News is being reported today that famed British writer and pillar of the 20th-century wargaming hobby Donald Featherstone (pictured above, right) has died at the age of 95. While by no means a household name, Featherstone was the author of more than 40 books and countless articles on the subject of wargaming, beginning in 1962 with his seminal book Wargames and the launch of his Wargamer’s Newsletter that same year.
Heavily-influenced by H.G. Wells‘ Little Wars, Featherstone played a central role in the post-WWII development of the wargaming hobby. This was the era when a small group of armchair historians knit together the first loose networks of gaming groups, self-printed newsletters and early gaming conventions like the first one in the UK organized by Featherstone in the mid-1960s. Featherstone’s lifework was devoted to promoting the hobby of wargaming as a way of understanding military history, writing broadly on naval, land and air combat as well as specific military campaigns and eras. Many of Featherstone’s books are available in modern reprints via The History of Wargaming Project and the early editions of his books are highly-sought by collectors.
For more on Featherstone’s influence on the growth of wargaming into the eventual worldwide phenomenon which would give birth to Dungeons & Dragons and modern gaming of all kinds, I can’t recommend enough Jon Peterson’s excellent Playing At The World. Anyone who plays a strategy game today — whether on the tabletop or on a video screen — owes a little something to Donald Featherstone and the little wars he started more than a half-century ago.