.  This was particularly appealing, as I have had a desire to fight the battle on the wargame table for getting on for 30 years – I have painted one Anglo-German brigade so far!  Also this was the battle in which I first commanded the forces of the “Grand Alliance” in 1830mm scale with live action (i.e. Historical re-enactment).

As usual we arrived on Friday afternoon to find the table ready with some forces in their pre-determined positions, like the French dragoons in Blindheim village.  We had ten players who had all been present copies of the period amendments to the Black Powder rules that we would be using for the battle.  The picture heading this post shows the starting positions, viewed from Blindheim towards the west.

We split into teams and prepared our deployment.  I, as commander of the Franco/Bavarians, foolishly opted for the historical set-up.  I took command of three French brigades in the centre.  The Grand Alliance, which included one player who was a much called-upon walking encyclopedia of the rules, opted for a different set-up.

Thus, when the battle started, I found myself in the centre of the French line opposed by a Dutch brigade reinforced by General Cutts’ brigade that had historically attacked Blindheim.


During the course of the battle I suffered greatly from the Anglo-Dutch Platoon fire (which we discovered on day 2 should have only been used for the first firing), but was able to counteract this by the French “Ferocious Charge” (which we later discovered was actually supposed to be only used for cavalry)

By the end of Saturday it was declared  a victory for the Grand Alliance against the Franco-Bavarians.  The centre – my area – had collapsed with three broken brigades.

We reset the battlefield and changed sides.

This time my team, as Grand Alliance, decided to simply screen Blindheim on the left flank and Lutzingen on the right flank and punch a hole through the Franco-Bavarian centre.


We adjourned to spend the evening at a formal dinner in a nearby hotel.  Many anecdotes were exchanged about ancient wargames figure designers. Chris Scott told us some tales about the late, great Donald Featherstone.  I was invited to recant the stories of the 2004 re-enactment of Blenheim. Henry Hyde told us of how our hobby had helped him through a recent bereavement.

Henry then conducted an auction of items donated by those attending.  We raised between £300 and £400 for Combat Stress, a charity for which Henry has now raised over £26,000.


On the right flank it became very sticky.  One Swabian brigade which could have been very useful spent the entire battle misenterpreting its orders and marching hither and thither.

On the left flank the screening of Blindheim resulted in a repulse, and in the centre the massed cavalry attack not only failed, but got in the way of any supporting troops.  My own command was interesting.  The troops screening Unterglau ran away.  The rest of their brigade was useless at causing enemy casualties, but took no end of punishment before breaking. The Hanoverians, rescued the English troops.  To my satisfaction, the only English battalion that did not break was Orkney’s – my own re-enactment unit in another hobby.

The Irish troops holding Unterglau for the Franc0-Bavarians simply stood and took whatever was thrown at them.

After some very hard fighting it was clear that the Franco/Bavarians had held their line.

So, the result of the weekend was: Grand Alliance vs Franco-Bavarians 1-1.  Team A vs Team B 2-0

At the end of the weekend Steve Thompson was declared the winner of the “most gentlemanly wargamer” award.  He gets his name engraved on the glass trophy jar, free entry to next year’s game and a miniature diorama of the period to keep.  Well deserved, as throughout the weekend he not only commanded his own brigades but was always available to explain the rules to all who needed help.

Next year we will probably return to the American Civil War.

Donald Featherstone memorial weekend 2

Last year saw the first Donald Featherstone memorial weekend.  The idea came from Ron Miles, a contemporary of Don in the early days of wargaming.  It was developed by Henry Hyde and Mark Freeth, and there is now an annual game at the Wargames Holiday Centre at Kingsclere, near Basingstoke, UK in memory of Don Featherstone.

But it is more than a gaming weekend.  The event draws a number of gamers to play in the spirit of the early wargamers and a “jacket and tie” dinner is held on the Saturday evening – if only to prove that gamers do not always dress in black T-shirts! We have been fortunate to have Don’s friends Ron Miles, Charles Wesencraft and Chris Scott at both dinners.

This year we played operation Market Garden, September 1944, with the emphasis on the Arnhem/Oosterbeek area, but with an abstracted challenge for the British XXX Corps to “drive like hell” to relieve the airborne troops.

I was one of the XXX Corps players, and our challenge was to move our force across 28 feet of table on a 3 foot front, then a further 20 feet on a 6 foot front to reach the road bridge at Arnhem.  This, without opposition, would take 25 game moves at road speed.  Two opposed river crossings would – and did – hinder us.  “Hell’s Highway” was abstracted, without any on-table support from the US Airborne, who were deemed to be holding the flanks.

Before XXX Corps managed to cross the second river we heard the cry “Oosterbeek has fallen”, which ruled out the plan for a crossing of the Rhine in support.  By the time we began the final advance beyond Nijmegen with Irish and Grenadier Guards side by side, the Poles (landed south of the Rhine) had been eliminated and SS Panzer troops were rushing to join in the wholesale destruction of Sherman tanks.

We suffered from lousy dice, but not as bad as some of the British Airborne players, one of whom rolled ten consecutive ones.  The odds of that are 60,466,176:1!

Here are some pictures from the weekend:

Oosterbeek from the north.  Far table = Eindhoven - Nijmegen, middle table = Nijmegen - Arnhem
Oosterbeek from the north. Far table = Eindhoven – Nijmegen, middle table = Nijmegen – Arnhem
Welsh Guards set off on the road to Nijmegen - There is an AT gun in the woods to the left that held us up for 9 turns.
Welsh Guards set off on the road to Nijmegen – There is an AT gun in the woods to the left that held us up for 9 turns.
The road from Nijmegen to Arnhem (top to bottom) that we failed to travel.
The road from Nijmegen to Arnhem (top to bottom) that we failed to travel.
Arnhem in ruins with our objective in the foreground.
Arnhem in ruins with our objective in the foreground.

For more pictures, see here

Too much to do

It has occurred to me that I have not posted anything for some time.  This is mainly because nothing has been completed.  I have my finger in too many pies.

However, I have been making progress in various directions.  On the reenactment front I have been trying to obtain buttons, buckles and bows for my role as a major in the British army at Waterloo in June.  I have been appointed Assistant QMG to 2nd Brigade Allied Army, despite spending 25 years as a French soldier in this period.  (Not so odd – at my first Waterloo in 1990 the current commander of the British army in the UK was my French sergeant).  The 2nd brigade, one of four infantry brigades on the allied side, including the German brigade and the Royal Dutch Army, will have around 300 muskets on the field.  While small by US (i.e. Gettysburg) standards, this will be one of the biggest European re-enactment events ever staged.

While thinking of Napoleonic re-enactment, I would like to pay tribute to Peter (Tiny) Castle, Sergeant and commander of the 32nd (Cornwall) Regiment, who died last Sunday.  A large man with a huge personality and a commanding voice who will be sadly missed.  A shame he could not make it to the finale.

On the wargaming front, in my World War Two campaign I have the troops prepared for another battle in Poland on 2nd September 1939, but needed some more marsh terrain.  This is nearly ready…

Awaiting a spray of varnish to fix everything, then another gloss coat on the water.
Awaiting a spray of varnish to fix everything, then another gloss coat on the water.

In the bottom left of the picture are two strips (=1 base, 1/4 unit) of “Red” light cavalry being painted.  I hope that by mid May I will have all the necessary models ready for a display of my “pre-Reisswitz” wargame depicting Waterloo at a Town Council sponsored event in Horsham, UK.  Despite restricting the toy uniforms to red, blue, white and black, plus horse and gun colours, these seem to take a long time to get ready.

I have also been preparing for the second Donald Featherstone tribute weekend (21-23 March) at the Wargames Holiday Centre, where we will be playing Arnhem with Rapid Fire rules.  I own the first edition rules, but have never completed a game with them or used them competitively.  I have been toying with some reduced-scale scenarios, but I await the postman with the edition of the rules that we will be using, as if owning and reading the rules will grant me any greater success!

I have asked for command of 130 Brigade, 43 Division if it’s included in the game, as these are the lads from the counties where I grew up.  Otherwise I will take what I am given, Allied or German.  I’me not sure if we are playing just Arnhem or Market Garden, or somewhere between the two.  Whatever, with something like 650 square feet of table to play on it will be a challenge.

I have a lot of literature about the Market Garden operation and last year ran a 3 day real-time PBEM game which was a wonderful but exhausting experience.  However it’s played, this mini campaign reveals how easy it is for plans to fall apart on both sides, and the futility of war.

I hope to post some photos of the Arnhem game next week.





Five days of wargaming

Preparing myself for five days of Napoleonic Wargaming at the Wargames Holiday Centre . I am lucky enough to live about 15 minutes from the centre.
We will play a rolling series of battles set in Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. Several of my Peninsular Campaign players will be there, as a result of the Donald Featherstone Tribute weekend in march 2014, and it appears we have a contingent from Austria joining us.