Use Free Kriegsspiel Rules
One definition says that Free Kriegsspiel is: "A mechanism where two
opposing courses of action are explained to an Umpire who decides on
which course will prevail, based on historical precedence, personal
experience, reasoned debate and his own judgement. There are no rules
to resolve battles..." So, it may seem simple: seminar war games are much
like Free Kriegsspiel: no rules!
Putting it another way, there are three rules:
- Rule 1: See Rule #2.
- Rule 2: There are no rules other than these three.
- Rule 3: There is no Rule #3.
Well, actually, it is a bit more complicated! It may look
like there are no rules, but there have to be some rules. Indeed,
the rules are so complicated that they can hardly be written down. It
comes down to the facilitator or umpire (or a control staff if the
activity is large enough to require that) using their judgement to
General War-Gaming Rules
- "War gamers need to—
- Remain objective, not allowing personality or their sense of
'what the commander wants' to influence them. They avoid defending
a COA [Course of Action] just because they personally developed it.
[Check your egos at the door.]
- Record advantages and disadvantages of each COA accurately as
- Continually assess feasibility, acceptability, and suitability
of each COA. If a COA fails any of these tests, they reject it.
- Avoid drawing premature conclusions and gathering facts to support
- Avoid comparing one COA with another during the war game. This
occurs during COA comparison [another step later in the Military
Decision Making Process]."
- Two additional points rules that the Field Manual indicates
should be part of preparation for and conduct of war gaming are:
- "List Assumptions": As development of the war game proceeds, a
list of assumptions should be developed. "The commander and staff
review previous assumptions for continued validity and necessity."
The assumptions on the list (a living document) may be critical
subsequently to determine if the war game results are still valid:
a point may be reached where assumptions that previously seemed true
are now patently false. Such circumstances may invalidate all results
of a war game, or they may force a re-evaluation and adjustment with
newly discovered gaps filled by military judgement, or they may warrant
an ensuing war game with revised assumptions.
- "List Known Critical Events and Decision Points": "Critical
events are those that directly influence mission accomplishment. They
include events that trigger significant actions or decisions (such as
commitment of an enemy reserve), complicated actions requiring detailed
study (such as a passage of lines), and essential tasks. The list of
critical events includes major events from the unit’s current
position through mission accomplishment." [Note: This list should be
invaluable in developing a scenario; a well written scenario should guide
participants through most of the critical events and decision points
that can be anticipated.]
Rules of the Facilitator, Umpire, or Referee and the Control Staff
- The principal objective of the control staff should be to
promote full and frank discussion, particularly over critical events and
material relevant to decision points. Control staff includes the
facilitator, but also specialist advisors, observers, liaison
officers, and adjudicators, if the scale of the activity warrants them.
Here are some tips (rules?) for the control staff:
- Arrive prepared -- When feasible, engage in preparation
for the war game to develop an intimate familiarity with potential
critical events and decision points, as well as the general background
the participants will be using (e.g., the scenario). Then review the
scenario and other background material before the war game begins.
- Know the language -- In professional circles, jargon is rife,
and this is particularly true in military circles. Be aware of
elementary professional issues, e.g., sizes of units, levels of
command, rules of engagement before the war game starts. If a point
comes out that that is unfamiliar, ask for a brief explanation (keep it
factual and specifically on what the unfamiliar term means). Do not
proceed with debate on some important professional point if issues and
debating points will be expressed in impenetrable jargon. Note that the
credibility of a facilitator will decline quickly if participants
conclude that he is out of his depth. Pretending to know obscure jargon
will generally not help a facilitator gain credibility. Indeed many in
the room will probably be relieved when the facilitator asks that
jargon be defined in "layman's terms" -- not everyone knows
- Involve participants from the beginning -- If participants are
not known to each other, have them introduce themselves and provide a
summary of their interest in the war game. Consider scheduling some
social event ("a meet and greet") to precede the start of the war game
so participants can get to know one another in a low-stress situation.
- Monitor time and apportion it wisely -- Generally a fixed
amount of time will have been allocated to war game activity.
Nonetheless participants may need some extra time to provide their
contributions. Be wary of cutting off a participant with "Sorry, we're
out of time" -- that will only make participants feel they are there
merely for "cosmetic reasons", and will consequently suppress further
debate. Keep a reserve of time (shorten coffee breaks or lunch breaks
if necessary) so all participants feel they have time to make points
they feel are important.
- Draw in all participants to engage in discourse -- Solicit
responses from those who seem reticent. Watch for nonverbal clues
that participants who hardly participate still may have more to say,
and then call upon them. If important constituencies have not been
heard from, call upon them directly, e.g., if the "2 Shop" has not
spoken up during a staff discussion with a view from the intelligence
community, an important point of view is likely to be missing.
- Listen -- Attend to the ideas and feelings of the participants.
Note that there may be non-verbal clues to attitudes of participants.
If participants feel their opinions do not count with the control staff
(and non-verbal gestures are critical), they may cease to contribute
-- "no one is listening anyway".
- Encourage use of feedback mechanisms other than discourse when
appropriate and in the interest of time -- Since time is usually in
short supply, advise participants that they can pursue points in
greater detail through other means, e.g., submitting to post-game
interviews, filling in observer comment sheets. However, ensure that
points that deserve rebuttal are placed in front of all of the
participants during deliberations and not inadvertently hidden through
submission in written comments later.
- Observe -- Notice who is responding and who is left out, and
ensure that all participants are engaged.
- Encourage debate -- Introduce open-ended questions like
'What will be the consequences of…?' Or 'What can we do about...?' A question
that can be answered with a simple 'yes'/'no', or 'black'/'white' will
not accelerate debate. Do not let participants off with a 'yes/no'
answer and ask them for reasons or for their assumptions that got to
the 'yes/no' response.
- Employ "branches and sequels" -- For branches, say something
like: "now, let's wind back the clock and see what would happen if we
had gone in a different direction". For sequels, challenge the
participants with: "so, how would your opponent react to that, and how
would the locals react, and what would your coalition partners do now,
or the other governmental departments?"
- Use silence from time to time -- Participants may need time to
think about issues. Before introducing a new point, or when
summarizing a previous discussion, or when about to ask a substantial
question, announce you will soon be seeking their input. Then give the
participants 'a pause to reflect' before recognizing or calling on them
for that input. Some really big questions can be put out just before a
break (coffee or lunch) so participants can mull over their reactions
in full complexity before they are obliged to voice a response.
- Rephrase questions or issues -- If participants don't respond
well, try asking the question a different way or reframe an issue,
perhaps with some evocative example.
- Ask for examples and support for opinions -- Probe deeper
than the initial response. The first response may have come without due
consideration. For example, challenge participants with: "But why?"
- Test consensus -- Be careful of premature consensus before an
issue has been explored. Restate an incipient conclusion and ask if
anyone has a different view. Some voting or social choice methods can
determine where internal minority schools of thought may be hidden.
- Summarize -- Provide a summary or conclusions as appropriate,
at transition points during the discussion and at the end. Be prepared
to have participants contradict the facilitator's summary -- they may
have drawn conclusions or made interpretations that differ from those
of a facilitator. Ask: "Did I get that right?" or "Does anyone see
- At the conclusion of the discourse during active war gaming,
ensure that participants know they can still follow up on points, e.g.,
with observer comment forms. Also remind senior leaders they may be
asked to participate in an interview.
- After the discourse phase, run an after
action review (AAR). Most military
participants will be familiar with this process, and many civilian
participants are growing more familiar with it. Many of the above points on the behaviour of control staff apply
equally well to an AAR. Many aspects of
the lessons learned process will also apply.
Areas Where Rules May Be Appropriate
While many aspects of seminar war games rely upon the facilitator's judgement, this may be augmented
in various ways. The objective is to ensure that outcomes are more credible, and judgements less arbitrary.
Time, Distance, and Speed
For simple problems arithmetic formulas can be applied to relate time, distance, and speed. For more complex problems there
may be packages like combat simulations or geographic information systems that can be applied.
Combat models and simulations have been developed over many decades to determine the results of combat. Most military operations
research teams have access to these. Simulations like Janus, OneSAF, JCATS, and VBS2 can be used to predict the results of combat
Use of Planning Formulas
Logistics, speed of advance, convoy planning, flight planning, and casualties and medical treatment are just some areas where
there may be planning formulas that can be used to predict outcomes.
Use of Lookup Tables
Use of Models, including Computer-based Models