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Little Wars

H. G. Wells

Book Overview: 

Miniature wargaming got its start with 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 realize 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 realization 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!

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . minute and discharge an alarm note at the end of the move. That would abolish the rather boring strain of time-keeping. One could just watch the fighting.

Moreover, in our desire to bring the game to a climax, we decided that instead of a fight to a finish we would fight to some determined point, and we found very good sport in supposing that the arrival of three men of one force upon the back line of the opponent's side of the country was of such strategic importance as to determine the battle. But this form of battle we have since largely abandoned in favour of the old fight to a finish again. We found it led to one type of battle only, a massed rush at the antagonist's line, and that our arrangements of time-limits and capture and so forth had eliminated most of the concluding drag upon the game.

Our game was now very much in its present form. We considered at various times the possibility of introducing some complication due to the bringing. . . Read More

Community Reviews

This wasn't a book but an interaction manual for playing a very intense and complicated game. The rules are simple... err... simply overwhelming. It took me a while before I was able to finish this one but that was because I was effectively learning about naval combat. And my time in the Navy mad...more

A charming little book, part rule book for the titular game and part satirical commentary on the state of polite society in the author's time. Wells clearly understood the value of imaginative play, not just for children but also for adults. The framework of rules provided lays down the basis for...more

“..let us put this prancing monarch and that silly scare-monger, and these excitable "patriots," and those adventurers, and all the practitioners of Welt Politik, into one vast Temple of War, with cork carpets everywhere, and plenty of little trees and little houses to knock down, and cities and...more

One day, H.G. Wells fell in love with what seems to be a miniature firing cannon made for toy soldier, and with the help of his friends, made an entire wargame around it. This is probably the first formal wargame for non-soldiers of its kind, and it's amazing how little both the mindset of creati...more

This is the first Publicly available wargame rulebook. You buy toy soldiers, cannon and calvary and compete over self-made terrain for self-made victory conditions. This book includes photographs of the setups, a battle report walk-thru, point values, size of army considerations, multi-player rul...more

This wasn't a story, so much as a musing about a war game (think risk or closer to Axis-and-Allies - meets cowboys and indians) for adults. I don't think I'd recommend this book to anyone unless they were just a huge fan of games and were interested in reading about a late Victorian era (?) versi...more

15/20

BRILLIANT.

Honestly, this is basically the great grandfather to military wargames (excluding the military uses of strategy and tactics via games which dates back to ancient Egypt, this was for the masses). Its a rulebook basically, in comparison to the hundreds of wargames on the market now - quite simple,...more

Almost 100 years ago, an after-dinner round of target shooting with a friend's son's toy cannon inspired H. G. Wells to create a set of rules for fighting orderly, realistic battles with toy soldiers. In the process of perfecting his game he bought hundreds of toy soldiers, built obsessively deta...more

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