Yes, H.G. Wells was a fan of wargaming, believe it or not, and he wrote not one but two books devoted to his hobby. The first, Floor Games, was published in 1911 and isn't so much a set of rules as a discussion of the theory and practice of miniatures wargaming. Wells played his games using toy soldiers and, unlike most of his predecessors, who followed the German style of simulation, he used small wooden projectiles to try and knock down the toy soldiers rather than a more abstract system based around dice and probabilities. Wells's actual rules for wargaming appeared in 1913 under the amusing title of 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. Little Wars is considered by many the first set of wargames rules intended entirely for recreation.

Science fiction and fantasy author Fletcher Pratt, whose writings were noted by Gary Gygax as one of the primary inspirations for Dungeons & Dragons, wrote a set of naval miniatures rules in 1940. They were a development of Jane's earlier rules, but much more complex, using mathematical formulae to simulate a variety of different events and effects.

Charles Roberts published the first set of mass market wargame rules in 1952, with his Tactics. It's impossible to overestimate the influence this game had, as it introduced many of the mainstays of modern wargaming: hex maps, cardboard counters, and an odds-based combat results table, many of which were later adopted by roleplaying games. Roberts's success with Tactics enabled him to found Baltimore-based Avalon Hill, the premier publisher of wargames throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Avalon Hill would also eventually publish roleplaying games, an irony given that it turned down the chance to publish Dungeons & Dragons before Gary Gygax founded TSR for that same purpose.

In 1966, Michael F. Korns publishes Modern War in Miniature, a set of World War II miniatures wargaming rules. The rules are interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the game is geared toward small units, where individual soldiers, rather than entire regiments, play an important role. These soldiers are proto-RPG characters, acting as the "eyes and ears" of the players controlling them and giving them a perspective on the field of battle. Secondly, a referee was necessary to describe what each player saw and encountered through his soldiers, much in the same fashion as a roleplaying game's Game Master.

While in college, David Wesely was a member of the Midwest Military Simulation Association (MMSA), a wargaming group based in Minneapolis. In 1967, Wesely, inspired in part by Totten's Strategos, ran a wargame set in the fictional 19th century German town of Braunstein. He served as referee and the players took the roles of important military and civilian personnel in the town. The rules for this game were loose and freeform and concerned themselves as much with diplomatic matters as with combat. At the time, Dave Arneson, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, was a member of the MMSA and participated in some of Wesely's wargames, including a Braunstein variant set in a Latin American banana republic rather than Napoleonic Germany. Taking inspiration from this, Arneson created Blackmoor, a "fantasy Braunstein" setting that became the basis for the first roleplaying games campaign and a testbed for many of the concepts that would eventually became staples of the genre. The rest, as they say, is history.

It was a long road from 1811 to 1974 and it's unlikely that Lieutenant von Riesswitz would know what to make of his Kriegspiel's descendants. Still, there are many elements of modern roleplaying games, including their own electronic offspring, that owe their existence to generations of military officers and aficionados, each adding new details and concepts in order to improve wargames to suit their needs -- a process that continues to this day, as gamers throughout the world modify and house rule their favorite games.

James Maliszewski is a writer currently living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His blog, Grognardia, explores the history and traditions of the hobby of roleplaying.


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