Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 17/10/2012

Vego: German War Gaming

The Autumn 2012 issue of the Naval War College Review has an article by Milan Vego on “German War Gaming,” which explores professional military wargaming in Germany from the von Reisswitz Kriegspiels of the early 19th century through to WWII:

The Germans invented and developed the modern war game. By the end of the nineteenth century, the German-style Kriegsspiel had been adopted in most of the major militaries of the day. In the interwar years (1919–39), the Germans greatly increased the number and diversity of war games, which collectively became one of the main means of educating and training future commanders and their staffs at all levels. Prior to and during World War II, the Germans proved to be masters of the use of war games throughout the chain of command for rehearsing plans for pending and future operations. In peacetime, they used war games to test the validity of new doctrinal documents and for force planning. Though German methods of organizing and executing war games cannot and should not be blindly followed, yet many aspects of their practice could be successfully applied today. Moreover, the role and importance of war gaming should be greatly enhanced in the present era of smaller forces and shrinking financial resources.

In the conclusion of the piece, the author suggests that “The German way of war gaming was the product of the German national character and way of warfare. It cannot be easily transplanted elsewhere, if at all.” The notion of “national character” is a rather slippery one, of course—partly because it leads to casual stereotyping, partly because attitudes can vary widely within a given national population, and partly because the attitudes of military officers are often quite distinctively different from those of the general civilian population. Moreover, traditions of military doctrine and professionalism are different things again (and, as has long been evidenced in the US, can vary quite widely across branches within the same military, and hence in their implications for wargame use). Still, I’m not sure anyone has ever undertaken a systematic cross-national study of of the adoption, uses, and techniques of wargaming (and crisis gaming) across countries and branches to show how professional cultures, organizations, resources, and other factors affect this—it could be quite interesting as an exercise in military sociology.

Perhaps I’ll add it to my ever-growing list of research projects that I would like to undertake (but almost certainly won’t find the time for)…

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