Kriegsspiel (lit: "war play"), from the German word for wargame, was a system used for training officers in the Prussian army. The first set of rules was created in 1812 and named Instructions for the Representation of Tactical Maneuvers under the Guise of a Wargame. It was originally produced and developed further by Lieutenant Georg Leopold von Reiswitz and his son Georg Heinrich Rudolf von Reiswitz of the Prussian Army.
Reiswitz's system for simulating war was initially based around a specially designed table which he created for his King Friedrich Wilhelm III. The table (see photos on page 65, 67, 69 and 70) divided the game field into a grid system, a core element of many later wargame and roleplaying systems, and included different pre-cast terrain types used in modular combinations, as well as making use of special gaming pieces and dice. Reiswitz' system also included the methods to simulate fog of war and communication difficulties, and a position of what he called a 'confidant', an impartial third party calculating and assessing the moves, analogous to the modern gamemaster.
The rules set, which was modified several times established several conventions for wargaming which hold true to the present day, such as the use of maps, color-coding the opposing armies as red and blue, using umpires, and uniform, complex rules for movement and combat. Map scale was 1:8000 (though Georg Leopold von Reisswitz' initial design used a 1:2373 scale), and the time scale was 2 minutes per one turn. Blocks were used to represent units, which had different movement speeds (measured with the use of special compass) and which could even engage in short sprints. In addition to the 'gamemaster', a total of up to 10 players could play (with two sides in the conflict). The rules assumed a hierarchy of command between the different players, and even stipulated that if different units were out of sight of each other, players were not allowed to communicate commands.
These German wargames were implemented by Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, Chief of Prussian General Staff. Moltke made several reforms to the Prussian military with the backing of Otto von Bismarck. The reforms including Kriegsspiel were the first of its kind; lending priority to education. As a result, this allowed Prussian officers to become more independent and responsible.
After its initial development, this particular style of wargaming became very popular among the Prussian Army officer corps. After numerous successful Prussian campaigns in the late 1800s, Kriegsspiel became more widely adopted by many militaries.
Kriegsspiel is still played today in both its original format and more free-style games, as proposed by Verdy du Vernois in the 1890s. Both the original 1824 rules by von Reisswitz, the supplementary 1862 rules by von Tschischwitz and several ancillary products such as maps are still published in English by TooFatLardies, a wargames publishing company in England. Much of the renaissance enjoyed by Kriegsspiel is due to Bill Leeson's translation of the original German text in the early 1980s and his promotion of the system in the wargames hobby press.
Similarly named games
The French filmmaker Guy Debord designed his own game called "Kriegspiel" (one s has been dropped) in 1977 that was later adapted to an online game. Despite Debord's use of the title, however, his game bears no real resemblance to the Prussian military tradition of Kriegsspiel. It has more in common with early Avalon Hill and SPI wargames, such as Tactics II and Blitzkrieg, as well as military-themed chess variants.
A chess variant called Kriegspiel was developed, which applied Kriegsspiel's fog of war concept to chess.
- Lischka, Konrad (22 June 2009). "Wie preußische Militärs den Rollenspiel-Ahnen erfanden". Der Spiegel (in German). Retrieved 15 February 2010.
- Pias, Claus (19 February 2004). Vogel, Josef, ed. Computer Spiel Welten (PhD Thesis) (in German). Weimar: Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. pp. 173–174.
- Schramm, Helmar; Schwarte, Ludger; and Lazardzig, Jan. Collection, Laboratory, Theater: Scenes of Knowledge in the 17th Century. Walter de Gruyter, 2005.
- v. Reisswitz Kriegsspiel 1824 pg 13
- Kaplan, Michael; Ellen Kaplan (2006). "10". Chances Are... (first ed.). London: Penguin. pp. 245–6. ISBN 978-0-14-303834-4.