I took time off to go down to Richmond and the Museum of the Confederacy on Friday the 6 February to participate in this decision making exercise as a guest of the Marine Corps Expeditionary Warfare School (EWS)-(I was a student of Amphibious Warfare School 1990-91). Every once and a while, I also volunteer to teach in their advanced warfighting seminar on Thursday nights because half of the 40 students in the seminar are Army captains, and it is another opportunity to mentor and teach these future leaders.
The German General Staff used Kriegspiel in the late 19th Century as a method of educating commanders and their staffs regarding their duties during wartime. We played the August 1862 campaign in central and northern Virginia (I used Kriegspiel when I ran the Maneuver Warfare club at Georgetown ROTC). The centerpiece is a referee and simple rules (I have the entire packet if you are interested in seeing what you have to do to run it). But the referee or umpire, has to be incredibly knowledgeable of war to provide information of the particulars of the scenario. The umpire has to constantly make on the spot comments to the opposing sides on what they likely see, and how combat is resolved. I played the Assistant Adjutant General (AAG)(Civil War Ops officer) to General John Pope (played by instructor Phil Gibbons).
There were 12 students three instructors from EWS and what everyone called advisors or game experts (Dr. Bruce Gudmundsson, Mr. Bill Lind, COL Eric Walters and myself).
My AAR comments:
1. Kriegspiel is still a valuable learning tool. This would be a great tool for implementation into a leader-centric course or school curriculum. This can be easily facilitated on a 1 to 16 ratio with very little logistics involved. I would suggest this type of exercise be conducted prior to a staff ride for added overall value to the curriculum. Just the takeaways for the decision making
process alone makes this a very valuable tool.
2. The game enhanced the students’ understanding of timeless elements of the nature of war such as friction, uncertainty and the fog of war. They had to react in time pressure to the situations that the umpire updated each turn without being able to see the full extent of the enemy’s movements.
3. It also furthered the students understanding of Maneuver Warfare through Kriegspiel game demonstrated the value of commander’s intent and flexible planning (we met and planned before hand using CW maps, with exact copies of the dispatches that they used and order of battle (it was a division level game with cavalry brigades). We then began playing using day long turns (the umpire Civil War historian John Hancock (no relation) did an outstanding job painting pictures of what we might have seen as the game progressed). Dr. Hancock also had to take our movement orders every turn and dispatches and interpret them and then turn them around for our use in the game. Sometimes, due to time now movement of couriers, information was one or two days old (great at teaching friction, fog and the use of imagination when writing out orders-in anticipation of what you want to achieve as well as the enemy’s movements).
4. For the faculty and the future leaders (I will send the material and rules to several Army institutions that are now using ALM), the Kriegspiel added value as a potential tool for conducting a force on force exercise in the schoolhouse or in units in the future (we had a good AAR at the end of the day talking about these lessons).
5. It requires little overhead and cost. A competent umpire could prepare the materials needed in a couple of hours, including a map for each command group, and intelligence updates (both fiction and real), as well as strategic orders in the beginning. I played this three times (using modern, WWII and a Civil War scenario) at Georgetown ROTC with the cadets using maps of the Fort AP Hill area.
6. Building teamwork-the ability to get a group of new commanders and staff together and work the decision making process. The added fog of war simulated by the delay of orders and confusion created throughout the evolution was excellent. This could be an extremely valuable tool for battle staffs during workups to help speed up the process of getting familiar with working with each other. It was an added bonus to have the more experienced players mentor the junior players through the process. I’m sure this added to the success
of the day.
Who won? Well the game ended in a draw because of time (the museum closed at 1700 and we had began at 1030). Pope’s Army of Virginia (Union) had concentrated in the area of Culpeper VA and “we” were trying to attack the flank and rear of Jackson’s corps (CSA) approaching Manassas Junction, while Longstreet’s corps (CSA) was marching up from Fredricksburg to link up with Jackson; and General George McClellan (US) was landing at Alexandria with three corps (the umpire played McClellan and kept refusing to assist us (as really happened).
Overall, I had a really good time interacting with the students and instructors. Then, afterward, the museum staff allowed us to stay 30 minutes and showed us their private collections in the basement, which included the side arms and uniforms of many famous Civil War generals. If you want to take a nice day trip, the Museum of the Confederacy is a very interesting place to see (beside the Confederate White House in the middle of VCU).
Take Care, Don