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Little Wars
Little Wars
by Frank Palmer, Hard Press, Arms and Armour Press, DBA Skirmisher Publishing, Great Oak Inc (1913)
Player Count
2 to 12

Player Ages

Playing Time
1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Wargame
  • Action / Dexterity
  • Miniatures
  • Book
  • Designers
  • H. G. Wells
  • Mechanisms
  • Simulation
  • Measurement Movement
  • Artists
  • (Uncredited)
  • Family
  • Components: Miniatures
  • Rating: 6.99/10 from 54 users


    Little Wars was first published in 1913, but has been published many times since then, including editions from MacMillan publishing and Dover Press. The rules portion of the book can be read for free online at

    The full book includes a fairly extensive history of the game and socio-political discussion of wargaming. Wells (the famous historian and science fiction writer) was a pacifist, and the book makes for interesting reading, as wargaming was his favorite hobby. He considered the generals he played with to be reckless buffoons, and was worried for his country should war break out. (WWI broke out the year after the book was published, and given the massive casualties of WWI, he seems justified in his opinions.)

    The rules themselves are fairly simple, as miniatures games go. There are rules for movement, ranged combat, melee combat, terrain setup, prisoners, etc. There are three types of units: cavalry, infantry and artillery. The toy soldiers of Wells' day were fairly large, so the movement factors are also large, and it's made to be played on a floor.

    Ranged combat results are entertaining, but hard to recreate in today's world. In Wells' time, toy cannons fired little pellets and were actually tooled to be quite accurate. The game calls for aiming the cannons and firing them, and any figures you knock over are casualties! The best recreation I've seen was at a convention where we used toy pistols that fired plastic disks: the player had to place the butt of the pistol on the floor next to his artillery and fire from there.

    Melee combat does not use a randomizer. (In the book Wells discusses how he started with a coin flip but was turned against it when one soldier won over twenty battles!) Instead, compare sizes of units, add in "supporting" units (within a certain distance), and each side takes casualties proportionately. The remaining smaller force is then taken prisoner and may be escorted to the rear lines - or freed on the way by a rescue attempt.

    Although modern miniatures rules are more complex and realistic, this is still a very fun game to play, and is a big hit at conventions. It's also free online! It is best played on a floor with one-foot tiles for ease of measurement.

    Stand alone expansion of Floor Games

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