Paperback: 73 pages
History of Wargaming
Dimensions (cm): 21.6 x 27.9 cm
Supporting Material for Dunn Kempf War Game Rules
Review from Wargames Digest 1979
of the Military use of Dunn Kempf
Memories by Col Steve Kempf,
co-author of the Dunn Kempf rules
If the Cold War Had Turned Hot,
strategic overview by John Curry
Why Do Russian Tactics
Work in Wargaming? by John Curry
Fascinating article by a
leading specialist on how modern western armies (2009) are basically
using Russian tactics John D.
Comment on Dunn
Kempf by Chad C. USA April 2009
Commentary on the Rules
The Dunn-Kempf war game was used to teach a generation of small unit
leaders war fighting techniques. Developed in the mid 1970's, the game
became one of the American army's key indoor training tools to help
prepare young commanders to make decisions when faced by an aggressive
opponent. The Dunn- Kempf model, or rather variants of it, were used for
approximately 20 years.
The key parts of the game were:
· Alternative movement
· 30 second turns.
· 1/285th scale vehicles were represented on a 1 model to 1 vehicle
· Infantry stands were fire teams.
· Ground scale was 1 inch representing 50 metres.
· Playing area was a vacuformed terrain model covering 8 by 10 feet
(supplied in 2 * 4 foot sections) and was based on the actual topography
of the operational area that the unit using the model could expect to
· Introduced time pressure, by allowing only 1 minute for a player to
move all their troops.
If one was to write a history of wargaming, there would be a number of
landmark sets of rules that were the inspiration for wargamers to copy and
change them to create whole series of new games. One of such rules was the
original Kriegsspiel rules of Baron von Reisswitz. Created in the early
19th century, they were endless modified into military and civilian
wargames . Another such set were the Peter Pig's toy soldier game 'AK47',
simulating the wars in Africa in the middle of the 20th century, the rules
have been adapted (with and without acknowledgement) for space games,
ancients, medieval, Vietnam, the Spanish Civil War and World War II.
Another such set was the Dunn-Kempf, The American Army's Tactical Wargame
The Dunn-Kempf game intellectually rested on the work of Phil Barker et
al and the WRG 1970-75 Modern Warfare rules. However, the combat tables
were replaced with classified military data and the WRG rules were
modified to reflect the American Army's understanding of warfare. The
rules were also substantially rewritten with a view to making them more
accessible to the average army officer or senior NCO using them.
The game was developed by Captain Hilton Dunn and Steve Kempf in 1975
while they were students at Fort Leavenworth. They wanted to 'to help
generate plausible and complex tactical situations for small unit
commanders to have to resolve against aggressive opponents'. The game was
such a success that after extensive testing, the Combined Army Centre at
Fort Levenworth, packaged the rules into boxed sets with GHQ micro armour
tanks, terrain boards, maps and other game accessories. 500 Dunn Kempf
games were distributed throughout the army commands around the world.
Wargaming provided the rigor of actually evaluating the plan against a
thinking adversary using current (for that time) weapons and tactics set
on terrain dictated by the scenario. We used rules developed by the
Wargames Research Group for miniatures and terrain boards because they
provided more "detail" than abstract symbols on a map.
The one for one representation of weapon systems by miniatures on an
appropriately scaled terrain board also reinforced details of unit
organization and necessity for combined fires and operations. People could
actually "see" how and why the plans worked or not and then how to improve
them. Remember this was way before computer "games" or programs were
detailed enough to keep people engaged.
A secondary benefit was that because we used very accurately detailed
scale miniatures and terrain players were also learning vehicle and system
identification and ranges. Stretch and I were asked to do the wargaming
for a series of Army "defense conferences" (while we were students) that
began to show that the "Active Defense" had some problems. After that the
simulation just took off and the rest is history, as they say." Col. Kempf
The boxed sets included a typical US 'Blue' force would contain 17
M60A1 main battle tanks, a M113A1 personnel carrier, a mechanised infantry
company with 15 M113A1s, three 81mm tracks, 2 M113A1 TOW carriers, nine
rifle squads, six M60 machine gun teams, and 12 Dragon teams. Additional
forces were included depending on the units using the model. For example,
an armoured unit might have 4 additional TOW APC's, four 4.2 inch mortar
carriers, a REDEYE ground-to-air missile team, 10 Sheridan M551 light
tanks, a pair of armoured vehicle launched bridge units, an M88 tank
recovery vehicle, an M578 light recovery vehicle, two M559 POL tankers, a
pair of M561 Gamma Goat cargo vehicles and a pair of AH 1-G TOW equipped
A typical OPFOR (Opposing Force) would consist of a tank battalion of
31 T-62 medium tanks, three BTR-50 personnel carriers and a pair of BRDM
armed with Saggers, a motorized rifle company of 10 BMP personal carriers,
nine rifle squads. They might also have three additional BRDMs with
Saggers, a pair of ZSU-57-2 anti aircraft vehicles, six light trucks, nine
additional T62 tanks, three PT-76 light recce tanks, a pair of Recon
BRDM-2 and two HIND - A Helicopters.
Units were encouraged to supplement the kit with commercially bought
tanks from GHQ.
One of the secrets to the games success was the level of customisation
that took place. The terrain boards were always made to resemble the area
the units would deploy to. For example, the game at Fort Irwin in
California had a terrain model for the National Training Centre (NTC). I
received emails from soldiers who served in Germany who found it very
useful to rehearse using the terrain board, then go out and carry out
exercises over the real terrain shown on the model.
Another aspect of the rules was the extent to which they inspired
different units to modify them to meet their own needs. While keeping the
underlying rule sets, they expanded the parts most relevant to them. The
US Army Infantry School (USAIS) at Fort Benning changed the scope of the
game to focus more on the infantry squad/ tank platoon level to meet their
needs. The III Corps Simulation Centre used an 'armour heavy variant'
Servicing 1st Cavalry Division and 2nd Armored Division (as well as other
II Corps units), that variant had an impact on a significant portion of
the US armoured forces. This variant was also used by the 49th Armored
Division (Texas National Guard) just down the road in Austin.
In addition to the various units of the American army adaptating the
game, the rules had a significant international impact. The Canadian's
produced a variant of the game to meet their own needs . The game was also
used in Australia for simulation and for training. The British Army
experimented with it and interestingly enough the game was even played by
the Russians . However, I speculate that the WARSAW Pact played the game
to better understand the American view of war rather than as training tool
in its own right.
The last mention I have found for the game being used for military
training was at an American Armour conference in 1997, but the game has
stayed in the archives of many units.
In the 1990's, the rules were superseded by various computer based
games, starting with CAABS Computer Assisted Airland Battle. The latter
was basically a computer assisted version of the Dunn-Kempf game. Now the
American army uses predominantly computer based war games; civilian
examples include Tac Ops and Brigade Combat Team Commander .
Overview of the Game
The scale used was one inch equals 50 meters. However, the vertical
scale was exaggerated approximately 2:1 to give added relief to the
terrain board. Part of calculating line of sight was expected to be
done by simply looking at table-top level to see if the target can be
seen. The army marketed the rules, not as a wargame, but as 'high
resolution company level battle simulation system'. The games were run
with the OPFOR (Opposing Force) being run as a thinking opponent. The
Russian Army's tactics were designed to be used in a multi-language,
under-trained army, but the American army was aware that if a war
started, the Russians would adapt their standard tactics in the face
of the reality of a real war.
The rules taught the necessity of the correct deployment of
combined arms, using every available weapon to hit the enemy advance,
battlefield observation, employment of indirect fire, close
air-support, use of attack helicopters, suppression, obstacles,
fortifications, use of smoke, the proper use of terrain and working
under the electronic warfare environment.
The mechanised infantry platoon could use Dunn Kempf to explore
hasty attacks, movement to contact, active defence, preparation of
strong points, delaying tactics, and disengagement under fire.
The models were covered in a single colour, with the tank turrets
painted shut (to reduce breakages). Each kit was supplied with
instructions on how to make terrain boards for local use. The ideas
was each board would only be used six of seven times before being
replaced with another section of terrain.
The game used a curtain to hang chin-high half way down the playing
area. This was to stop the other side gaining a 'helicopter view' of
the actions of the other side. The curtain hung down to within 2
inches of the playing area, forcing players to bend down to see the
battlefield from the perspective of their forces. If one side had a
greater knowledge of the terrain, then the curtain could be moved
further away from them to increase their view, while correspondingly
reducing that of their opponents.
The game normally had one controller (umpire) and three or four
players per side. One player on each side was clearly the commander
who would give orders.
The work of the Combined Arms Centre greatly improved the
presentation of the rules, but to assist learning the game the rules
included an hour long video. This explained the game, with examples
for each stage.
The game turns were alternate, with the attacker starting first.
Artillery fire was requested, then the impact from previous turns was
calculated. Direct fire was followed by movement. In each 30 second
turn, vehicles could move six inches (20 metres) on roads and four
cross-country. Infantry moved 100 metres at their maximum rate.
The use of six sided dice was particularly cunning. The red dice
represented the 10's, while the white dice represented the 1's. So
throwing the dice could give a range of scores from 11 to 66. A few
years later, 10 sided dice became widespread to represent percentage
probabilities, but the six sided dice were still used.
Indirect fire used an acetate grid. One die was rolled. 1 or 2
meant the shot was either short or over, 3 or 4 meant it was left or
right, 5 or 6 meant the rounds landed on target. If the round missed,
the dice was rolled again and multiplied by 50 metres to get the range
error or by 25 metres to get the deflection error.
One of the key effects of indirect fire was suppression. To kill a
tank needed a 6, but a roll of 5 suppressed it. Infantry were
suppressed on a roll of a 4 (5 or 6 to kill). Successfully suppressing
some of the attacking units places the attacker in a quandary. To
continue the advance and risk the wave being destroyed 'in detail' or
waiting under indirect fire until all the vehicles are unsuppressed
and then continuing the advance. Giving players such choices was part
of the training value of the game.