Tag Archives: Kriegsspiel

A Tale of Two Wargames

I first conceived of General Staff as a very simple, introductory wargame that might be the first real wargame to be released for the Xbox (clearly, an under-served market). However, two things stopped this plan dead in its tracks: first Microsoft closed down the independent online games channel for Xbox and then, after being approached by a major wargame publisher, I was told that there was, “no market for wargames on the Xbox,” however a new version of my UMS series, could, “sell 25,000 units in its first year.”

So, I went back to the proverbial drawing board but I also asked you, the Grognards, what kind of a game you wanted. And here are the results:

Clearly, almost as many people want a simple, Kriegsspiel type game as want a complex military simulation.

After pondering this conundrum I had an epiphany: ‘simple’ wargames and ‘complex simulations’ actually share about 80% of the same code and data. Why not make a wargame that the user can decide which he wants to play? Sometimes people aren’t up for hours long complex simulations; other times people are.

Screen capture from General Staff showing the set up for ‘Simulation’ mode (note the button in the upper-left hand corner). Click to enlarge.

In the above screen capture the user has selected ‘Simulation’ mode. Note that there are headquarters units displayed. Headquarters play an important role in General Staff in simulation mode. All orders are given through the commanding general to the subordinate commander (via courier) and then (again via courier) to the actual unit. For example:

In this screen capture an order from Marshal Beresford will take 8 minutes of game time to be delivered to ths subordinate commander. (Click to enlarge)

It will take 8 minutes for the courier to ride from Marshal Beresford headquarters to the subordinate’s headquarters.

It will take an additional 6 minutes for a courier to deliver the order to the subordinate infantry unit. Click to enlarge.

Additional time (based on the headquarter’s Leadership value) will be added before the next courier is dispatched to deliver the order to the infantry unit. So for a command to go from Marshal Beresford, to Major General Stewart to Colborne’s Brigade will take a minimum of 14 minutes of game time plus additional time penalties based on the leadership abilities of Beresford and Stewart.

Detailed information about a unit in Simulation mode. Even the number of volleys remaining are tracked. Click to enlarge.

Lastly, the leadership of Colborne’s Brigade is used to calculate how quickly the unit will act upon the received orders. This is an example of the detailed Simulation mode for General Staff.

However, in Kreigsspiel mode,  all headquarters units are removed and the user issues orders directly to the units that immediately respond to the commands.

General Staff in Kreigsspiel mode. Note the button in the upper left-hand corner, headquarters units have been removed and unit strength is either 1,2,3 or 4.

Also, all unit information except a simple value (1-4) is ignored. Kriegsspiel mode is the simple, introductory wargame that I originally envisioned.


Gameplay Surveys 1 & 2 Results.

We just ran two Gameplay Surveys to find out exactly what kind of units and unit structures you wanted to see in General Staff and the results are in. We especially wanted to know, in general terms, if you wanted us to create a classic Kriegsspiel game or a very detailed military simulation like UMS, UMS II and The War College.

Well, here are the results and they’re not what we expected:

48%: I prefer simple unit data; just the unit type and unit strength.

52%: I want to include as much detailed information about a unit as possible.

In other words, about half of you want a simple game and about half want a very detailed game. I must admit, I had to think about this for a while, but I’ve finally come up with a solution. This really isn’t about gameplay, it’s about the information that is stored about each unit and how the information is used for combat resolution. When an army is created using the Army Design Module all the required information will have to be added and stored within the unit data structure. However, when a user selects a scenario to play, the user will be able to decide if they want to play the ‘classic Kriegsspiel‘ or ‘complex simulation’ version.

The half of respondents that want detailed information about units requested the following information be stored for each unit:

Unit Name. For historical or informational purposes such as, “Chasseurs à Cheval Garde” or “Battery B 4th US Artillery.”

Unit Type. Such as, “Heavy Cavalry,” or “Field Artillery.” See below for more survey questions about pre-designed unit types.

Unit Strength. A numeric value of the number of men in the unit. However, in the ‘classic Kriegsspiel‘ version this value would simple be the numbers 1-4 and shown by the number of unit icons displayed (see below):

Screen captures of various unit types and facings in General Staff. Note that unit strength is obvious (1,2,3 or 4). Click to enlarge.

Unit Leadership. A value from 1-10 representing ‘poor’ to ‘superb’ leadership values. This will be displayed as a graph in the game. This value is used in the combat equation and to calculate how fast a unit responds to orders.

Unit Quality. A value from 1-10 representing ‘poor’ to elite’ unit quality values. This will be displayed as a graph in the game. This value is used in the combat equation and to calculate how fast a unit responds to orders.

Unit Morale. A value from 1-10 representing ‘poor’ to ‘elite’ morale. These values will change during the game in response to the results of the unit’s combat. This value will be displayed as a graph in the game and is used in the combat equation.

Ammunition Level. A value indicating the number of volleys remaining for the unit. In the ‘classic Kriegsspiel‘ version of General Staff units have unlimited ammunition.

Our next series of survey questions asked what unit types would you like to see. The following unit types will be available in General Staff:

Infantry (line infantry), Light Infantry (including skirmishers), Cavalry, Light Cavalry (including lancers), Field Artillery, Horse Artillery, Headquarters (see below) and Supply Trains.

We next asked if users wanted a ‘flat’ or ‘hierarchical’ army structure. The hierarchical army structure allows for a Corps → Division → Brigade type structure. Headquarters units will be included and orders will be transmitted via couriers. Users overwhelmingly wanted a hierarchical structure:

88% of users want a hierarchical army structure.

Lastly, we asked you about screen resolution.

75% of users were happy with 1440 x 900 screen resolution.

We understand that 25% of users want a higher resolutions and we’ll do our best to accommodate them.

Feedback from users is very important to us. We want to create the wargame system that you want to buy. If you have other questions or comments please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

Announcing a new computer wargame: General Staff!

I am extremely pleased to announce the development of my first new computer wargame in over twenty years: General Staff.  The decision to write a new wargame came about because I simply couldn’t find a computer wargame that I wanted to play. Yes, I know, there are dozens – if not hundreds – of really good computer wargames out there; but none of them appealed to me at the moment.

Most computer wargames have taken advantage of the ability of the computer to handle scores of complex rules and hundreds of units. This often resulted – and I want to make clear that as a designer I was also guilty of this – in massive wargames that weren’t all that fun to play. Sure, they were incredibly accurate. Indeed, I would market my wargames as simulations; because that’s what they were. And, truth be told, they were as good, if not better, than many computer simulations currently used by the world’s largest armies, Defense departments and ministries.

A slide from my Computer Game Design class at the University of Iowa.

A slide from my Computer Game Design class at the University of Iowa. Click to enlarge.

However, what I was looking for was something simple and fun. When I taught Computer Game Design at the University of Iowa I would tell my students that these kind of games were sometimes referred to as, “Beer & Skittles” games. They were simple, fun and addictive. Yes, I wanted to think (I didn’t want just a twitch game). I wanted something strategic or tactical; but I certainly didn’t want to get involved in micro-management of  logistics, factory production and national will. I just wanted to have fun.

Modern Kriegspiel (Waterloo).

Modern Kriegsspiel. Click to enlarge.

About this time I read an article about wargaming in Nautilus magazine. The one thing that caught my eye was an illustration for the article of Kriegsspiel. Kriegsspiel was a  wargame invented in 1824 and used by the Prussian staff for training. A very good article about the original Kriegsspiel can be found here. It has been recreated from time to time and I recently found this picture of a modern version.

I don’t think there’s been a modern computer version done of Kriegsspiel; at least I haven’t been able to find one. So I decided to create it.

This blog will be about the development of General Staff. Your comments and questions will be greatly appreciated.