It all started with an ebay purchase of a copy of Practical Wargamer. I have a soft spot for this old magazine, and now and then a cover will catch my attention and I will buy a copy. And so, an advert on page 6 of the November/December 1991 issue alerted me to two books by my favourite old school authors (as I originally thought), Donald Featherstone and Charles Grant. However, the publication date of 1991 quickly told me that the 'Grant' book would be written by Charles S. Grant, Grant senior having sadly died in 1979.
The two books were evidently part of a series that seems to have passed me by at the time - the 'Wargaming In History' series by Argus Books. This appears to have been a five book series
with titles on the Peninsula War, Waterloo, the American Civil War, 'Goths, Huns and Romans', and the Anglo-Boer War. Donald Featherstone was the author of the Peninsula War title, and Charles Grant had written the book on Waterloo. The authors of the other three books are unknown to me. The series editor was none other than Stuart Asquith, and Argus Books were a specialist company who also published Practical Wargamer
I decided to take a punt and see what those two famous wargaming authors had to say about Napoleonic wargaming back in 1991. Once again ebay came good and I got both books for a total of £25.
The books are A5 size, with around 120 pages each, and black and white throughout. The intention was obviously to provide a background to the period in question, in terms of a basic narrative of the campaigns and battles involved and the tactical and equipment details that wargamers would want. Each book has a short set of basic rules. There are numerous illustrations and a reasonable number of maps.
The basic campaign detail would still be useful to a total beginner in Napoleonics, but the tactical analysis in both books is a little outdated now. More importantly, both books are too limited by their small size to do their subject justice, and given the limited amount of space I felt there was rather too much history and not enough wargaming.
Donald Featherstone provides a set of brief descriptions of the main battles of the Peninsula War, but these are illustrated mainly with old maps of variable quality and usefulness. There are only a couple of maps which show an actual wargaming set up. Charles Grant has a rather easier task with the more restricted subject of the Waterloo Campaign, and good maps are provided allowing the action of the campaign and its battles to be followed.
But the main issue is the very short sets of wargaming rules included, both consisting of only a handful of pages. Both are interesting as far as they go, with both authors (Donald Featherstone in particular) providing quite original rules which diverge from what might have been expected from each of them. But they are much too abbreviated to be satisfactory - an experienced gamer might fill in the gaps, but a beginner could well end up rather confused. Quite a lot of space in both books is devoted to a description and analysis of Napoleonic tactics, but how this translates onto the wargaming table is much less well covered.
Thirty years on, these books are really only of value to someone like me - a collector of old school wargaming books. As such I'll be glad to have them on my shelves. The tantalising glimpse they provide of what could have been two sets of very worthwhile rules is frustrating but still of interest.
A bit more WW2 gaming to come soon, and a new battlemat to review from Geek Wargaming, so stay tuned.
'Til next time!