Review of ‘Battle Notes for Wargamers’ book

Paul Le Long reviews another Donald Featherstone classic, this one from 1973. (It’s also just been reprinted). The review is on the Reviews page, of course.

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5 Responses to Review of ‘Battle Notes for Wargamers’ book

  1. Mike Crane says:

    Paul Le Long’s splendid review of Donald Featherstone’s Battle Notes for Wargamers got me to thinking about all of the excellent reviews recently written by him, Jeff Chorney, and Jonathan Aird. I don’t know who thought of reviewing the old wargaming classics, but I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you to the person or persons responsible.
    As the reviews appeared I have gone to the bookshelf and become reacquainted with these old, neglected “friends.” What a joy! A couple of the books reviewed were completely new to me but the reviews made me want to read them anyway. Thank goodness most are available as used books or as new John Curry reprints on amazon.com.
    These were the books that got many of us gray heads started in the hobby. Later, when new books came out with more detailed information we found ourselves rebasing figures and memorizing charts and rules. Then things began to spiral out of control. More and more figures and more complicated charts and more detailed sets of rules were needed to play a game. It was hardly possible to play without holding a rulebook in one hand for reference. When we realized that the “games” had become more work than fun we began to remember the good old days and recall the ideas of the first wargame writers. In other words, we went from simple to complex and now it seems we are returning to simple (and fun) again. (This is only a personal opinion, of course.) Thank you, gentlemen, for contributing to this process through your superb reviews of the wargaming classics.

    • George Arnold says:

      As to how the classics review project got started — it grew out of the discussion of Jeff Chorney’s review of Featherstone’s “Advanced War Games” on this blog back in January.

      I can’t get a link to Jeff’s review and the comments to work right now, but you can find it easily enough by clicking on the “Solo wargaming” category to the right. Then just scroll down until the January entry comes up and go there.

      Paul, Jonathan, Jeff and Mike have all contributed to the classics reviews. But the project is open to anybody who wants to participate. Got an old favorite you’d like to write up? Send it in, there’s plenty of interest.

  2. Mike Crane says:

    Thanks, George. Reading the comments in the reference you gave jogged my memory. That was a very successful idea!

  3. George Arnold says:

    ((Rob Morgan submits the following comment.))

    The sudden spurt of interest in reviewing the “classic” wargaming books of yesterday (and what I wonder will come to be regarded as today’s classics in the field?) reminded me of this novel, originally published in 1974, and still in print: “Spy Story” by Len Deighton. If there are any other titles of fiction in which the wargame appears, then I’m unaware of them. There was an excellent TV series in the UK about 40 years ago, called “Callan” in which many of the leading wargamers of the time were involved as “back-room” boys, but I’m not sure the scripts were ever published as books.

    “Spy Story” is a rare delight, a Harry Palmer novel in which the hero plays wargames for a living at a NATO studies centre in London — naval wargames too, with an element of air warfare and a mere hint of nuclear conflict. It’s largely subs under the Arctic seas and the book is very well written, with research supported by the Institute of War Studies. A pity, but the NATO v. WARPAC wargames are not central to the plot, but they do run a powerful thread through the tale. There’s some interesting stuff here, like the possibility of two Soviet “Mallow” flying boats actually landing on the Arctic ice to use their short-range Magnetic Anomaly Detectors to hunt enemy subs.

    The chapters begin with quotes from the Studies Centre “Notes for Wargamers,” most of which are useful comments. I like the Global Commitment Negative rule, and the idea that is utterly true that, “History doesn’t prove games wrong, any more than games prove history so.” But of course the classic quote is, “All time is Game time.” Yes!

    A decent read, but perhaps other members know of more titles in which the wargame looms large?

    • Paul Le Long says:

      There was a film spin-off of Callan which featured wargaming. As I recall (it’s well over 20 years since I’ve seen it) Callan was ordered to assasinate someone and took up his target’s hobby (wargaming) to get close to him. I have a vague memory of them fighting Solferino. There was a book/film a few years ago – called the Oxford Murders I think – starring John Hurt & Elijah Wood which featured wargaming.

      Thanks to Mike for his kind words about the reviews – I’m glad you like them. I have to say I’ve really enjoyed doing them & I know Jonathan has too; we’ve already sorted out another 15 or so to do over the summer.

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