In 1913, H.G. Wells wrote a book called Little Wars. It’s a set of rules for a toy-soldier game, and it sounds like it’s probably pretty good fun; but the main appeal of the book lies in two areas:
1. There are lots of pictures of moustache-wearing Edwardian men looking puzzled by little paper houses.
2. And Chapter 2, “The Beginnings of Modern Little Warfare”, is an incredibly detailed 4000-word essay on how the game was designed: the rules Wells started off with, what worked, what didn’t, how it changed, basically the entirety of his design process. Anyone who’s designed a game may find some of it eerily familiar.
There’s the inspiration, with a throwaway observation:
The beginning of the game of Little War, as we know it, became possible with the invention of the spring breechloader gun. This priceless gift to boyhood appeared somewhen towards the end of the last century, a gun capable of hitting a toy soldier nine times out of ten at a distance of nine yards.
Technological impetus to innovation, there. Then some airy declarations about how there’s “definitely a game in that”, and a vague attempt at trying it out with whatever they had to hand: