Purpose: Kriegspiel is German for ‘war game,’ and was invented in Prussia (Germany) in the early nineteenth century as a teaching aide to train officers in estimates, decisions, issuing orders, and tactics. The main emphasis is on the concise presentation of ideas. Two sides compete across a map table. A director supervises and serves as the HHQs and umpire.
The way in which Marines use the Kriegspiel is to: (a) reinforce the importance of critical thinking, acting decisively, and communicating orders and directives succinctly and effectively; (b) reinforce ways and/or combinations of ways to gain a battlefield advantage through imposing tactical dilemmas on an adversary; (c) harmonizing the war fighting functions contending with the inevitable uncertainties of war while fighting a thinking enemy force, and (d) display the simplicity of conducting a kriegspiel and the effectiveness of this learning method
Evaluation Criteria used for teaching:
1) Did the students explain how their actions/decisions corresponded with their understanding of the situation throughout various times during the conduct of the Kriegspiel? Additionally, in light of how a situation turns out, did the students explain what they would have done differently given this understanding through hindsight?
2) Were the orders clear and definite? (This will clearly be answered through the perspective of the subordinate leaders)
3) Did the students communicate how they envisioned what was occurring during the wargame and did what they “saw” logically connect to the actions they ordered? (Open discussion by the participants is encouraged and disagreements are okay as long as the different assumptions behind the disagreements are bright to light.)
4) Did the students see possibilities in the terrain and environment that the enemy did not? Was that turned to gaining a marked or even winning/decisive advantage?
5) Did the students utilize ways and/or combinations of ways to gain a battlefield advantage through imposing tactical dilemmas on their adversary? (This should bring about extremely helpful and healthy discussions. Don’t think of terms such as only combined arms but in the eight ways to gain battlefield advantage: 1). Combined Arms, 2). Maneuver, 3). Exploiting the environment (terrain, weather, periods of darkness or reduced visibility), 4). Complementary forces, 5). Surprise, 6). Trapping the Enemy, 7). Developing an ambush mentality, and 8). Asymmetry. (ref; MCDP 1-3 Tactics Chp. 3))
The evaluation is not to criticize the decisions made but to bring forth a deeper understanding from the students by supplementing their instruction through practical application against a thinking enemy.
I believe that Decision Forcing Cases (DFCs) and Kriegspiels are the two most powerful teaching methods available to train and educate military leaders at all echelons. If you have any other questions... fire away.
This post provides a very fine definition of what US Marines mean when they use the term "Kriegsspiel."
In the wider world, different people use the word "Krieggspiel" in many different ways. For example, it has long been used to describe several variants on the game of chess, one of which uses three boards and an umpire to create the same sort of "double blind" situation that is also used in US Marine Kriegsspiel. (This video shows a simple way to do this.) More recently, it has been used for reproductions of versions of the game as played in Prussia in the early 1900s.. (Here is a short video about that version of Krieggspiel.)
This article provides a survey of some of the more common uses of the word. You can also get a sense of the range of meanings by doing an internet search.
It seems that the common elements in many definitions of Kriegsspiel - whether that of US Marines, chess players, or the table-top wargamers - is (1) some means of preventing each player from seeing the other player's playing surface (chessboard, map, etc) and (2) an umpire who provides reports about encounters between forces.
Interested in the teaching of logistics, the history of the Old West, and decision-forcing staff rides.