Undoubtedly the most important wargames book ever published, the von Reisswitz Kriegsspiel rules are unique in that they are rules written by a Prussian . Overly technical rules. The original Kriegsspiel rules for combat are a great piece of history that document real world experience of combat in. Tschischwitz’s version of kriegsspiel was very much like To show these wider deployments, the rules represent.

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The Origins of Wargaming.

The world’s first wargame, and the world’s first wargaming geek? He devoted long hours to learning how to play, sucked unwitting friends into the hobby, and indulged in “monster” gaming sessions.

Lee Daniel Crocker Photo at left. Wargaming, taken here to mean kridgsspiel use of maps and representational units to re-enact the major decision making of military engagements, dates back several centuries. Baron von Reisswitz, a civil administrator, noted that war games in existence at the time were based on the ancient game of chess itself dating in the modern sense the Middle Ages and further back in more primitive forms or else on some type of card game. Despite multiple variations of the standard game of chess, games of the period were non-representational and didn’t require the player to make decisions using the same types of logic that a real life military commander would.

The Baron decided to start from basics; instead of a rrules segmented into squares, as in chess, he would use realistic terrain. After some thought he settled on a scale of 1: Armies of the 19th Century measured cadence, frontage, and distances in paces.

Commonwealth sergeants-major today still carry pace sticks as a traditional badge of office; they still use them to form up ceremonial parades, but at one time, an army lived and died by how rues it could march or how rulees it formed into line of battle. Establishing a common scale helped to solve many of the problems that are common to any wargame designer – most importantly, how to regulate movement and combat.

With a common scale, one only needed to regulate time – segmenting movement into units of time – and the distance that troops kriegsspiek move would be known instantly, given that men and horses both moved at commonly known rates of speed.

In the British Army, for example, regular infantry travel at paces to the minute. Regulating combat could also be done from real world data; for example a 6-pounder cannon had an effective range when firing canister shot of paces a pace being averaged out to 2 feet 6 inches.

The Baron segmented his game into turns, each of two minutes in length. Now that he had a framework that tied in space and time other problems could be addressed. For instance, do troops receive their instructions via some kind of mental telepathy or do they have to receive instructions from the commander? Does one side wait patiently under fire until it is their turn to move or can they be allowed to move at the same time as the enemy?

Does the commander have a godlike all-seeing view of the action or can his view of events be restricted to what he might actually be able to see from his position?

The answer to all these problems was to have a third party involved in the game, who would be a confidant to both sides, a person who was trusted by both sides to act fairly. This eventually became translated by the British kriegsxpiel an “umpire”. With an umpire at the centre of the game so much became possible. Both sides could write their orders down at the start of the game and pass them over to him.

He could implement them at the correct time, and since the orders had been already given he could advance the game move by move for both sides, so that they were in effect moving simultaneously. He kfiegsspiel give reports back to the players, and receive fresh instructions in the light of these reports, which the kriegspsiel side would not be privy to.

Unlike modern wargames, combat was not resolved by chance, but solely by the umpire. The Kriegspiel was not a recreational tool, but an undertaking by professional military rulss as part of kriegssipel individual training, or collective preparation for war. The rules only covered the movement of soldiers.

The Captain of Cadets at the Berlin Military Academy in mentioned in a lecture that Baron von Reisswitz had invented a war game; the Kaiser’s two sons happened to be in attendance and asked their governor to invite the Baron to give a private demonstration. Impressed, the princes wrote their rulew, who also requested a demonstration. The Baron presented the game almost a year later at the SansSouci Palace.


Fearing his small sandbox display would not weather a trip to Potsdam, the better part of a kridgsspiel had been spent designing a table with a six foot squre top, filled with four-inch square plaster terrain tiles, carefully painted, with porcelain unit markers, complemented by such playing aids as dividers, rulers, small boxes for concealing hidden units, much like a concealment kriegsdpiel in Squad Leader and a written set of rules.

The game became a permanent fixture of the Kaiser’s residence and became a favourite family pastime. Wargaming had made the jump from a military tool to a recreational one.

Commercial viability would have to wait for The Avalon Hill Kriegssliel Company; dedicated six foot square tables and hand painted porcelain units would keep wargaming out of the hands of the masses. In the meantime, the Kaiser also embarked on wargaming sessions that any high-school or college age devotee of the modern hobby can probably appreciate. He showed off his game to Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia in and Like krietsspiel who set up Avalon Hill’s The Longest Day on a pool table in their parent’s basement, the Kaiser travelled to Moscow in October to take part in an improvised game with the Grand Duke in which terrain was sketched out in chalk on card kkriegsspiel butted together – perhaps the first geomorphic mapboards in wargaming history.

ByBaron von Reisswitz’s son was now also in the military, and Reisswitz the Younger continued to develop the modern war game. Promotion to Oberleutnant rrules and posting to the Guard Artillery Brigade in Berlin apparently gave him free time to start a small Kriegspiel group with other officers. Reisswitz the Younger made many significant changes to his father’s design.

The scale was changed to 1: A larger playing surface could thus be fitted into the same space as before, and more units, allowing larger actions to be fought with more room for manoeuvre. This too foretold the kriegssipel design conundrums faced by commercial wargame designers – what is the best scale to portray the subject matter?

The playing surface was also changed from terrain tiles to an actual map. The advantage, aside from portability, was that in a double-blind system having two opposing teams, separate maps were necessary.

Few modern wargames recognized this some notable exceptions such as the redo of the Sniper! The duplicate maps marked individually for each team, with a master in possession of the umpire in this case also eliminated the need rulees the wooden concealment boxes.

Apparently tables with odds of success were used, something that would become a rulss of modern wargaming also. In earlythe Kriegspiel group was asked to demonstrate the new game for Prince Wilhelm, by now commanding a corps.

Kriegsspiel Resources

The demonstration kriegespiel Wilhelm to recommend the game to the Kaiser and the General Staff, and Reisswitz the Ktiegsspiel was personally summoned in front of the Chief of the Prussian General Staff with his group and his game.

Initially cold to the kregsspiel, the Chief of Staff quickly warmed up to the game, and pronounced it more than a recreation, but a training tool worthy or recommendation to the entire army. His recommendation, published in the next issue of a military magazine, highlighted, as we would say today, the playability aspect.

Mass production became the order of the day when the Kaiser ordered a game for every regiment in the Army. Tinsmiths, painters and carpenters were assembled by Reisswitz the Younger, to create the blocks used as unit counters.

Maps and rules were edited and prepared for mass production.

Kriegspiel (chess) – Wikipedia

Grand Duke Nicholas, in Russia, had heard about the new version of the game from Prince Wilhelm – anyone who felt the need to tell old friends about the arrival of Advanced Squad Leader in can probably relate – and was anxious to learn about it. Petersburg and in the event spent an entire summer as a guest of the Grand Duke. Extra players were found, and the game was played once a week. Apparently, there were no housecats in residence, as the game stayed set up from week to week. On occasion, the Kaiser, his princes, and foreign dignitaries all looked in on the game.

The closest modern wargaming has come to the interest of nobility has been Curt Schilling. Other units eventually formed their own Kriegspiel clubs. While the game’s popularity spread throughout the Army, apparently Reisswitz the Younger himself felt unfulfilled. Promoted to Hauptmannhe was passed over for a vacancy in his own Guard Artillery unit as kriegsspieel company commander and transferred to Torgau with another artillery brigade.

He is rumoured to have committed suicide infeeling that he had been banished. His game had been adopted Army-wide, he had summered with Russian royalty, and had been decorated by the Kaiser with the Order of St. John for his work with Kriegspiel.


When rumours of the death of Reisswitz first reached Berlin some of his friends and followers simply could not believe it. Von Troschke was one of those who had recently become interested in the game. He was convinced at first that Reisswitz had been seconded to the service of Nicholas now Tsar of Russia to give advice on ruels conduct of Russian forces during the Russo-Turkish war which had just broken out.

But the rumours were soon confirmed. His friends and followers wondered where this left the Kriegspiel, and where it left them. They were aware that an anti-Kriegspiel feeling arisen in some quarters. Some of the older kriebsspiel were of the opinion that the game would give young officers an inflated idea of their abilities to manage Brigades and Divisions and leave them dissatisfied with ordinary regimental service.

There kgiegsspiel have been something in that, and it may have been why Reisswitz had been shunted off to Torgau instead of getting his promotion in Berlin. Like many junior officers, Reisswitz the Younger may have made enemies for himself inadvertently.

Bill Leeson, whose research provides the inspiration for most of this chapter, certainly thinks so. Incidentally, inLeeson translated the Kriegspiel into English and sold it as a modern commercial wargame. Handsomely packaged in a nested cardboard box, this version did not require the personal attention of monarchy, nor a team of tinsmiths and carpenters to produce it.

The game was unique in having no randomizers – dice – or luck factors. Combat was simulated by computing odds and cross referencing those odds using one of four defensive strategies and one of three offensive strategies. Some people were bound to resent what they would see as a young upstart pronouncing with authority on the tactical decisions of his superiors.

We are told that he was the kind of person who, without being presumptuous, maintained an air of self-confidence to those above him as well as to those below. New methods of doing things, particularly in the realm of tactics, are often a bone of contention in modern militaries.

It should not surprise us, necessarily, then, that Reisswitz the Younger was eventually put in his place. Bya magazine article explaining the game to a civilian audience also had no mention of Reisswitz the Younger, and actually claimed that the game had been invented and disseminated verbally until formalization in An old colleague of Reisswitz’s wrote a clarifying article for Militair Wochenblatt to mark the occasion of the game’s fiftieth anniversary.

An anonymous article several weeks later told of how the game had come to the attention of the Kaiser and the royal household; Leeson surmises the author most certainly was Kaiser Wilhelm, who at the time the events took place had been Prince Wilhelm and present at all the events described in the article, along with his brother Prince Friedrich.

Military experience was not in short supply in the Prussian Army at this time, with recent wars against Austria and France in and providing experienced umpires who could assess factors such as morale, weather, intelligence and other battlefield intangibles not easily codified. In the meantime, John Thomas Frederick Jane, famous for founding Jane’s reference books, also created a naval war game in the late 19th Century. Jane’s Fighting Ships contains a set of rules for The Naval War Game in the edition of this annual guide book to the world’s naval vessels.

Given the existence of toy soldiers dating back many centuries, their use as the object of military maneuvers probably predates even that any 20th Century boy who ever owned a combination of toy soldiers, magnifying glass, pellet gun, or other engines of destruction can probably attest. The first tin soldiers became popular in the s, but the earliest published account of using them for play comes from Scribner’s Magazine in December Simple physical combat – hurling marbles at toy soldiers – gave way to rules for logistics, combat and movement to make the game an intellectual challenge.

A package set – soldiers and rules in the same box – appears circa as The Great War Gamewith the rule book titled separately as War Games for Boy Scouts. Wells also produced wargaming rules based on miniaturesfirst in Floor Games in and later Little Wars in He provided mainly a juvenile rule set for physical combat involving spring loaded miniature cannon, but also an appendix that captures the spirit of the earlier Prussian Kriegspiel.