Featherstone and Co. Naval War Games

That magical number again 793.9 and the end of its (much borrowed?) library career.  

As mentioned in my recent blog posts on my Flying Tiger Pound Store Navy of eraser ships, I have sent off for two books on Naval  Wargames.


One is old, one new, one much borrowed, both are hopefully blue, as blue as the cruel sea …

I await my Lulu order of  Bob Cordery’s recent Gridded Naval Wargames, highly recommended by several people, no doubt being printed and despatched at this very moment.

The distinctive 60s Book jacket design surrounded by my Pound Store ships

However first to arrive, full speed ahead, at the end of its hopefully much borrowed forty year library career, was Donald F. Featherstone’s Naval War Games.

It has its fans, others condemned on my blog comments it as dry as dust. A reprint is available thanks to John Curry’s History of Wargaming Project:


This used copy (in better condition than I expected) cost only a few pounds from Better World Books, an Abe Books Internet supplier of ex-library stock whose profits go to literacy and library projects worldwide. What’s not to like?

I never borrowed this Featherstone title from my local library, it was always out on loan.

Stirring stuff? Do you always read the book jacket blurb? Would you be inspired and buy or borrow this book? 
The Tabletop Islands chapter by Joseph Morschauser is unusual!

A wide range of Naval rules by Featherstone “and company”

Some supposedly simple ‘back of postcard rules’ by different gamers that Featherstone starts with.

Slightly hieroglyphic for beginners like many “back of postcard rules”?

Jack Alexander (Jacklex figures) design: how to make a WW1 era battleship
Three completed ‘simple’ ship models shown
An innovative Fred Jane no dice approach to calculate firing and damage!
That eternal boy Donald Featherstone dreams of Pacific War Airfix Combined Ops games
Another inspiring Featherstone image from Naval War Games …

First impressions?

No obvious simple (solo) convoy game rules but should be some interesting ideas. Add Bob Cordery’s book and ideas as well, it should promise to be an interesting few months puzzling out some rules for protecting my eraser ship convoy from the Wolf Pack.

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 23 August 2018.


6 thoughts on “Featherstone and Co. Naval War Games”

  1. Back in th early ’70’s I’d have been reading Douglas Reeman novels but reading those extracts I am now struggling to understand why I found DF dry as dust :0)
    I must seek a copy for myself.


  2. I am experimenting with the 1875 rules in the Featherstone book, but have been caught up on his typical issue of not describing the full rules. Two problems so far – are turns simultaneous? It appears shooting is. And – can ships fire or be fired on whilst being rammed?

    I have found writing out the rules on a crib sheet to be very helpful for parsing many ambiguities in the rules.

    Other examples are on your scanned pages 17 and 18 – what are the gun ranges for the 17 game? What score must be thrown to avoid sinking for the 18? This really WAS early days, and Featherstone’s habit and, I suspect, ethos was that the gamer should tailor the game to their own purposes!

    Douglas Reeman is excellent, with plenty of game ideas too, and I have always preferred his Richard Bolitho Napoleonic naval series (under the pen-name of Alexander Kent) to O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin. (Though I do enjoy David Drake’s sci-fi reworking of Aubrey/Maturin as the RCN series, partly because the Maturin expy is a librarian.)


    1. I think often “back of postcard rules” are a summary sheet that leave a lot assumed or unsaid, which is not helpful / hopeless for beginners in a new period or area.

      As you say, gamers tinker and tweak and steal, so probably this is assumed you would launchpad onwards from these rules. This was the 1950s / 60s age of DIY everything, Practical Householder magazine etc, so lashing up your own figures, games table, terrain and ruleset with a bit of research in a few books from the local library would be half expected. Featherstone books are very “How To…” avuncular advice.

      Writing out (or typing – very Featherstone) your version of the rules as a crib sheet should help to explain or fill the gaps. When in doubt, invent a rule. Change it as needed. Flip a coin. Roll a dice. If you don’t use a rule or forget it in heat of battle and still get by without it, then quietly lose that rule?

      I haven’t read the 1875 rules yet. One book, many sets of rules, many periods, very good value in today’s terms of expensive rule sets.

      With the gaps, I wonder if there are printer errors (mine is 5th Edition, so shouldn’t be) or if in all the cobbling together and collecting together of different peoples rules, some gaps or errors crept in?

      Had Donald Featherstone playtested all these other people’s rules? I doubt it.

      I shall add a few old Reeman and possibly Drake titles to the library requests for my Winter reading list.

      All the fault of a £4 twin pack of pencil eraser ships …


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