Little Wars

For other uses, see Little Wars (disambiguation).
The cover of Little Wars

Little Wars is a set of rules for playing with toy soldiers, written by H. G. Wells in 1913. 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.[1]


Little Wars included fairly simple rules for infantry, cavalry, and naval artillery in the form of a toy 4.7 inch gun that launched projectiles, usually small wooden dowels to knock down enemy soldiers. In addition to its being a war game, the book hints at several philosophical aspects of war.

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.

The development of the game is explained and Wells's 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 and 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.


Little Wars was first published in 1913 by Frank Palmer.[2] 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). A 2004 edition of the book published by Skirmisher Publishing includes an introduction by game designer Michael O. Varhola and a foreword by Gary Gygax.


  1. Rundle, Michael (9 April 2013). "How HG Wells Invented Modern War Games 100 Years Ago". The Huffington Post.
  2. Palmer, Frank (16 Aug 1913). "Little Wars. By H. G. Wells.". The Spectator.
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