Featherstone’s Personalised Wargaming in the Desert

Vintage Airfix Privates named, Privates for Desert Army and Privates / Schutz in NordAfrika Korps

One idea I wanted to develop in my skirmish gaming is a more ‘personal’ or ‘personalised’ feel to small troop action.

Giving names to your ‘characters’ adds a different dimension to the nameless hordes of figures.

I use the names suggested in the chapter ‘Personalised Wargaming‘ of Donald Featherstone’s 1969 Advanced Wargames book, recently reprinted and available from John Curry’s History of Wargaming project.

Naming characters has worked really well for me with the snowballers and the Boy and Girl Scout Wide Games.

However it has meant fairly regular picking figures up to check who they are!

See more at: https://tabletopscoutingwidegames.wordpress.com

The Blue Hills Boys … all named in the game, reports and write ups.

Personalised “Ripping Yarns” write up of the game report.

“You, Vot ist your Name?” “Don’t tell him, Pike!”

When I ran out of names from the Featherstone list in Advanced Wargaming and Skirmish Wargaming, especially for the many Schutzen (Riflemen) privates commanded by General Von Rimmel in the NordAfrika Korps, I turned to Wikipedia’s common German surname list and the WW2 / modern rank lists for translations




Vintage Airfix Afrika Korps – General Von Rimmel can be seen top left

Sch. Schwartz? / Pte Black?

I have marked all the bases with the English ranks. For Schutzen (Sch) read Private etc. If needed, many of the Germanic names have an English equivalent, if you were using the NordAfrika Korps for other non German / non WW2 ImagiNations games.

Private Scruby? Private Young? Private Marrion?

John Curry noticed that Featherstone’s names in his “Personalised Wargaming” chapter were friends, wargamers, illustrators, and figure manufacturers from the 1950s and 1960s.

I wonder if Sergeant Featherstone was putting Brigadier Peter Young in his place a little jokily by only having a Private Young amongst the named characters in his ‘Personalised Wargaming’ chapter?

“Her Privates We” – some of Featherstone’s named figures in Advanced Wargaming.

And Don Featherstone himself? Not on his own list but I do have of course on my extended names list and now on an Airfix figure the name of one Sergeant Stonefeather!

I wonder what experience any of you have had of ‘personalised‘ wargaming? Did it add to your gaming or detract from it?

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 9/10 January 2020.

12 thoughts on “Featherstone’s Personalised Wargaming in the Desert”

  1. I’ve named individuals in skirmish games before and interestingly (to me anyway) I do start to feel more protective of named figures! Great collection of Afrika Corps figures Mark.


    1. Interesting – I look forward to finding out if I have the same feeling towards my figures after this first Skirmish. Maybe once you’ve painted, based and named them, you do start feeling more protective of them …


  2. In my fantasy campaigns the villains are often named after individuals I have known (especially in my career) but with letters of the names changed around to make them sound more exotic and fantastical.
    In my 19th and 20th century imagination games characters are often named after contemporary and deceased actors and world leaders.


    1. Interesting form of ‘concealed by anagrams’ character assassination! Would that they knew and recognised themselves!

      Thanks for another suggestion of names list – Pte Churchill anyone? Schutzen Schicklegruber? A favourite film cast list would be a good source of surnames.


  3. I was rebasing some 40mm Elastolin fellows from my youth last year and came across the paper labels I had stuck on them when I used them with Featherstones skirmish rules. I am tempted to follow your lead with my Airfix ones but as they are mounted on coins ( for weight) I will need to add a wee label on the bottom. I suppose I could number them and use a key for identification instead…


  4. I am also tempted to give mine a rating for shooting of a positive or negative nature for some figures to represent marksmen or novices. Same for the odd hand to hand expert. This would give them a plus one in either shooting or melee or maybe in Robin Hoods case both. I won’t do this re armour or equipment as the figures have what they are represented with. Makes things easier. I will try this out soon on the Irregular Area board.


    1. Interesting idea – One challenge is identifying them discretely enough that the opposing player (or yourself when Solo) cannot pick off your novices. Keeping a separate name list to match the numbers (as you mentioned before) with just a number on or below the base would work. I am tempted to buy some tiny adhesive Subbuteo player numbers to stop having to pick figures up all the time.


  5. Great post.

    In our Necromunda campaigns we always name our fighters and track their progress/ kill/ injuriwes over the games. Some fighting in multiple campaigns being brought in as veteran fighters.




  6. Many years ago, I took the suggestion of naming the figures after high school friends. I was playing THW’s Nuts! at the time and it’s a fairly brutal game. I felt so terrible when my “friends” were KIA that I have never done it since! Now if I am naming characters, I either use a play on words, common names for the nationality, or with respect to my British paratroopers, the names of characters from BBC shows (I almost always name one Lionel Hardcastle for example.)

    I usually track the names of characters on a separate sheet of paper with helpful descriptions of the associated figure, like “kneeling guy”, “standing guy, firing”, “guy throwing a grenade”, although this clearly works best when you’re using a very limited number of figures and unique poses.


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