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The Other Fog of War in Wargames

When we think about Fog of War in board gaming, we usually think of hidden units.  There are many ways to do this.  Traditional Kriegsspiel uses Umpires.  Each ‘player’ is isolated with his own map.  Only the Umpire knows where everybody is at any given time.

True Kriegsspiel is fantastic!  It does require lots of players though…  Most wargamers struggle to find 1 opponent, little lone teams of people.    

Wargames with Fog of War


Modern wargame (board games) have been moving towards incorporating Fog of War in their games.  Usually not with Umpires but with board game ‘technology’.  In many ways Columbia Games started this effort with their hidden blocks.  This conceals the unit type and strength.  This effort has grown with new companies pushing this concept in different ways:

Command Post Games

Columbia Games

Simmons Games

Worthington Games

The Other Fog of War


These companies all make great games that incorporate some Fog of War effects from Kriegsspiel into a regular 2 player board game.  As I think about playing Kriegsspiel and these games, I notice there is something missing.

In Kriegsspiel, you don’t know exactly where the enemy is or what they have.  Heck, half the time you aren’t certain about where your own people are or what they have!  That is true but it is only half the problem.  The other half of the problem is Communication and Control.  This is huge.

Control


When it is my turn to move, I don’t actually move them.  Another player (or an Umpire acting as my subordinate) moves them for me.  I give them orders telling them how to move and what to do but I don’t actually do the move or even see it.  Did they do what I said?  Did they do it exactly like I would have done?  Did they do it quickly or slowly?  I don’t know. 

In Kriegsspiel, I control MY pieces indirectly.  I don’t actually move and attack with them myself.  Imagine all the Fog of War that results from this one simple difference.  It is massive! 

Communication


Ok, so you don’t actually move the pieces, you tell somebody else to do it for you.  Keywords here are:  ‘Tell Somebody’.  That is Communication.  Did they hear what you said?  Did you say what you thought you said?  Do those words mean the same thing to them? 

Here is a bigger problem:  What if there is no communication?  You CAN’T talk to them?  At least not right now.  Maybe there is a turn or two delay.  What happens in the mean time?  Bam!  Fog of War. 

Example


It all starts out sounding so simple.  Your orders are to attack the enemy in Newville.  Throw them out and occupy Newville.  Hold and defend Newville from the enemy thereafter.  Fine.  What could go wrong with that?

You approach Newville.  As you do, you find that the enemy is not there.  Newville has been evacuated.  You see some enemy activity on your right flank and get the sneaking suspicion that they are preparing for a massive counter attack at you from there but you have no hard evidence to support this.

What do you do?  Do you occupy Newville as ordered?  If the enemy does attack from your right, you will easily be cut off.  If you delay and ask for clarification from command, the enemy could occupy Newville in the meantime.  Now you just lost and easily secured objective. 

Maybe your commander already knows about the enemy forming to your right.  Maybe they already have something in place to deal with that threat.  Maybe they are clueless and you are about to get stomped. 

Notice the key ingredient that causes the headache here is:  No Communication, not least not for the moment.  IF your commander was sitting right next to you, holding your hand, there would be no issue.  You both instantly know what is going on and can easily make the best decision. 

 

What can we do?


Hidden units in wargames are great.  They bring in much of the Fog of War.  From my Kriegsspiel experience, that is only a part.  A much bigger part of the Fog of War is limited Control and Communication.  How can we bring more of these elements into Wargaming? 

Our first big push in this direction is Dracula’s Final Stand.  Yes, it is a semi fantasy theme but make no mistake, it IS a wargame.  The movement & combat may be very simple.  I’ll argue that the C&C aspects are very advanced and sophisticated.

In many ways, Dracula is the opposite of traditional Block Games.  Dracula implements Fog of War not by Hidden Units.  All players can clearly see everything on the board at all times.  Guess what?  This makes little difference.  This game has massive amounts of Fog of War, like you’ve never seen.  (Unless of course you are used to Kriegsspiel.)  The Other type of Fog of War.   

Dracula’s Hopes and Fears


Dracula is a strong push in a very new direction:  Fog of War based on C&C.  This is very exciting and we plan to drive harder with this in more ‘serious’ wargame titles.  I can’t wait to see how this develops.  

The only down side I see is that it requires more people.  No way around this.  To get the real C&C Fog of War effects you MUST have teams.  It doesn’t take much.  You can start to see this with even 3-4 players.

To make this easier, we’ve kept the complexity to Dracula very low.  Grandma can play it.  If you are a Grognard, your first thought maybe to skip it.  A simple ‘Dracula’ type game is hardly worth our higher, cerebral, military science faculties. 

I’d ask you to think again.  Yes the movement and combat is really simple.  That’s so you can easily find players.  The military strategy, C&C is very complex. 

Can you lead and turn Grandma, two teenagers and your fishing buddy into an elite fighting force to take down the enemy without being able to talk to them half the time? 

Now you are practicing the true Art of War.  I would say this is a much more realistic and accurate model of Command.  “What if YOU were in command at Gettysburg?”

They were a sad lot.  Soldiers dressed in rags, poorly paid and low in morale.  Under Napoleon, they became heroes, achieving the highest, heights of glory.  

 

   

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “The Other Fog of War in Wargames

  1. Ah, now I get it! No matter how many of your posts I read, each successive one is a new reveal! THAT shows how complex this deceptively simple game really is…”easy to learn, challenging to master.”

  2. Yes very interested in you doing kriegspiel blocks, and materials and maps and scenarios or working with a company.
    I’ve looked online and not sure what would be getting from overseas services.
    Also ready ATO order Dracula asap.
    And Gettysburg and Waterloo.
    Recently got a friend from Lafayette In. To order Marengo ( I just received my 3rd game from you Brandywine)[im ordering Marengo after Christmas].

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