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) With an Appendix on Kriegspiel



Now that battle of Hook's Farm is, as I have explained, a simplification of the game, set out entirely to illustrate the method of playing; there is scarcely a battle that will not prove more elaborate (and eventful) than this little encounter. If a number of players and a sufficiently large room can be got, there is no reason why armies of many hundreds of soldiers should not fight over many square yards of model country. So long as each player has about a hundred men and three guns there is no need to lengthen the duration of a game on that account. But it is too laborious and confusing for a single player to handle more than that number of men.

Moreover, on a big floor with an extensive country it is possible to begin moving with moves double or treble the length here specified, and to come down to moves of the ordinary lengths when the troops are within fifteen or twelve or ten feet of each other. To players with the time and space available I would suggest using a quite large country, beginning with treble moves, and, with the exception of a select number of cavalry scouts, keeping the soldiers in their boxes with the lids on, and moving the boxes as units. (This boxing idea is a new one, and affords a very good substitute for the curtain; I have tried it twice for games in the open air where the curtain was not available.) Neither side would, of course, know what the other had in its boxes; they might be packed regiments or a mere skeleton force. Each side would advance on the other by double or treble moves behind a screen of cavalry scouts, until a scout was within ten feet of a box on the opposite side. Then the contents of that particular box would have to be disclosed and the men stood out. Troops without any enemy within twenty feet could be returned to their boxes for facility in moving. Playing on such a scale would admit also of the introduction of the problem of provisions and supplies. Little toy Army Service waggons can be bought, and it could be ruled that troops must have one such waggon for every fifty men within at least six moves. Moreover, ammunition carts may be got, and it may be ruled that one must be within two moves of a gun before the latter can be fired. All these are complications of the War Game, and so far I have not been able to get together sufficient experienced players to play on this larger, more elaborate scale. It is only after the smaller simpler war game here described has been played a number of times, and its little dodges mastered completely, that such more warlike devices become practicable.

But obviously with a team of players and an extensive country, one could have a general controlling the whole campaign, divisional commanders, batteries of guns, specialised brigades, and a quite military movement of the whole affair. I have (as several illustrations show) tried Little Wars in the open air. The toy soldiers stand quite well on closely mown grass, but the long-range gun-fire becomes a little uncertain if there is any breeze. It gives a greater freedom of movement and allows the players to lie down more comfortably when firing, to increase, and even double, the moves of the indoor game. One can mark out high roads and streams with an ordinary lawn-tennis marker, mountains and rocks of stones, and woods and forests of twigs are easily arranged. But if the game is to be left out all night and continued next day (a thing I have as yet had no time to try), the houses must be of some more solid material than paper. I would suggest painted blocks of wood. On a large lawn, a wide country-side may be easily represented. The players may begin with a game exactly like the ordinary Kriegspiel, with scouts and boxed soldiers, which will develop into such battles as are here described, as the troops come into contact. It would be easy to give the roads a real significance by permitting a move half as long again as in the open country for waggons or boxed troops along a road. There is a possibility of having a toy railway, with stations or rolling stock into which troops might be put, on such a giant war map. One would allow a move for entraining and another for detraining, requiring the troops to be massed alongside the train at the beginning and end of each journey, and the train might move at four or five times the cavalry rate. One would use open trucks and put in a specified number of men—say twelve infantry or five cavalry or half a gun per truck—and permit an engine to draw seven or eight trucks, or move at a reduced speed with more. One could also rule that four men—the same four men—remaining on a line during two moves, could tear up a rail, and eight men in three moves replace it.

I will confess I have never yet tried over these more elaborate developments of Little Wars, partly because of the limited time at my disposal, and partly because they all demand a number of players who are well acquainted with the same on each side if they are not to last interminably. The Battle of Hook's Farm (one player a side) took a whole afternoon, and most of my battles have lasted the better part of a day.



I COULD go on now and tell of battles, copiously. In the memory of the one skirmish I have given I do but taste blood. I would like to go on, to a large, thick book. It would be an agreeable task. Since I am the chief inventor and practiser (so far) of Little Wars, there has fallen to me a disproportionate share of victories. But let me not boast. For the present, I have done all that I meant to do in this matter. It is for you, dear reader, now to get a floor, a friend, some soldiers and some guns, and show by a grovelling devotion your appreciation of this noble and beautiful gift of a limitless game that I have given you.

And if I might for a moment trumpet! How much better is this amiable miniature than the Real Thing! Here is a homeopathic remedy for the imaginative strategist. Here is the premeditation, the thrill, the strain of accumulating victory or disaster—and no smashed nor sanguinary bodies, no shattered fine buildings nor devastated country sides, no petty cruelties, none of that awful universal boredom and embitterment, that tiresome delay or stoppage or embarrassment of every gracious, bold, sweet, and charming thing, that we who are old enough to remember a real modern war know to be the reality of belligerence. This world is for ample living; we want security and freedom; all of us in every country, except a few dull-witted, energetic bores, want to see the manhood of the world at something better than apeing the little lead toys our children buy in boxes. We want fine things made for mankind—splendid cities, open ways, more knowledge and power, and more and more and more—and so I offer my game, for a particular as well as a general end; and let us put this prancing monarch and that silly scare-monger, and these excitable "patriots," and those adventurers, and all the practitioners of Welt Politik, into one vast Temple of War, with cork carpets everywhere, and plenty of little trees and little houses to knock down, and cities and fortresses, and unlimited soldiers—tons, cellars-full—and let them lead their own lives there away from us.

My game is just as good as their game, and saner by reason of its size. Here is War, done down to rational proportions, and yet out of the way of mankind, even as our fathers turned human sacrifices into the eating of little images and symbolic mouthfuls. For my own part, I am prepared. I have nearly five hundred men, more than a score of guns, and I twirl my moustache and hurl defiance eastward from my home in Essex across the narrow seas. Not only eastward. I would conclude this little discourse with one other disconcerting and exasperating sentence for the admirers and practitioners of Big War. I have never yet met in little battle any military gentleman, any captain, major, colonel, general, or eminent commander, who did not presently get into difficulties and confusions among even the elementary rules of the Battle. You have only to play at Little Wars three or four times to realise just what a blundering thing Great War must be.

Great War is at present, I am convinced, not only the most expensive game in the universe, but it is a game out of all proportion. Not only are the masses of men and material and suffering and inconvenience too monstrously big for reason, but—the available heads we have for it, are too small. That, I think, is the most pacific realisation conceivable, and Little War brings you to it as nothing else but Great War can do.

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