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Tag Archives: Analysis

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?

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).

GrogHeads Reviews Zones of Control: Perspectives on Wargaming

The new “big book of wargaming” goes under the GrogHeads microscope ~

Brant Guillory, 15 May 2016

Zones of Control is the book that wargaming has been waiting for.  Seriously.  And that’s a pretty grandiose statement, but the truth is, it’s a long-needed book from a hard-to-ignore-and-harder-to-impugn publisher that tries to comprehensively examine the breadth and depth of wargaming under one cover.  ZOC-CoverWhere previous ‘seminal’ works of wargaming – Simulating War or  The Art of Wargaming or The Complete Wargames Handbook – were concerned with specific facets of wargaming (academic explorations, professional uses, or hobbyists, for example), Zones of Control brings them all into one giant melting pot, and then sprinkles in the occasional dose of aesthetics, role-playing, and digital design.

“Wargame”

Interestingly, Zones of Control is able to swing such a wide arc precisely by avoiding the overly-pedantic and never-solved argument about “what is a wargame?”  It is conspicuously absent throughout the book, and there isn’t even a cursory attempt at it.  Avoiding that discussion allows the editors a wide range of latitude to include discussions of Twilight Struggle, Tunnels & Trolls, and battlefield re-enactors.  And truthfully, the book is much richer for it.

It is that very breadth that can make Zones of Control a challenge to review, however.  To what are we comparing it?  It’s scope alone puts the book in its own category among the wargaming literature.  There’s no comparable volume in the pop music world, whose attempts at a broad-scope literary volume end up more an inventory of artists than an exploration of types of music.  One might compare this book to something like a collected academic volume like the Communication Technology Update, but with technology and its markets moving as they do, that textbook is updated every 2 years. The collected essays of Zones of Control are almost “the greatest hits” of a year or two of erudite magazine articles from a flagship wargaming analysis journal, if such a thing ever existed.  Spread over 5 years of quarterly issues, rather than collected into a consolidated volume, the essays of Zones of Control might have have become the catalyzing agent around which a comprehensive cross-domain association of wargaming might have coalesced – a worthy literary companion to the Connections wargaming conference.  But to deconstruct the book and instead attempt to feature the writers over the span of several years would have cost the critical momentum needed to even publish the book at all.  Instead, we’re forced to hope that someone picks up the baton and starts a recurring publication as a companion to this volume.  But that’s putting the cart at least a mile or two before the horse that Kirschenbaum & Harrigan have saddled for us.

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.