Von Reisswitz’s Original Equipment
by Bill Leeson
A few years back, when using Google’s image search for Kriegsspiel, I found some pictures of Von Reisswitz’s Original Equipment at the web-site of a Berlin museum dedicated to computer games.
The article below describes our ultimately unsuccessful attempts to find out more. The pictures now seem to have disappeared from the site in question, The Computerspiele Museum, so I have taken the liberty of publishing them here.
Description of the equipment
The pictures show a display case with several drawers, and modular terrain pieces laid out as if for a game. I believe this could be the set created by Reisswitz’s father for the Crown Prince, or a similar set. What could be a rulebook lies open in the foreground.
The display case
After the letters below were published, we realised that there was a note on the page where the photos were found that confirmed the equipment as being that made by von Reisswitz the elder.
“For strategic games freaks ‘our’ area has a specially mouthwatering morsel. The only example of the origins of all strategy games – ‘The tactical strategy game’ (devised in 1812 by Baron von Reisswitz) – can be seen. In contrast to the rest of our exhibition, however, it is not for trying out.”
The attempt to find out more
Martin volunteers Bill to find out more
I suggest we, jointly via Bill, whose status as the English translator of the 1824 rules must give him more credibility than the average casual enquirer contact the proprietor of this museum to ascertain whether this apparatus is still extant, and to gain further details of the terrain pieces, troop blocks and any rules. He may? not know much about the 1824 set and subsequent derivatives, so we could exchange information. If a set of rules exists, perhaps we could obtain a copy for Bill to translate and publish it?
We might also be able to replicate the terrain squares in modern materials and recreate the original game…. At the very least we should be able to increase our knowledge of the early Kriegsspiel and generate some material our publications and perhaps one of the glossy magazines!
Perhaps some of us could make a brief visit to Berlin to study the original and record this piece of wargames history, if it still exists.
Bill tells us what we are looking at
It seems incredible, but I think we are looking at the original Kriegsspiel set that was specially made for the Prussian King by Reisswitz the elder.
This paragraph is from “The Reisswitz Story”. Reisswitz the elder had given a demonstration to the two princes, Wilhelm and Friedrich in 1810. They had told their father about the game. He had asked to see it for himself and Reisswitz decided to up-grade his sandbox to something more presentable for a king. He duly arrived at the palace with it about a year later. “It was in the shape of a large table open at the top for terrain pieces to fit into. The terrain pieces were 3 – 4 inches square, and the overall area was at least six feet square. The small squares could be re-arranged so that a multiplicity of landscape was possible. The terrain was made in plaster and was coloured to show roads, villages, swamps, rivers etc. In addition there were dividers for measuring distances, rulers, small boxes for placing over areas so that troops who were unobserved might make surprise attacks, and written rules which were at this stage not yet in their fuller form (i.e. as Reisswitz the younger and his group had developed them by 1824).
Where the equipment was originally put by the King
The pieces representing the troops were made of porcelain. The whole thing was extremely well painted, and the king was so impressed that he ordered it to be set up in the Queen Louise Salon, next to the Great Assembly and Tea Room, where it is to this day. (The SansSouci Palace at Potsdam).”
A luke warm reply to Bill’s enquirys
I did write to the Palace at Potsdam some time in the eighties, but at that time Kriegsspiel was not politically correct in the Eastern Zone, and I never received a reply. Well what do you know!!! I came across an email point somewhere on the site so I wrote an email telling them about the article in the Militar Wochenblat which tells the story of how the apparatus came to be installed in the Potsdam Palace (1874 no.3).
I did get in touch with somebody at the Computerspiele Museum, I told them a bit about who made the original and where it was kept, I also told them about the article in Militair Wochenblatt where this information came from. I got a polite reply, but I did not get the feeling that they were all that thrilled. Kind of – thanks very much – if we need to know any more we will know who to get in touch with.
Webmasters note October 2018:
To date I am unaware of any updates to these efforts to trace and document the original Kriegsspiel apparatus. Any further information would be extremely helpful.