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.

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4 Responses to The ‘Kriegsspiel’ and Solo Gaming?

  1. jimr says:

    Rob,

    Could you give us a web address? When I ask google to find “Continental Wars Society’s The Foreign Correspondent” all I get are blogs mentioning the newsletter.

    My wargaming this month has been on a road map of northern German. The Austrian empire has launched an hegemony war against the North German Confederation. The meridian marks around the edges of the map were used to draw grid lines on the map.

    I really like this approach because the board shows real place names. Playing at this scale makes terrain unimportant. I gave each side five armies each composed of three divisions. Division types are cavalry, infantry and artillery.

    This is not really Kriegsspiel. However, it is closer to that model than what we usually see in recreational wargaming.

    • JohnY says:

      Hi Jim,

      Rob asked me to relay that he does not have a web address for them. He notes that, ” This is a splendid publication, produced in an old-fashioned way, and that’s one of the reasons for its value, The Society is small, but exists on both sides of the Atlantic, and is thriving. ” He suggests dropping an e-mail to ether Bob Burk or to Ralph Weaver and notes, “They will respond.”

      • GBanic says:

        G’day all,

        Slightly off topic response, my apologies in advance.

        Many thanks Rob for your post on the development of Kriegspiel and also for the contacts for the ‘Continental Wars Society’, will definitely give them a ping.

        I have been quiet for a while due to real world pressures but have just kicked off my first attempt at a solo wargame campaign and in the lead up seriously considered getting a copy of Kriegspiel to support the campaign, but ended up using other resources which I’ll touch on soon.

        In similar vein to Jimr, my campaign is also set in Germany, circa 1870, same combatants as per history but different cassis belli. The unexpected death of the King of Bavaria, and mental incapacity of the next in line (apparently a lot of that going around at the time) has resulted in a regency which is unpopular with the general populace and the Palatinate in particular. France seizes the opportunity to send forces to support the Francophile sentiments of the Palatinate, whilst the German states scramble to mobilise a response. The French are looking to ultimately reclaim the historic Lotharingian territories or, at the very least, expand France to its ‘natural border’ on the Rhine.

        I am using a 1:1,000,000 scale map (1cm = 10km), from an old copy of the Times Atlas I acquired, for the strategic movements with a photo copy enlargement at 1:500,000 (2cm = 10km) for the area of operations surrounding the Palatinate. So, as with Jimr, I have real place names and geography. The orbats of the combatants are restricted to those forces I have completed so far, roughly four divisions per side according to the ‘1870’ rules by Bruce Wiegel. I also have the ability to upscale each division to a Corps if using the ‘Bloody Big Battles’ rules by Chris Pringle.

        I am using Henry Hyde’s recent book ‘Wargaming Campaigns’ and ‘William Silvester’s ‘Solo Wargaming Guide’ for inspiration, guidance and mechanisms to run the campaign (both books are most highly recommended!) ‘Bloody Big Battles’ rules will be used for the tactical battles, and this will be my first time using them in anger. Any who read my earlier posts and the comments I received will note that I’ve taken on board the advice you guys offered.

        Like Jimr, I’ve hand ruled a grid on my enlarged map, set at 10km squares, which is about the scale my wargames table will be. Once contact is made in a square, and a battle will be fought, the key map features will be transferred to the table and supplemented by additional terrain, towns etc.

        Again, I have to thank Rob for his impeccable timing, the guidance provided about what the modern solo player needs for a successful game was just what I needed to hear to rein in my ambitions to what I really wanted to get out of the concept, leaving a lot of the details on logistics, politics, etc to a letter iteration after I’ve had a chance to see what works and what doesn’t. I’m hoping that a leaner game will mean it actually gets played through to completion rather than getting bogged down in detail and ditched as unworkable. Anyway, here’s hoping! I’m looking to experiment with the op-order mechanics one of the Lone Warrior crew put up a little while ago. I had a ty with it but made the mistake of using it to provide guidance to units for a battle, too cumbersome for that purpose and I think I missed the intent anyway. This time around, I have an overarching war aim for each side and will use the op-order mechanics to drive the Armies and constituent Corps around the map.

        Also hoping to use the campaign to develop and refine the scouting and intelligence mechanisms I was talking about all those months ago.

        If there’s any interest in how things pan out, I’ll make sure I document progress and will try to find the best way to make it available. It’s very much a learning evolution this time around, no doubt a lot of lessons learnt the hard way will be forthcoming! Hopefully my pain will be your gain!

        Cheers

        G

  2. Paul Le Long says:

    Reisswitz Press (linked to Too Fat Lardies) does a Kreigsspiel game – a couple actually. I’ve never bought them because I can’t imagine how to do it solo. But they also have a book of scenarios which include some for solo play so probably worth checking out. https://toofatlardies.co.uk/

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