Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The history of wargaming...Condensed

The first wargames were simple games like chess, checkers or modern Chinese game of "Go".
They stimulated tactical thought, but for practical application to "War" we will have to jump 1824 when a young, Lieutenant George Heinrich Johann von Reisswitz, of the Prussian Guard Artillery developed a game that was to be known as "Kriegsspiels" or simply "wargame".
This game introduces many innovations such as using actual topographical maps to portray the battlefield with rules which specifically rated the effects of combat.
"Kriegsspiel using colored blocks"

These rules were published by Prussian Prince Wilhem who liked the game and introduced it to the Prussian General Staff.

The General Von Muffling was so impressed by the game that he declared, "This is not a game! This is training for war! I must recommend it to the whole army!" And this he did, every regiment would end up owning at least one copy. It was very popular with the German military, many of their clubs being founded to "play war" when not actively training or on the battlefield.
Wargaming remained mostly a German preoccupation, until the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. In this conflict, the militia and reserve based armies of the Prussians decisively defeated the professional army of France, then thought to have had the finest army in the world. It was believed that the wargames prepared the Prussian commanders to be better prepared for the strategic prosecution of the war....of course there is much more to their victory then the game but, there are volumes of books on that subject and this is not one of them.

From this many countries militaries academies developed their own "wargames" to be used as training tools. And these games also proved quite successful and history abounds with examples of how commanders were defeated as a result of ignoring results of these "Wargames".

A Russian game in 1914 predicted defeat if General Samsomov's 2nd Army did not begin its advance 3 days ahead of General's Rennenkampf's 1st Army. Despite this, no changes were made to the army's orders and the result was the Russian army's disasters defeat at the battle of Tannenburg later on that same year. Where they lost over 78,000 killed or wounded and up to 92,000 captured, compared with only 12,000 casualties on the German side.

Russian Prisoners 1914
Even our America Pacific Fleet commander, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, explained to a Naval War College Class in 1960 that, "the war with Japan had been reenacted in the game rooms here by so many people and in so many different ways that nothing happened during the war that was a surprise-absolutely nothing except the Kamikazis toward the end of the war that is."

The First commercial "wargame" was wrote and made by author H.G. Wells in 1913 under the title of "Little Wars: A game for boys from the Twelve Years to One Hundred and Fifty and for that More Intelligent Sort of Girl who likes Games and books."

The rules themselves were not anything to get excited about and more resembled my days of shooting GI-Joe's with bebe guns and bottle rockets when I was nine. Where the game really shined is in that it was the first to have the individual units and troops characterized by inexpensive, mass produced painted toy soldiers. These games eventually inspired the games you might all know as board games like "Risk" and "Stratego". Also, role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, and all modern military PC games have their basis from these Wargames of old.

1 comment:

  1. And yes I know there is about 100 years of info that I didnt add, but I was geting tired and it was late.