What wargames were used by the General Staff?

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steevh
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What wargames were used by the General Staff?

Post by steevh » 11 Jul 2020 17:45

Sources from time to time talk about the General Staff conducting wargames prior to actual operations.
As I recall they feature quite prominently in the movie The Longest Day, with some German commander winning the game by making landings in Normandy.
My question is, what form did these wargames take?
Were they similar to games produced from the 1970s onwards -- in fact, were these based on the original WWII wargames produced by military staff?
Has anyone ever come across any details, other than vague references to officers 'conducting wargames'?

wwilson
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Re: What wargames were used by the General Staff?

Post by wwilson » 12 Jul 2020 08:00

This is before World War II, but addresses in part your question.

https://militaryhistorynow.com/2019/04/ ... d-history/

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Sheldrake
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Re: What wargames were used by the General Staff?

Post by Sheldrake » 12 Jul 2020 12:37

I have a copy of the Kriegspiel rules. These were for junior officers

Serious wargames by all nations followed a similar format. General idea special idea one sided v two sided and umpires. https://archive.org/details/rulesforconducto00grearich
The exact design depends on whether the idea is to test a plan, or practice or test a staff in the execution of a plan.

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Re: What wargames were used by the General Staff?

Post by steevh » 13 Jul 2020 12:31

Thanks for the responses, but I'm after any more specific info.

The general format may not have been too different from that book of 1896, but by 1939 the Germans had evolved a new combined forces doctrine, with Panzers and Stukas etc. So this would not have been covered by the old rules.

Likewise Tukachevsky in Russia had his theory of deep operations, and the military theorists in GB and France (Lidell-Hart, de Gaulle) were advocating Blitzkrieg doctrines.

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Re: What wargames were used by the General Staff?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 08 Aug 2020 20:26

steevh wrote:
13 Jul 2020 12:31
Thanks for the responses, but I'm after any more specific info.

The general format may not have been too different from that book of 1896, but by 1939 the Germans had evolved a new combined forces doctrine, with Panzers and Stukas etc. So this would not have been covered by the old rules. ..
I don't have specific details, but can say there was not agreement among the officers of any army what the new doctrines meant. Some argued the new armored forces were overrated on the game maps or in the field exercises, or underrated, depending on the individual. This was the same for other arms. As early as 1925-1930 there were claims pro & con for artillery, horse cavalry, AT guns, infantry, aircraft ect... This is why testing battle plans with field or fleet exercises were important. Those validated parts of doctrinal assumptions. Tho of course not all doctrinal matters.

In the case of plan Yellow for attacking France in 1940 multiple proposals were tested in both map and field exercises from November 1939 through March 1940. What is notable is every iteration tested failed to achieve a decisive strategic victory. Some variants failed miserably, others managed to reach a stalemate on the game map. This includes Mansteins original proposal for the Schwerpunkt with Army Group A tested in November 1939, and up scaled variants later. An exception occurred in a March 1940 map game run by Halder at OKH HQ in Zossen. In this case the Allied side was run by a intelligence officer responsible for 'Enemy Forces West'. This LtCol List proposed the French would be much slower in decision making & issuing order than previously assumed. During the game he delayed enemy responses 24 to 48 hours. The result was something closer to a strategic victory. Lists proposal was not accepted by many of the participants. There was a feeling slowing the French response was gamey, that it was done to favor the plan tested, that it was grossly unrealistic.

As we know the attack in May 1940 was wildly successful, exceeding even Guderians expectations. The performance of the armored forces appears more effective than the models on the game maps, or field exercises. Point here is several. One is the game rules were never fully accepted by all military officers, that they were correct in thinking there were deficiencies in the map exercises or field exercises, and there were always questions about the doctrines & other assumptions as well.

steevh
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Re: What wargames were used by the General Staff?

Post by steevh » 11 Aug 2020 08:46

Thanks. Very informative.

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Re: What wargames were used by the General Staff?

Post by Senex » 19 Aug 2020 21:49

Not sure how wargaming was done by the Germans during the Second World War, but today, they are disciplined map exercises.
The two sides are represented and their play is "free." In other words, they do not have to fold a given script (although what both sides end up doing in the wargame has to be realistic and logistically feasible). There is an umpire to rule on such matters.
The battle or campaign is broken down into manageable chunks (hours or days for a battle, days to weeks for a campaign). The side with the initiative moves first and moves air, land, and sea forces in accordance with a plan written out before the wargame.
The other side reacts and issues orders to its forces.
The first side counteracts, by issuing orders to his forces.
The umpire renders decisions on actions, and, if desired, estimates losses for the two sides in that turn.
Changes to the friendly plan (changes in main effort, timing of actions, coordination between components, changes in task organisation, etc.) are recorded.
On to turn 2 and continue until the battle or campaign is finished.
At the end, if the wargame is conducted in a disciplined manner, the friendly plan gets a good workout. If the men playing the bad guys are creative and determined, flaws in the plan may be discovered and the plan adjusted accordingly.
The results are briefed to the commander.

So, it is not really an off-the-shelf commercial board wargame, it is just a disciplined map exercise.

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Re: What wargames were used by the General Staff?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 19 Sep 2020 21:56

Senex wrote:
19 Aug 2020 21:49
Not sure how wargaming was done by the Germans during the Second World War, but today, they are disciplined map exercises.
The two sides are represented and their play is "free." In other words, they do not have to fold a given script (although what both sides end up doing in the wargame has to be realistic and logistically feasible).
Our map exercises & games were both free & scripted. Heavily scripted games were used to 'fix' procedural actions and doctrinal matters in the minds of the officers. The script ensured they participants acted out all the identified procedures or doctrinal actions identified. Gun drill as it were. Free play was increased in proportion to the mastery of the commanders and HQ staff of their procedural skills.

To illustrate: Junior Lieutenants might be very enthusiastic about creating complex and brilliant battle plans for their plain attack. But, if the Lt cant give clear orders, carry out a series of coherent communications transmissions, or demonstrate he understands the weapons then there not much point in dropping his reins. You have to know your business before you can do business.

At the highest levels procedure and script does not much enter into the map exercise. The participants have a set of goals & defined forces. The commanders and staff at the level of army or army group have their craft down, otherwise they would not be serving in those positions. As you slide down to the battalion or company level a script that tests & trains the participants in skills becomes more important.

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Re: What wargames were used by the General Staff?

Post by Sheldrake » 20 Sep 2020 09:53

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
19 Sep 2020 21:56
Senex wrote:
19 Aug 2020 21:49
Not sure how wargaming was done by the Germans during the Second World War, but today, they are disciplined map exercises.
The two sides are represented and their play is "free." In other words, they do not have to fold a given script (although what both sides end up doing in the wargame has to be realistic and logistically feasible).
Our map exercises & games were both free & scripted. Heavily scripted games were used to 'fix' procedural actions and doctrinal matters in the minds of the officers. The script ensured they participants acted out all the identified procedures or doctrinal actions identified. Gun drill as it were. Free play was increased in proportion to the mastery of the commanders and HQ staff of their procedural skills.

To illustrate: Junior Lieutenants might be very enthusiastic about creating complex and brilliant battle plans for their plain attack. But, if the Lt cant give clear orders, carry out a series of coherent communications transmissions, or demonstrate he understands the weapons then there not much point in dropping his reins. You have to know your business before you can do business.

At the highest levels procedure and script does not much enter into the map exercise. The participants have a set of goals & defined forces. The commanders and staff at the level of army or army group have their craft down, otherwise they would not be serving in those positions. As you slide down to the battalion or company level a script that tests & trains the participants in skills becomes more important.
Many command post and command exercises are based on map exercises. If an army wants to test how a formation HQ (Brigade/div/ Corps or higher) functions the HQs and relevant communications units deploy in the field as if they were going to war. The information is then fed to them by a exercise control. Higher controllers pretend to be the HQ's superiors while lower controllers provide the input from the units or formations they command. At one stage removed the enemy control generates the enemy's actions. The outcomes of Lower control is usually based on some form of map or computer based wargame, something like a massive SPI game. These were aimed at practising and testing the function of the HQs, but were also a rehearsal of the war we might have had to fight.

The biggest were the annual NATO exercises that tested command and control in the event of a conflict with the Warsaw pact, including the procedure for nuclear release. In Britain they were known as Ex Wintex The HQ under exercises were the national government down to corps level on the land forces. Usually the government involvement was through the civilian and military staff in the national ministries for defence. The decision by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher to take part in the 1983 Ex Able Archer may have nearly triggered WW3, and is the setting for the |TV series Deutchland '83. the lower control end of these exercises for 1 BR Corps usually took place in Hammersmith Barracks Herford with huge maps laid out in the gymnasium and tables for each of the staffs at divisional level. These were manned 24 hours a day by staff officers and watchkeepers. The influx of officers slept in camp beds the loft above the barracks - staff sleeps. The snoring from hundreds of middle aged men sleeping off the effect of Herforder and wobbly Warsteiner was a fearsome sound. It is said that soviet agents were trained to detect this sound from a mile away. The exercise papers post 1980 are still highly classified and have been redacted from the UK's National Archive.

The thing about wargames is that the outcomes do not always reflect those of actual battles. The enemy is only as good as the enemy controllers understanding of enemy capabilities strategy and tactics. The exercise setting itself may mislead. All the NATO exercises assumed that conflict would arise after a period of rising tension. This was because for NATO to function governments would need time to act and to mobilise the reserves. We never practiced a come as you are WW3, even though the USSR had shown itself capable of acting with strategic surprise- e.g. the occupation of Afghanistan 1979.

If conflicts are resolved by the judgement of umpires these are subject to individual prejudice and political pressure. If by a set of rules, these are fallible and can be gamed. I once was a lower controller in a NATO exercises managed by a huge computer wargame. It should not have mattered that we were going to lose some key terrain under attack by 3rd Shock Army, because this might have raised the potential weakness of the 1 BR Corps front. However it would have made our commanders look bad, so we gamed the game and fed in individual replacements at a huge rate to maintain the combat strength of units defending this ground.

In WW2 the Germans did wargame the sickle cut plan. I suspect von Paulus must have war-gamed Op Barbarossa. 7th Army held wargames before the invasion of Normandy. Reading the FMS interviews I suspect the focus of the Seventh army wargames would have been looking at the Rommel forward deployment and employment of reserves. They would have considered allied parachutists and commandos and the significance of naval gunfire. They probably would not have included amphibious tanks and would have assumed an allied reinforcement rate based on landings on open beaches using craft. Mulberry harbour, LST and DUKW would have been outeide the scope of the exercise setting.

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Re: What wargames were used by the General Staff?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 20 Sep 2020 19:37

Sheldrake wrote:
20 Sep 2020 09:53
...
The thing about wargames is that the outcomes do not always reflect those of actual battles. The enemy is only as good as the enemy controllers understanding of enemy capabilities strategy and tactics. The exercise setting itself may mislead. ...
A important point. Mays (Strange Victory) claims none of the German games testing plans for Case Yellow predicted the victory the was had. the games usually resulted in strategic defeat, or at best a static stalemate.
In WW2 the Germans did wargame the sickle cut plan.
At Halders OKW HQ in least twice for certain and perhaps five times November through March 1940. Each those exercises ran through multiple iterations or several variants. ie: The early exercise in November tested three plans. 1. the main effort or schwerpunkt in the north with Army Group B. 2. the main effort with AG A. 3. No main effort, with a large reserve held to exploit any success.

Its important to note the Army Group staff, Army, Corps, and Division staff gamed their roles in the overall plan. So, at multiple levels the plan was gamed/tested dozens of times. This is normal in most armies. Post Desert Storm numerous documents were captured which included those from Iraqi army map exercises testing their defense plans. In Kuwait city a sand table was found where the local corps or army staff tested plans for repelling a amphibious attack.
I suspect von Paulus must have war-gamed Op Barbarossa.
Yes those are referred to in miscl sources. Also lower level HW testing their roles.
7th Army held wargames before the invasion of Normandy. I suspect the focus of the Seventh army wargames would have been looking at the Rommel forward deployment and employment of reserves. ...
Those are often described. A 7th Army level map ex was scheduled for 6th June. Ironic No? Marcks the Corps commander responsible for the Cotientin peninsula & the Calvados coast had run his most recent map ex in May. Exactly how those tested Rommels plan Ive not seen described. However, in January a Army Group map ex run by Rundsteadts HQ tested a Allied landing north of the Seine. In the post ex critique Marcks voiced a negative view as only the 15th Army sector was considered & no companion exercise for the Calvados/Cotientin coasts was run. Rundsteadts staff & Rommel dismissed Marcks view as they thought those beaches were protected by extensive reefs & shoals. Later the Navy told them otherwise. Rommel was outraged at this exercise because Allied tactical airpower was dismissed to the point where it was not allowed to interfere with ground unit movement. Geyrs panzer group was able to assemble and execute a set piece series of attacks driving the enemy army back to the beaches. The rational given was the air force would cover and defend ground operations, preventing any significant interference.

How subsequent Army Group map or field exercises that winter or spring went I cant say.
.... They would have considered allied parachutists and commandos...
Initially airborne ops were considered impractical in the Cotientin/Calvados region. The arrival of airborne experts with the para divisions changed that attitude and the obstacles went up.
and the significance of naval gunfire.
To a limited degree. Rommel and others state clearly they were stunned by the severity of the naval fire support. Far in excess of what they estimated from experience in the Mediterranean. They did field test the beach obstacles with barges and a captured Brit landing craft. They found the barges could push over and through the obstacles at high tide, which led to a program to hang a mine on each obstacle.

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Re: What wargames were used by the General Staff?

Post by Appleknocker27 » 17 Nov 2020 17:22

steevh wrote:
13 Jul 2020 12:31
Thanks for the responses, but I'm after any more specific info.

The general format may not have been too different from that book of 1896, but by 1939 the Germans had evolved a new combined forces doctrine, with Panzers and Stukas etc. So this would not have been covered by the old rules.

Likewise Tukachevsky in Russia had his theory of deep operations, and the military theorists in GB and France (Lidell-Hart, de Gaulle) were advocating Blitzkrieg doctrines.
What specific wargame info are you looking for? Movement? Combat resolution? Logistics? Its a pretty broad topic and as Carl S elaborated on, there are different levels of wargame and different training objectives.

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