Friday, 19 November 2010

2013: The Centenary of 'Little Wars': A very positive response

The response to yesterday's blog entry about commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the publication of H G Wells' LITTLE WARS has been very encouraging ... and it looks like it is going to happen.

There are quite a few things to be decided. Firstly, are we going to actually fire things at the 'toy' soldiers (which would be in keeping with the original game) or are we going to find an alternative? Secondly, are we going to use the rules in the main body of the book, or those in the appendix? Thirdly, are we going to use metal figures (beautiful when painted but very prone to 'battle damage') or plastic figures (cheaper, but more difficult to keep undamaged as a result of combat)? Finally, what scale figure will be used? The original game was played using 54mm or 42mm figures, but the rules in the appendix talk about using 1-inch (or 25mm) figures.

This is quite an agenda to sort out, but once it has been, progress can begin to be made.


  1. Bob,
    One way round the problem of damage from projectiles hitting the figures is to use unpainted plastic ones in different colours.
    Another would be to shoot soft projectiles, note their point of impact/landing and use a burst circle device plus a die roll to decide which toy soldiers fell over - you could also use this method with tiddly-winks flicked from behind a model gun.
    Another interesting idea used in an 1812 naval game on junior general is to roll pennies [or tiddly-winks] down a sloping, grooved device: any figure contacted is a casualty, or you could use the burst circle idea.

    Years ago Paddy and I experimented shooting matchsticks at an attack column of Airfix 20mm figures and leaving the casualties in place. The results - scattered bodies at long range; rows of bodies in cannister range - was remarkably realistic.

    It would be interesting to use the more detailed rules of the Little Wars appendix, rather than the rather simplistic main rules, with plastic 20/25mm figures.

    Finances and family mean I am unlikely to come to COW, but I'm very interested in taking part in developing/playtesting.

  2. Arthur1815,

    I am coming to the same conclusion with regard to using plastic figures. They could be painted to a degree so that they have a bit of character (e.g. faces, hands, boots, weapon) but not so much as one would feel that one's time and effort were being ruined by a bit of paint chipping.

    Another advantage of plastic is their lightness, which would mean that they would fall over if hit by one of the lower-velocity projectiles fired from a more modern ‘toy’ cannon.

    We have certainly considered using tiddlywinks to ‘fire’ at enemy units, although restricted range might make them better for rifle fire rather than artillery fire (which would also allow ammunition supply for both types of weapons to be taken into account!).

    The idea of rolling coins or tiddlywinks has also been discussed – although my inspiration for the idea came from the very old speedway game that was sold by Subbuteo – and that would work indoors on a flat surface. However, the actual act of firing a ‘toy’ cannon under pressure of time might result in a game that ‘feels’ better for the players.

    I like the story about you and Paddy doing some ‘experimental’ work using ‘toy’ cannons and Airfix figures, especially as the results bear out reality. It is another argument in favour of actually ‘shooting’ at ‘toys’ to simulate combat!

    I suspect that – if this project comes to fruition, as I suspect it probably will – there will be several trial games in and around London before and during 2013, and we would be very pleased if you could come along and take part.

    All the best,


  3. Bob
    Plastic figures (unpainted) and heavily de-tuned airsoft pistols?
    Just a thought. It looks as if we have a theme for CoW 2013 well in advance!

  4. Bob,
    Another aspect of leaving the Airfix casualties in place when Paddy and I did the matchstick experiment was the quite shocking spectacle of groups of 'dead' figures strewn across the ground crossed by the column of attack, which showed vividly the human cost of such tactics.
    Using cheap plastic figures, very simply painted as you suggest, en masse would allow casualties to be left in situ - or, perhaps, replaced by the crawling and other odd/useless figures always found in plastic sets.
    I very much look forward to contributing - in any way - to the development of this game.

  5. Tim Gow,

    Plastic figures do seem to have the edge for this ... at the moment ... especially as the range from 'Armies in Plastic' covers almost everything we need.

    Detuned Airsoft guns is something that I had thought about, but I don't think that they would be suitable if we were fighting indoors. Outdoors, on the other hand, would be a different ballgame.

    All the best,


  6. Arthur1815,

    I had not thought about leaving the 'dead' where they fell ... but it makes sense in many ways to do so, especially if we do use partially painted plastic figures.

    I look forward to working with you and the rest of the 'gang' on this project.

    All the best,