Born in 1866, just a year after the American Civil War ended, he was doing his thing until he passed away in 1946, just after World War II ended. Many consider him the father of science fiction, and in many ways they are right. Of course, Mary Shelley wrote what is considered the first science fiction novel, Frankenstein. But unfortunately Ms. Shelley only had the one bestseller in her. Jules Verne and old H.G took a good look at her science fiction football and ran farther and faster with it than anyone had before.
H.G. wrote the first book about interplanetary war, time travel, air warfare, genetic manipulation and the power of invisibility. And get this, he also wrote the first miniatures wargame.
While playing with his children and their toy soldiers he devised a set of rules for “floor games.” He called them that because that’s where the games were played, on the floor.
The set ups were huge by our gaming standards. Using 3” tall figures, the game consisted of infantry moving one foot per turn and cavalry two feet. In his game, casualties were determined by shooting wood pegs out of spring-loaded cannons or simply by rolling a ball into your opponent’s troops.
The game was quite popular at the time. In fact, if you watch the old movie Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang by Walt Disney, you can see the game being played. The movie takes place in H.G. Well’s era, and at the end you see the character Grandfather playing it on the floor with one of his old army buddies.
The rules became refined over time and wargaming societies and clubs sprung up the world over. In America a young enthusiast of miniatures wargaming started reading J.R.R Token’s books. This American kid was named Gary Gygax, and he used miniatures rules as the starting point for what eventually became Dungeons and Dragons.
With steam punk fiction currently in ascendance, I think it proper to remember the man who gave geekdom so much. As long as nerds gather over gaming tables, we will never forget you Mr. Wells.By Clayton J. Callahan