PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

H.G. Well’s Little Wars (for free)

H.G. Well’s Little Wars (1913)—with its rules for using toy soldiers to fight battles for entertainment—is regarded by many as the birth of the modern hobby of miniature wargaming. Quite by accident I came across the free e-copies of the book made available by Project Gutenberg, so I thought I would post the link here in case any PAXsims readers are interested.

Women wargamers beware: the book—which was subtitled “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”—fully reflects the gender attitudes of the time:

Primitive attempts to [fashion wargaming terrain]… were interrupted by a great rustle and chattering of lady visitors. They regarded the objects on the floor with the empty disdain of their sex for all imaginative things.

You can also find a free copy of Well’s Floor Games (1911) available online. In this case, alert readers will get a sense Well’s somewhat complicated views on imperialism, race, and colonialism in the section on “The Game of the Wonderful Islands,” with its overtones of racism (“negroid savages” and “fierce and well-armed ” Indians) coupled with rather sarcastic commentary on the dynamics of colonial conquest:

This is how the game would be set out. Then we build ships and explore these islands, but in these pictures the ships are represented as already arriving. The ships are built out of our wooden bricks on flat keels made of two wooden pieces of 9 x 4-1/2; inches, which are very convenient to push about over the floor. Captain G. P. W. is steaming into the bay between the eastern and western islands. He carries heavy guns, his ship bristles with an extremely aggressive soldiery, who appear to be blazing away for the mere love of the thing. (I suspect him of Imperialist intentions.) Captain F. R. W. is apparently at anchor between his northern and southern islands. His ship is of a slightly more pacific type. I note on his deck a lady and a gentleman (of German origin) with a bag, two of our all too rare civilians. No doubt the bag contains samples and a small conversation dictionary in the negroid dialects. (I think F. R. W. may turn out to be a Liberal.) Perhaps he will sail on and rescue the raided huts, perhaps he will land and build a jetty, and begin mining among the rocks to fill his hold with silver. Perhaps the natives will kill and eat the gentleman with the bag. All that is for Captain F. R. W. to decide.

You see how the game goes on. We land and alter things, and build and rearrange, and hoist paper flags on pins, and subjugate populations, and confer all the blessings of civilization upon these lands. We keep them going for days. And at last, as we begin to tire of them, comes the scrubbing brush, and we must burn our trees and dismantle our islands, and put our soldiers in the little nests of drawers, and stand the island boards up against the wall, and put everything away.

3 responses to “H.G. Well’s Little Wars (for free)

  1. brtrain 15/12/2011 at 5:52 pm

    Thanks for the link to Floor Games, I had never seen that before.

    Some folks still play, or played, by HG Wells’ simple rules:

    Richard Barbrook of Class Wargames: http://www.bath.ac.uk/icia/events/?page=event&art_form=Exhibitions&event_id=436
    (though he usually plays exhibition games of Guy Debord’s Game of war)

    Peter Cushing (I had no idea he was a wargamer): http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=639

  2. Dean 08/08/2012 at 9:41 am

    This game sounds like a very interesting one!
    I’m sure it is way more interesting than the modern console games that turn young people to retards….

  3. Rex Brynen 08/08/2012 at 8:10 pm

    II think there are a lot of very clever console games, actually–and the research suggests that many have quite positive effects.

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