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Sunday, 10 February 2013

German Armed Forces play board games

I met some key people in the German armed forces this week. They use board games for leadership training. They use historical games from well-known companies such as Victory Point Games and Decision Games, just blown up counters and maps to four times the size.

The games are two sided, with command cells issuing orders to the players moving counters on the board. Typically, each side has separate commanders for the left, right and middle. Inevitably confusion reigns; games are punctuated by mis-communication, lack of strategy and poor leadership.

The reasoning for using such historical games is interesting. By forcing them to use a game for a military period that is not modern, military players are moved out of their comfort zone of detailed knowledge of modern weapons. Inter-service players can work in groups, with games that are not classified. They can also add in civilians as players, civilians who have to work with the military in crises or who are responsible for directing the military to start operations.

NATO is the most powerful military alliance in the world with earth shattering power (the latter is not a metaphor). However, its key weakness has now been identified as an over emphasis on teaching commanders to control operations and not enough on tactics and leadership. So the German answer is to start playing military board games. They are convinced that putting leaders in situations they are not familiar with and putting them under pressure teaches the players to remember basic lessons in leadership and tactics. The aim is for players in a real future crises, when faced with chaos and confusion, will remember how they failed with the board games and do better in the real world.

NATO countries are involved in so many conflicts, no doubt we will have feedback if the idea of playing military board games for leadership training has any value.


  1. I'm interested to know what sort of games- do they stick to 20th century titles or back further in time, horse and musket era and earlier?



  2. A very interesting development. Mind you, the Germans have always been great lovers of board games, and now that the shadow of the Third Reich is no longer omnipresent over the German military, it would seem to be an obvious step for them to 'get back to their roots' so to speak.

    All the best,


  3. Games about WWII are taboo in the German armed forces. It is not a rule, just everyone knows. I will obtain a list of the games they have used and post them here.

  4. Commercial Conflict Simulation Games used for the JAPCC E&T Model so far

    Title Producer Topic
    Attack Sub Avalon Hill ASW (1980 to 2000)
    Command & Colors: Ancient GMT Games Battles (1175 BC to 70 AD)
    Command & Colors: Napoleonic GMT Games Battles (1807-1815)
    Crusader Rex Columbia Games Land Campaigns (1187-1192)
    Field Commander: Napoleon Dan Verssen Games Campaigns (1796-1815)
    Hold the Line! Worthington Games Battles (1775-1781)
    Hornet Leader -
    Carrier Air Operations Dan Verssen Games Air Campaigns (1984-2015)
    Keep up the Fire! Victory Point Games Boxer Rebellion (1900)
    Napoleon's War Worthington Games Battles (1800-1815)
    Nemo's War Victory Point Games Fictitious Naval Campaign (1880-1890)
    Ottoman Sunset Victory Point Games WW I (1914-1918)
    Phantom Leader Dan Verssen Games Air Campaigns (1965-1974)
    Space Hulk Games Workshop Battle within spacecraft (Science Fiction)
    Space Infantry Lock'n Load Publishing Fictitious Special Operations (2000-…)
    Victory Columbia Games Fictitious Modern War (1960-…)
    Zulus on the Ramparts! Victory Point Games Battle (1879)