Over the last months I have had the opportunity to participate in a wargaming experiment sponsored and led by Nick Skinner, the co-founder with Richard Clarke of TooFatLardies. His idea was to recreate a Kriegsspiel-type of game but using the tools and technology of the digital age.
Nick contacted a small number of wargamers in late October (if I’m not wrong, we were 7 or 8) and set up a channel in the popular chat app Discord, where we all could be in contact.
He then uploaded a copy of a military map 1:25,000 scale, provided to each team a set of forces, a narrative of the situation (to put us in context) and a mission to win the game. This was done on a Friday; over the weekend each team discussed the best strategy to achieve the objectives laid out in the mission, divided the forces in battle groups, appointing commands and providing orders for each of the battle groups.
The players were then called to play on Monday at 7.30PM GMT (+1 in Spain).
The game was umpired by Nick and for each battle group a subchannel was created, where we get information from the umpire and provide orders in reaction to events happening every game bound (15 minutes of game time). All information was then conveyed in the team’s common channel where the C-in-C was present; this was a way of simulating the radio net of our forces.
First I must say that this has been one of the most interesting wargame experiences I had in years… and all thanks to the technology but specially to the way Nick managed the game. Think for a moment: no table, no models, no rules… just a map, a tablet or telephone screen, a pencil and a pad to take notes … and some common sense to give orders to your forces as the game developed = great wargame experience.
In the first game, our forces had been recently defeated in major offensive by the enemy. We have regrouped in town by a major river and our mission was to destroy the two main bridges to buy time to our army to build a new defensive line using the river as the frontline.
I took a platoon of engineers with some infantry and light armour support north of the main position to destroy the bridge, then pull out south and blow out the second bridge. Easy said than done. Unexpected events could hamper you moving along the road, putting the explosive charges takes time and the enemy is not idle in the meantime.
|Map of the first game. My forces to the rightm north (red, pink and purple kampfgruppe)|
Actually my force were under attack while wiring the bridge, although the enemy was short of shy and when encountering our blocking force and aggressive defence stance, decided to pull out.
We finally blow the bridge and race again south…when we saw an armoured column moving in parallel to us at the opposite bank of the river. I decided to delay their advance with my AT gun support and some infantry while sending the engineers south.
In the end we won the game as our advanced posts reinforced by some other dispersed units heading towards the main rendez-vous point could block some weak enemy attacks (I concluded that they attempted to reach the river using several roads and in the end they were too much scattered).
In the second game our team was on the offensive. The mission was to establish a bridgehead across a major river, that will be used as the jump-off point for the last final phase of the offensive.
This was a significant larger game and increased the level of complexity of coordinating and operating the forces. There were two possible river crossing points (north east and south east of our position) so we first sent some recce light cars to find where the enemy was eventually setting up the main defensive positions.
Things were going wrong from the very beginning. I led a motorised infantry battalion that will have to follow an armoured group. Although the orders were to head east, the first armour column went north and the infantry drivers decided to follow suit. When I found what was happening I ordered to stop, turnaround, get back to the starting position and then head east
The confusion caused my infantry’s lorry-mounted column more than 1 hour until finally take the right road… and then instead of taking the main highway, for some reason they ended up driving through a parallel secondary road.
|After the battle sketch map of the second game|
We overrun some advanced enemy posts … but provoking additional delays: leave the lorries, organised the platoons, provide orders, unlimber and assemble some mortars, attack…). Then a major traffic jam developed in the secondary road caused by a tank unit using the same road.
After several time bounds totalling several game hours (and three hours of actual play), it was clear that were to lose the game, as we had barely covered a third of the total distance towards the key town where the bridgehead was to be established.
This type of game allowed me to experience the concepts “fog of war” and “friction” first hand. One did not have full control of the troops under command and my field line sight (and knowledge about the composition or even the whereabouts of the enemy forces) was restricted to a few meters in front of me.
As I said, great wargaming experience, lots of fun and eagerly looking forward to play a third game sometime in the not so distant future. I’m not sure what the Lardie guys are looking to do with these experiments, but I’m more than happy to contribute to the project. I'm also looking to read in more detail the Kriegsspiel rules, now that I have experiened; excellent inspiring reading for future encounters.