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Tag Archives: Professional

Battle Lab: Headquarters in Wargames

Originally published in Battles! Magazine, here’s a look at HQ units on your tabletop ~

Brant Guillory, 3 May 2017

How are headquarters units implemented in wargames, and what functions do they serve? As wargamers, most of us have enough appreciation of history to understand the value of a headquarters in combat and its ability dramatically affect a battle as it unfolds. There are a variety of ways in which headquarters units can be portrayed on the tabletop.

But first, let’s look at what they do in real life (as always, “the disclaimer”: the doctrine being discussed is American; it’s what I know).

The Tuesday Interview – Dr James Sterrett talks Brown Bag Wargaming

With the recent launch of CGSC’s “Brown Bag” wargaming lunch program, we reached out to the guys at Ft Leavenworth to ask about how hobby wargaming is making its way (back) into the professional ranks ~

Brant Guillory, 07 February 2017

So there was mention of a “brown bag” lunch series of wargames for Army officers to come learn about this crazy hobby of ours, and – we’re assuming – learn how it can all tie into the profession of arms for their future benefit.  Can you tell us a little bit about how the series got started, and what the expectations were for the initial ramp-up of the program?

The idea for the Brown Bag Gaming Program came from our desire to provide a wider array of games that we can fit into our Training with Simulations elective course.  The more we thought about it, the more objectives we realized it might fill.

The core tenet of Brown Bag Gaming is that the development of simulations professionals requires the exploration and discussion of a wide variety of modeling and simulation approaches.  The best means of accomplishing this is to experience the models and simulations in action.  Less formally, that means playing games and thinking about them critically.

Sterrett-BB-4

Tracer Rounds – Another “Resurgence” of Military Wargaming?

The military wants to ‘get back’ to wargaming.  Are they serious this time? ~

There’s been a recent trend in the media covering some developments in the military that I hope or at least slightly heartening. I’ve started to see multiple articles here and there on well-respected online sites about the reinvigoration of wargaming in the military. tracer-wgI’ve written before about the way the professionals use wargaming and how it differs from hobby games and what is commercially realistic. That said, there is certainly some crossover between the two given that so many professionals are also hot scammers, or have been taught by them. (As an editor note, voice recognition just picked up “hobby gamers” as “hot scammers”; maybe Google knows something we don’t?)

There have been articles from the Marines, the Navy, think tanks, and high ranking DoD officials about ways in which the military can start using wargaming again. Part of this is being driven by budget constraints.  My hope is that at least part of this trend is being driven by explorations of uncertainty in our future conflicts.  This type of exploratory wargaming drove US naval innovations in aviation in the inter-war years, and has also been credited with the development of German blitzkrieg tactics around the same time.  So the track record exists of using wargaming as a forward-looking tool for examining doctrine and concepts.  It’s already known as a tool for training, even if a misunderstood one on a regular basis.  Again, I’ve talked about the uses of wargaming in a previous column, so I won’t rehash too much here, just go read the earlier article.

Tracer Rounds – Uses for Wargaming

Seeing a new way to do things ~

Brant Guillory, 11 January 2016

I had a completely different plan for today’s column, and then I started writing.  Remember last week when I said I was going to do this without an editor? This week is one of those weeks where I needed that editor. My first attempt at a column was pretty lousy. I’m a revisit it and try to shine it up for later use, and see if I can salvage something for the hour of work I put in. But that didn’t solve the problem that on a Sunday night I needed something to publish on Monday. There’s nothing like a weekly column to put the abject terror of failure in you. So instead, I am pulling ahead a topic I was planning to write about much later

The professionals talk about wargaming in very different terms than the casual hobbyists do. Don’t get me wrong, the professionals know the difference between a hobby or game and their jobs. Most of them also wargame for fun, and have a huge knowledge of the hobby. But for casual wargamers the professional uses of wargames mainly seem like two cases, and an occasional third.

Battle Lab: The Fog of War(gaming)

What don’t we know about what we don’t know that we don’t know?

Brant Guillory, 8 July 2015

Note that this is a reprint of this article.
Click images to enlarge.

What is the Fog of War?

If ask 10 different people, you’ll get 10 different answers. In fact, I did just that, and here are some excerpts:

“Fog of War is the state of affairs on the battlefield (or pertaining to it) that is beyond a commander’s knowledge. For example, a commander may have a unit which has achieved a specific objective, but the commander is unaware of it due to the fact not having been relayed back to him. A second example may be that a specific objective may house an enemy commander’s HQ but that knowledge is withheld for whatever reason; in terms of conditions on the battlefield may appear to be an irrelevant objective or one that seems a dangerous, undefined, or irrelevant mission.”

“the enemy’s course of action is unknown and/or unconfirmed.”

“Fog of War refers to the confusion and lack of certainty a commander faces while making decisions on how to conduct a battle or war. Since modern war occurs over an area too large for a single commander to view, they rely on information from various sources to develop a mental model of what is occurring. They make their judgment and issue orders based on what they believe is occurring. Lack of information, wrong information, late information, all contribute to create an imperfect perception of what is occurring. This disconnect between what the commander thinks is occurring and what actually is occurring is referred to as the Fog of War.”

“The Fog of War is the lack of certainty in regard to the intent and composition of the enemy.”

“It is summed up as uncertainty based on lack of knowledge.”

“The Fog of War is that period of uncertainty from when the Enemy’s intentions are surmised and the enemy’s actions are known.”

“All the things everyone doesn’t know for sure during an armed conflict.”

So, generally, the “fog of war” is the lack of perfect situational awareness that comes about naturally as a result of actions on the battlefield. Of course it can be present in varying degrees – it is never either “on” or “off”. Curiously enough, the US Army and Marine Corps have no official definitions in their field manuals defining operational terms and graphics.

When examining the issues around “fog of war” however, how can we apply the problems, and their potential solutions, to boardgaming. This is one area in which our computer-gaming brethren have our butts kicked. Computer models can integrate a variety of fog of war effects, in large part because the computer can hide or reveal as much or as little as the programmers desire. It’s much harder to hid information when it’s all printed on a counter in front of you.

Nineteenth Century Military War Games: Charles Totten’s Strategos-The Advanced Game

Nineteenth Century Military War Games:  Charles Totten’s Strategos-The Advanced Game

Robert Mosher, 24 January 2014

Click images to enlarge

This is the third article in our series examining 19th Century war games designed and published primarily but not exclusively for the use of professional armies. The previous articles (here and here) discussed von Reisswitz’ Prussian Kriegsspiel (1824) and W.R. Livermore’s American Kriegsspiel (1882), respectively. This time, we look at Charles Totten’s Strategos, a contemporary design to Livermore’s game.

"Charles Adelle Lewis Totten, 1873." Photo courtesy of the USMA Special Collections & Archives.

“Charles Adelle Lewis Totten, 1873.” Photo courtesy of the USMA Special Collections & Archives.

In 1880 D. Appleton and Company of New York and then-First Lieutenant Charles A. Totten, (Fourth Artillery, United States Army), published STRATEGOS: A Series of American Games of War Based Upon Military Principles and Designed for the Assistance Both of Beginners and Advanced Students in Prosecuting the Whole Study of Tactics, Grand Tactics, Strategy, Military History, and The Various Operations of War. Strategos presented a layered set of games that addressed tactics, grand tactics, and strategy, supplemented by material for the study of military history, with an appendix that included statistical studies relating to the conduct of war.

Like his rival Walter Livermore (Class of 1865), Charles A. Lewis Totten graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point (Class of 1873). His father was Brigadier General James Totten (Class of 1841) and his uncle was Joseph Gilbert Totten (Class of 1805). Charles Totten ranked among the top ten cadets of his graduating class. His first posting, as a Second Lieutenant, was to the 4th Artillery and the garrison at Alcatraz Island, California, one of the forts protecting America’s Pacific Coast. His subsequent career included similar posts such as Fort Monroe, Virginia and the Artillery School there, and the Presidio in San Francisco. Other assignments were as Professor of Military Science and Tactics at the Massachusetts Agricultural College (now the University of Massachusetts) and later at Yale University, and as an instructor at West Point. Totten is still remembered in Massachusetts for his contributions as a founder of the fencing program while he was at Massachusetts Agricultural College. His field service included the Bannock Campaign (1878) and the Chiricahua Campaign (1880-1881).

During his military career he also published “Compensating Powder for Heavy Artillery” (1877), “Text Books and Tables”, and “Instructions in Guard Duty” (1887). His military lectures at Yale, including “Military Economy and the Policy of America” and “Organization, Dis-organization, Re-organization, and Mobilization” are available in a bound collection held in the Yale University Library.

Battle Lab: Integrating Tactical Intelligence into Board Wargaming

Brant Guillory, 10 December 2014

How does intel work in board wargaming?  How could it work?  Here are a few thoughts.

What is Intelligence? What is Tactical Intelligence?

Intel is critical information needed to make decisions; that information is currently unknown, or known but likely to change. Tactical intelligence is specific to the battlespace in which a commander operates, and is needed to make decisions of a direct military nature, involving the employment of battlefield operating systems to accomplish his mission.

For example, a commander may not know the strength of the enemy’s force at all – a situation common in naval combat. In this case, he is dealing with a “pure” unknown. In another case, he may be familiar with the enemy’s initial strength, but following attrition for maintenance and expected harassment and interdiction (H&I) fires, it can be expected that the enemy will hit the commander’s main defensive belt at something less than full strength, but the exact strength is uncertain.

Another common occurrence in reality, but rare in games (especially historical ones because of the way that scenarios are designed), a commander might have a fairly complete enemy order of battle – and his reconnaissance may even have eyes on the enemy – but he has no idea what the enemy objective is.

In any case, there is information about the enemy that the commander needs. That information is intelligence. It’s often developed through inference, and it’s rarely an exact science. Based on what can be seen, what does that tell us about the enemy’s strength, intentions, and capabilities? Based on what is known, what can be extrapolated?

These are the challenges that commanders face in a real-world intelligence development environment.

A Report From Connections 2014

Guest columnist Brian Train gives us a peek inside the annual premier gathering of professional wargaming practitioners.

Once there was an Air Force Captain named Matt Caffrey who realized that commercial wargame designers had a lot to teach and learn from military and government analysts, planners and other subject matter experts. So in 1993 he organized the first CONNECTIONS conference, for the purpose of bringing these two worlds together to talk, for a few days at least. Now retired, Lieutenant Colonel Caffrey has worked to make this conference happen each and every year since then. The 21st annual CONNECTIONS conference on professional wargaming was held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, August 4-7, 2014, and I attended.

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Monday, August 4, was a half-day featuring presentations and discussions by individual speakers. Matt Caffrey spoke on the history of wargaming using information from his upcoming book, the engaging Dr. Peter Perla, author of The Art of Wargaming spoke on analytical wargaming, and Dr. Joe Saur and Chris Weuve spoke on the basics and pitfalls of wargame design.