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Little Wars (Dodo Press) Paperback – January 16, 2009
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Wells wrote a ground-breaking work when he penned Little Wars, which started the hobby of military miniatures war-gaming. -- Gary Gygax, March 2004 --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
About the Author
H.G. Wells (1866-1946) is rare among science fiction writers-and virtually unique among wargame designers-in that he was wildly successful and seen as a genius both during his life and long after his death. He published Little Wars in 1913, following the financial success bestowed upon him by works like The Time Machine. The fact that he wrote this book at all demonstrates a commitment to the concept of wargaming, and his execution of it reveals both his keen sense of humor and his abilities as a game designer.
While Wells work remains popular to this day, he is sometimes derided for having been a pacifist. By 1913, however, military technology had reached a level of lethality that threatened to make warfare between industrialized nations a zero-sum game bordering on apocalypse, as demonstrated by the Great War that broke out the year following the release of Little Wars. Survival of the species probably motivated the great author as much as pacifism. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
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You will either appreciate it for what it is or you will hate it. Don't have false expectations. You have to be interested in old school war games, I think, to like it or you have the desire to play with army toys on the floor (these are the original rules for that).
The book was in fine condition. And as it is a rule-book to a game, there are no characters to describe.
I'm returning these books and ordering the Mass Market Press edition books.
Amazon has been very helpful and apologetic.
The early sixtys were the heydey of Avalon-Hill's tabletop sized board games with little cardboard counters representing everything from a single sargeant to an army corp. These games grew out of the minatures rules which would later contribute, along with the popularity of the `Lord of the Rings' novel to the creation of `Dungeons and Dragons' roleplaying games. Both Avalon-Hill styled and Dungeon and Dragons styled boardgames have been partially superceded by computerized versions of these simulations and, while I still fondly fondle my chit representing the 82nd airborne division as it participates in the Normandy invasion, I get much more satisfaction out of a good computerized version of the same campaign.
And yet, Wells' simplified minatures rules with no more than a few dozen pieces per side and firing success being determined by real live aiming, physics of ballistics, and the effect of wind deliver the same kind of charm evoked by that old Robert Lewis Stevenson poem of the young boy with his toy soldiers navigating the hills formed by his blankets lying over his outstretched legs.
I am not intimately familiar with minatures rules, but what I do know tells me that they are quite complicated with lots of tables based on the role of dice. Wells' rules are much simpler. And, he is not deeply involved in realistic landscapes which are so interesting to minatures hobbyists. Not a word is said here about cleaning and painting raw lead or tin soldiers. All our troops here are fully clothed straight out of the box. All the landscapes are created by nothing more complicated than the kind of plain wooden building blocks I so coveted when I was a kid. These are embellished with the outsides of houses painted or drawn on the plain side of wallpaper which is then folded and glued around the blocks. There is not interest with any ability to hide inside any of these houses, as this would simply slow things down and make the rules more complicated. The only other concern is that if rivers are part of the landscape that there are enough fording and bridged points to not funnel things too much into a single choke point.
The rules only deal with three kinds of troops, infantry, cavalry, and artillery. As this book was written in 1913, and Europe had largely been at peace for almost a hundred years since the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, it is not surprising that the strategies evolving from these three types of troops are strongly similar to Napoleonic battles. As this was the period of muskets, long range infantry fire was remarkably ineffective compared to the destruction caused by Napoleonic era artillery. To a person versed in 20th century wars, it is strange to see the lineup of forces at, for example, the Battle of Waterloo, where the guns were in front of the main lines of infantry rather than far to the rear. This was before the age of indirect artillery fire, which just began in the American Civil War and it's great mortars.
So, the only way our small forces can inflict damage at a distance is by little cannons which fire real live wooden projectiles and, a soldier is killed only if you actually succeed in knocking the little fellow down with the wooden pellet.
A similar combat simulation which existed in parallel with Wells' and other minatures' rules is the kind of wargame simulations invented by the German General Staff with the very German name of `Kriegspiel' or War Play. An expert in English Kriegspiel practice compares this professional exercize with Wells' game and finds the latter far more fun, as the Sandhurst (English Army Military Acadamy) version is weighed down with rulings from referees and the kind of tables of outcomes so familiar to modern manual wargame rules.
Remembering that this book was written in 1912-1913, it is chilling to read Wells' final assessment of the lack of proficiency of professional military men at this little game. The most chillingly Strangelovean statement is that `You have only to play at Little Wars three or four times to realize what a blundering thing Great War must be'. This was written in 1913!!!
One may be discouraged from reading this book by the prospect of reading 120 pages of game rules. This is not what this book is about. All the details of the rules are compressed into the last six pages. Everything which goes before is the stuff which is written to bring out the little boy in us all. And, the author knows nothing of politically correct gender washing, as he is firmly committed to the idea that this is an activity for little boys, and maybe girls who think like little boys.
A minor classic worthy of it's famous author.