Kriegsspiel News FAQs

Our event schedule available on the main menu contains details of forthcoming games .

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.

We always welcome new players and we are a friendly group of people.

Games are usually held at: -

Little Gaddesden Village Hall
Little Gaddesden
Berkhamstead
Herts
HP4 1PA

Start usually between 10am to 11am and finish at around 4pm to 5pm

Cost of £5 and free if your first visit. The hall has a kitchen and a packed lunch is advised as the games tend to play through lunch time.

Anybody can propose a game and it can probably be scheduled after the current crop of games. At present there are 4 or 5 stalwart individuals who take it in turn to organise most of the games, but new organisers are to be encouraged. There are usually another 2 or 3 games yet to be played before the next slot is available.

In the first instance contact Games Organiser who schedules and then announces new games to the group.

Briefings will usually be in several parts.

  • A general idea, provided to both players that sets the scene and provides information that would be known to all sides.
  • A special briefing for each side, containing intelligence, objectives, orders for the army, their initial positions and an order of battle.
  • A map of the area the game is set in

Aim for a high ratio of umpires to players. A ratio close to 1 to 1 is good. If you have lots of players and not many umpires, you can create interesting scenarios, but the game will move very slowly. And slow games really are the kiss of death.

Send out briefings well beforehand, and ask players to send you their initial intentions, order of march etc a few days before the game. That way you have plenty of time to assimilate them, set up the umpire map and work out initial patrol reports etc, without time- pressure. This really gets the game off to a good start.

Don't give the players any more information than you have to on how the game will be run. You want them to play the situation not the system after all. They do not need to know how many are attending the game, or who is a player and who an umpire, or how many players are on each side. If they think a character in the scenario is not played by a real person, they may act differently.

The game organiser will usually select the umpire team and principal players in order to ensure that the teams are well balanced and the game will run smoothly. Initial briefings will be emailed to the players in advance. Each team will normally have a Commander in Chief and they will produce some initial orders a few days before the game, so that the umpires can set up the map, and perhaps move the clock forward before the game gets under way.

Make sure you have a high ratio of umpires to players. A few examples - with 4 attendees, I would make 2 of them umpires. With 7 attendees, have 3 umpires. With 9 attendees, have 4 umpires. If in doubt, go with an extra umpire.

There is often a temptation to skimp on the umpires, and have more player roles. The assumption being that this will make for a more interesting scenario. Trouble is, if the game slows to a crawl due to a lack of umpires the players will enjoy it less, no matter how interesting the situation. In any case Umpiring is an interesting rewarding and educational experience in itself. Being an Umpire can teach one a lot about how to deal with people and communicate effectively and clearly in a tight time frame.

Irregular Miniatures still supply metal Kriegsspiel Blocks. The blocks are listed on their misc. page under Bases, Dice and Blocks. Their range is:

 

Reference  Description
K1  10mm x 10mm (set of 4)
K2 12mm x 6mm (set of 4)
K3 9mm x 6mm (set of 4)
K4  9mm x 5mm (set of 4)
K5 5mm x 5mm (set of 4)
K6 Counterweight - 13x13x3mm white metal square gaming piece. Glue counters from boardgames to this counterweight to help prevent them from moving when you don't want them to.

 

Kriegspiel starter brigade

9 infantry battalions,1 jaeger battalion,2 cavalry regiments,2 artillery batteries,2 exchange pieces,& skirmishers and outposts.

These blocks are unpainted - but painting them is loads easier than miniatures. The blocks are scaled to work with 1:7500 maps however, so are too large for the Metz CD maps - unless you use battalion blocks to represent brigades.

You can certainly make your own blocks. For larger forces on the smaller scale Metz maps, you can print out counters on card with Napoleonic troop symbols. An example of the sort of thing you could create as counters of your battalions & squadrons in blue and red is reproduced below.

 

Many alternative ways have been suggested to use self made counters, including:

  • printing them on acetate sheets, and then laminating them to get a reasonably chunky clear counters.
  • sticking them on magnetic blocks, tape, sheets or small neodynium magnets on a metal backed white board.
  • sticking them on solid wooden pieces.
  • backing them with irregular miniatures metal counterweights (see just above) and in fact there is no reason why self produced paper counters couldn't be stuck onto irregular miniatures blocks.

Various shapes & sizes are used depending on whether they represent infantry (half-battalion), cavalry (squadron), artillery (half-battery), patrols, commanders etc. They are mostly about 1 cm frontage.

There were many versions of the game rules published during the 19th Century, as the game developed to reflect new ideas and changes to weapons & tactics. As the use of the game spread to most armies outside Prussia, new rulesets were developed in other languages.

Which rules to go with depends on which period you wish to set your game in. The key thing about kriegsspiel is the fog of war, and communication difficulties which are possible in an umpired game, so you can use modern wargame rules for movement & combat if you wish.

Bill Lesson has translated the original Prussian 1824 rules, which are appropriate for Napoleonics. This is useful because they also include guidance on how to run a kriegsspiel, and plenty of diagrams of what the troop blocks look like, how regiments deploy etc.

Details of how to get the 1824 rules and other like publications are given on our publications page.

For detachment Napoleonic games we normally use a streamlined version of Reisswitz's 1824 rules. Streamlined because the umpires need to keep things moving for the players. For example Reisswitz worked in 2 minute increments, although he would advance the clock faster if circumstances permitted. The use of the game for training purposes meant that the young officers had to break down what was going on into understandable chunks which could then be analysed. We tend to work in 10 or 15 minute increments - and still advance the clock faster when possible.

For games with larger forces, we often use the Army-Level rules which are posted on the website. That is much more a game of 'battleflield management'. It really starts to bring out the friction of war - why Ney cannot attack for another hour, even though you want him to attack now.

On the day of the game things run as follows. When players arrive, they will be allocated to different rooms, and receive any additional briefings and/or last minute orders from their C in C.

The game proper then starts. You will normally share a room with at least one other player, who will not necessarily be on the same team! You can chat about anything apart from the game of course.

You work from your own map, but only the umpire map has all the troops of both sides recorded on it.

You acquire intelligence from your briefings, from your team-mates, and by sending out patrols. As the game goes on you hopefully gain a better idea of what's going on! You can take as long as you like over giving orders to your own troops, but the game clock will move on, even if you do not!

Assuming your team-mates are not in the same position on the map, you communicate with them by sending couriers. The message will only be delivered (by the umpires) when the courier arrives.

Any combat wll be handled by the umpires although, if you are close enough, you may be able to give nearby units direct orders.

Everything is pretty informal. We start about 2.30 pm and finish about 7.00, when we have a debrief. The latter is normally quite a laugh, as everyone has always made quite a few mistakes - it's the nature of the game. We also break halfway through for tea,coffee,cakes and biscuits.

We cover both umpire & player maps with clear sticky plastic, so you can write or sketch on them with washable markers. For the players that's easier than using troop blocks, and it also means they can carry them around - if for example they ride over to join a team-mate for a conference and hence move to a different room.

 Keep up the mystery. We normally put a couple of players in each room, as there is no reason why they should not chat - as long as it's not about the game. But don't tell them which side they are on, let alone which characters each play. We normally put players from different teams together, and preferably those operating on different parts of the map. That way there is no possibility of collusion (although no kriegsspieler would be capable of such infamy!), and less chance that they will pick up information which will be useful to them. You can sometimes only maintain this for so long. If 2 players from the same side meet on the map, they should obviously be allowed to converse freely for as long as they remain together in game terms, so some relocation may be needed.

The umpires word should be final. I suggest you are very firm on this from the outset. As well as the players frequently not knowing the full situation, any debate about umpiring decisions will slow the game for all other players. Any discussion of this nature should be left until after the game - we habitually finish with a debrief session over tea & biscuits. By that time too, a lot more will have happened in the game, and most problems will have diffused of their own accord.

Take all major umpiring decisions away from the players, preferably in a separate room. If you need to throw dice, do not let them witness the throw. If someone has lost a combat against the odds, you can soften the blow (to their ego?) by remarking that they were unlucky, but on no account go into details of how the results were calculated.

Do not spend much time on resolving combat. A detailed treatment may be more accurate, but will slow down the game. And not all players will even be involved in that combat. As someone pointed out earlier, when the game was originally used as a training tool, there were plenty of officers to handle the admin. They also needed to record the results in some detail so that proper lessons could be learnt. But we do not have a pool of officers, and are playing the game for fun, so can cut corners. In particular, we have moved away from recording exact casualties, on the basis that it takes time, and such detailed information would not be available in the heat of battle anyway.

Resist the temptation to call players to the umpire table too often. All players are understandably keen to loiter here, because this infrequent sight of their part of the umpire map is the most detailed view of the game they get. But to prepare the map (eg covering all those areas they cannot see) takes time, and for as long as they linger, the game is on hold. And there are the other players to consider.

Wherever you can, extend the turn length beyond the 2-minute minimum. Most of the time you can work in much larger time increments if you have a general idea of what the players intend to do. 15 or 20 minutes seems to work pretty well. If the opposing forces are some way apart at the start of the game, you can move the clock even faster than that - perhaps until the first reports from patrols start coming in.

 Orders and messages are written on standard forms, which are handed to the umpires.

It is always important to stress to new players that they must write on their order or message:

  • who is writing it
  • where they are at the time of writing
  • the game time it was written at
  • the person or unit to which it is being sent
  • where the the recipient is expected to be (send it to the wrong place and don't expect it to arrive anytime soon)

Where it is important or appropriate the umpire should ascertain the route that the courier will take, and even for particularly important messages whether more than one courier is being sent.

Orders will be implemented - and messages delivered - after the appropriate lapse of time as calculated or estimated by the Umpire. Naturally messages sent on routes passing through enemy occupied territory may be greatly delayed or even end up in enemy hands!

You can download the {jdownload ksorders.pdf}order form{/jdownload} and {jdownload ksmessage.pdf}message forms{/jdownload} we use here.

 Nice components improve the enjoyment. The map shown in use below was designed by General Meckel, specifically for kriegsspiel, in the mid 19th Century and has been coloured in by Bill Leeson.