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Kriegsspiel with Figures

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Kriegsspiel with Figures

Post  henridecat on Wed Jan 28, 2009 1:29 pm

Discussion copied from Yahoo Group.
We have a real range of views here although the recent mails seem to prefer to weight the whole exercise in favour of a (preferably balanced) tabletop battle.

Since the last thing that the real generals were looking for was a balanced battle then I find this search to be the "tail wagging the dog" rather than the approach march game to be the tailwagging bit.

My personal prefeence is for a game about the approach march. I will admit that I am biased against figures ever since I ran a Wargame Developments session about the Teutoburger Forest battle of AD9. This was going well until I deployed a column of 5mm figures to demonstrate how far a Roman legion would stretch in column of march. The session collapsed as people started talking about the figures, the painting etc. Ever since I have used counters, cardboard, spray painted symbolic figures - anything but painted soldiers!

Andy Grainger
Indeed as I hinted, I've pretty much given up all hope of a suitable method of combining figures with the kriegsspiel idea. I regret now airing the thought, let me clarify my position,
- an ill-balanced Kriegsspiel about the armies marching, deploying and maintaining their communications is a far more stimulating exercise than any 'big figure battle'.

I have to say that Andy is spot on when he says "last thing that the real generals were looking for was a balanced battle".

Richard Madder
The only way to really combine figures and kriegsspiel would seem, to
me anyway, to have three tables. The master table for the umpires,
and one each for the red and blue players. This is, of course, not a
novel idea in any way, shape or form.

It would be easy to take the Reisswitz combat mechanisms and movement
rates and apply them to a run of the mill figure based rule set,
however I do feel that this would be missing the key central
ingredient that makes kriegsspeil such an interesting and "enjoyable"
(should that be excruciatingly frustrating) experience; namely the
uncertainty and associated friction.

As a game designer I believe that there are some mechanisms in
Reisswitz, and I am sure that this applies equally to later versions,
that stand head and shoulders above what ranks as the accepted norm
within wargames rules generally. It is possible to lift some of these
concepts and use them. Indeed I have done just that with several rule


Richard Clarke
Good day Gamers!

Keeping Sight of the Goal.

Wargames with figures is a chance for individuals to revel in the assembly of poses, uniforms and scenery adding some excitement through the interaction of the figures with those of the layout, the perceived elements and interaction with the opponent.

I welcome the idea of a pre-played game in which the fore-play decides to some extent the compositions of the units - the acquisitions of supplies, the recruitment of conscripts, denial to the enemy or gaining of allies or information. Setting the scene. Getting the blood up. The juices flowing. In the end however the game is played out with as many of the players' figures as possible in order to achieve the spectacle which is ultimately what the actual game is about.

3 tables or one, concentrating on the day - on the game itself is the desirable result. The mini campaign has been played out and there is now more of a reason to play than just to eliminate the opponent or reach the other side with as many as possible. Bearing in mind that there may well be off board actions which am umpire may wish to have detailed on a map set aside from which notes may be sent to 'commanders' in the field.

Indeed note sending and withholding and presenting information to players on a need to know basis is one mechanism that further heightens the 'tease' aspect of the game. In conventional gaming we know how many casualties have been caused and the reaction tests are rolled in front of the opposing player to ensure fairness as if in a competition. With 'trust' this is not necessary. As long as the player knows how the mechanism works and uses the umpire if he is not sure, the reactions of units need only be revealed after the opponent has had their turn (not before as is common) as there would almost certainly not have been time for orders to be changed on the basis of what may only just have happened. And so on. The delicate re-assembly of conventional rules is possible once the players have some of the control of the game taken from them. This increases player enjoyment (mostly as it is closer to the Kriegspiel ideal) and reduces 'competitiveness' which is not what we as a group are about.

If someone who is willing to discuss the prep work that is needed to organise such a game then I would be delighted. I personally do not play wargames in a club nor Kriegspiel as regularly as I might, but feel that here we have an opportunity to stage something which may well be very enjoyable - if out of the box of conventional Kriegspiel, and which may give writers of rules an opporinity to try out ideas.

John Acs
Since evidently many KSers are not miniatures gamers, maybe I’d better do some clarifying too.

If in my earlier post I referred to a balanced battle I misspoke – I meant a balanced game. By that I mean one where it is possible for either side (or sometimes even both) to achieve a particular measurable objective, which gives you a way of judging whether your decisions were good ones. I regularly fight unbalanced battles where it is obvious that one side is going to lose in that they will eventually be driven from the field by a superior force. The question then would typically be whether they can inflict enough casualties on the enemy, or hold on for long enough, to be considered to have done well.

Certainly a cleverly constructed and lavishly umpired Kriegsspiel would always be my preferred game, but they demand a lot of time and effort both in the preparation and the execution. I don’t know how many KSs any of you get in during a year, but I manage to fight a tabletop battle close to once a week. These are always based on actual historical battles, usually with some surprises, and always presenting interesting tactical and command challenges for the players. (And I never touch the sterile balanced-points tournament games – to me that is a different hobby entirely! There has to be a scenario.)

Chris Pringle

Actually you only need two tables, providing you have a sufficiently large screen in between to block observation.

I¢ve umpired some good games with identical terrain on both tables and two identical sets of troops for each side. You then only place on the table what the opposing player has moved into view and then take it off again if it moves out of line of sight.

Umpires have to be cleaver and approach the table from false directions in case there¢s any chance of being seen by the other side but its good fun to look deeply in thought, checking lines of sight for first one player and then the other, when actually there¢s nothing going on in a particular part of the table at all!

It's a good way of playing if only one room is available, providing it¢s big enough, of course.

David Commerford
I have found that checking line of sight with mirrors works well, the object 'to be seen' needs to appear on the bottom edge of the mirror to be visible to units on the table. It works wonderfully with microtanks where even subtle terrain can mask units that from above appear to be in sight of one another. The small make up mirrors ladies used (without any frames) work best. Plastic ones are not as good as they distort or become opaque too easily.

John Acs
An excellent point (reply to Chris Pringle)

There seems to eb no eason why KS can not be played more often as there are plenty of existing scenarios to try or to replay which with simple modifications like repositioning of the unit start positions, will result in a completely different outcome.

John Acs
Lines of sight in table games.
"The small make up mirrors ladies used (without any
frames) work best"
I use dentist's type mirrors, about 1" diameter, which
seem to be ubiquitously available now from cheep tool
stalls at county shows. You can get them with
telescopic handles up to 3 feet long (Used by dentists
for patients with halitosis?) For microtanks they
give about the same view you could expect from a tank
periscope - lousy!

Paul Wisken

Posts : 135
Join date : 2008-12-10

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Re: Kriegsspiel with Figures

Post  henridecat on Wed Jan 28, 2009 1:32 pm

When I umpire games by e-mail I do the tactical part with
figures. Mostly because it makes it more interesting for me
than merely rolling a dice and consulting a table of results.
It also makes it much harder to overlook a unit, compared to
trying to remember off a map where everyone is. I let players
who can "see" portions of the battlefield have a digital
picture, appropriately cropped.

I'm not sure in general about trying to Kriegsspiel a double-
sided game on a table with figures though. In my games, and I
imagine everyone else's in this group, a unit may be seen to be
going forwards or backwards, but their actual reasons for this
will often be unclear (they might be routing, they might be
retiring in good order, they may have run out of ammo, they
might have misunderstood orders). That would be hard to
replicate on a table with a player watching, because the player
would recognise where in the game sequence the event occurred,
etc. For example, if the game has a 5" rout move, but only a 3"
retire move (as my rules do), the morale state is immediately
obvious if you are close enough to observe the changing
position (which you certainly cannot from low-angle photos).

However, I think with a suitable group you might be able to
work certain limited scenarios.

I have thought that if all the players are WWII Germans facing
a planned Soviet offensive, then it might be done on a table
with relative success. The Soviets will basically obey their
orders to the letter, with the umpire taking limited rolls for
any chances for individual initiative. Almost all the German
figures could be placed on the table (obviously those out of
sight and radio contact might be omitted) while only known
Soviet ones would be seen.

Likewise, an ancient game might be played with all the players
on one side commanding a "battle" each, while the other side
(being the one with less iniative presumably) would be run on
auto-pilot with carefully programmed responses. Players would
be able to observe the positions only at the end of each move,
and issue orders, but would have to leave while movement and
calculations took place. Enemy units seen only at a distance
would be indicated only by generic "cavalry" or "infantry" to
avoid excessive knowledge.

While not perfect, I think with care it might give a decent
game, yet retain much of the frustration of imperfect knowledge
and communication of a genuine KS. It might be a gentle way to
introduce gamers to KS in stages. Naturally, the rules used
would need to have something like simultaneous moves, not
IGoUGo, and have regular ground scales: thereby ruling out a
very large number of popular tabletop rulesets.

Mark Plant
Off Board

Off board planning I have done in the past using numbered and coloured stickers in an acetate sheet coverign a map the advantage being that all the materials are inexpensive, can be stored behind furniture if needed, the information is permanently recorded till deliberately altered and any map can be used.

On the subject of movement that can be seen by other players, it is possible to delay a move simply on the basis that the opponent would not be able to see it so the cavalry which is changing flank appears to be on the left as the most recent scouted or spied information suggests this as do the 'as luck would have it' dice if used not to mention line of sight. The cavalry is recorded as not beign where it appears but emerger several 'moves' away in a subsequent turn unless information has got to the opposing command to suggest they are not where they had been thought to be. Effectively this is off board movement where former line of sight has now been obscured to mask a movement.

Also orders are delayed in execution depending on the time it takes for them to be delivered or interpreted or indeed on the reluctance of the officer present to initiate the change or his troops comply.

This all leads to a more complex game than simply you 'get what you see'.
It is the combination of what can be seen and the uncertainly of what is not visible but known of is what makes Kriegspiel work so well. Figures on a wargames table look good - 'picturesque' - but the figures do no more than represent information. This is not chess. It is chess with one hand behing your back and one eye blindfoded with someone switching the lights off and on at random.

I enjoyed umpiring Kriegspiel as it was as exciting as playing and tabletop when used imaginatively is no different.

The IGoUGo principle is also one discussed as being one where opposingplayers play at their own pace irrespective of their neighbours who are also sharing the same table 'field'. SOme pairs play faster than others but the game flows wonderfully if any of you have tired it.

John Acs

Posts : 135
Join date : 2008-12-10

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Re: Kriegsspiel with Figures

Post  hamrock on Sun Feb 08, 2009 10:39 am

I'm currently commissioning a range of 28mm 1/56th scale figures to cover the period of the late 1840-50's. These will probably not be commercially available. However I'm prepared to make them available to members of this group if they wish. First up will be Prussian infantry circa 1849. They are being designed by Richard Ansell. I have done these to reflect the KS period in particular, as I love the tactical element after a map game.

Just let me know if you are interested and I'll be in touch


Paul Smile


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Join date : 2009-01-29

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Re: Kriegsspiel with Figures

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