The ‘Kriegsspiel’ and Solo Gaming?

by Rob Morgan

A few recent remarks, suggestions and queries, especially those from Jim, have led me to this brief note. Some of the ‘patterns of war games’ for want of a better expression, which I feel may be useful to the solo gamer are those to be found in the development of the ‘Kriegsspiel’, ‘War Game’ in the German language, over almost two centuries.

These games, and there were a number of them invented, are what produced trained commanders like Moltke, Clausewitz and Hindenburg. They are particularly useful to the solo player as the original systems, most originated in Germany, were intended to enable a player to achieve a quick and decisive victory on the tabletop or map, with a force which displayed tactical and operational prowess, and not one which developed an all embracing economic and strategic role. Old fashioned wargaming! The games displayed a narrow outlook on the nature of war and that’s exactly what the modern solo player needs for a successful game.

More than once, I’ve referred to the Continental Wars Society’s The Foreign Correspondent in these columns, and over recent years that newsletter has carried a number of fine, often reprinted, investigative contemporary articles on the games.

No. 127, in July 2020, carried a superb article called “The War Game of the Continent, which goes back to the earliest games of the 1780’s and the 1820’s. The 1780 game, with its chess-like pieces, would be playable now. Chess, of course, was recommended to the military to train the mind in war. More on this to follow.

The October 2020 issue, No.128, has “The American Kriegsspiel”, or a short account of it. That may well be better known to US readers and seems to have something to offer, based as it is on a topographical map with small coloured blocks. Issue No 130, April 2021, carries an 1872 magazine account of the uses of the war game and provides quite a few sound and solo possibilities.

This valuable publication is one which I’d recommend to all solo wargamers of the Horse and Musket, 19th century, and the pre-1914 era. I understand it will continue to investigate the theme of how land warfare and combat developed and its portrayal in small scale, with and without figures! One to watch.

Contact:

ralphcws@hotmail.com for Europe and burker1@aol.com in the USA.

More on Chess possibilities later.

Posted in Wargaming | 2 Comments

‘The Civil War Battlefield Guide’ Review Added

Jim Roher finds plenty of wargaming inspiration in this collection of maps of battles of the American Civil War.

You can find it on the Reviews page.

Posted in Periods - American Civil War, Reviews | Leave a comment

A Sample Article for September

This month’s sample article from previous issues of Lone Warrior is by Brian Cameron and is titled “My Approach to playing Solo Battles”. The author offers suggestions for setting up solo battles, from choosing terrain and battle plans for both sides, to standing orders for different types of units and commander character.

It’s on the Sample Articles page.

Posted in Solo wargaming | 1 Comment

OK? So, who was the greatest General?

by Rob Morgan

We were contemplating the idea of command on the tabletop, Brian and I.

Of course, there’s been a lot in these columns about good and bad generals over the past year or two and probably will be more to come. “Plenty of comment on bad commanders and their shortcomings, but, who,” he said, “was the best of history’s commanders?”

We came up with a list.

From me, it was Alexander the Great. But Vo Nguyen Giap? Or Lee? Brian opted for Bonaparte, which shows his colours clearly! Between us we chose a remarkable medieval warrior in first place, instead of arguing over twentieth century generals in single battles
or campaigns.

We chose Saladin in second place, if you’re interested.

Statue of Jan Žižka by Bohumil Kafka at National Memorial on Vítkov Hill in PragueCzech Republic

Jan Zizka (1360-1424 AD) was a Bohemian (Czech) adherent of the Protestant Hussite cause. He began his military career fighting at the Battle of Tannenberg against the Teutonic Knights. Known generally as ‘One-Eyed Zizka’ for obvious reasons, he led the armies of the Hussites in fighting off no fewer than three crusades against them. Never defeated, he won a dozen huge
pitched battles, including Vitkov Hill, Horice, and Nekner, often against substantial odds.

He won scores of smaller encounters, and sieges. In one of the latter, he lost his sight entirely and from then fought his wars totally blind.

After he died of the plague, his soldiers called themselves ‘orphans’.

He’ll always be linked to the Hussite ‘armoured wagons’, horse-drawn fortifications which were used like modern day APC’s- as mobile pillboxes. They were very much a gunpowder army too, knocking down ‘chivalry’ wherever they encountered it.

A great army to wargame with!

Posted in Periods - Medieval, Wargaming | 1 Comment

‘Famous By My Sword’ Review Added

Martin Smith reviews ‘Famous By My Sword’: The Army of Montrose and the Military Revolution. He finds much to recommend in this title which covers the Scots Royalist Army raised by James Graham, Marquess of Montrose, and its battles in 1644-1645.

You can find the full review on the Reviews page.

Posted in Periods - Pike and Shot, Reviews | Leave a comment

Back to The Unsinkable “Titan”

by Rob Morgan,

Back in 2003, issue No. 144 (Vol. 28/2, pp 46-48), Lone Warrior carried a short article of mine on a naval unit, one entirely suitable, as most warships are, of playing a central role in a solo wargame.

There are plenty of good wargames-scale ship models of vessels which were little use in real warfare. This one’s a 1/600th Peter Pig, 1864 Confederate ironclad, CSS Nashville. Big, slow, and vulnerable as a man-of-war, she played a small part in actions against the shore at the end of the struggle and was surrendered in May 1865. No. 4, in the “Hammerin’ Iron” range, it has a well detailed resin hull with metal funnel and ventilators. As a science fiction or fantasy vessel, it’s very useful indeed and I’ve now returned to it.

The warship, Titan, was unsinkable – based on the paddle steamers still found working in the salt pans of Spain’s Alicante Province. It’s not an ironclad in my solo game but built of very hard wood and she sails or steams on salt waters.

The overall colour scheme tries to give that “wooden” impression. I replaced the original funnel with something sturdier and added four small turrets on the top of the casemate. I suppose it should have a jack and ensign, but I’ve never got around to adding one.

This ship voyages along a river, rather like in Daniel Walther’s science fiction short story, “The Gunboat Dread”, encountering all sorts of opponents, and making for a sound linear campaign, easily picked up and returned to at will. The original article explains armament, fighting strength, and potential, in detail.

Here, in a recent game, Titan is being closely examined by a giant octopus, a model taken from the Waddington’s board game, Escape from Atlantis (now, that’s a set of parts worth acquiring if you can find it – forts, islands, sea monsters, sharks, galleys all sorts of useful wargames stuff.)

Incidentally, back in 2003, I recall Lone Warrior carried no photographs at all, in any issue, and almost twenty years ago, Peter Pig sold this hefty model (it’s 13cm long) at £4.50. The current Pig list shows the same model at £5, a very small increase in price over such a long time.

Posted in Naval gaming, Solo wargaming | Leave a comment

A River Gunboat

by Rob Morgan,

This small wooden boat, an oil tanker shape, intended for a small child’s play set, is about 8 inches (35cm) long, sturdy, and with a lovely empty deck. I bought it for a little less than 3 pounds. A little work provided me with this in 20/25mm scale.

It’s intended to be a river, lake or canal gunboat, of the auxiliary sort- roughly 1942/3. Could be a Soviet boat, or of course could acquire a swastika, a Kriegsmarine ensign, or a Finnish, Hungarian, or any Axis flag, to serve somewhere up the Volga or Dnieper or on a lake.

The superstructure aft is original, but has a few add-ons, a couple of ventilators, the steam pipe, as well as a door on the starboard side. A short mast is optional.

So, the boat hull, being two inches wide, I cut a strip of deep plasticard, the type that’s an open oblong shape, about half an inch wide, a quarter of an inch deep, (you could use a solid piece of wood at a pinch). I cut enough to reach most of the way to the bow, and cemented it on, having cut a slight curve at the front end. There I cemented a thick plastic ring, about the same depth, though it doesn’t matter if that stands above the strip. That, along with a couple of hatches, from redundant figure bases, and spare tyres, to stop it bumping into bigger craft and jetties, is it.

I also wanted the gunboat to have a couple of decent weapons.

The main armament is an old 1/72nd Airfix T-34 turret, the 76mm gun one – you get two in the kit as you’ll know, the other’s an 85mm, too big for a small riverine craft. I based it on a big round counter and it will turn almost 360 degrees. If you are considering a German version, then maybe a Mk III Panzer turret, the short gun version, or the same ‘captured’ T-34 turret splashed with crosses will do.

Behind the turret, about halfway along, is an mg turret, the sort you’d find on an early Soviet light tank, constructed from a pen top.

It’s sprayed overall with Humbrol Matt Dark Earth, with added black splashes for vision slits, handles etc. The overall dusting of snow camouflage is, of course, essential for my own Ostfront scenario. An Axis version might be dark grey or camouflaged.

As a warship of course, she’s fairly slow, as small river barges would be, and maybe prone to breakdowns? The armour on the two turrets, and perhaps the deck house, will slow her down.

The ‘Winter’ camouflage scheme adds a further idea in a wargame: small ice floes in the river, or on the lake, which need to be steered around or may sink the vessel, or the possibility of the vessel being held fast in the ice and attacked by shore forces. Remember cavalry captured a fleet of warships by charging across the ice in Holland during Bonaparte’s wars.

Posted in Naval gaming, Periods - World War II | 1 Comment

‘Rome’s Enemies (5): The Desert Frontier’ Osprey Review Added

Martin Smith reviews Men-At-Arms 243 and notes that it is beautifully illustrated and serves as a “fine introduction to a lesser-known subject”.

The full review is available on the Ospreys at a Glance page.

Posted in Periods - Ancient, Reviews | 2 Comments

Review of Dark Alliance Fire Demons

Jonathan Aird reviews this set of Tolkien-inspired Fire Demons from Ukranian figure-manufacturer, Dark Alliance. At just two-figures per box, he finds the price reasonable, particular given that, as he notes, “there’s only one Balrog in Moria, after all.”

It’s on the Reviews page.

Posted in Periods - Fantasy | 1 Comment

The Luckiest Panzers!

By Rob Morgan

It has been many years since I drafted a never-to-be-completed wargame based on a series of Allied invasions of the Channel Islands in 1944. I’m not surprised I abandoned the idea, given that this collection of islands was a very heavily defended festung, as hard to breach as Dieppe or Omaha. In wargames’ terms, one of the more attractive features of the German defence was the armoured unit deployed on the larger islands of Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney; but then even tiny Sark had its armoured vehicles!

This is how I came to encounter Panzer Abteilung 213.

From spring 1942, some 36 captured French Char ‘B’ heavy tanks, armed with a 47mm turret gun and a 75mm in the hull, arrived, split more or less equally between Jersey and Guernsey. Five of the tanks on each island were converted flamethrowers, known as PzKpfw B1 bis (f). There were other former French tanks sent to the islands later – about 20 captured WWI Renault FT17s – and there were a few SP guns too.

An interesting collection of armour, never intended for combat with enemy AFVs, they were to be used for airfield defence and as mobile pillboxes. By 1944, many of the FT17s were immobile, and the Char ‘B’s big petrol consumption limited their scope of operations. I thought that these relics might make for a very different anti-invasion game, making a change from the inevitable King Tigers and Panthers.

The high proportion of flamethrower tanks sent to the islands was intriguing too.

Of course, the post D-Day capture of the Cotentin peninsula (Cherbourg and St. Malo) completely isolated the Channel Islands’ fortresses. Apart from some shelling and a few small naval actions, they remained under siege for the remainder of the war. Surrendering on May 9th, 1945, to British Task Force 135, the garrison’s tanks were eventually returned to the French army for disposal.

One intriguing fact still stays with me: Panzer Abteilung 213 is almost certainly the only German armoured formation of the whole of World War II that never fired a single shot in anger, never lost a tank in combat, nor ever took part in any action against the enemy.

Lucky? 

Posted in Periods - World War II | 2 Comments