This article is published as part of a Georgetown University Wargaming Society and Divergent Options Call for Papers on Wargaming which ran from May 1, 2021 to June 12, 2021. More information about this Call for Papers can be found by clicking here.
Colonel (Generalstaff) Soenke Marahrens has served in the German Airforce since 1987. Now he serves as Head of Research for Strategy and Forces. He presently works at the German Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies in Hamburg. He can be found on Twitter at @cdr2012neu. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.
Title: Assessing the Impact of a Kriegsspiel 2.0 in Modern Leadership and Command Training.
Date Originally Written: May 1, 2021.
Date Originally Published: May 17, 2021.
Author and / or Article Point of View: The author is an active German military member with General Staff officer training. The author believes in wargaming as tool to teach leadership and command. He has written two master theses on the topic of the Prussian Wargame at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) in Kingston, Ontario, and the University of the Armed Forces in Hamburg. Over the last four years the author observed and took part in a multiple Prussian-Kriegsspiel-sessions with civilian and military students run by the University of Würzburg. The article is written from the point of view of a senior German officer towards military education and training and reflect his personal views.
Summary: The Prussian Kriegsspiel was introduced in 1824 to educate and train officers in leadership and command in an interactive setting. Providing a fair and unbiased platform, it allows for modern forms of tutoring, mentoring, self-learning, and competence-based learning. However, without a moderate digitalization and conceptual makeover, the Kriegsspiel will not reach its full potential.
Text: When Lieutenant v. Reisswitz presented his Kriegsspiel to the Chief of Defence General von Müffling in 1824, he couldn’t know, that his ideas would last forever. His Kriegsspiel allowed two parties of one or more players to solve military tasks under the adjudication of a neutral umpire. This neutral umpire oversaw running the simulation on a master map, executing orders of the parties, resolving battles, creating reports and providing feedback after the game.
Reisswitz’ Kriegsspiel wasn’t the first of its kind. In his introduction he mentioned military games back to the old Greeks, but his “Kriegsspiel” – war game is the direct translation of the German word – was new in two regards: a. using a real-world map in 1:8000 scale and b. rolling dice to decide outcomes and losses. Reisswitz’ Kriegsspiel challenged its players with a geographically correct battlefield merged with dice-driven randomness, what Clausewitz would 1832 call friction and the fog of war. Reisswitz’ intent was to create an instructional tool rather than a game, he wrote: “Anyone, who can manoeuvre naturally and calmly, can quickly appreciate the idea of a plan, and follow it through logically, can make the most of good luck and adjust to bad luck, fully deserves approval. The winning or losing, in the sense of a card or board game, does not come into it.”
Following the dissemination of the Kriegsspiel to all Prussian Regiments by personal order of the king, Reisswitz’ rule set was revised. The first revision was by a group of young Prussian officers from 1826 – 1827, who published their findings as a Supplement in 1828. The next revision came around 1846-1848, when the Wargaming-Societies of Magdeburg and Berlin updated the von Reisswitz rules in accordance with the technological advancements for artillery guns and infantry rifles. In 1862, Lieutenant von Tschischwitz merged both rule sets into one abbreviated new rule set and published updates in 1867, 1870 and 1874. Tschischwitz’ rule set started a renaissance of the Kriegsspiel in Prussia, which was attributed to the Prussian Victories. Around 1873 Lieutenant von Meckel, a lecturer at the Kriegsschule in Hannover, criticised publicly, that the rigid use of dice and rules would diminish the personality of the umpire. Lieutenant von Meckel’s criticism led to the creation of the “free” Kriegsspiel by Colonel Count Verdy du This Vernois, who discarded the dice.
Despite the discarding, the use of the dice and strict rules make the “rigid” Kriegsspiel a “fair” game for all players, unfortunately, adjudication by dice is a complex and time-consuming task for the umpire, deeming it almost unplayable. The freeplay -without dice and rules- Kriegsspiel occurs much faster but has become dependent on the personality and bias of the umpire, increasing the risk of fostering flattering behavior instead of intellectual debate amongst the players. The Kriegsspiel, even with its rigid use of dice, remains valuable for a variety of reasons.
1. The Kriegsspiel creates more immersion, engagement, and sustainability than any other classroom teaching on leadership and command.
2. While its use of historic artillery, infantry, and cavalry seems a rather artefactual approach to war, this approach:
a. Creates enough complexity to demonstrate the challenges to leadership and command as the coordination of space, time, and forces through information.
b. Minimizes discussions on the realism of rules, assets, and capabilities in its rigid version.
c. Is still close enough to war to discuss moral factors like impact of losses or moral hazards like winning for any price. Despite this
d. Risks “gamer mode behavior,” where players use game features like rules or limits of the underlying model to reach their given aims.
3. The Kriegsspiel allows players to experience a real Observe-Orient-Decide-Act loop without a determined outcome while confronting a smart enemy, which fosters and promotes creative thinking. While the Kriegsspiel was traditionally just for officers, it can be used today to train all ranks.
4. The Kriegsspiel is particularly valuable as it reinforces the vanishing skills of map reading.
5. Through simple modifications, like adding levels of command or using staff setups, any aspects of leadership and command competencies can be self-experienced. Through Kriegsspiel the philosophy and principles of Auftragstaktik (which is more than leader centric mission command) can be taught and trained effectively.
6. Beyond its military applicability, Reisswitz’ Kriegsspiel is a military cultural property like Carl von Clausewitz “On War,” and should be preserved as a part of history.
However, to be relevant as a training tool for a modern environment and to overcome above-mentioned deficiencies, Kriegsspiel requires get a careful makeover through digitalization and some didactical concept work. A Kriegsspiel 2.0 would include a digital messaging system and digital umpire support system to accelerate move adjudication to that rules such as “One move equals two minutes” can be permanently observed. Kriegsspiel 2.0 would have an instructor’s book with specific (didactical) concepts and proposals for e.g. “How to teach Auftragstaktik” or objective skill assessment tables for superiors, tutors, mentors, or human resource evaluators, to prevent single impression evaluations. Due to its proven stability, Kriegsspiel 2.0 will have a rule set from around 1870 (e.g., v. Tschischwitz, 1870), also translated into English by Baring 1872. In this modern version of Kriegsspiel the rule sets can be further simplified due to the absence of expert knowledge on tactics and procedures on the player level. Moving beyond these envisioned minimums for Kriegsspiel 2.0, eventual versions could use augmented reality and virtual reality technologies. These technologies would:
1. Reduce the efforts of providing and maintaining a physical Kriegsspiel apparatus.
2. Enable the players to learn the basics of how to act, fight and lead in a modern virtual environment, and possibly enable experimentation with artificial intelligence as a part of leadership and command and control.
History has proven the value of the Kriegsspiel. An evolving security environment will force its adaptation to a modern world. Beyond this article, the author is working on a prototype for Kriegsspiel KS 2.0, and his results and experience will be reported.
 Prof. Dr Jorit Wintjes, University of Würzburg is currently the only German Professor researching the Prussian Wargame. He was the scientific supervisor for the two co-master thesis’ of the author of this article. He has published a variety on articles on the Prussian Kriegsspiel e.g. Wintjes, Jorit (2017). When a Spiel is not a Game: The Prussian Kriegsspiel from 1824 to 1871, in: Vulcan 5., 5-28. 22.
 Georg Heinrich Rudolf Johann v. Reisswitz (1794 -1827)
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