Little Wars

I’ve read HG Wells’ Little Wars a couple of times, but never played it.

It’s a very simple wargame, published in 1913, which uses model soldiers. Artillery fire involves no dice rolling. You’re supposed to use toy cannon that can fire little pieces of ammunition.

Unfortunately they don’t make these types of cannon any more (Lego had some until relatively recently as part of their pirates theme, but prices for second-hand Lego seem to have been driven up by collectors). So I gave up on the idea. However I recently found this on


I found it quite appealing. I especially like the idea of using small dice as ammunition, so you can have some sort of random effects without slowing down the game. But the instructions for making it (here) seem quite involved.

I don’t know whether flicking disks wouldn’t be a simpler solution (although that would require a smooth playing surface). But that somehow seems less fun – perhaps because I like the idea of aiming and firing a miniature piece of artillery.


>These creatures have, thankfully, never been seen in Teleleli. They are only known there through descriptions given by refugees from Barsoom, who say that they came into conflict with them in the distant past.

The original appearance of the creatures is not known, although they may have resembled Barsoomians, or even been a branch of that species. The prevailing philosophy of their society seemed to be based on a belief that the mind was separate to the body, even to the brain, and a hatred of the body combined with an idealisation of the mind. Possessing advanced science, they were able to alter their bodies. Perhaps this led to a vicious cycle where they found themselves in bodies instinctively alien to them, which caused their hatred of the body to grow, and led in turn to more extreme modifications.

Whether this is the reason, it is undisputed that they altered their bodies more and more. At one period in Barsoomian history they are reported as having soft, oversized, but otherwise human- or Barsoomian-like heads, but lacking any other body. Instead, they grew headless bodies, on which they ‘rode’, controlling them by unknown means.

After many centuries their bodies were huge, and resembled machines more than biological creatures, having a metal-like skin and weapons of great power, including poisonous black smoke and a ‘Tenth Ray’, which is described as a special form of light which incinerated whatever it fell upon. They are said to have had many tentacles instead of arms and legs, and to have been able to travel land and sea with equal ease, though not to fly (the name Sky-Tyrants derives from the fact that they towered over the Barsoomians).

It strikes me as a peculiar coincidence that the loa of Haitian voodoo are said to ‘ride’ the worshippers whom they possess, and perhaps this provides some clue as to the Sky-Tyrants’ eventual fate. It may be that they managed to become altogether incorporeal. In any case, after a destructive war they are heard of no more in the history of Barsoom.

>"No One Would Have Believed…"

>No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water…across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

HG Wells.