Everyone knows H.G. Wells, right? The Sci-Fi author who had all those weird Google doodles a while back? Well, aside from all that end-of-the-earth stuff, he also played with toy soldiers with his kids. Not just little plastic men and saying "boom", but full out awesome-ness. And then he wrote two books on it, Little Wars, and Floor Games. And I'm going to teach you how to do the same (kids not required.) If you want to read the book in and of itself (it's rather long) you can find it here.
Step 1: Materials
to play this game, at the bare minimum, you need very few things.
* Toy soldiers. The proper metal kind, not those wimpy plastic kinds they have today. H. G. Wells used lead soldiers, but that was back before it was thought poisonous. If you are playing with young children or afraid for yourself, you might want to use other metals, such a tin.
* an imagination. If you're on this site, you should have one of these.
* floor space. Or table space if you really want to.
There are, of course, many other things you can, and indeed almost should, use with this game. those are:
* wooden blocks
* an ability to mark on your play space (crayon, chalk, etc.)
* small cannon
* lead cavalry
* scale scenery
* anything else you think important
Step 2: The Rules: the Country
players will flip a coin to decide who arranges the country. The player who arranges the land has as much time as he needs. When he is done, the other player will chose their starting side. Items of scenery cannot be moved thereafter. If any pieces are disturbed, they will be put back ASAP.
Step 3: The Rules: the Move & Mobility
players flip for the first turn. Whoever wins is from now on referred to as "First Player." If a curtain is available, it should be drawn between the two sides. It will not be opened until setup is finished for both sides. If a curtain isn't available, First Player sets up his men, then Second Player. Both men will be set up on the back line. If they wont fit, they can be positioned infront of or behind the line, but move as if from the line. Each player's turn is timed, with a minute per artillery and a minute per 30 men. Warnings for time must be issued at one and two minutes, as well as thirty seconds. An interval will occur before the next turn, so as to fix any disturbed scenery or soldiers. Guns must not be fired before the second move of the first player—not counting the "putting down" as a move. Thus the first player puts down, then the second player, the first player moves, then the second player, and the two forces are then supposed to come into effective range of each other and the first player may open fire if he wishes to do so. In making his move a player must move or fire his guns if he wants to do so, before moving his men. To this rule of "Guns First" there is to be no exception. Every soldier may be moved and every gun moved or fired at each move, subject to the following rules:
An infantry unit may be moved a foot or any less distance at each move. A cavalry unit may be moved two feet or any less distance at each move. A gun is in action if there are at least four men of its own side within six inches of it. If there are not at least four men within that distance, it can neither be moved nor fired. If a gun is in action it can either be moved or fired at each move, but not both. If it is fired, it may fire up to four shots. It may be swung round in all directions to take aim, provided the Country about it permits. it may be raised or lowered, and the soldiers about it can lie down in their places to move it. Moreover, soldiers who have got in front of the fire of their own guns may lie down while the guns fire over them. At the end of the move the gun must be left without altering its elevation and pointing in the direction of the last shot. And after firing, two men must be placed exactly at the end of the trail of the gun, one on either side in a line directly behind the wheels. If the gun is moved and not fired, then at least four men who are with the gun must move up with it to its new position, and be placed within six inches of it in its new position. The gun itself must be placed trail forward and the muzzle pointing back in the direction from which it came, and so it must remain until it is swung round on its axis to fire. Obviously the distance which a gun can move will be determined by the men it is with; if there are at least four cavalry-men with it, they can take the gun two feet, but if there are fewer cavalry-men than four and the rest infantry, or no cavalry and all infantry, the gun will be movable only one foot. There must be at least 1/16 of an inch between a soldier and its surroundings. When men are knocked over by a shot they are dead, and as many men are dead as a shot knocks over or causes to fall or to lean so that they would fall if unsupported. But if a shot strikes a man but does not knock him over, he is dead, provided the shot hasn't already killed someone. But a shot cannot kill more than one man without knocking him over, and if it touches several without oversetting them, only the first touched is dead and the others are not incapacitated. A shot that rebounds from any object and touches a man, kills him, no matter what.
Step 4: The Rules: Hand to Hand & Capturing
Either the numbers taking part in the melee on each side are equal or unequal.
(a) If they are equal, all the men on both sides are killed.
(b) If they are unequal, then the inferior force is either isolated or (measuring from the points of contact) not isolated.
(i) If it is isolated (see above), then as many men become prisoners as the inferior force is less in numbers than the superior force, and the rest kill each a man and are killed. Thus nine against eleven have two taken prisoners, and each side seven men dead. Four of the eleven remain with two prisoners. One may put this in another way by saying that the two forces kill each other off, man for man, until one force is double the other, which is then taken prisoner. Seven men kill seven men, and then four are left with two.
(ii) But if the inferior force is not isolated (see (1) above), then each man of the inferior force kills a man of the superior force and is himself killed.
And the player who has just completed the move, the one who has charged, decides, when there is any choice, which men in the melee, both of his own and of his antagonist, shall die and which shall be prisoners or captors. Prisoners have no weapons, and can do nothing. One man can guard up to seven prisoners. If the guard is killed, then the prisoners allies may recapture them, and then they must go back to their end of the field to resupply by crossing the back line. Any isolated group may surrender as prisoners. If there is no one withing 6 inches of an enemy gun and you have four men at the back of the wheels, it is now yours.
Step 5: The Rules: Variations
You may play various types of games.
(1) One is the Fight to the Finish. You move in from any points you like on the back line and try to kill, capture, or drive over his back line the whole of the enemy's force. You play the game for points; you score 100 for the victory, and 10 for every gun you hold or are in a position to take, 1-1/2 for every cavalry-man, 1 for every infantry-man still alive and uncaptured, 1/2 for every man of yours prisoner in the hands of the enemy, and 1/2 for every prisoner you have taken. If the battle is still undecided when both forces are reduced below fifteen men, the battle is drawn and the 100 points for victory are divided.
Note—This game can be fought with any sized force, but if it is fought with less than 50 a side, the minimum must be 10 a side.
(2) The Blow at the Rear game is decided when at least three men of one force reach any point in the back line of their antagonist. He is then supposed to have suffered a strategic defeat, and he must retreat his entire force over the back line in six moves, i.e. six of his moves. Anything left on the field after six moves capitulates to the victor. Points count as in the preceding game, but this lasts a shorter time and is better adapted to a cramped country with a short back line. With a long rear line the game is simply a rush at some weak point in the first player's line by the entire cavalry brigade of the second player. Instead of making the whole back line available for the Blow at the Rear, the middle or either half may be taken.
(3) In the Defensive Game, a force, the defenders, two-thirds as strong as its antagonist, tries to prevent the latter arriving, while still a quarter of its original strength, upon the defender's back line. The Country must be made by one or both of the players before it is determined which shall be defender. The players then toss for choice of sides, and the winner of the toss becomes the defender. He puts out his force over the field on his own side, anywhere up to the distance of one move off the middle line—that is to say, he must not put any man within one move of the middle line, but he may do so anywhere on his own side of that limit—and then the loser of the toss becomes first player, and sets out his men a move from his back line. The defender may open fire forthwith; he need not wait until after the second move of the first player, as the second player has to do.
(4) or, of course, you may make up your own!
Step 6: The Rules: Forces
Except in the above cases, or when otherwise agreed upon, the forces engaged shall be equal in number and similar in composition. The methods of handicapping are obvious. A slight inequality (chances of war) may be arranged between equal players by leaving out 12 men on each side and tossing with a pair of dice to see how many each player shall take of these. The best arrangement and proportion of the forces is in small bodies of about 20 to 25 infantry-men and 12 to 15 cavalry to a gun. Such a force can maneuver comfortably on a front of 4 or 5 feet. Most of our games have been played with about 80 infantry, 50 cavalry, 3 or 4 naval guns, and a field gun on either side, or with smaller proportional forces. We have played excellent games on an eighteen-foot battlefield with over two hundred men and six guns a side. A player may, of course, rearrange his forces to suit his own convenience; brigade all or most of his cavalry into a powerful striking force, or what not. But more guns proportionally lead to their being put out of action too early for want of men; a larger proportion of infantry makes the game sluggish, and more cavalry—because of the difficulty of keeping large bodies of this force under cover—leads simply to early heavy losses by gunfire and violent and disastrous charging. The composition of a force may, of course, be varied considerably. One good Fight to a Finish game we tried as follows: We made the Country, tossed for choice, and then drew curtains across the middle of the field. Each player then selected his force from the available soldiers in this way: he counted infantry as 1 each, cavalry as 1-1/2, and a gun as 10, and, taking whatever he liked in whatever position he liked, he made up a total of 150. He could, for instance, choose 100 infantry and 5 guns, or 100 cavalry and no guns, or 60 infantry, 40 cavalry, and 3 guns. In the result, a Boer-like cavalry force of 80 with 3 guns suffered defeat at the hands of 110 infantry with 4.
Step 7: Extra: Hook's Farm
I had a big block of text here, but instead, here's the link.
Step 8: Summary
Little Wars is a fun little war game, but if you wish it to be more serious, then you should read the book at the link provided up top. In the end it tells you how to make several variations. You may also be interested in the companion, Little Wars.