KRIEGSSPIEL NEWS 59
Army level games
Apologies for the late arrival of this issue. As recompense (if that is the appropriate word) it is somewhat larger than usual.
I am experimenting with a new layout. Just fancied a change. Do let me know if you have strong feelings about it either way (yawn).
We are bursting at the seams again, so some stuff will be held over to KN 60. This includes Francesco Francini’s experiments with applying the Matrix game concept to Kriegsspiel.
Most of this issue is given over to the large Napoleonic army level game played in November. This includes comments from those who played as C in C, Chief of Staff, and a humble corps commander.
Congratulations to Dave Stanforth and his wife Suzie, on the birth of their daughter Carrie on 21st February. Both mother & baby are doing well.
James Machin’s email game has started. It is set in Spain in 1814. We’ll let you know how it goes, but not for a while to avoid giving anything away to the players.
Readership continues to grow at a genteel pace. We are now over 70 worldwide for the first time.
As previously advised Rohan Saravanamuttu is running a military history guided walk around London, starting at 11.00 am Sunday 6 April. Meet outside Thistle Hotel next to Charring Cross main line station. £5 (£3 concessions). For further information contact Rohan on 020 8888 5530 or email
Next game is from Richard Madder on one of Frederick the Great’s battles (see 2. below). If you are planning to come, please contact Richard direct at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Forthcoming games
2. March 2003 game general briefing
3. The Battle of Denzreuthe – briefing
4. The Battle of Denzreuthe – brief narrative
5. Denzreuthe – the umpiring approach
6. The view from the bottom – a corps commander’s view from Richard Madder
7. The view from the chateau – report from the Chief of Staff by Arthur Harman
8. The view from the top – thoughts from the C in C by Rohan Saravanamuttu
9. Oh dear. Our Sid’s having one of his turns
1. Forthcoming games
Sunday 23rd March 2003 Hemel 2.30 pm Frederick the Great v Russians from Richard Madder
Saturday 18th May 2003 Hemel 2.30 pm Late Napoleonic corps level battle
Sunday 21st September Hemel 2.30 pm To be advised
If you fancy running a scenario, let us know, as we are happy to re-jig the list to fit it in. We will also provide assistance with the design and umpiring if you need this.
Games are usually held at Bill’s house. Pick up from Hemel Hempstead railway station (and drop off) can normally be arranged. Games finish around 7 pm. If you are interested in playing, give Bill a ring or email as early as possible before the game so we can plan the numbers. If we know you are coming we can also let you know if there are any last minute changes to arrangements.
For some games we send briefings out prior to the game, so early contact means you are more likely to get a key command.
2. March 2003 game general briefing (courtesy of Richard Madder)
General Situation – midnight 13th August 1759
The strategic situation is shown in the map above. Matters look desperate indeed for the Prussians!
Frederick is ill, but though largely inactive the position of his Royal Army serves to frustrate the Austrian intention to unite with their allies the Russians. The presence of Glogau and the difficulty of crossing the hilly and heavily wooded Grosse Forst make it most unlikely that the Austrians can affect a junction with the Russians for a week or so.
Meanwhile Frederick’s brother Prince Henry has gathered a sizeable corps and marched swiftly east, apparently with the intention of attacking the demoralised Russian Army, that was defeated in battle near Glogau on 1st August. The demoralised Russians are encamped somewhere south of Seedorf. For Henry time is of the essence because Russian reinforcements are known to be less than a week’s march east of Seedorf.
3. The Battle of Denzreuthe – briefing (see attached map 1)
The December game was a hypothetical large-scale late Napoleonic battle between 2 armies, each of several corps. We will follow the battle from the Red standpoint.
It is the evening of 10th July 1816. A large Red army has invaded Blue territory from the west, with the intention of advancing on their capital, Neuburg, 60 miles to the NE. Further forces are operating on the southern front, about 150 miles distant.
The smaller Blue force has fallen back to the small town of Marzell (M7), where it has a supply base.
During the late afternoon, Red troops (elements of Richard’s Corps) took the hamlet of Segeten (I8) against light resistance.
Skirmishing also took place between patrols at Witznau (I9), which was still held by Blue as dusk fell.
Special idea for Red (abbreviated)
Red orders are to defeat the Blue force and occupy their capital. Speed is paramount, as Blue mobilisation is continuing. Once Blue is at full strength, Red’s current superiority would disappear
All Red infantry brigades consist of 4 battalions and a battery of guns.
The Red army is well over 100,000 strong and consists of the following units (NB a more detailed OOB was provided to the players):
Richard’s Corps 25,000 86 guns Between Segeten (I8) and Denzreuthe (H9). One brigade in and around Segeten
Rohan’s Corps 22,000 64 guns ½ mile E of Denzreuthe
Willhelm’s Corps 27,000 80 guns Just arrived at Denzreuthe
Army HQ At Denzreuthe
1st & 2nd Cavalry Divisions 5,000 12 guns Will arrive at Denzreuthe at after nightfall on road from SW
Reserve Infantry 25,000 72 guns 12th Div at Nimbach (E12), 15th Div. At St. Ulrich (H12), 24th & 27th Divs at Adelberg ((F14)
3rd Cavalry Division 3,000 Sossenheim (F14)
8th Cavalry Division 3,000 Loffingen (E14)
Total 110,000 314 guns
Intelligence on the Blue Army
The Blue Army consists of nine corps in total. According to spies, their army on this front is consists of only four corps however (Grenadier, II, III & IV). As their corps are much smaller than ours, this represents no more than 70-80,000 men.
At least three corps (I, VI & V) are reliably reported on the southern frontier. Two others (VII & VIII) may not yet be mobilised, or be at only cadre strength.
Unlike our army, Blue corps always consist of two infantry and one cavalry divisions, each of two brigades. The infantry brigades however vary in size from 3 to 6 battalions, unlike ours, which are all of 4 battalions. Cavalry brigades have between 6 and 10 squadrons.
They do not appear to have a separate reserve of cavalry divisions and brigades.
This evening our patrols reported an infantry brigade of Blue’s IV Corps occupying Witznau and the heights to the NE, and a few squadrons of Blue cavalry north of Segeten. Our patrol line runs from the woodland between Segeten and Lenzkirch (G7), through Segeten, then due south to the high ground 2 miles S of Denzreuthe
This is the first time that Blue have stood to fight, which may indicate that we have finally brought them to bay. On the other hand this could be just a delaying action before they retreat again. Local peasants report that substantial reinforcements joined them from the NE yesterday afternoon.
We have had little chance to reconnoitre the ground, but it is mainly gently rolling country with occasional woods. Such hills and streams as there are do not constitute significant obstacles to movement. The villages are small, and could accommodate no more than a battalion or two, although Marzell and Glotterbach are small towns. The weather has been fine and the ground is dry.
4. The Battle of Denzreuthe – brief narrative
Red’s plan was to concentrate their force between Segeten and Witznau and attack towards Marzell. Richard’s and Rohan’s corps were to make the initial assault; the former advancing NE and the latter eastwards to capture Witznau. Once they had established positions on the ridge, Wilhelm’s Corps would have more room to manoeuvre, and would enter the front line in between them. Willhelm would then advance straight up the Denzreuthe-Marzell road.
S of Witznau the front would be lightly held, although some of the reserve divisions marching up from St Ulrich, Adelberg and Sossenheim were task to come into action here later in the day.
The plan resulted in a very cramped deployment, and left much of Wilhelm’s Corps stretching back along the road SW of Denzreuthe.
Dawn came and revealed substantial Blue infantry and artillery in position along the ridge. Red’s artillery deployed, as Rohan’s corps, together with elements of Wilhelm’s, began to organise their initial attacks on Witznau and the ridge.
Away to the north, General Richard was surprised at his quarters in Segeten by a strong dawn attack by 2 Blue infantry brigades. Segeten was lost and the unfortunately general was forced to take temporary refuge in a nearby ditch. Apart from hearing some sounds of fighting, the Red high command was blissfully ignorant of this however.
During the morning several attacks by Red on Wiztnau were repulsed, but Rohan’s Corps eventually took the village and established themselves on the ridge S of the Marzell Road, repulsing Blue counterattacks. A division of Willhelm’s Corps briefly joined them before being dislodged by Blue.
On the Segeten front, Richard had stabilised the position S of the village by mid morning, but had not mounted an attack on the ridge, as originally planned. Red sent a senior aide with cavalry reinforcements to manoeuvre on his left (or western) flank to see if Blue’s position could be turned by way of Lenzkirch.
By early afternoon, Rohan’s Corps was tired and Wilhelm’s troops were still suffering from their cramped deployment, with many yet to be engaged. One ray of sunshine occurred at Segeten, where Richard recaptured the village.
Red forces S of Witznau remained weak, but their cavalry had probed east and discovered a Blue corps around Parsdorf. Red’s concern for this area increased in the early afternoon as large Blue forces advanced from there, and further south, towards the Witznau-St Ulrich Road. Some of the reserve divisions had by now arrived, and Wilhelm sent several of his unengaged brigades to this flank. Blue attacks continued throughout the afternoon however, scoring major successes against Red troops who were arriving piecemeal.
In the centre, Rohan’s Corps held out bravely on the ridge, repulsing a series of attacks from the Blue IV and Grenadier Corps. However it had by now pretty much shot its bolt, and its southern flank was now under serious threat from Blue.
On the northern flank things were continuing to improve, as Richard’s Corps launched a series of attacks northwards, which took Ottmarshall from Blue’s III Corps. They were assisted by the 8th Reserve Cavalry division under Paul, operating from Lenzkirch.
Their success continued during late afternoon and evening as Richard advanced eastwards from Ottmarshall. He also finally got his men attacking NE up onto the ridge (his original objective for early morning). He secured the north end of the ridge, and was joined by part of Wilhelm’s Corps, which had attacked further to the south. This meant that the whole ridge as far south as Witznau was finally in Red hands. The Blue forces in the north and centre were on the verge of collapse, leaving the way to Marzell open.
On Red’s southern flank however, things were looking grim, as Blue had by now pushed west across the St Ulrich-Witznau Road. The C in C had gone there to direct operations in person, as further Blue attacks were made towards the Nimbach-Denzreuthe Road, which would sever the army’s line of communication. As dusk fell, a final Blue attack was barely held, and the battered Red right flank had survived.
Cuirassier officer by Meissonier (filched from the web)
Well that’s all as maybe you say, but who won? Not an easy question, and views amongst the Red players were divided. General Richard, having had a bad start to the day, was by now buoyed with success and full of fight. Several of the other Red players were profoundly grateful for nightfall.
I should now reveal that the Blue army was umpire-controlled. It was also substantially stronger than the Red briefing indicated, the Blue VII and VIII Corps being almost fully mobilised. Red’s numerical superiority was real, but marginal. Although Red had failed to meet its orders to win a clear victory, those orders had been based on false intelligence.
Given these circumstances, and that their initial plan had proved unworkable, the umpires felt that Red had done a good job in recovering the position. At the end of the day they had won in the north and centre, but lost in the south. That said, they had captured the key ground – although only Richard’s Corps was still in reasonable condition at the end of the day. Overall we felt that they had earned at least a draw. See Map 2.
Had both armies been played, we would have asked both C in Cs to hold a counsel-of-war, and then give orders for overnight. I could imagine that either might have ordered a retreat – and thus
conceded the battle! So much would have depended on their state of mind.
My thanks to the players and my fellow umpires who entered into this with such gusto.
The Red players The umpires
C in C
Chief of Staff
Rohan’s Corps Tony Hawkins/Rohan Saravanamuttu
Vince Chan Dave Stanforth
5. Denzreuthe – the umpiring approach
In view of the scale of this game, we experimented with some different umpiring techniques
Timescale Given the size of the forces involved, we decided it was necessary to play an entire day of battle to have any chance of achieving a result. As Clausewitz says, it takes much longer to defeat a large army than a division. We therefore started the game a little earlier, and used 30 minute turns (rather than our usual 15 minutes for army-level games).
This appeared to work well, and allowed us to get through about 14 hours of game time in less than 5 hours of actual time. A tribute to some very enthusiastic umpiring support.
With armies of this size, one can see why several of the later Napoleonic battles lasted more than one day.
Maps The scale used was 1/25000, as opposed to 1/8000 for detachments Kriegsspiel. We adopted this scale so that we could squeeze the full map into something less than a ballroom, and allow plenty of room for outflanking manoeuvres etc.
The maps themselves were specially drawn for the game using MS Paint. Once you get the hang of it, it’s quite easy. A sample is attached to get you all started should you wish to use it as a base.
Given that the maps are intended for an army level game, much of the detail on traditional Kriegsspiel maps was eliminated as unnecessary clutter (it also made them easier to draw!).
Player displays Rather than the usual method of bringing players to the umpire map for periodic ‘visuals’, we gave each player their own map of their portion of the battlefield. On this map were placed counters representing their own troops and any others they could see. These troop counters were moved by the umpires during the game (not by the players).
This was a real success, as it really speeds things up. All players can be briefed – in some detail – at the same time, rather than waiting their turn. It also removes the need to effectively stop the game, while unseen portions of the map are covered etc.
Counters Rather than the usual troop blocks, we used cardboard counters, featuring Tom Mouat’s excellent Napoleonic troop fonts. This had the advantage that large numbers could be produced very quickly, and there were enough for all players to have their own display. Also, in a game where manoeuvre units are normally brigades, it is much quicker to move a counter than say 8 individual cavalry squadron troop blocks.
The counters were covered with acetate, and we recorded their status by writing on them with washable pens. Much easier than using rosters.
Detail we left out Differences between various types of cavalry, light and line infantry were not taken into account, although we might do so in future, particular if we were gaming a smaller battle.
Most artillery was treated as organic to the infantry brigades, although there were a small number of separate heavy and horse artillery batteries. The intention was to keep the number of units manageable, and discourage the formation of grand batteries – which most armies of the period did not do.
Player roles We decided to explore one particular model of command, to see how it worked in practice. The Red team was comprised of a C in C, a chief of staff, and 3 corps commanders. At a late stage another player emerged, who was co-opted as a senior aide, who in the event proved very useful to Red.
The Commander in Chief was to specify the axis of attack, the objectives, and the forces to be employed. During the battle he was expected to visit each of the corps commanders regularly to assess the situation and ‘encourage’ them in their efforts. He would also need to frequently return to HQ where the Chief of Staff would brief him on the overall progress of the battle. This would enable him to adjust objectives if necessary, and decide on the allocation of reserves and reinforcements as they arrived.
The Chief of Staff would base himself at the army battlefield HQ, and be responsible for regular communication with the corps commanders. He would be best placed to judge the overall progress of the battle, and would brief the C in C at frequent intervals to ensure he was basing decisions on the correct information. He would also need to decide what information is irrelevant, so that the C in C was not overwhelmed with information. On occasion he might need to act for the C in C in his absence.
The Corps Commanders would fight the battle in accordance with directives from HQ. They would not act as brigade or divisional commanders, and would not give detailed tactical orders. Their role was to specify which division or brigade was to conduct an attack, or hold a position. They could allocate cavalry and additional artillery support to units from within their corps, but would leave detailed formation orders such as line or column to their divisional and brigade commanders.
They were to keep HQ informed of the position by written message, and would also have the opportunity to discuss matters with the C in C when he visited. They could also request reinforcements from HQ.
Briefing In view of the somewhat experimental nature of the game, the players were given more detailed briefings than usual. 4-5 sides of A4 versus the usual 1.
In addition to the usual scenario briefing, this included information on their roles, time taken to organise attacks, weapon ranges and visibility. It also provided an indication of how much space the troops would require to deploy.
Although we have worried in the past about providing too detailed briefings, this seemed generally to work ok.
Game set-up Briefings were sent to the C in C and C of S before the game, and they were allowed to confer on their intentions for the day of battle. Their plan was duly received, which allowed the umpires to determine which players would need which map sheets and troop counters in advance of the game.
On the day, the corps commanders received their orders, and were asked to deploy their brigades on their own displays. This whole process seemed to take quite a long time, and on another occasion, I think we should try and get them their own briefings before the game.
Umpire roles It was intended that both the C in C and Chief of Staff would receive most of their briefings from the men on the ground – ie their corps commanders.
Having responsibility for briefing only 4 players out of the 6, meant that each umpire could focus on just one player for much of the game. This certainly helped to keep things moving.
One side umpire controlled After some thought, the decision was taken to make the Blue army umpire controlled. This turned out to be just as well, as the generalship model we were modelling required several payers, and not all participants could actually make the game on the day.
We have occasionally tried this method before. One concern was that it can lead to an unrealistic play from the actual players, as they assume that the enemy will be pretty passive (at least I do). One solution is not to tell them – at least before the game! The other thing we did was to ask one of the umpires to come up with a reasonably aggressive Blue battle plan, before the Red players had submitted their own. Dave Stanforth did this in fine style. As you will see from the narrative, the lack of ‘active’ players on the Blue team did not give Red an easy ride.
Naming units after players Red’s corps were each named after the Christian name of their commander. A cunning wheeze I thought, which would assist the umpires. Unfortunately, Red’s C in C got held up in traffic and we had to make a last minute promotion. This resulted in Vince Chan taking over Rohan’s Corps, and Rohan Saravanamuttu becoming C in C. The resulting confusion was not as bad as it could have been – but I won’t try that again, thank you very much!
6. The view from the bottom – a corps commander’s view from Richard Madder
My corps, deployed on the extreme left flank of the Red Army, was ordered to drive any enemy it might find from the heights to my front that is between the Denzrethue-Schaumhoffen Road and Segeten.
These plans were badly disrupted by a pre-emptive attack on my left flank that threw my forces and my own person out of Segeten. As fast as practicable I organised a counter attack by one of my brigades to stall the enemy, and as I feared that the enemy’s main blow might strike my corps, I sought to reorganise the rest of my forces in a defensive perimeter immediately South of Segeten.
After about an hour’s activity, which included the repulse of my stalling counter attack, the position was stabilised. I then proceeded to strengthen it, resulting in a strong position as shown in the figure below. My second line was particularly strongly posted behind the boundary of a large park, with 16 guns of the reserve artillery deployed in makeshift redoubts at its north-eastern corner, where they could fire on enemy attacking from the east or north. Wilhelm’s Corps protected my right as that General responded to my urgent pleas for support.
Since the original plan was no longer tenable I informed Army HQ of my position and awaited orders from my Commander. After another hour it became evident that the enemy would be content to hold this sector, as they made no further move forward.
About 1.00pm the 8th Cavalry Division, under General Paul’s command moved around my left flank and seemed to launch an attack around the rear of Segeten, an area which was obscured from my view by woodland. I had earlier held a conversation with said General and advised caution, requesting instead that he reconnoitre the position and determine the location of the enemy right flank, so that our Commander might decide where and if we should attack there.
At 3.30pm I received a message from General Paul describing his success in the North. Encouraged, I hastened to Army HQ in Denzreuthe in person to seek leave to attack Segeten, this was granted by the wise fox that is our Chief of Staff. Happy to repay the enemy for his earlier impertinence I launched 2 brigades towards Segeten, supported on their left by a brigade of the 5th Hussar Division. Our advance was met with much success and considerable enemy cowardice. I pushed 2 brigades of my 2nd line into the assault and the enemy fell back in considerable disorder, these 4 committed brigades continued to advance for the rest of the day and drive all before them, eventually advancing a mile past Ottmarshal.
At this moment of success I was pleased to see the countenance of my commander who agreed with me that the time was ripe to launch an assault on the heights with my uncommitted forces. At 4.30pm remaining 4 brigades advanced up the slope and by 5.30pm they had succeeded in wresting the summit from the enemy.
At this point the battle ended, I would like to think that Richard’s Corps had proved singularly successful and won the day, at least on our left flank, but I will leave the final judgement of that issue to a higher authority.
Some thoughts on the Game Structure
Firstly I thought Martin did a splendid job on producing his new map and had designed an entertaining and balanced scenario for the afternoon’s entertainment.
The umpiring was well conducted, I don’t recall there being any misleading or contradictory information given out to me. The only fault I can find was that I was not made particularly aware of the sound of (heavy) fighting in the South, which I am sure I would have been slightly worried by in my position.
I don’t know the details of the combat system employed, but it was obvious that as more and more forces became committed that the time to process each ½ hour turn became longer and longer. Personally I am happy to use Free Kriegsspiel methods to get a result on broad areas of fighting, but I appreciate that some players don’t like this approach since it smacks of making it up as you go along. At any rate I think there should be some thought put into reducing the numbers of calculations required, perhaps by working results out by divisions or larger formations rather than by individual brigades, I am sure the overall result would be much the same.
Actually we used one die roll (with some modifiers) to resolve each combat. Such was the number of troops and combats as the battle increased in tempo, that this still required some time. Perhaps for these really large battles you’re right, and we should look at nothing smaller than a division. Would players be satisfied with such a course-grained approach? Martin
Dave Stanforth’s plan for Blue was very successful, the dawn feint attack in the north on my position certainly threw me for some time, and Blue’s main assault in the south seems to have caught the Red Commander slightly off guard. However there are some drawbacks to this approach, since it would not have worked if Red had wanted to tempt Blue into an unwise attack, like Napoleon did to Alexander & Francis at Austerlitz. At the end of the day I think that the most interesting games are those played with players on each side.
One small point is that map visibility would be improved if it were possible to mount unit counters on clear acetate, but this type of material might be too thin to pick up and move. I wonder is it possible to obtain clear plastic chips of a suitable size, for marking up?
An excellent idea. Tony Hawkins and I have since experimented with printing the counters on clear acetate, and then laminating them. This works very well, but they are not as ‘chunky’ as I personally would like. Still, it seems like the way to go.
7. The view from the chateau – report from the Chief of Staff by Arthur Harman
My main contribution as Chief of Staff was actually made before the game when, after discussing Tony’s intentions over the telephone, it was my responsibility to write detailed orders for all the corps commanders in order to effect his ideas – with which, I must add, I was not in full agreement.
For shame, sir! But a nice line in ‘plausible deniability’ as our American readers would say. You should go far….
Writing the orders took some time, even with the facilities offered by word-processing software [imagine compiling them with a quill pen!] and involved me in my game role one hundred per cent. As an example, see the orders for Richard’s Corps below:
RED ARMY ORDERS FOR DAWN, 11th JULY 1816
‘Gott in Himmel’ Tavern, Denzreuthe
10th July 1816
To: Generalmajor Richard
It is the Feldmarschal’s desire that, at dawn tomorrow, 11th July 1816, your Corps, pivoting about Segeten, drives any Blue troops from the heights to your front, north of the Denzreuthe-Marzell road, to occupy the ground between Segeten and the tributary of the River Barthe which flows through St Blasren. This should allow the advance of Generalmajor Wilhelm’s Corps along said road in the direction of Marzell. Generalmajor Rohan’s Corps will simultaneously drive Blue forces from Witznau and the heights south of said road.
You should deploy your cavalry to protect your left flank, and patrol vigorously in the direction of Ottmarschall and the Lenzkirch-St Blasren road to apprise Headquarters of the strength and identity of Blue forces in that area.
As soon as your Corps has advanced off the Denzreuthe-Segeten road, 1st Cavalry Division will march north up said road to reinforce your left and will thereafter come under your command.
Having secured your first objective, your Corps will then – subject to any further orders that circumstances may require – move North/North East to occupy Ottmarschall and advance upon St Blasren.
Inform Headquarters immediately you encounter any Blue forces, and endeavour to capture prisoners, whom you will send immediately after preliminary interrogation to Headquarters for further questioning.
All messages for the Feldmarschal should be directed via Headquarters in Denzreuthe.
Colonel Harmann, Chief of Staff
On the day of the game, Rohan took command of the army as circumstances beyond his control prevented Tony from attending; he had no choice but to follow a plan which he had neither devised, nor previously read. He decided, therefore, to be a mobile general, riding about the battlefield to observe events in person and talk to his corps commanders, whilst I remained at Headquarters to receive messages and intelligence, forwarding important reports or requests when necessary, and updating him on the situation on other parts of the battlefield whenever he returned.
We soon discovered that our appreciation of the enemy’s strength had been sadly mistaken, and spent most of the game trying to re-deploy troops to meet threats to our flanks. I was able to send a reserve cavalry division, ably commanded by my senior ADC, Paul, to bolster the left flank, whilst Rohan rode to the crisis point to liaise with the corps commander.
We were both kept busy and had little time to communicate with each other; for much of the game Rohan was issuing verbal orders to his corps commanders on the spot, whilst I sent written orders to the non-played commanders of reserve units – a combination of Wellington and Berthier!
8. The view from the top – thoughts from the C in C by Rohan Saravanamuttu
The initial plan was for a direct and immediate drive on Marzell. Richard’s and Rohan’s Corps were to advance either side of the road to Marzell, leaving the road free for Wilhelm’s Corps to march in column of route.
I replaced Tony as C in C at the last minute, by which time orders had already been issued to the army by Arthur, the Chief of Staff. I considered that it would cause delay and confusion if I was to change the plan on the morning of the battle, so I let it ride apart from changing the direction of march of the reserve infantry divisions. These had been ordered to come up behind Wilhelm’s Corps, but fearing a traffic jam, and contemplating a right hook, I redirected them to the right flank.
The plan was bold and, if the intelligence was correct, should work – but required speed. It must be said that my Chief of Staff (Arthur) was in favour of a more thorough reconnaissance before the attack. Did I hear him say, ’Is that wise sir?’
I found it best to adopt a Wellingtonian style of command (some might say Mainwaring), i.e. moving about the battlefield to the key points, periodically returning to HQ to be updated by the Chief of Staff. There were several reasons for this. Firstly the battlefield was large and there was not one central vantage point from which to see the whole spectacle. Secondly it enabled me to quickly give orders directly to the Corps and divisional commanders. Lastly I was able to personally cajole my Corps commanders into more aggressive efforts.
As a figure gamer mainly myself, I find Kriegsspielers far more cautious. This may be because of fear of the unknown (what is on the other side if the hill?). It is probably more realistic but I think they could do with a little more lead in their blood.
My first visit was to General Rohan (on our right) who was the first into contact with the enemy. I found him settling down to bombard the hamlet of Witznau. It took some persuading to induce him to assault the ridge behind Witznau without waiting for Witznau to fall. This Corps was to bear the bulk of the fighting throughout the morning and I felt later on that I would not want to be in ‘Rohan’s’ shoes.
By mid morning the enemy was appearing in great strength on our extreme right. Even with our reserve infantry divisions, I could see that we were not going to win there. Being on the scene I decided to partially refuse the flank. Leaving one division to hold a wood, which should at least delay the enemy advance, I pulled the other division out, giving it to Rohan’s Corps. Rohan’s assault on the ridge had been partially successful but had stalled. One more division could achieve a breakthrough!
I headed off to see what was happening in the Centre. Nothing much. Wilhelm’s Corps was largely boxed in. I ordered a spare cavalry division down to the extreme right, which should have given us 2:1 cavalry superiority there.
Arriving on the left I found that General Richard had had a seesaw fight over Segeten but appeared to be getting the upper hand.
Earlier on, Arthur had sent his ADC, Paul, to find out what was happening on the left. He never came back. Instead he had taken the initiative to take command of the 8th (reserve) Cavalry Division, which had arrived on our extreme left. After a contretemps with Richard, and a meeting with Arthur, Paul persuaded Richard into a combined attack, which had achieved some success.
When I arrived, Richard’s force appeared to have paused, Paul’s cavalry having gone out of sight. I ordered him to renew the attack on the weakened enemy with his fresh troops. He was reluctant however, to vacate a strong defensive position – the walled grounds of a hunting lodge, which housed his HQ, no doubt warm and cosy. He agreed to move out when I gave him a story about ordering some of Willhelm’s troops to look after it for him.
Returning to HQ I found panic. Arthur’s staff were packing their bags ready to evacuate. Our right wing was collapsing. The cavalry had fled the field. I restored the situation by shouting, ‘Don’t panic !’
I had a quick council of war with Arthur. The day was drawing to a close. Half of Willhelm’s Corps was still uncommitted. I had to decide whether to move them to shore up the right or go for a knock out blow in the left centre. Caution prevailed.
I went to Wilhelm to give him the orders personally. Having done so I said to him,’ Wilhelm, it is time for a heroic but futile gesture. I would like you to lead your cavalry in a charge against the battery on the hill.’ He gave me a wide-eyed stare and turning to his comrades he said in a strangely Scottish accent, ‘We’re doomed.’
The game was very fast moving. This required intense activity from the umpires (well done) and a high ratio of umpires to players (1:1).
I think the players had about the right number of units to look after (about 9 brigades plus a reserve battery.) I learnt a few things:
We did not allocate all of our reserves to players. The C in C commanded them when he was in the vicinity. This gave the umpires problems in having to set up another map. Without a player commanding we did not get information back from them. In retrospect we should have allocated all troops to players once the troops were engaged.
I expected the C in C or Chief of Staff to jealously guard the reserve divisions, and dole them out in response to requests for reinforcements from the corps commanders. As Rohan says, this did not appear to happen.
I think this is because of the cramped deployment area. For a good part of the day, the 3 corps commanders had more troops than they could get into action, so the need for reinforcements was not there. Had they originally been deployed on a wider frontage, they would have been more stretched. There would also have been a designated commander (Willhelm perhaps) for the southern flank. Martin
Use of ADC’s
Having a spare player was fortuitous. Paul performed excellently. By initially spending time at HQ he had an over-view of the strategic situation. This helped him to take decisive action at a particular point in the battle. If he had not found a role for himself on the left, he would have been put in command of the reserves going into action on the extreme right.
I noticed an historical precedent for this use of ADC’s/staff officers when reading about Borodino recently. Half way through the battle Napoleon devised a plan to attack the Grand Redoubt. It was to be mainly an assault by one of the cavalry corps, but with infantry from Eugene’s Corps also involved. Napoleon placed Caulaincourt, the Inspector of Cavalry, in command of this specific action, to lead and co-ordinate the attack. Napoleon gave him detailed instructions face to face, which may not have been so easy to do if one of the Marshals was to command.
The outcome was a success, with the redoubt falling to the cavalry. Sadly Caulaincourt was killed in the action, later to be buried in the redoubt by his brother, the Emperor’s Master of Horse.
Having a Chief of Staff
I found having a Chief of Staff very useful, enabling me to roam the battlefield without losing central control. However, I did return to HQ frequently.
Although Arthur did take important decisions in my absence, I felt that I still had the dominant role in commanding the battle. The original plan was largely Tony’s I gather, with Arthur giving wise counsel.
Given that it was a fast moving game, it was useful to have someone handling a lot of the paperwork. If one spent 10 minutes writing orders, one could find half an hour of game time had elapsed.
9. Oh dear. Our Sid’s having one of his turns
Newer readers may not know that KN possesses an awards committee, chaired by Binky Rees-Mogg. Meritorious conduct earns the coveted ‘Reisswitz Monocle’, whilst naughty behaviour attracts the dreaded ‘smacked botty’. Indeed the editor only narrowly avoided the latter for the delay in getting this issue out!
Frank Hunter has recently published the second came in the Campaigns of La Grande Armee series. This time covering the campaigns of 1805 and 1809. As with the original 1806 game, the focus is on fog of war, coordination of one’s own forces, and logistics. In general one is dealing with corps-level units, each with subordinate divisions and brigades of infantry, cavalry and artillery. Orders to your corps commanders take time to arrive, and the positions of distant corps on the map are only approximate.
The previous game was good, but I found this an improvement as there is more variety in the scenarios and the situations are more interesting. Further enhancements to the system include PBEM, and the ability to fight battles using miniatures if desired. There is also a scenario editor.
Frank is really the only active PC game designer who attempts to address the reality of commanding armies before the invention of the telegraph. The feel is something like a large scale Kriegsspiel as you wait for messages from outlying corps.
He is also very open to making changes to his games in response to comments by players.
The game is very reasonably priced at $18, and well worth buying. So a Reisswitz monocle goes to Frank.
Further details of the game and how to pay can be obtained from his website:
Enthusiasts have formed the Campaigns of La Grande Armee Wargaming Club, where you can find comment, replays and downloads. Their website is:
Do make sure you download the alternative map. This is done in period style, and I found it enormously enhanced my enjoyment of the game. There are also alternative counters for those who like NATO symbology.
Age of Sail 2 Privateer’s Bounty came out several months ago and has received generally favourable comment. It is not its qualities that have moved me from my habitual couch however, but the following quote from a recent review:
“Privateer’s Bounty was originally conceived to be an expansion disk for Age of Sail II but instead become an enhanced full new version of the original game. The many new improvements justified the approach to reissue the game.”
Excuse me? This game is little more than the finished product that purchases of the original Age of Sail 2 were entitled to expect several years’ ago. It now appears to work – as well it should. But to sell it as a new game – with no discount available to purchasers of the original – is outrageous. Even the historical scenarios appear to be taken from the original game.
Your committee felt that some mark of dissatisfaction was warranted.
Original publisher Talonsoft seems to have entered a deep sleep, and the new game is published by Take2 Interactive. The continuing thread in all of this are developers, Akella. So for their services to the public, Akella are hereby awarded a ‘smacked botty’, with swords & diamonds.
From ‘Texas’ Jeff McCulloch
Can you give a brief explanation of the mechanical bits of your game. Not Kriegsspiel, but the giant clock-face, piece of paper, and arrows that appear in the recent photographs. Do you use any other items when playing the game?
Sure. There sort of ‘nuts & bolts’ methods can make a great difference to the smooth running of a game. Binky will be doing an article for us on umpiring in one of the next few issues, but this should help in the meantime.
The giant clock is one of those kid’s toys where you simply turn the hands. The important thing is that all umpires know exactly what the game time is at any point, so the players get a coherent message. Having the clock on a currently unused part of the map, means that it is clearly visible to all. Also, if we do take any photos, we know what the time was. This can help enormously if we are subsequently writing up the game.
Do you have your teams separated or in the same room?
It depends. If 2 or more players from the same team are in the same place on the map, we put them in the same room so they can discuss the game. More often they are operating on different areas of the map. In such cases, we will frequently put players from different teams in a room together. The number of players normally exceeds the number of rooms, so they usually end up sharing with someone.
The umpires grow quite adept in briefing players in a coded way, perhaps referring to the map, eg saying ‘your cavalry reached this point’, rather than ‘your 6 hussar squadrons have reached Tiefenzell’.
Do you want to play Mexicans or Americans?
I’ll play Mexicans if I may, amigo. We will re-take Texas too!
From Stef Mariani
I receive the photos, and its fine, really amazing map, beautiful work, they seems to be geomorphic, isn’t it?
Glad you like the maps. They were originally produced by General Jackob Meckel in the 19th Century, specifically for Kriegsspiel, and later published by Bill. They are not geomorphic, but are of imaginary terrain.
The originals are b&w. Bill coloured them, and they do look good, don’t they.
I have to say though that they are as nothing to the splendour of his later graphic efforts on the Metz map series he published more recently. ooh just thinking about them means I’ll just have to lay down for a minute……..aah that’s better.
From Tony Hawkins
You may well enjoy this site. It is bi-lingual, so you can always kid Margaret that you are improving your French.
Ah, you mean la Reine Margot, as she is known in the James household………
Interesting site with lots of stuff on army organisation, biographies, uniforms, OOB etc. Some sections (eg flags) are still embryonic, and the articles on campaigns & battles are often fairly short. Still there’s a lot here.
From new reader Nigel Ashcroft
Thanks for the KN57 & KN58, amazing the difference a computer does, I can remember the old typed newsletter, the new one is impressive.
Bill kindly e-mailed, unfortunately he has no copies of Jane’s wargame available and no plans to reprint. I wondered if I could put a request in the newsletter to see if anyone has a spare copy I could buy. They could e-mail me direct then I could sort out payment with them.
The pictures with KN58 look familiar; I think I saw a write up in Wargames Illustrated with similar pictures a long time ago, when the then current secretary wrote a neat article about kriegsspiel. I think it was that article that prompted me to go to salute and take part in a game.
Glad you enjoyed them. Yes when Bill & Arthur used to edit, they had to struggle with scissors & glue. I have it much easier.
I’m very happy to put out a call for Jane’s rules in KN 59. Would you be happy with a xeroxed copy, by the way? That may help.
You’re right, the photos of the coloured Kriegsspiel maps do make a good advert for the game. We should probably do more to use them in spreading the word. Perhaps we could take some staged photos, with optimal lighting, and ask Richard to put them on the website?
Anyone got other ideas on how we proselytise the game? No Sid. “Kriegsspiel or death!” is not appropriate.
From Francesco Franchini
I’m not quite sure if this game can meet your interest, but the surprising fact is that I’ve played a couple of games applying the Kriegsspiel principles and I achieved the same result as if I played with the freekrgspl or the Reisswitz – Tischwitz rules. Let me know.
I have read about Matrix games, and played in one on the Nato Kosovo intervention once at a wargames convention. Needless to say I was soundly beaten! I think several of KN’s readers have much more experience with this genre, and this is something that we could try in one of our regular sessions.
It would be interesting to know how your Kriegsspiel games went – and how you ran them. Can you give some more information on this? If you would like to prepare a piece for KN, I’d be happy to proof read it for you.
Francesco also sent the following links:
This is a ‘Horse & Musket’ wargaming page. This includes photos, maps, rules and lots of links to other sites.
This is a very interesting an unusual site on the 1879-84 was between Chile and an alliance of Bolivia and Peru. Plenty of battle descriptions, OOBs and uniform details. The one thing I couldn’t find was any maps. Maybe just me. The site is obviously still under development. It is in Spanish though.
From John Acs
I did like your bit on dice throwing – how true – Easy simply playable etc. rules followed within 20 minutes by an avalanche of dice – some exchange of fire between player and ‘umpire’ over the rules (that or shut up and compromise) and the armies have not even come into contact – yet many people go out and get their fix – hit the wall – fell over – dust themselves down and once having recovered in their workaday environment – do it all over again – with essentially the same result – I think they are the eternal optimists and live in perpetual hope that the next game will be it – the mother of all games – and when cornered why they do it – reply – I just like painting the figures.
I came to Kriegsspiel from the boardgame part of the hobby rather than the miniatures route, but I recognise your description of how many games fail, from my own experience. Tedious combat routines, which slow things down in a fruitless pursuit of accuracy.
This is often associated with a focus on the weaponry. While the difference between a Tiger tank and a Sherman is relevant in a WW2 tactical game, in the horse & musket period European armies were armed with the same limited range of weapons. Critical factors in victory and defeat were frequently to be found elsewhere.
From new reader Alastair Coombe
I obtained a copy of the Kriegsspiel rules many years ago. I have just moved house and now have more room to contemplate taking up wargaming again. Therefore, I was interested to see what was going on!
I found you via your web site, was I was doing a search on Napoleonic warfare. I would compliment you on your website, which was well laid out, extremely easy to use and contained much interesting information.
Richard Madder is the guy who created our website. I agree he’s done a terrific job.
From Francesco Francini (again)
While looking for information on some French Generals on the web I came across these useful sites – in French but with some excellent illustrations.
A feast of fun here from Franco-Prussian fans.
I found the first site particularly interesting as it covers the latter stages of the war, which often seem to attract less focus. Plenty of maps & OOBs.
From Richard Madder
I just discovered that the KN web site comes up top in the Google web search for Kriegsspiel, a result me thinks. Mind you I am a good issue behind on putting articles from the magazine on the site…c’est la vie.
Meanwhile I got 4 of the 1:25,000 Von Muffling maps from the “Landesamt für Vermessung und Geobasisinformation Rheinland-Pfalz”, bit of a mouthful these German organizational titles. The maps are rather nice & in colour, though the style seems to vary a little from map to map even though the maps I got are adjacent sheets. I shall bring them to Hemel in March so we can perhaps think about organising a game on a set, but we will need to get hold of a much larger number & get some smaller scale copies.
Well done re Google Richard – together we shall conquer cyberspace!
I’m very much looking forward to seeing the von Muffling maps. Our thanks must go again to Harald Heller for alerting us to them.
Anything in this newsletter is freely available for you to use and disseminate for non-commercial use, as long as attribution is maintained. The aim is to share fun and enlightenment.
There is no charge for the newsletter, but if you would like to receive future issues you will need to send some SAE envelopes to Martin (or even better let me have you email address). New players are very welcome. If you would like to know more about what to expect, give one of us a ring.