Kriegsspiel News 63. October 2003

Umpiring Kriegsspiels
October 2003


Final reminders for 2 forthcoming games in November. First is a traditional Kriegsspiel in Norwich on 2 November. Contact Tony Hawkins and Martin James if you are planning to come at and
Next game at Hemel is an army level campaign game run by Arthur Harman. Again, please contact Arthur direct at
For more details on this one see 2. below.
Most of this issue is given over to umpiring. We have finally prevailed on Binky Rees-Mogg to produce an article for us. The first of two.
Attached is a background map to the Meckel map squares. This was also produced by General Meckel in the 19th Century, and was recently discovered by clever Maurizio Bragaglia.
I have scanned this in, but fear I have not really done justice to the copy Maurizio sent me. I can get a much better scan than this one, but the file size is enormous – and this one is large enough (even in the efficient .PNG format). I suspect I am using the wrong scan settings, so if someone out there has experience of scanning maps, can they please advise me………..perhaps I should just post it to the Yahoo site?
I’m decided to give myself a bit of a break from the current hectic bi-monthly schedule, as I’ve just got too much else on. My best guess is that we will see KN 64 sometime in January.
This might be an appropriate point to mention that applications for the post of editor are always welcome. Only genuine enquiries please!

1. Forthcoming games
2. Forthcoming Napoleonic Army level game from Arthur Harman
3. Binky’s book of tricks – Part A. Before the game
4. Famous Last Words contributed by Tony Hawkins
5. Bill & Francesco rap on about the Reisswitz rules
6. Letters
7. Contacts

1. Forthcoming games
Sunday 21st September Greenwich 2.30 pm Tunisia campaign WW2 from Ben Hutchings
Sunday 2nd November Norwich 10.00 am New. Traditional detachments Kriegsspiel
Saturday 22nd November Hemel 2.30 pm Change. Army level campaign game from Arthur Harman
Sunday 25th January 2004 Hemel 2.30 pm Traditional detachments Kriegsspiel
Saturday 20th March 2004 Hemel 2.30 pm Corps level battle (c40 battalions per side)
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. Forthcoming Napoleonic Army level game from Arthur Harman

This game will feature several armies, each commanded by two players, representing the Army Commander [Emperor/King/Prince/Marshal &c.] and his Chief of Staff. The setting will be Napoleonic, but with fictitious Red and Blue forces rather than historical armies, though the scenario may well be based loosely upon real events.

Nicked from the web at empire/odb/odb_005a.gif
Following my previous experiments with Paddy Griffith’s Generalship Game system, I have decided to abandon the recording of the Army Commander’s activities, other than those necessary to discharge his military duties. Players will not have to concern themselves with such practical matters as eating and sleeping, but will have to order and record their personal movement on their maps, and be aware that the real time taken to write a highly stylised order will be multiplied in game time to reflect the formal order-writing of the period and quill-pen technology.
I should be very grateful if those wishing to play would contact me by email as soon as possible, so that I can finalise the scenario and send out game briefings in advance.
Arthur is intending to use Lego blocks to represent corps, divisions etc, and has asked me to include a plea for players to bring your own (or your kids’, we don’t care!), if you have any. It’s the 2×2 blocks.

3. Binky’s book of tricks – Part A. Before the game

Well here is the long-awaited article from Binky Rees-Mogg, OBE. A veteran of the earliest days of modern Kriegsspiel, he has much we can all learn from.
Thank you Martin, you are really too kind, old thing.
It is true that I have been running games for many years, ever since our early Kriegsspiels on the lawn at Chilvers. How well I remember little William Leeson and his young friend Arthur Harman, scampering around before tea. Ah but I digress……
I have decided to make umpiring the subject of my first article, as the success of a game really stands or falls by this. In this first article, I’ll cover scenario design and other pre-game preparation. A future piece will give some hints on how to tackle things on the day.
My key rule is to keep the game moving and the players involved. My usual co-umpire at Chilvers, Reggie Mountjoy, is of the view that players are a pestilential nuisance, and really the whole thing would work much better without them. There is much merit in what he says of course, but they exist, so we had better ensure that that things go as swimmingly as possible for the little dears.
The following is a kind of annotated checklist of some techniques you can use.

☺ Find out how many are coming to the game

There is little point in designing a scenario for 8 players, if only 6 turn up on the day. Martin (a slow learner in my experience) has belatedly learnt to advertise games in advance, and ask for responses from those who intend to coming. This is only sensible. You will also find out who is coming, and that is equally important (see below).

☺ Have a fall-back plan in case someone cannot make it on the day

The more people involved, the greater risk that one of them will fail to make it, just on the law of averages.
Is there a role, which could be dropped without fatally damaging the game? If not, why not amend the scenario slightly to give yourself that little bit of insurance. Or perhaps one side could be umpire-driven if necessary (see more on this below).

☺ Have a good ratio of umpires to players

To follow my mantra of keeping the game moving, it is advisable to keep the ratio reasonably near to one to one. In the past, with 7 participants I was tempted to try to run 5 players with only 2 umpires. A big mistake.
My idea was that with 5 players, rather than 4, I could build more variety into the scenario. Well maybe I could, but it all falls down if the umpires do not have time to deal with all the players’ questions, and move the game at a reasonable pace.
With 7 attendees, I would go for 3 umpires and 4 players – you’d be surprised what a difference it makes.
If you remember nothing else in this article, take this one to your heart.

☺ Keep the scenario within bounds

Do not fall into the trap of over-ambition. Constantly striving to make larger and more involved scenarios, without giving sufficient thought to umpiring the end result.
You will find that even relatively simple situations quickly become complex, once those blasted players are let loose on them! They do not have full knowledge of the situation, and can in the heat of battle issue a flurry of orders. Messengers, patrols and detachments will be ordered hither and yon, and the umpires will have plenty to do.
I would be the last to discourage experiment, but beware of elaboration unless you have a numerous and experienced umpire team.

☺ Play through the scenario yourself

Once you’ve got the thing down on paper, briefly play through the first 2 or 3 hours, just shifting the troops around on the map. Of course there are many different scripts, and you don’t know what the players will do, but you’ll be surprised how often you pick up on things that clearly won’t work, such a forces that are too far out on a flank to ever be engaged.

☺Use an appropriate timescale

Similar point to the previous one. Work through the likely moves to ensure that what you want to achieve can be in the time available.
We tend to find that (with enough umpires!) we can move game forward at around 50% faster than actual time – ie if we have 4 hours for the game, we can get through say 6 hours of battle, and sometimes more.
Nothing wrong with timing the arrival of VIII Corps for 9 hours into the game – the situation may warrant it. Just don’t expect it to arrive during play. It will simply be one factor to take into account in the debrief.
The above is a good guide for a variable length bound game, or one with 15-minute turns.
You can speed things up noticeably by using the 30-minute turns. This is too course a grain for a small tactical Kriegsspiel, because the players are deprived of the chance to react to circumstances, but if they are corps commanders in a large battle, this is not such a concern, and works very well. You could certainly expect to get through at least 2 game hours in 1 of actual time, and maybe more.

☺ Give some thought to who the players will represent

Note that this does not have to be the most senior commanders. In an army with 2 corps, one of which will not reach the battle for 4 hours, there is little point in giving the rearward one to a player. The dear old thing will just end up twiddling his (or her) thumbs for several hours. Even worse, he might start fiddling with your wife’s ornaments!
We are all different, and while part of the fun of Kriegsspiel is to put our friends into difficult situations and watch them wriggle, we still need to give a thought to the impact on the game.
There is precious little point in putting a buccaneering kind of a player in a defensive role. Most likely he will ignore the briefing, and the scenario will not develop in the way you intend. It may still be an entertaining game of course, but you will have lost any control of events.
More usual is to find more cautious players (and in my experience the bulk of Kriegsspielers tend that way) not taking the offensive moves which the scenario requires. The big danger here is that little happens, as the weaker army quite correctly stands on the defensive – but so does the stronger! Many, many years ago I can still remember one player who steadfastly marched away from the sound of the guns!
The fault of the player? More likely that of whoever allocated them that role. So think about the people who will be coming, and allocate roles accordingly.
Also make sure the briefings are crystal clear in the event that offensive action is required or whatever. “His Majesty commands that the army decisively defeats the enemy force around Metz today” leaves little room for doubt.

☺ Consider having the umpires control one of the sides

If numbers are short, it can work well to have the umpires playing one side. The experience, from the players’ standpoint, is often surprisingly like pitting yourself against a real team.
With just 2 or 3 players (plus umpires), this is often the best solution. It also allows them to experience the additional dimension of communicating with one-another (or not!) by messenger, which of course you don’t get with only one player on a team. How well this works will depend on the scenario, and the nature and intentions of the army to be umpired.
I recall one game young Arthur Harman ran on the 1813 battle of Bautzen in the early days, where only the French side were played (with 5 players). This worked particularly well, as the French were attacking, and the Russo-Prussian army opposing them was historically fairly passive in the grand tactical sense.
One risk of this is that the players will assume that the non-played side will lack initiative. This will reduce their enjoyment, and also encourage unrealistic tactics. Way’s around this include not telling them (!!).
Alternatively the players may feel that the umpires are playing the other side too effectively, given their full knowledge of the situation.
A good way of addressing all of this is to provide the non-played team with a script, which perhaps includes timings for offensive action. This should obviously be written before the initial orders from the played team are received. One of the umpires can produce them, before he sees the other scenario briefings, or perhaps a gamer who is unable to make it on the day.

☺ Not too many tricks & surprises

A particular failing of young Martin, this.
Many of us are attracted to Kriegsspiel precisely because the unexpected happens. It is a world away from a pure analysis game, such as chess.
But it can be taken to excess……………
The temptation is to design scenarios stuffed full of pranks and misleading information. Far from adding to the realism as intended, this often merely succeeds in inducing a state of nervous hysteria in the players. As a consequence they behave ahistorically, and much of the design work is wasted.

I realised things had gone too far after one strategic game, where a player on each team had been nominated as head of intelligence, each with a bevy of agents. The analysis and interpretation of the agents’ reports was to be a key factor in the game.
We were therefore dismayed at the end, when one of our spymasters informed us that he had assumed most of his agents were double-agents, and had therefore discounted their information!
Not true, but he had been conditioned to think that way by his experience of previous games.
What we had overlooked was that for the unexpected to have a realistic effect, most things must happen as expected.
Most reports were not false, otherwise why would commanders have bothered reading them?

☺ Make sure that all key information is in the brief

This should include the political & military background, comments on the weather and major terrain features (if they would know this).
They should know what strength their own forces are, and (normally) where they are. They may, or may not have good information on the enemy, but the briefing should make the state of their knowledge clear in any event, otherwise they will simply ask the umpires anyway.
The overall commanders should know where they are. It may be that the position of subordinates in left to their discretion but, if not, their location should also be specified.
They players should have some idea of what is expected of them, by higher authorities – eg is their mission primarily offensive?
Finally, they should know what is expected of them in terms of initial orders. This may be a plan of attack or defence, or march routes to be taken by the constituent parts of their army (together with an order of march for the units in each column).

☺ Get the briefing the right length

Tricky one this, as some players complain if they lack information on the wider background, while others are appalled by lengthy briefings. As a rule of thumb, I aim to keep the briefing to one side of A4.
If we are trying something a bit different – which tends to be with more experienced players – then I might allow myself a couple (that’s sides of A4, not gin & tonics, Reggie!).

☺ Design the scenario so as to make admin as easy as possible on the day

Avoid giving units on different sides similar designations. This is a recipe for confusion.
If as an umpire you retrieve an order for the 6th Brigade from the welter of paper on the table, how are you to know whether it is the Ruritanian 6th Brigade, or the blasted Bosrovian 6th Brigade? Maybe you can work it out, or maybe you can’t – but it all takes time.
Do not do what Martin did, in one scenario, which was to have two 15th Divisions on the same side!
To take this further, it is often a good idea to use a completely different naming or numbering convention for the units of each side. Why not use Roman numerals for Blue and Arabic for Red? Or one side’s units could be named and the other’s numbered etc.

☺ Maintain the fog of war

In general, why tell players before the game which of them are on which side?
On a few occasions, of course, this could perhaps be relevant, if in reality they knew each other well (eg ex West Point classmates in an ACW game).
But in general, why even tell them how many players there are? Yes they can sometimes gradually work this out during the game, but not when you send out the briefings, and not even when they arrive for the game – some of the attendees will be umpires.

☺ Use your fellow umpires

Bounce your scenario ideas off one of them. Having someone else look at your idea can flush out all sorts of practical problems. Fully brief them all a few days before the game. Attempting to do it on the day just slows things down for everyone.

☺ Get the scenario briefings out to players (and your fellow umpires) before the game

This is normally a good idea, unless the scenario calls for quick decisions and an unexpected change of plan, following say the appearance of an unexpected enemy force.
If at least the opposing C in Cs have the scenario say a week before, they have time to give you their initial intentions and initial orders, and the umpires can set up the map before the players arrive on the day, decide whether they can advance the clock (often by quite a bit), and decide on what sightings and reports may result.
And all of this in an atmosphere of calm, without pestering from those accursed players. Bliss, Reggie, bliss.


 Find out how many are coming to the game
 Have a fall-back plan in case someone cannot make it on the day
 Have a good ratio of umpires to players
 Keep the scenario within bounds
 Play through the scenario yourself
 Use an appropriate timescale
 Give some thought to who the players will represent
 Consider having the umpires control one of the sides
 Not too many tricks & surprises
 Make sure that all key information is in the brief
 Get the briefing the right length
 Design the scenario so as to make admin as easy as possible on the day
 Maintain the fog of war
 Use your fellow umpires
 Get the scenario briefings out to players (and your fellow umpires) before the game

4. Famous Last Words contributed by Tony Hawkins

During the morning, after a conference with Grant, [General John] Sedgwick rode forward to an elevation near the center of his position, found that his men were a little nervous because of Confederate sharpshooters, assured them that there was nothing to worry about because “they couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance…”, and then fell dead with a sharpshooter’s bullet in his brain.
— Bruce Catton

5. Bill & Francesco rap on about the Reisswitz rules
You were asking about the Kriegsspiel rules and whether they were sufficient to run a game. The short answer, of course, is – yes, because that is what they were designed for. A longer answer would be that you do need some preparation before you start, and of course you need some kind of map.
This all needs some thought. The scale of the map needs to be suitable for the scale of operations. In what they called “Detachments” Kriegsspiel we are talking about relatively small forces of up to Brigade (that’s a Prussian brigade, equivalent to a division in most other armies. Martin) strength who have been detached to perform a particular job – advance guard, rear guard, seize a position, guard a convoy, hold of an attack, etc.
For this you need a map scale that will let you go into details of terrain and allow for the break-up of forces into smaller elements. The original detachments scale was 1:7500 (8 inches to a mile), and this works very well. On the other hand it is a bit large for a game involving whole armies.
Umpiring. One umpire can comfortably handle a small game of two or three players. For more players you need some umpire helpers. The players need to have a map of their own on which they can mark up their position in some way and record what they have found out about the enemy – it does not need to be as large as the umpire’s map.
The point about the umpire to players ratio is that if you have one umpire to two players – for instance – you can assume that the umpire will take up about a third of his time with working out what is going on and another third for making reports to each player. This means that a player will get about 20 minutes of the umpire’s time per hour split up into a few minutes here a few there throughout the hour. This is works out quite well, but a larger number of players will mean more working out time and less time for player’s reports. Players get a bit fed up if they are waiting around for too long without any news of the latest situation – believe me! (absolutely, see Binky’s comments elsewhere on the same issue. Martin)
When we used to do demonstration games at Salute games event, we used to have three umpires for two players. The main umpire looked after the map and made decisions on results etc. and the other two worked as liaison umpires so that the players received almost instant feed-back. We also aimed to get through a game in an hour because the players would want to see what else was going on in the exhibition.
Another point about the rule-books is that they were obviously designed with a view to keeping a record of troop losses. This in itself takes up a lot of time. In Reisswitz’ original games, his group presumably did keep a score – and changed the troop blocks for a smaller size when the troop lost a significant number of men. Later on some umpires – such as Verdy du Vernois did away with dice and tables. To me the tables are useful not so much for giving exact figures for losses as for giving a useful guide for effective ranges for infantry and artillery fire. Bill.
Lifted from the web at: http://www.siue.

I also read the 1824 rules and I find them great (better than many modern wargames). I have some questions:
1) Regarding losses, the original rules seem to suggest that the losing side obtain instant report of losses, but probably I think would be better to deliver them to the player via messengers (so, in case of distant troop, the player can receive a report after some amount of time). How do you manage all of that?
You are quite right. Usually the player gets a message about the outcome of an attack taking into account the time the message will take to get to him. Also he is unlikely to get a precise body count. He will be told his troops were beaten back with few losses/ slight losses/heavy losses, and are rallying at..or have fallen back to… or are in complete disarray.. or being pursued by enemy cavalry, or whatever. Then again the messenger might not be able to get back at all for some reason.

2) Regarding tactics of attacked troops, the rules say that the player chooses if they counterattack, retire or something else. But that decision must be included in general orders (for example, something like “move to the river and cross it, and if attacked retire”) otherwise the commander must deliver the order via messenger, and that take time for first messenger to reach the commander, then his messenger to reach the troops back. Now, as long as the fights in Kriegsspiel are very fast, what do the troop do lacking precise orders?
Good question! This is something that often comes up. The first thing the umpires do is take into consideration the orders the troops were originally given. If the circumstances would allow for the possibility of a second attack, I think it would be made since those were the officers orders. If it was doubtful whether a second attempt would achieve anything the umpire might decide the officer needed further instructions. Sometimes it comes down to a dice throw – if 1,2,3 he tries again, 4,5,6 he does not. You usually explain to the player after the game what happened in the case of a dice throw.

3) In case both sides have order to attack the enemy, I am not clear what happens if both sides have artillery/muskets. In case of hand to hand fight, the losing side retires, and that is logical. But if two batteries or two battalion armed with rifles shoot at each other at a distance? Each side throw the appropriate dice and then, at the end of the two minutes, losses are calculated for both sides at once? And what about “losing” and “winning” sides? In theory if one side receive heavy losses it would probably retire (as for having lost a hand to hand fight), but in the rules there is nothing like this (there is only rules for advancing under fire, but that, I think, is another matter).
Of course, I understand that we can’t have rules for all situations, but I’m curious to know how an experienced player such as you practically conducts a game. In particular I think that a good game must be realistic, but also enjoyable and not too slow.
Assuming that we are talking about something like early 19th century, the Kriegsspiel writers make it clear that the side with artillery support has an advantage. If they both have artillery support the advantage is cancelled out as far as a fire fight is concerned, but I think it still holds good for the defenders if one side is marching to an attack.
If the two infantry sides are equal then I guess we could assume that they will both be suffering about the same. Clausewitz would probably say that the side that was able to fill up the empty spaces with reserves would finally win. If both sides are equal and circumstances are the same you might have to decide after a certain time that one side or the other is beginning to waiver – and a dice throw would settle which side had to withdraw. In the “Sample Game of 1873” one of the umpires points out that two batteries have been firing at each other for 20 minutes, and that one or the other should withdraw. It would still not be really necessary to work out precise losses. In the case of artillery a dice throw could decide whether one or more guns had been lost. In the case of the infantry we can assume that both sides have suffered heavy losses – but one more than the other.
If possible get the scenarios sent out to players in advance, and if possible get them to send their initial orders in advance, and then work out the start positions for the troops in advance, so that when everyone arrives you can hand out an update for each side telling them where they are now and what has happened, and “Have you any further orders”. This saves an awful lot of time and an awful lot of sitting around waiting for the game to get going. Bill.
8. Letters
From Bill Leeson re TV Time Commanders
Did you see the last night’s war game on BBC2 _ Romans v Hannibal? I thought the graphics were good, but apart from that it was a typical toy soldier game with players having an Olympian vision and the ability to issue orders by thought process.
Yes I did see Time Commanders. The graphics were indeed impressive. My 2 boys play a PC game called ‘Medieval Total War’, which is very similar, and the same software people are involved with the TV programme. Strangely enough, a new version called ‘Rome Total War’ is in the offing!
I agree that it lacks the reality of command & control constraints. The thing I found most irritating was the style of the experts. I think they ‘dumbed-down too much’ but presumably they were told to by the producers. Some of the ones in the later episodes have been a lot better though.
Last weeks edition was on Raphia, between the Ptolemy and Antiochus in 217 BC, which I thought was pretty good. Both armies kept formation and it actually looked like a believable ancient battle, which many of the earlier ones didn’t, with isolated cohorts, warbands etc fighting all over the field.
I suppose that I think it’s a good thing if it attracts more people into wargaming. Not all of them will go on to become Kriegsspielers – but some might.

From Maurizio Bragaglia re Meckel’s map

Maurizio has discovered a background map produced by Meckel, which complements his Kriegsspiel maps, and also covers a much larger surrounding area. This is ideal for creating the bigger picture for some scenarios.
The map in question is an A4 annex to a book titled:
“Lehrbuch der Taktik….etc etc” ausgearbeitet von Meckel hauptmann a la suite des 4.Thueringiischen IR Nr.72 etc
Berlin 1875, so this could be the master copy whence
he developed your set of maps.
said map is in 1:100,000 scale.
Maurizio was kind enough to mail some copies, and one is attached. This was nobly done, and I had no hesitation in recommending him for a Reisswitz Monocle.

Am pleased to say the awards committee agreed, although there was a slight hiccup when naughty Maurizio asked for ‘oakleaves’ as well. Binky was not amused…
I think this is an appropriate point to reiterate that the KN awards are run in the finest tradition of the UK honours system. The awards panel is composed of persons of the utmost integrity, and the awards are entirely based on merit.
As an entirely separate matter, KN is happy to receive donations thorough its Panamanian trust account (details from the editor on request).

From Maurizio again
Have you ever updated your Grand Tactical rules or are them still the same?
We have not updated the grand tactical rules, which can be download from the website. For our last large-scale tactical game (with c200,000 men engaged), we did move from 15-minute turns to 30-minute ones. That seemed to work well, in that we were able to play a full day of battle in a few hours, yet there still seemed to be plenty of decision points (and flavour).
One change I would consider, based on further reading, would be to increase the effectiveness of cavalry against shaken infantry. I think that relatively small numbers of cavalry have an enormous impact on relatively large numbers of foot – in that specific situation. I intend to produce something on this for a future KN.

9. Contacts

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.

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