Was H.G. Wells the Father of Wargaming?

September 20, 2012 by dracs

Anyone who is a fan of classic science fiction has heard the name of H.G. Wells. From the Invisible Man to the Time Machine, Wells wrote some of the most influential literary works of science fiction. Yet, according to Luke Plunkett of Kotaku.com, his influence may well extend even further, even to the realms of our own beloved hobby.

H.G. Wells Wargaming

Some of you may recognise this famous image, a copy of which can be seen outside the Miniatures Hall in Warhammer World, Nottingham. It depicts the famous author engaging in what looks to be quite a large scale war game using toy soldiers and built terrain. Look familiar?

Plunkett’s article provides us with  a great insight into how our dear hobby was helped along by, not just one, but two great English novelists.

Sitting around after dinner one night with his friend Jerome K. Jerome (author of Three Men in a Boat), the pair began firing a toy cannon at toy soldiers, eventually making an impromptu competitive game out of it. Convinced that with some rules and a little more variety he could make a structured experience of it, Wells – an admirer of Kriegsspiel as a concept – decided to write what would become known as “Little Wars”. – Luke Plunkett, HG Wells Practically Invented Modern Tabletop Wargaming, Kotaku

H.G Wells Showing the War Game in the Open Air

It warms my heart to know that, while Wells was in the process of developing his wargame, he had to face many of the problems which plagued my own first games of Warhammer.

“The soldiers did not stand well on an ordinary carpet”, Wells writes, “the Encyclopedia made clumsy cliff-like ‘cover’, and more particularly the room in which the game had its beginnings was subject to the invasion of callers, alien souls, trampling skirt-swishers, chatterers, creatures unfavourably impressed by the spectacle of two middle-aged men playing with “toy soldiers” on the floor, and very heated and excited about it.” – Kotaku

At least he didn’t have to put up with a cat which would jump onto the gaming table from the top of a bunk bed, catapulting my Slann Mage-Priest across the room. You will believe a Slann can fly.

The resulting rule system, entitled Little Wars, was a phenomenal success, helping to bring the concept of recreational wargaming to light in society.

Little Wars can still be read over today thanks to Project Gutenberg, so if you want to see how this genesis of recreational gaming holds up today be sure to check it out. Also, if you want to learn more about Wells’ gaming experience be sure to check out Luke Plunkett’s article over at Kotaku.

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