Tag Archives: krieggspiel

Kreigsspiel Battle Report – Battle of Ravine-à-Couleuvres

Historically the Battle of Ravine-à-Couleuvres also known as the Battle of Snake Gully, was a major battle of the Haitian Revolution on 23 February 1802.

A French division under General Donatien de Rochambeau was advancing down a ravine (the Ravine-à-Couleuvres), towards Lacroix, Artibonite, where they attacked the army of Toussaint Louverture. Louverture’s forces consisted of 1,500 elite grenadiers, 1,000 grenadiers in different Demi-brigades, 400 dragoons. Louverture’s forces resisted the attack strongly, but had to retreat across the Petite-Rivière after suffering 800 deaths.

Prior to the battle on 22 February 1802, the French occupied the heights of Morne Barade and were attacked by rebel troops; the battle raged throughout the night and the French forces successfully resisted the attack. The following morning, the Haitian forces advanced out of the Ravine-à-Couleuvres as the French were travelling down it towards Lacroix, while Louverture rallied his cavalry. According to Bell, the losses of Louverture’s army were minor.

The Gameplan

This would be my first game in Kreigsspiel and as such I was learning the ropes from the other players when I was able to communicate with them during the battle. That said it was an awful lot of fun and made me think of Kreigsspiel as more of an RPG wargame rather than the table top precisely measured game you imagine it to be.

This game took place with six players on each side, an overall General and then five Generals of Brigades. I was placed on the French side and in command of the third Brigade.

Unfortunately there were no accurate maps of the area available and so the game was to be played on a similar landscape using the Fredericksburg map from the Amercian Civil War.

The Battlefield

Our mission was simple, we were to enter from the north and take and hold the river side city as quickly as possible, while the rebels were out to stop us.

Our General issued his orders to us, which involved the Cavalry Brigade scouting the main route down to the city and assessing where the rebel locations were while avoiding combat if possible. My brigade was to follow the route taken by the cavalry as quickly as possible to try and take and hold the southern most part of the city ensuring that we held those bridges. The remaining brigades were to move to the northern part of the city to secure the crossing points there.

My initial orders showing the target positions of where I wanted my battalions to be placed once they reached the city.
07:45 On our route down our wagons get stuck in mud and I’m forced to lose time ordering our lead battalion to assist in freeing the wagons. At this point I wasn’t quite aware that orders had already not been understood, as my wagons were leading the column towards the enemy!
At 08:00 I assumed that the lead four battalions were well ahead of us this point after our delay freeing the wagons from the mud. So I sent orders to them via ADC advising them where to position themselves in the city until our arrival.
At 08:15 it became clear that all of my battalions were in fact towards the rear of the column.
At 8:30 contact is made with the enemy by the Cavalry screen in front of us.
08:30 Some frantic ordering in response to the firefight ahead sees me attempting to move my battalions in front of my wagons finally and deploying skirmishers while our General rides on ahead bravely to see whats going on
Brigade makes contact with the enemy and moves to support our cavalry.
08:45 As we were no co-located with the Cavalry commander we were able to get his report on the situation straight from the horses mouth (pun intended). I order my remaining battalions that have not yet arrived to push into the fields on the right as the nearest bridge to he city was just a couple of fields away to our right. We had the intention to punch through the enemy and try and make it to those bridges.
09:00 The initial combats appear to be going in our favour although the cavalry on the right are already starting to suffer casualties and the arrival of enemy cannon does not help our situation. I order my remaining three battalions to move up on the right flank to try and relieve the wounded cavalry elements.
09:15 My infantry start to gain the upper hand in the combat but the artillery is a worry.
I give orders for my troop movements with the intention to try and push my very slight advantage, I also send a message to the other Brigades to inform them of our plight.
09:30 The fighting intensifies, but my men start to run out of ammunition and are taking casualties at an alarming rate. I order my troops to retreat back along the road until we’re beyond the range of the enemy artillery.
10:00 My men begin to pull back
10:15 and my men begin to recuperate and rearm, while are Cavalry push back into the fields on the right.
10:30 and our Cavalry route the rebel cavalry and pursue their Generals. Only to be halted by the dreaded artillery. Prompted by this I order my battalions to take the enemy guns as quickly as possible, hoping to remove them from play or possibly even capture them for our own use.

And with that the game was over. While myself and my fellow gamer who was in charge of the Cavalry had managed to smash aside the Haitians, capture their guns and even wounded their commanders (I think)in our little corner of the battlefield. It just wasn’t enough with the 1st and 2nd French Brigades getting badly mauled to the north there was no hope of our little force crossing the river and securing the town.

A victory for the Haitians but a costly victory.


This was a fantastic introduction to Krieggspiel and I thoroughly enjoyed myself throughout.

It wasn’t anything like I expected, and in the end felt more like a Role-playing game where you’re in charge of a specific General. I highly recommend anyone to take a look at this game and perhaps join the International Krieggspiel Society and dip your own toes in!

The History of Wargaming – Part 1

Wargaming as a pastime has been around for almost 250 years. In this two part series I will highlight the major rulesets written since the beginning and my take on where wargaming may go next.

Johann Christian Ludwig Hellwig

The first wargame was invented in 1780 by the Prussian Johann Christian Ludwig Hellwig. This was the first true wargame as it attempted to simulate the wars of the time and so give future military officers lessons in strategy (it’s worth noting that during this period, Prussia was THE power in Europe and her armies and officers were admired the world over).

Hellwig wanted to sell his wargame commercially and so chose to base the game on Chess. He hoped by doing this, it would make it appeal to chess players.

The grid layout for Hellwig’s game

Like Chess, Hellwig’s game was based on a grid of squares, albeit much larger. These squares were colour coded to represent different terrain such as swamps, mountains, hills, rivers etc. The layout of this terrain was not set and so players could change the layout and have a unique experience each time they played. Playing pieces represented Artillery, Cavalry and Infantry, as well as other support units. Like in Chess only a single piece could occupy any square and all the pieces moved square by square either laterally or diagonally. Over normal terrain infantry could move eight squares, Dragoons twelve squares and light cavalry sixteen squares. Rivers could only be crossed with pontoons or bridges and a player could only move one piece per turn. Pieces could capture other pieces by moving onto an opposing pieces square, much like Chess. Unlike Chess however, the artillery and infantry pieces could shoot.

Johann Georg Julius Venturini

Hellwig’s game was a commercial success and this success inspired other inventors to create their own chess-like wargames. In 1796 another Prussian named Johann Georg Julius Venturini create a game very similar to Hellwig’s, only with larger squares and rules for logistics such as convoys and mobile bakeries. He also incorporated seasons and weather, which made his game perhaps the first operational level wargame.

Johann Ferdinand Opiz

In 1806 another Johann, this time one from Austria named Johann Ferdinand Opiz developed a game which was aimed both for civilian and military markets. Like Hellwig’s it also used a modular square game board, but unlike Hellwig’s, Opiz’s game introduced dice rolls to add an element of randomness to the game to attempt to simulate the unpredictability of real warfare. Hellwig himself felt that the addition of randomness spoiled the fun for players.

The major criticisms of the three Johann’s games were that pieces were restricted in movement across a grid like battlefield and that only one piece could occupy any square at a given point regardless of how large that square was. The grid like fashion also meant that terrain took on unusual forms with rivers flowing in straight lines and bending in right angles. This lack of realism meant that no army took the games seriously.

Georg Heinrich Rudolf Johann von Reisswitz – Kriegsspiel

In 1824 yet another Prussian, and yet another man who was named Johann (this time as a middle name) took the opportunity to use his position as a Prussian army officer to present to the Prussian General Staff a highly realistic wargame that he and his father had developed over the last few years. This game would become one of the most famous wargames of all time and is still played today – Kriegsspiel.

A rendition of an 1824 game of Kreigspiel

Kreigsspiel was played an scale paper maps with pieces that were accurately sized to the units they were meant to represent. All of this allowed the game to model battles in real locations with pieces being moved across the battle in a free-form and subject to terrain. The pieces were coloured with blue playing pieces representing those of the Prussian army and red pieces representing the enemy. This idea of red versus blue persists through into wargaming and computer gaming today and can be attributed to Kreigsspiel. Kreigsspiel also used dice to add an element of randomness to the simulation like Opiz’s game.

The game modelled the capabilities of units realistically using data gathered during the Napoleonic Wars. A manual provided tables and lists as to how far each unit in the game was able to move according to the terrain it was attempting to cross. An umpire used a ruler to move these pieces across the map with the players advising the umpire what moves they would like to make. By doing this, this created a fog of war with each player only able to see what enemy units had been discovered on their own map. Combat was determined by dice rolls and units would have casualties inflicted upon them rather than being removed from play immediately. Firearms and artillery fire’s effectiveness decreased over distance and units strength was tracked using hit points with additional rules for both morale and exhaustion.

Earlier wargames had fixed victory conditions, such as occupying the enemy’s fortress. By contrast, Reisswitz’s wargame was open-ended. The umpire decided what the victory conditions were, if there were to be any, and they typically resembled the goals an actual army in battle might aim for. The emphasis was on the experience of decision-making and strategic thinking, not on competition. As Reisswitz himself wrote: “The winning or losing, in the sense of a card or board game, does not come into it.”

The Prussian king and the General Staff officially endorsed Reisswitz’s wargame, and by the end of the decade every German regiment had bought materials for it. This was thus the first wargame to be widely adopted by a military as a serious tool for training and research. Over the years, the Prussians developed new variations of Reisswitz’s system to incorporate new technologies and doctrine.


The Woeful Brush Painting Competition Sponsored by SCN Hobby World

Closing date for entries 30th November. £1 entry, win your choice of a Start Collecting or Combat Patrol box set!