(Or at least how I do it.)
My idea is to give players a sense of the problems facing a general
commanding a regiment- to division-level force in the early 20th
Century. Not all the problems, naturally, since you do not have to be
tired, hungry, shot at or stressed by superiors in order to play
– though it might help add to the realism. No, just the
trying to achieve a mission when faced with incomplete or inaccurate
information, recalcitrant subordinates and realistic time delays.
The basic idea is that of Kriegsspiel, except that the players will be
much lower level commanders than historically associated with those
games. Partly this is because few actions in the Pygmy Wars pitted more
than a division a side, but mainly because it allows the players much
more direct contact with the troops – they can see them much
of the time, even if it takes some minutes (or hours) for messages to
relayed. The games have more of a table-top wargames feel, and less of
a board-game one. It also allows us to ignore anything other than the
most elementary issues of book-keeping, supply, engineering or
reporting through command structures – the games are not
"campaigns" but battles.
Most games are based on historical actions. That means few encounter
battles and that not all games will be even. Therefore while a side
will have more or less clear objectives, and obviously some chance of
achieving them, there will be no victory points calculated and no
winner or loser – just a result. I keep scenario surprises to
a minimum: what might add interest to a table-top encounter –
third parties, unexpected reinforcements etc – are likely to
annoying as they are unreal. Of course there will be lots of surprises,
it is just that they will arise from the players’ actions and
the troops’ reactions, not from nasty tricks embedded in the
scenario. Examples will be posted to my scenario section of this site,
after I have used them.
No prior wargaming experience is required, although an understanding of
how the military worked in 1919 and the capabilities of troops and
weapons is an obvious bonus.
My intention is that a player should be able to do anything his real
life counterpart might do and nothing he could not, except when I bend
this rule a bit in order to increase the players’ enjoyment.
The mechanics of the game take third place behind these requirements
fun and historical accuracy.
There will be only one player per side (although people are welcome to
play as a team, the scenarios do not suit command structures of real
Game turns, once the fighting starts, generally represent about 20
minutes of elapsed time and a game will likely take 12 to 20 turns.
Players can send their orders in whatever format they like, including
sketch maps. I prefer to have a move every day (except at the
weekends) or every other day. A quick-moving game is much more
immediate, and also makes it much easier for participants to fit a game
into whatever real life "windows" are available.
A commitment to sending orders in on time is the only thing I ask,
because delays are annoying. Since a move will normally only take the
players a few minutes, it is more a matter of committing to doing it
rather than taking hours of the day. The book-keeping element is
basically zero at the player’s end.
Fog of war
I provide to the player information he might reasonably have
– written, visual and oral – and at the same time
as he would
actually get it. The situation reports that a commander gets will
reflect what the officers below him know and if he needs other
information then he will have to act in order to obtain it. If the
commander can see a battle in front of him, then I will supply a photo
which represents that (within the limits of how much toy soldiers can
represent reality, of course).
Since a general’s staff is, in essence, an extension of his
will, players will have a larger radius of action than a single person
manage. This includes the ability to receive and issue more orders in a
move than one person could manage. But if a general ventures away from
his HQ support – to scout personally, inspire the troops or
lead a charge – then his ability to issue written orders will
correspondingly reduced (not to mention the difficulty of messengers
finding him). Still, a player can charge at the head of his cavalry
without losing all control, because he can choose to leave his staff
behind to run the battle.
Part of doing everything a commander has to do is all the small things
omitted from normal table-top encounters: setting scout-lines,
communicating with HQ, determining sleeping quarters and such. Your
subordinates can be expected to organise themselves sensibly within the
limits of their knowledge so long as you provide basic guidelines
– you do not need to micro-manage every decision –
but if you do not issue orders then you will have to live with the
your subordinates make.
Signing up to play
Anyone is welcome to sign up to play (although there are often long
gaps between when I can fit in a game). Just send me an e-mail (see my contact page
There is quite an active little kriegsspielling community in England,
and a Yahoo discussion group dedicated to it as well. Elsewhere,
players are more scattered. Lots of information about this and other
Kriegsspiel related items is at:
(this will open in a new window)