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Category Archives: Battle Lab

Battle Lab: Games and Sims for Training and Learning, II

Continuing the long-running discussion ~

Dr James Sterrett, 12 December 2017

Previously published back at GrogNews, we have a guest article written by Dr James Sterrett, an instructor at the US Army’s Command and General Staff College. Please note that these are his ideas and are not reflective of official US Army policy, doctrine, canon, religion, or other official imprimatur.

the objective of an activity [is] more important that the software (or paper rule set) being used

+++++++
Brant and I have cheerfully sparred over the distinction between games and simulations over the years.  What follows is my take, focused on training & education, in two different variants.  The first is useful as a snappy comment, while the second works better analytically.  In the end, both point to the objective of an activity as more important that the software (or paper rule set) being used, and neither variant is perfect.

Battle Lab: Why Logistics Sucks

Why logistics so rarely shows up in wargames ~

Brant Guillory, 25 October 2017

Here’s a logic puzzle for you.

You have 4 snakes that have to get through a maze. They each have a destination, but there are only 3 start points and only 3 endpoints. Oh, and the routes through the maze cross in several places, which means you have to sequence your snakes through the maze. And by the way, there is a certain sequence the snakes need to depart and arrive.

Does your head hurt yet? What if we started putting some obstacles in the maze? How about if the snakes stop off for a bite to eat? What if we start including snakes going the other direction, too? Some passageways are too small for some snakes, do you route them through those pathways to free up space for other snakes even if the smaller ones now take longer to get where they’re going?

Monsters of War: Learning Complex Games

How do you eat an elephant? ~

Gary Mengle, 31 July 2017

Many wargamers can hear the quiet siren’s call of the complex monster, the game with a thousand counters and 50+ pages of rules… or more. For those of us who desire simulation over competitive gameplay the song can be particularly strong. Sure, that game of For the People is enjoyable for a long afternoon, but we still thirst for the big, deep, epic, massive game that takes weeks or months and hundreds of hours to play.

 

Even so, most of us have only so much mental space to be taken up with complex rules for multiple games, which I figure is why a lot of ASL players seldom touch other games with similar depth. “Complex” doesn’t equate to “monster,” of course — and ASL is again a great example of that — but in recent years many monsters have also been complex.

Advanced Squad Leader

So how do you approach a game like that? Having learned and forgotten a number of complicated games over the years, here are some time that might help you learn the great beasts of wargaming. These won’t guarantee mastery… but learn the rules and then play, and mastery will come.

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).

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.