Frequently Asked Questions
I just came across Kriegsspiel, now I have questions!
People who have just come across Kriegsspiel often wonder the same things and ask the same questions. Here are some short answers to the most regularly asked questions to provide an overview for newcomers. Links to additional background information provide a wide range of further information.
If you have any questions about Kriegsspiel, please feel invited to contact us and ask right away, either via e-mail or by joining the community on our Discord server or Facebook group. Our members are eager to help out new players and make the entry into the hobby as easy as possible for you.
Do I have a place in the hobby?
The International Kriegsspiel Society is an open, welcoming, inclusive and diverse community. Wargaming and especially Kriegsspiel as we understand it focus on people, diversity of thought and perspectives, on learning from others, and reflecting about preconceptions and established concepts of thought.
Our mission is to preserve Kriegsspiel, to make it accessible to enthusiasts, hobbyists and practitioners, to provide extensive resources to study and play Kriegsspiel, and to contribute to the development of new Kriegsspiel systems.
In order to reach these goals, we encourage every person interested to learn more about and play Kriegsspiel to join the community, no matter their experience level, social, educational, or religious background, age, or gender. Although we keep being positively surprised by the communication culture of our community, our moderation policy is dedicated to firmly ensure that this remains to be the case.
You do not have to speak English fluently, we will try our best to enable you to play and have a great experience nonetheless.
What is Kriegsspiel?
Kriegspiel is truly unlike any other game. It emphasizes the human element: the scout’s dispatch, the levy’s unease or the misinterpreted order. Some describe it as the Dungeons and Dragons of wargames where all actions are processed by the umpire (game master).
The game is played double-blind to create fog of war, with simultaneous movement, message and order delay, and thus creates a limitless and versatile game environment. The players are issuing orders which are interpreted by the umpire, and trying to piece together the battlefield with the limited information given – just like their real-life 19th century counterparts in the command post would do.
Although being the “mother of wargames” and most often military themed, Kriegsspiel is first of all about people, not about war. Playing Kriegsspiel is very special and can be tense, but is a highly rewarding learning experience as well.
Is it just another tactical game?
Historically, Kriegsspiel was designed and introduced as a training tool for officers in the Prussian army of the 19th century with the purpose of providing a teaching aid simulating tactical situations without having to actually conduct field maneuvers.
The core aspects to be taught are command and control in combat situations, the friction of orders, command confusion and delays, and the assessment of tactical situations based on incomplete data. The dilemma of making decisions with impartial information, writing clear, concise orders and properly utilizing command and control in a time of horse-riding messengers.
To get an idea of the challenges of Kriegsspiel, we suggest taking a look at our Kriegsspiel Problems and After Action Reports of previous games played by community members.
What do I need to play?
At the IKS we use Discord, which is freely available as smartphone app, computer software, and even accessible via your internet browser, and works as a forum, text and voice chat at the same time, and Tabletop Simulator, a commercial virtual game table available via Steam, for map and game pieces.
Since the player issues verbal or written commands and keeps track of the situation based on umpire screenshots and reports, Tabletop Simulator is not mandatory to play with us. We recommend it for better overview, but you can perfectly play by using graphic editing software, such as MS Paint, GIMP, Photoshop or others, to keep track of your units and make plans, or just with a picture of the map and the reports provided.
Of course there are no dues nor fees, you can join and play for free. If you have any questions during a game, ask your umpire or more experienced players, they would be happy to help you out.
Uhlans (lancers) occupying a town.
Game setup and photograph by Ernest Stewart.
Do I have to know military history?
No. It will certainly help to know a bit about the respective historical period represented in a given game, and to have a basic understanding of strategy and tactics. However, this is not necessary at all to participate and play in a game.
Kriegsspiel is a learning experience. Players learn about themselves, about others, about reflecting their approaches to a given challenge, to develop an understanding of different perspectives, to think out of the box. And they also learn about history and tactics.
Our community is eager to help new players in any regards and answer questions on Kriegsspiel and the historical conditions taken into account. Historical research and discussion and discussions on historically informed Kriegsspiel rulesets are an important part of activities. And you are very welcome to participate and learn together with us.
Where do I find the rules?
There is quite a significant number of different historical rulesets, some are available for free, others being republished and sold. An overview of what might be the most impactful of them is assembled in the resources section of this website.
The rules are used by umpires and are best left unknown to the player. You should not bother about the rules, if you are a new player. This is due to the fact that Kriegsspiel is not meant to be “gamed” like other boardgames or digital games. Conveniently, Kriegsspiel being processed by umpires (game masters) spares players from learning any rules at all and the entry barrier is thus rather low.
The IKS employs a number of different rulesets, all of which serve different purposes, represent different command levels or historical periods, or emphasize different aspects of warfare or command issues. However, only a few have been written down and published, because they keep constantly being modified. Each umpire uses different rules or adheres to them to different degrees.
How much time is needed to play?
Usually, Open Saturday live games tend to take about four hours, sometimes up to 6 hours, seldomly more. This depends on player count and player to umpire ratio the system used and the specific scenario (map size, number of units and commands, the type of objectives for each sides) and whether the scenario is well prepared or more of an ad-hoc creation. Because the debriefing discussion is such an important part of the game, players optimally participate from start to finish, however sometimes umpires make it possible for late comers to join a running game, and if players have to leave early, that’s just how it is.
If you cannot commit such a period of time in one sitting, there are numerous play-by-post games which usually allow to give orders within a few days, before another turn is resolved.
Are there in-person games?
The IKS is an online community. Our official games are being organised exclusively on the internet, because it is the only way to make sure everybody can join and play without having to pay a fortune to travel around the world.
However, we encourage our members to organise in-person games, if they like to. On our custom Google map, members can add a little pin to indicate their (approximate) location, with those who have physical pieces and are ready to umpire in-person games marked in green to make coordination easier. You can contact those members on our Discord server. If you are not a member and looking for a game to be run for an organisation or any other context, please contact us via e-mail.