Kriegspiel is a Chess Variant. It is played between two players. However, a third person is necessary to act as a referee.

In Kriegspiel, players only see their own pieces, and not the pieces of their opponent. Three boards are necessary for the game: one for each player, on which only the player's pieces are placed, and one for the referee, on which all the pieces are placed (the pieces for both sides).

Players move turn-wise, just as in regular chess. Each turn, a player attempts a move. When this move is legal, the referee announces that the player has moved, and the turn is done. When the move is illegal, the referee announces that the player attempted an illegal move, and the player must make a new attempt to move, until he makes a legal move. The other player does not hear the attempted moves, but all referee comments are heard by both players.

When a piece captures another piece, the referee announces this, and also the square on which the capture has taken place. The referee does not announce with which type of piece the capture has been taken place, or which type of piece is taken. If a piece is captured en passant, the referee announces this. So, for example, the referee could announce "White has taken en passant on b6."

When a move gives check, the referee announces this, and also announces the direction in which check is given: on the row, on the column, on the small diagonal, on the large diagonal, or by a knight. The exact location of the checking piece is not told.

To avoid many attempts at pawn captures, which would usually happen, a player is allowed to ask "Are there any pawn captures?" (usually just "Any?"), to which the referee replies either "No", or "Try." If there are possible captures, the player must attempt at least one. (If it fails, he does not have to try again.)

If player makes a move which he knows is illegal (for instance, asking "Any?" when he has no pawns left), the referee says "Impossible", so the opponent is not confused by this. This is usually considered bad manners, and is not done.

This game may sound as if it's based on luck, but it is really not. Of course, there is more luck involved than in regular chess, but a great amount of skill is necessary to play it.

Kriegspiel is also a war game from Avalon Hill published in 1970. It has two levels of rules, Game 1 and Game 2. The rules for Game 1 fill up exactly two sides of one page and is perhaps the easiest war game to learn. There are no elements of chance in the game, its all about strategy and tactics.

Despite its small size it is a full-scale war game for two players. One player is the United Black and the other is the Republic of Red. Unit counters display the combat factor, movement factor, unit type, id icon, and corps structure.

Game 1 has a simple turn sequence and easy victory conditions. A move consists of a player moving some, none or all of their pieces up to their movement factor limit. Any units that move next to any enemy unit stops immediately regardless of how much movement they have left. This is called moving into an enemy’s zone of control.

After all the pieces are moved combat may occur with any pieces next to any enemy pieces. Odds are made up by comparing the combat factors of all the attackers in question over the combat factor of the defending unit. The defender then gets to say if they are abandoning the position, fighting while withdrawing, standing fast or holding at all costs. The odds and the defenders stance are cross-referenced on the battle table to find the outcome.

The only other twists in the rules for Game 1 are:

  • Airborne assault units, which can be dropped on any space on the map provided they start the turn in a friendly city.
  • Special forces units, which may move over water and use coastal spaces to move onto any other coastal space on the map.
  • reinforcements, which come on turn 4
  • terrain effects which can alter combat and movement.
  • The rules for Game 2 get a little more detailed covering such items as weather, air cover, prisoners, logistics and a few other things.

All in all this is a great first war game with a high replay potential. Making up new scenarios and maps adds to the longevity of the game. Because it is easy to learn and yet still challenging after many games there are hordes of die-hard Kriegspiel players all over the world. If you do a search of the web you will find tons of sites with players and variations.

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