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

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.

Donald Featherstone Tribute Weekend

Back home now after a total of about 24 hours gaming Gettysburg at the Wargames Holiday Centre in tribute to Donald Featherstone.

A fantastic weekend with a great bunch of people. To see the full battle report check out the Miniature Wargames page on Facebook.

We started the battle on 2nd July and I was in command of Rhodes’ Division of Ewell’s Corps holding the town of Gettysburg, in partnership with veteran gamer Charles Wesencraft with Early’ division on my left. To my right was a gaping hole in our line as far as the Peach Orchard. The rest of our army was concentrated on taking the area immediately north of the Round Tops.

I (Rhodes) managed to push the Yankees back at the “Angle” at the North end of cemetery ridge, but for one turn only. When Johnson’s Division was discovered in the woods North of Culp’s Hill I inherited Early’s already shot-up division and concentrated on assaulting Cemetery Hill.

Returning Sunday morning we were informed that it was now 3rd July and that overnight we Confederates had retired back into Gettysburg and the woods in the North-West.

Further South our friends had fallen back to the Emmitsburg Road and had to fight through Devil’s Den all over again. Picket had arrived and was sent to reinforce Longstreet, but we did regain some losses from the previous day.
The good news was that Stuart’s cavalry also arrived, handled by new arrivals Ron Miles and Chris Scott, guests of honour at the Saturday evening dinner and close friends of Don Featerstone.
Stuart brought so many horsemen that Union models had to be impressed into the Confederate army until replaced by the numerous artillery casualties.
The Union troops who had lined Cemetery ridge for two days wheeled right into the area of the historic “Pickett’s Charge” to meet the new threat.

With most of our infantry out of action the cavalry hurled themselves at the enemy infantry, who were all in defensive positions and supported by artillery. Two charges failed to make contact and the third was hurled back. My last intact infantry brigade assaulted the Angle again and after a struggle at odds of 1:3 pushed the Union back and held the place for one turn only.

I did get one brigade through the cemetery gates, but they were surrounded and wiped out.

The game time ran out. The Confederates were deemed to have won because in the South they were in sight of the road to Washington and little to stop them. Hancock ‘s men would be fighting Stuart with minimal support to their rear.

From my end of the field, Ewell’s corps was all but wiped out, but special mention in despatches to Rhodes’ artillery who fought for two days without loss or penalty and single-handedly wiped out a large infantry brigade piecemeal, in addition to supporting the infantry attacking Cemetery Hill.

Donald Featherstone Tribute Weekend

I am looking forward to the weekend, when I have been fortunate ( or quick enough) to secure a place at the inaugural Donald Featherstone Tribute Weekend at the Wargames Holiday Centre in Kingsclere (about 10 minutes drive from my home).

The battle will be Gettysburg and the rule system Regimental Fire and Fury. I have never used these rules before, although I did once host a game of Gettysburg using the original F&F rules, “bathtubbing” the battle so that a division became a brigade.

But I digress. As a practice run I downloaded the playsheet from the Fire and Fury website and have been getting my head round the game mechanisms.
So far I have used infantry and cavalry, albeit all of the same quality and the same weapon. This evening I intend to explore artillery.

And for this exercise, what better scenario than this?

A scenario well known to the older generation of wargamers
A scenario well known to the older generation of wargamers

No prizes for identifying the layout.
If you need a hint, go back to a 1970 publication (page 61) and remember to whom we are paying homage.

And yes, some of my new bases are not yet painted. Time was of the essence.