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Little Wars by H. G. Wells

Little Wars was written by H. G. Wells in 1913 and is a set of rules for playing with toy soldiers. Its full title is Little Wars: a game for boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys' games and books.

Little Wars is considered by some to be the first modern table top war game. It included fairly simple rules for infantry, cavalry, and artillery in the form of a toy 4.7 inch naval gun that launched projectiles, usually small wooden dowels to knock down enemy soldiers. In addition to it being a war game, the book hints at several philosophical aspects of war.

The development of the game is explained and Wells' thoughts on war, as he was known to be a pacifist, are revealed in his writing. According to Wells, the idea of the game developed from a visit by his friend Jerome K. Jerome. After dinner, Jerome began shooting down toy soldiers with a toy cannon that Wells joined in to compete. The two decided that with an addition of written rules, a good Kriegsspiel type game could be developed. The game revolved around the use of lead hollow cast soldiers made by W. Britain and battlefields made from whatever materials were on hand, usually blocks or other toys. Simple rules of movement, firing, and close combat were developed with a set amount of time for each player to move and fire. Wells also provides a chapter of "Extensions and Amplifications of Little War". In an appendix, Wells provides "Little Wars and Kriegspiel"; more complex rules to be played in a larger space involving military logistics, military engineers, cavalry charges, and railway transport of troops.

The book is written in a whimsical style and illustrated with amusing drawings and photographs of a game being played that Wells describes in the book. Wells also gives a description of the game from the view of one of the Generals in the battle bombastically relating his memoirs.

H. G. Wells playing a wargame with W. Britain toy soldiers according to the rules of Little Wars. Wells is using a piece of string cut to a set length of the distance his soldiers can move. An umpire sits in a chair with his stopwatch timing Wells. Wells' opponent waits for his turn to move and fire his cannon at Wells' soldiers.

Little Wars was first published in 1913 by Frank Palmer. There have been numerous reprints and it is now available online at Project Gutenberg, along with a previous game book by Wells called Floor Games (1911). The most recent edition of the book was published by Skirmisher Publishing LLC in 2004 and includes an introduction by game designer Michael J. Varhola and a foreword by Gary Gygax.

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Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Little Wars
by H. G. Wells
Miniature wargaming got its start with the publication in 1913 of this thoroughly entertaining little account of how H.G. Wells, with certain of his friends, took their childhood toys and turned play into acceptable middle-aged sport by subjecting the exercise to the civilizing influence of actual rules.

While wargaming progressed far past these beginnings, Wells observes how “little wars” with even his elementary rules can suggest the wholesale crudity of the real thing.

"You have only to play at Little Wars three or four times to realise just what a blundering thing Great War must be. Great War is at present, I am convinced, not only the most expensive game in the universe, but it is a game out of all proportion. Not only are the masses of men and material and suffering and inconvenience too monstrously big for reason, but–the available heads we have for it, are too small. That, I think, is the most pacific realisation conceivable, and Little War brings you to it as nothing else but Great War can do."

Wells leaves almost hanging the tantalizing concept that we might someday simulate war, as an instrument of international decision-making, rather than practice actual combat.

But most of this book is just the fun of evicting the boys from the playroom and spending happy days there, away from the "skirt-swishers", developing the framework under which two gentlemen might meet and accumulate boastable victories!

  1. OF THE LEGENDARY PAST
  2. THE BEGINNINGS OF MODERN LITTLE WARFARE
  3. THE RULES--
    The Country
    The Move
    Mobility of the Various Arms
    Hand-to-Hand Fighting and Capturing
    Varieties of the Battle-Game
    Composition of Forces
    Size of the Soldiers
  4. THE BATTLE OF HOOK'S FARM
  5. EXTENSIONS AND AMPLIFICATIONS OF LITTLE WAR
  6. ENDING WITH A SORT OF CHALLENGE


APPENDIX--

LITTLE WARS AND KRIEGSPIEL
PD-icon.svg This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain). Flag of the United States.svg

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