Inside are several interesting sets of early rules, not only the well-known H.G.Wells’ Little Wars, but others from late Victorian up to WW2.
“Volume 1 of the Early Wargames series contains a compilation of fascinating pre-Donald Featherstone wargames written between 1898 and 1940. Prior to Donald Featherstone publishing his classic book War Games in 1962 there were numerous attempts by other authors, to create wargames. H.G. Wells’s 1913 Little Wars, was the best known early wargaming book, although only one of a number of early wargaming rules. The many similarities in the rules indicate that H.G. Wells was clearly familiar with some of these when devising his own rules.” John Curry
This book contains selected key wargames all written between 1898 and 1940 including:
Notes on the Robert Louis Stevenson Game (1898)
The Great Wargame (1908)
War Games for Boy Scouts (1910)
Little Wars (1913) by HG Wells
Sham Battle 1929 (Extract) by Lt. Dowdall and Gleason
Mechanix Artillery Duel (1932)
The Liddell Hart Wargame (1935)
Captain Sach’s War Game (1940)
The obvious connection to my Scout Wide Games was the War Games for Boy Scouts (1910), written by A.J. Halladay, a Boer War CIV volunteer veteran who later went on to run Skybirds aeroplane and tank models and figures (perfect for wargaming). Now also reissued http://skybirdsuk.com
War Games for Boy Scouts 1910
I found these Scout War Games rules a curious thing, more like a campaign or map game with terrain marked out by paper pin flags.
To be honest I couldn’t really see what role toy figures played.
The rules rely heavily on an Umpire. I want my Scout Games to have a solo option.
A simple points system for choosing a force is described.
These 1910 rules stem from a time, just before Little Wars 1913, when you could have put the word Boy Scout on anything and sold it, such was the popularity and commercial opportunity that Baden Powell’s Scouting created.
I wonder how many Boy Scouts actually did get around to using these 1910 rules with their lead toy soldiers.
There is a post Boer War concern with manliness, fitness and Empire that links these Halladay rules with the wider concerns of Mafeking hero Baden Powell’s scouting movement.
Overall a fascinating book looking at the echoes of Featherstone and Wells on early rule sets
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 4 December 2019.
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
John Curry also reprinted as a free PDF some American rules with a curious almost Robert Louis Stevenson feel, the Tin Army of the Potomac, a curious Little Wars type hand drawn and lettered games rule book from 1888, including pages erupting with or disrupted by the charming scrapbook illustrations of late Victorian flat soldiers.
“A secret has been revealed, and I finally understand the meaning of toys, something my papa learnt long before me. When you are young, what you want out of toys is to feel grown up. You play with toys and cast yourself an adult, and imagine life the way it’s going to be.”
Yet, when you are grown, that changes; now, what you want out of toys is to feel young again. You want to be back there, in a place that did not hurt or harm you, in a pocket of time built out of memory and love. You want things in miniature, where they can be better understood: battles and houses, picnic baskets and sailing boats too.
Boyhood and adulthood – any toy maker worth his craft has to find a place to sit , somewhere between the two. It’s only in these borderlands that the very best toys are made.”
The Toymakers, a novel by Robert Dinsdale (Penguin, 2018), p. 256/7
My current reading – half way through – is The Toymakers, a fantasy / magic realism book set in a magical winter toy shop in Edwardian London up to and into the First World War.
The book blurb aims for the Harry Potter market – “If There were a toy shop on Diagon Alley it would be the Toymakers” – and I can imagine the film makers who made the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movies would enjoy recreating this world in CGI.
Here in the Emporium, a refugee European Toymaker Papa Jack and his two sons Emil and Kaspar Godman compete in both love and Toys, including “The Long War” fought between brothers through their alive (clockwork?) handmade toy soldiers.
The realism part of the magic realism steps up a pace when the First World War breaks out, Emporium staff join up, white feathers are handed out and at first, toy soldiers became the patriotic gift to give to small boys.
But what would happen as the war ground on? I often feel this looking at this WW1 era magazine scrap in my eclectic and chaotic collection
“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” is the long and unusual title of H.G. Wells famous book that started modern war gaming back in 1913.
H.G. Wells had an eye for intelligent girls or ladies, such as Amber Reeves, a pioneering feminist Socialist student at Cambridge University https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amber_Reeves with whom Wells had a child outside marriage in 1909. Wells called Amber “Dusa”, a shortened form of his pet name (!) for her of Medusa.
Wells proved himself to be more than just the father of modern war gaming!
The years before Floor Games (1911), an account of floor games with his two sons, led onto the “SandgateCannonade” of Little Wars (1913) were certainly busy ones for Wells, personally and professionally.
I wonder if this Xavier Sager designed Strategie / Strategy postcard girl is “the sort of intelligent girl who likes boys games and books” that Wells had in mind? It’s certainly a nice field gun shooting at what looks like tiny men or toy soldiers.
I came across this curious “Little Wars” style postcard online attached to a completely unrelated foreign language medical website about heart disease.
I was puzzled – Any reason why it was on a medical website?
It’s an interesting little card from somewhere in the early 1900s through to WW1. Look carefully and you will see that the ammunition for her toy gun is hearts!
What Strategy is it that she proposes?
Why the Gulliver Lilliputian style differences in size between giant lady and puny male victims?
Are these her tiny fallen lovers?
Is she a Femme Fatale figure? A Dusa or mythical fate spinner, a fatal woman?
What of the tiny fallen or wounded figures on the floor, including one in uniform, cursing or crying out? He must have a very revealing view of Mademoiselle “Strategie”.
What would the spirited Amber Reeves make of it all?
Strategy was produced as a comic or satirical postcard by Xavier Sager. Sager was a European postcard artist whom I had not heard of before but a quick internet search reveals him to have been most prolific.
However little appears online or in print about Sager’s life. Xavier Sager may have been born in Austria in 1870 or 1881 and died in the USA in 1930. He mostly illustrated Paris life in the first few years of the 1900s. You can see many of his designs here and on Pinterest:
Sager’s image reminds me of this curious Gibson Girls comic drawing by American artist Charles Dana Gibson entitled “The Weaker Sex” (1903).
Xavier Sager reputedly produced over 3000 designs of what in America would later be called pin ups, nose cone art and far more relaxed and revealing than the fashionable Gibson Girls of America at the time.
Many of the military ones seem focussed on cheeky, erotic or patriotic subjects such as flags, national songs, uniforms and female company for Allied soldiers including the Americans after their 1917 entry into WW1. They must have sold like hot cakes or donuts to the American doughboys.
This post is for Marvin, a talented painter of WW1 miniatures!
There are plenty of Xavier Sager’s collectable vintage postcard images for sale online or viewable on Pinterest, if you want to look up his work any further, along with websites below.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 26 August 2018
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
Mademoiselle Strategie with her ammunition of hearts may well be the female version of the man collecting a Jar of Hearts (conquests, hopefully, not real human organs) in Christina Perri’s recent song Jar of Hearts, better heard in the remix of the time travelling Postmodern Jukebox, court musicians to the Duke of Tradgardland. Enjoy!
Picked up in a second hand bookshop years ago is an illustrated copy of this E. Nesbit Short story The Town In the Library, first published in 1901.
How to Feed Toy Soldiers …
This out of print 1987 Macdonald / Beehive Books edition of the Edith Nesbit story has interesting illustrations of toy soldiers by illustrator Shirley Tourretwho died in 2007.
Some of the aspects of the story are an interesting and magical realist mixture of kaleidoscopic Chinese puzzle ‘box inside a box’ / ‘world inside a fantasy world’ of Lewis Carroll and H.G. Wells Floor Games and Little Wars. It is the familiar floor world of Wells’ Little Wars world of the Edwardian Nursery.
Two children Rosalind and Fabian are quarantined at home with measles on Christmas Eve. They are forbidden to open the top drawers of a bureau / desk but of course do and discover their Christmas treats and toys including blue and red toy soldiers.
The short story from Nesbit’s 1901 book Nine Unlikely Tales is played out amongst buildings and forts made of books, in a H.G. Wells style but ideas of scale are played around with throughout the story and the children appear to shrink into this world or town inside their house’s library.
The blue toy soldiers appear out of their wood and straw box in a novel and exciting way – abseiling down the wood shavings to the floor below, a decorative feat in full Napoleonic gear.
Thus is nicely pictured by Shirley Tourret with the soldier climbing down the side of the text to the book’s floor.
Captured by the blue toy soldiers, the children are persuaded to feed them their Christmas treats in a novel and unusual way. “I suppose you know how tin soldiers are fed?” Edith Nesbit / the narrator asks:
The children are rescued by the traditional red coated heroes (Nesbit’s story was written in 1901 at the height of Empire after all) which Shirley Tourret depicts in almost 18th Century uniform and head gear. They are nicely portrayed amongst a battlement of books.
All very H.G. Wells and Little Wars …
The story cleverly ends with the two children reappearing in their real nursery / library proper sized again but suffering from the fever of oncoming measles. So was it all a feverish dream or was it?
The book is an interesting mix of period uniforms, and absurd ideas for gaming scenarios such as the blue Napoleonic troops abseiling in full dress and shako.
The figures are stiffly posed in a toyness fashion when glimpsed as toys in some pictures but within the world of the bookish “Town in The Library” of the title and the children’s feverish imaginations the Toy Soldiers appear more animated, alive and human. This is cleverly distinguished in Shirley Tourret’s illustrations.
A sad postscript
The things you learn whilst exploring the world of toy soldiers.
As well as finding out about illustrators, you discover interesting things about the authors too.
Exploring Edith Nesbit’s life on Wikipedia, I found that Fabian and Rosamund the two children in the book are named after her own complicated family of birth and adopted children including a son Fabian, who died aged 15 in 1900, the year before this story was published in 1901. She also was one of the nine founders of the socialist Fabian Society in 1884 with her husband Hubert Bland, and her son Fabian was named after the society.
Nesbit’s children were Paul Bland (1880–1940), to whom The Railway Children was dedicated; Iris Bland (1881-1950s); Fabian Bland (1885–1900); Rosamund Bland (1886–1950), to whom The Book of Dragons was dedicated; and John Bland (1898–1971) to whom The House of Arden was dedicated.
Her son Fabian died aged 15 after a tonsil operation; Nesbit dedicated a number of books to him: Five Children and It and its sequels, as well as The Story of the Treasure Seekers and its sequels. Nesbit’s adopted daughter Rosamund collaborated with her on the book Cat Tales. (Wikipedia source: E.Nesbit)