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"Wargaming at US Naval War College *" Topic

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1,269 hits since 24 Jan 2017
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ChrisBBB24 Jan 2017 7:06 a.m. PST

Professor Murray is using wargaming as a serious tool for professional military education at the US Naval War College. I had the privilege of assisting in a class using the battle of Froeschwiller (1870) from the Franco-Prussian War to teach about mission command, tactical decision-making etc. Full report here:

(Re-submitted to try to avoid the TMP bug)


Bloody Big BATTLES!

KTravlos Supporting Member of TMP24 Jan 2017 7:07 a.m. PST

Good show!

Personal logo wrgmr1 Supporting Member of TMP24 Jan 2017 9:54 a.m. PST

Great report! Using the FPW is such a great idea for exactly the reasons you stated. These officers can learn what it is like to deal with a situation out of their sphere of operations. The difference in weaponry is so disparate that it is a good lesson.
Please send a congratulations to Dr. Murray from TMP wargamers.

Lascaris24 Jan 2017 11:10 a.m. PST

Very cool. I really enjoy BBB for the latter part of the 19th/early 20th century.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP24 Jan 2017 3:47 p.m. PST

Very nice!

ChrisBBB25 Jan 2017 6:18 a.m. PST

Thanks, guys, glad you liked it. I've passed your kind words on to Nick.

One of the things that gets forgotten after decades of counter-insurgency operations is the sheer scale of the casualties in conventional war between peer opponents. Learning that both sides at Froeschwiller lost about 10,000+ men was a bit of a shock to some of Nick's students in a previous class.


NickinRI Supporting Member of TMP27 Jan 2017 6:52 p.m. PST

Thanks for helping out, Chris. It was a pleasure, and the students enjoyed the game. The French commander admitted to his error in his AAR, and realized that being stubborn might have worked at the tactical level (but didn't), and certainly stuffed up the French campaign as their right wing got annihilated.

I think the Prussian commander was quite pleased, as he is a navy officer and really adapted to the changed circumstances very quickly.

vtsaogames28 Jan 2017 8:16 a.m. PST

Sounds great. Nick, I would love to see the 1796 operational game of Bonaparte in Italy.

Our game of Froeschwiller played last February had massive losses, about 20,000 for each side. It was a tie by terms of the game but the French would certainly have pulled back after nightfall, leaving the Germans to bury all the dead.

Royal Marine02 Feb 2017 1:43 p.m. PST

This looks really interesting. How did you get and invite out their?

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP02 Feb 2017 3:00 p.m. PST

Nick and I go back a long way.

NickinRI Supporting Member of TMP03 Feb 2017 7:08 a.m. PST

Chris let me have an early version of BBB before he published it, as I was looking for a simple set of rules to use to train and educate my officers. I was working for the US Army at the time.

I liked Froeschwiller because the battle situation allowed us to have a large scale tactical action, with clear operational and strategic outcomes. It also showcases the differing arms, command systems, and quality between the sides.

I arranged with the Naval War College to bring him up, so that the officers could engage with the rules' author. This worked out well, as I had the head of Marines Infantry Training West, and the head of Army Future Wargames observing the class to see how they could adapt what I do to both the future fight and current training.

NickinRI Supporting Member of TMP03 Feb 2017 7:14 a.m. PST

Vtsaogames: The operational level game is still being worked on. The long term plan is to use the core rules, which are very simple, to war game a variety of periods at the operational and strategic levels. These will then tie in with the core syllabus of the Naval War College. This idea is to complement the seminars with wargames to try and draw out some of the lessons, and think through contingencies.

PM me if you are interested in the Po Valley game.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP03 Feb 2017 8:26 a.m. PST

We played a war game at Fort Sill in the early 1980s using US Army tactics against that of the Warsaw Pact. Minitanks were used.

NickinRI Supporting Member of TMP03 Feb 2017 2:44 p.m. PST

Brectel198: I suspect you used the Dunn Kempf rule set?

I am trying to get Army and Marines to go back to doing more of that. I a, now working with both, using BBB to aid decision making in an uncertain environment, and thinking about future war. The goal for this is to get junior to mid ranking officers practicing decision making with asymmetric weapons and command and control systems, etc. it provides practice for problem solving in action.

streetgang6 Supporting Member of TMP04 Feb 2017 2:35 a.m. PST

We (James and I) run Dunn-Kempf a couple times a year at CGSC for our students since you've left us. We're fortunate in that Steve Kempf lives in the area and is kind enough to come in and talk to us about his experiences of developing the game back in the '70s.

BTW, congratulations to you on the SecDef award! Well deserved.


Royal Marine04 Feb 2017 5:54 a.m. PST
Billy Yank04 Feb 2017 7:30 a.m. PST

When I was a company commander, I would have my LTs over to my house and we would play the Sword and the Flame and call it professional development…

thomalley04 Feb 2017 8:16 a.m. PST

I assume the navy still has its large computerized system in Newport. I worked on it in the 1980 when is was referred to as NWGS.

Early morning writer05 Feb 2017 8:54 a.m. PST

Being ex-navy, a curious question – (and I understand the broadest level theory of tactical thinking but…) how does land based gaming improve the skill level of officers leading a water borne force? The weapons systems and environment of use aren't parallel, only very small warships have nimble maneuverability versus highly nimble weapons systems (intelligent guided missiles, for instance). I suspect even more so than Midway style engagements, modern naval warfare is an extreme "stand-off" event. Though it can be argued there are few truly modern naval forces. Oh, and at sea there is nowhere to run for cover – especially not from sophisticated tracking systems. Not trying to being argumentative, I'm truly curious as to how a 19th century land combat can reflect war at sea in any realistic way? Other than teaching tactical thinking which is always a good lesson.

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP05 Feb 2017 12:52 p.m. PST

Because we operate in a joint environment. The Navy does not go to war alone. A clear understanding of principles is vital to understanding each services contributions. I served on several headquarters (USCENTCOM, USEUCOM and JCS to name a few) and professional education consisted of all arenas of combat (ground, air and naval) through a wide variety of eras.

NickinRI Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2017 5:38 a.m. PST

Even the Sword and the Flame would work, if one were focused solely on decision making and basic micro tactics. Of course, just playing the game is less effective, than pausing and analyzing what is going on, as well as working through contingencies.

As for the use of land games at the Naval War College. I could be flippant and point out that, ultimately, almost all wars are decided on land. However, that would obscure the point made by Marc. We need officers to think about the whole spectrum of conflict, not just their particular specialty. They don't need to become experts in everything (even if that were possible), but it is helpful to understand how the various services fight. Many plans are now made jointly, and understanding problems that are unique to each service is important. E.g. One of my Air Force officers, has repeatedly mentioned how he now 'gets' the problems faced in planning by the navy.

The class is made up of officers from all services, as well as civilians who work for government. They need to have a basic understanding of why each of the services functions as it does. War gaming is great for showing that and, being hands on, the students get to try things out for themselves.

Last, and this is an area that is often overlooked, the students need to practice decision-making in an uncertain environment. They need to be comfortable making decisions under stress and time pressure, without knowing how all the pieces fit together. e.g Having an army officer trying to figure out how the weapon systems of the French and Prussians interact, whilst trying to win a battle and connect the tactical fight to national strategy can make for an excellent learning experience. And vice versa for other services and scenarios.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2017 7:39 a.m. PST

I suspect you used the Dunn Kempf rule set?

Yes, I think so. Interesting little game.

Royal Marine06 Feb 2017 1:40 p.m. PST

Being comfortable with uncertainty is vital in decision making; putting students out of their comfort zone and giving them a challenge under pressure sharpens the senses somewhat.

NickinRI Supporting Member of TMP20 Feb 2017 6:29 a.m. PST

Spot on Royal Marine.

I like BBB as we fought Jena-Auerstadt, Shiloh, and Froeschwiller.

This allowed the students to deal with hugely different armies wielding the same kit, but differentiated by doctrine and command and control (Jena); armies that were virtually identical for all intents and purposes as they have the same basic weapons, tactics, and command systems (Shiloh); and armies that varied greatly in size, weapons systems, quality, and command and control (Froeschwiller).

In turn, that means the students have to adapt to the changing circumstances, despite their recent experience being different. For each battle, the side that came to grips with the key issues and changes first, tended to do much better. Also, broadly speaking, the ones who focused on the bigger picture were able to keep their tactical engagement lined up with their strategic objectives.

All in all, an excellent learning opportunity for all.

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