Kriegsspiel (War Games)
The Prussian Army made use of tactical war games to educate their officers and prepare them for strategic thinking on the battlefield.
Lieutenant Georg Leopold von Reiswitz created the first piece of hardware for war gaming: a wooden table top on which pieces were laid and game play carried out. A set of drawers underneath stored the game pieces, including modular landscape tiles of rivers, mountains, and plains that could reconstitute the battleground of each scenario, figures to move across the playing field, and dice to determine the action.
Many of the rules and features of Reiswitz’s Kriegsspiel remain foundations of fantasy war games and RPGs today: the visualization of the battleground as game world, inclusion of a neutral third-party player who interpreted the outcome of each turn (Reiswitz called this player the “confidant,” but we know him as the game master or Dungeon Master of modern games), and rules that restricted player communications to enhance the realism of the experience by encouraging role playing, not just strategic thinking.
Reiswitz’s table-top game became a mainstay of officer training in the Prussian army. As their victories and successful military campaigns mounted, several other European countries adopted the war gaming method to instruct their officer class in military strategy. But it wasn’t only in military practice that Reiswitz’s creation took hold. The excitement of enacting a live battle scenario in which opponents’ skills pitted them against one another and against the chance outcomes possible in play pushed the game into popular use, introducing the concept of interactive tactical gaming that continues to be popular today.
- Author : Georg Leopold von Reiswitz
- Credits : Courtesy of the Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin Brandenburg
- Formats : Game