Help support TMP

"Wargames Accurately Simulating War" Topic

120 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Historical Wargaming Message Board

Action Log

09 Sep 2017 1:00 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Crossposted to Historical Wargaming board

10 Apr 2018 5:22 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Removed from TMP Poll Suggestions board

2,384 hits since 9 Sep 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Pages: 1 2 3 

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian09 Sep 2017 1:00 p.m. PST

On a scale of 0 to 10 (low to high), how accurate are miniature wargames at simulating war?

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2017 1:21 p.m. PST

0 – they are games, War is War.

advocate09 Sep 2017 1:35 p.m. PST

Some simulate some part of war. I couldn't put a number on it.

MajorB09 Sep 2017 1:36 p.m. PST

Depends on the game.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2017 1:44 p.m. PST

No number. And sharp limits. There are all kinds of things wargames do not simulate, and we wouldn't play them if they did. (Hunger, fatigue, terror and exhaustion only begin the list.) But some rules do a good job of seeing that good tactics are rewarded and bad tactics punished. Others don't.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2017 1:44 p.m. PST


rustymusket Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2017 1:46 p.m. PST

They are more likely to simulate war at the higher, general tactical and strategic level than at the lower levels.

foxweasel09 Sep 2017 2:16 p.m. PST

0, it's just a game.

UshCha09 Sep 2017 2:26 p.m. PST

It has limits, it's a simulation not actual war, the two are not the same, even if you are into simulations. You can play games where the only thing that is vaguely correct are the models themselves all the rest can be fantasy. Or you can simulate bit of war like you simulate a bit of engineering design. Me, I give our rules 9 out of ten for the bits we wanted to get right. It is 3 out of 10 for the bits we did not bother about but that is neither here nor there as we were not trying to simulate that bit.

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2017 3:08 p.m. PST

0 same

Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2017 3:36 p.m. PST

0 Tabletop historical miniatures are simply games with the flavor of a given period.

Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2017 3:42 p.m. PST


Ottoathome Inactive Member09 Sep 2017 4:07 p.m. PST


John Leahy09 Sep 2017 4:35 p.m. PST

0. However at forcing players of some games into similar decision making of the commanding officers minus the weather, fatigue and general real life conditions I'd say 4-6.

Otherwise, why would the military use them to train their officers using wargames.

FusilierDan Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2017 5:36 p.m. PST


Irish Marine Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2017 6:33 p.m. PST

A big fat zero. No one writes letters to the parents of the troops killed during a game.

Ragbones Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2017 6:49 p.m. PST

0. What Irish Marine said.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2017 6:59 p.m. PST


Among other lacks, wargames do not simulate the
offensive odor of war, especially death.

KSmyth09 Sep 2017 10:01 p.m. PST

0, no way.

VVV reply10 Sep 2017 1:47 a.m. PST

Logistics often get missed out.

nickinsomerset10 Sep 2017 2:38 a.m. PST

At a large strategic level, possibly. At a tactical level, no! To simulate an assault that would take minutes in real life would take hours on the table!

Tally Ho!

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP10 Sep 2017 2:40 a.m. PST

0 no one is trying to kill me.

Oberlindes Sol LIC10 Sep 2017 3:15 a.m. PST

(Hunger, fatigue, terror and exhaustion only begin the list.)

Wargames can and should simulate all those things. All troops don't come into battle well-fed, rested, and confident. Morale rules usually govern these matters.

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP10 Sep 2017 4:12 a.m. PST

Much more than 0 (wargames are closer to simulating war than chess, or ludo for that matter), much less than 10.

As a matter of interest, what rating would people give advanced flight simulators?

Great War Ace Inactive Member10 Sep 2017 7:12 a.m. PST

Crap design, zero.

Good simulation of mechanical effects and the randomness of unknown morale results before the fact, nine.

Simulating actually being in combat, zero to one.

Northern Monkey10 Sep 2017 8:00 a.m. PST

Can a game reflect the effect of a machine gun firing onto a group of men?

Can the game represent the difficulty getting the men under fire to advance?

Can a game present the player with some of the command choices that a real commander has (even as simple as do I attack my enemy's front or his flank)?

Can a game reflect the chance a 57mm anti-tank gun has Of knocking out a Panzer IV?

Can a game regelect the difficulty that the crew of the Panzer IV have in seeing the AT gun that just shot at them?

Can a game present a situation where a comrade is wounded and you must help him to get casevac?

Can a game allow that wounded man to bleed out before help comes?

Can a game represent a glider landing by a German held bridge on D-Day?

Can a game represent Kasserine Pass in North Africa!

I have played In games which which have done all of these things and more, Are they not simulations in their own way? I cannot understand wargamers who value their hobby so lowly. Maybe you are playing the wrong games?

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Sep 2017 8:50 a.m. PST

The respondents so far appear to be working from very different definitions of "accurate simulation" (which, perhaps, should have been more carefully defined in the original question).

Some seem to think that accuracy necessarily involves blood, fear, hunger and death. That's just silly. This would only be so if the purpose of a wargame was to simulate the experience of being in combat, which it never is.

Some seem to think that it means that the game must encompass every possible detail in order to be a "simulation", when all that is really necessary is that it sheds light on some aspect of war. As John von Neumann said, "Truth is much too complicated to allow anything but approximations".

Does every wargame have the potential to enlighten us? Of course not . . . many wargame designers make little or no attempt to create congruencies between what happens in the game and what happened in reality. Even wargames which are carefully crafted to illuminate some aspect of history are incomplete and often inaccurate. Books and maps are also, by definition, incomplete and are often wildly inaccurate, but that doesn't mean that we can utterly reject them all as having zero utility in the process of learning about war or history (or any other subject, for that matter). As in all other matters, the only sensible answer to a simplistic question is "it depends".

Ottoathome Inactive Member10 Sep 2017 9:26 a.m. PST

Dear Ed Mohrmann

Ah yes. The smell. ..

My own most distancing thing is the terror. When Don Featherstone was asked this question he said to the interrogator, "Want to know what War is like? How about I stand over you with a cricket bat and every time you make a wrong move or lose a soldier or do a blunder I hit you in the head with it." His point was the constant terror of that happening would reduce most people to terrified quivering blobs.

The proof of what Don said is verified in another story by a lieutenant who remembers the day he heard the Germans had surrendered. Everyone gave a hip-hip-hooray and had a few drinks and were happy, but nothing terribly melodramatic. The next day when he awoke he found himself completely unable to control his body. He was thrashing about almost as in a seizure, then alternately paralyzed, screaming, crying, unable to move and all that was going through his mind was "I'M GOING TO LIVE! I'M GOING TO LIVE!" He was unable to control his bowels and evacuated himself and he had to be restrained. The emotional release of four years of this tension and fear testified to how far peace is different from war. A week later he was fine.

Ottoathome Inactive Member10 Sep 2017 9:33 a.m. PST

Dear whirlwind.

You said advanced flight simulators, but I wondered how many would want to experience advanced FIGHT simulationrs, like a super-real video game in a full body suit or whatever, including your own death.

Not me. I'm a coward. I wouldn't want to see those images. I would gladly do them in real life because I would have to. My country would call and I would answer, as I did many years ago.

But VOLUNTARILY go through it even on a lark.. Uh-Uh! I'm in this for fun. I will turn off television programs that disturb me. Rizzoli and Isles was one of my favorite shows. When the girls were in situations of extreme peril in the hands of serial killers I couldn't watch it. Same with horror movies. There's too much misery in the world now without adding more. Not in my hobby.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP10 Sep 2017 9:34 a.m. PST

A big fat zero. No one writes letters to the parents of the troops killed during a game.


That is one of the benefits of simulations. No one breaks bones and bleeds crashing in a flight simulator either, but that doesn't mean there is zero connection between actual flying and the simulator.

There may well be 0 relationship between our wargames and war, but if that is the case, it remains a failure in design--or intentional, not an impossibility.

Personal logo toofatlardies Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Sep 2017 11:09 a.m. PST

If wargames do not simulate war, i do wonder why I have recently been involved with the British Army's development of their latest wargames rules which is being rolled out through the Army as we speak.

I wonder why the US armed forces use wargaming as a tool. Why the German commanders on D-Day were absent at a wargame being held at Rheims I wonder why the Germans used wargames to plan and test the Schlieffen Plan. Were they than idiots? Are our senior commanders today stupid to encourage wargaming in the services?

Of course, a simulation does not attempt to replicate every aspect of war. In a military sense the wargame is used to hone the decision making skills of commanders and also to test out ideas and plans to see what results are achieved. History is full of examples of wargames which have changed military plans and even policy.

As hobby wargamers, wargames can be used effectively as a tool to examine historical events. Yesterday I attended a wargame which sought to examine the events of the second day at Gettysburg and of the fifteen players all found it an incredibly informative and interesting exercise to look at alternative strategies by both sides.

More likely, wargames can be used to simply allow the layman the opportunity to experience the challenges of command. Does he attack first, does he wait for the enemy to advance to reveal his and; does he charge head on or seek to adopt some ruse to gain an advantage over the enemy. Of course this is an imperfect simulation, but then again a computer programme allowing you to fly a Spitfire may well be imperfect but, to some degree it is still a worthwhile simulation as it is enjoyable and probably allows a greater understanding of the basic issues such as ammunition limitation, the capabilities of the plane, the advantages and disadvantages it has when compared to your opponent's ME109. Likewise, a gamer playing a WWII skirmish can leave the game with a better understanding of how the MG42 impressed men under fire and how fire and movement tactics worked.

Of course, nobody evacuates their bowels, nobody is killed, we don't smell the blood, we do not experience the threat to our own safety, but these are not what our wargames are looking to simulate. Thank God.

As to how effectively wargames simulate war, that must and can only depend on the game that is being played. What figures are used is irrelevant, what terrain is used can affect the outcome, but the rules are central to the process. A good set of wargame rules should allow a range of results based upon what is possible in reality. A good commander should be rewarded by the effective use of historical tactics. If those elements are present then the game as a simulation of warfare is valid. There will, of course, be degrees of success.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP10 Sep 2017 1:00 p.m. PST

Toofatlardies +1

I just saw the movie "Sully" and simulators played a large part in the narrative.

The simulations gave the wrong results for Sully's ditching his airliner in the Hudson until the right information was included as part of the simulation. Garbage in, garbage out.

Simulations do work well when used correctly with the right information. Part of the 'used correctly' requires that everyone involved knows what simulations can do very well, what they can't do and what no one wants them to do at all--like experience an actual crash.

False definitions and false expectations simply cloud the issues.

foxweasel10 Sep 2017 1:53 p.m. PST

Toofatlardies, I think most people on this thread (myself included) jumped in feet first and assumed Bill meant actual combat. Of course wargames simulate war, some do it very well indeed. I've been involved in some quite good ones at Battle Group level at work. I didn't know you were developing one for us, what level is it aimed at? I'm assuming higher than platoon, is it on

BigDan Supporting Member of TMP10 Sep 2017 2:32 p.m. PST

Whats up with all the 0s? Really? At the level of Command that most of us play at we represent a leader riding around in an APC or in a Command tent looking at a map not bayoneting Fritz in ankle deep mud.

I can only speak about modern wargames but yes I would say that depending on level of command it could be very high, 7-8?

A Battalion or even Company Commander fights with his map and radio not his rifle, his part of the battle is directing his Platoon or Company Commanders. The "no one is trying to kill me" argument isnt as valid at higher levels. Very rarely is the Colonel taking fire.

Perhaps it would be better to say that our style of miniatures wargaming is closer to the way we train our leaders, like ROC drills and military style wargaming.

When I was a junior NCO I was involved in Regimental and Battalion Level wargames and ROC drills that (with the addition of radios) could have been something knocked together by a large wargames club ala Free Kriegspiel.

At lower (Platoon-Squad Command) I would say not as accurate, perhaps a 4-5 since at that level the junior leaders are more involved in the actual fight, but for the most part the types of decisions that the junior leader makes are similar to the wargamer, just more stressed, hurried and based on well rehearsed SOPs!

Even our Company level ROC drills were basically the Company Commander refereeing a session of map based Kriegspiel with his Platoon Leaders and senior Squad Leaders as players.

In the end we train our leaders that way because it reflects the sort of decision making that we ended up making on actual raids and missions.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP10 Sep 2017 3:43 p.m. PST


Northern Monkey10 Sep 2017 10:28 p.m. PST

As I said, it looks like lots of people are playing the wrong games.

Personal logo brass1 Supporting Member of TMP11 Sep 2017 8:08 a.m. PST

Every time this question comes up I say the same thing: I have never held the hand of a little lead soldier while he died. You can simulate strategy and tactics to some extent but you cannot simulate the reality of war.



VVV reply11 Sep 2017 9:41 a.m. PST

I wonder why the US armed forces use wargaming as a tool.

They do it because they think they are simulating war. That does not mean they are. If their game includes incorrect assumptions then their games will be meaningless. Ideally you use data from real combats to plan your games but how can you simulate the unknown. For example the T34 tank for the Germans invading Russia.
In one computer game I was the Russians in the campaign to conquer Germany. In one scenario I had 2 Maus tanks to knock out (damn hard to do) but I thought thats it, finished with them, on to Berlin. In the next scenario, there were 5 more Maus tanks!

Wolfhag11 Sep 2017 10:03 a.m. PST

I was a participant in a number of small and large scale military simulations (not computer). Their goal was not to simulate a war. One simulation was an amphibious assault on North Vietnam and the finale was the floor of a basketball gym court complete with wooden miniature ships and landing craft with tape marking off the different logistical and tactical zones.

The simulations I was involved in were designed to put the participants into a decision-making loop using their training and education to exercise their responsibilities and coordinate with other participants and levels of command. It was not about simulating "war" but simulating the problems and decision you would have to make if a real war broke out. The higher level ones were mostly logistical exercises.

If you think games and simulations have nothing to do about real war check out Millennium Challenge 2002:

Bill is posting another generalized open ended question designed to generate a lot of posts and no agreement. Maybe Bill could have reworded his question to ask about miniatures in a specific scale and whether skirmishes or large scale battles best represent war. Maybe if he had done some research on miniatures games actually used by different military branches best represent war so we could respond more intelligently because it can be an interesting topic to discuss.

Miniatures games have the potential to recreate many of the risk-reward decisions small unit commanders need to make in the heat of combat. However, the problem is that players will need a fairly high degree of knowledge about tactics and what is in the training manuals. It's much easier for a designer to dumb it down to artificial game mechanics that most players can understand. When you can see all of the enemies units on the board any semblance of a "real" war goes out the window.


USAFpilot11 Sep 2017 10:15 a.m. PST

Not 0, and not 10; but something in-between probably closer to 0.

Good analogy with the flight simulator, and I can speak from experience with those. With the flight sim though I'd put the number higher, maybe around 7. Flight sims fly slightly different and there are all sorts of distractions and events that come up in the real world that don't occur in the sim. The sim however is an excellent tool to teach 'procedures', both normal and emergency.

Blutarski11 Sep 2017 11:27 a.m. PST

Following Wolfie's and USAFpilot's logic, one would have to conclude that it depends upon the rules in use. I would add that it probably also depends upon the players involved.


Wolfhag11 Sep 2017 1:13 p.m. PST

Yes, the rules in use but also what the designer's goals and objectives of the game are and what kind of an experience he is trying to generate for the players.

Personally, I feel that if the game meets the designer's goals it is a "success" to at least some degree. Whether it is realistic or not is up to each individual. I do not use the word "real" in describing my designs. I'll state what historical performance parameters I'm using and where data has come from manuals but also what I've left out and abstracted and why.

In the end, it needs to be an enjoyable and interactive entertainment experience. Boring, tedious data driven "realism" is not fun.

I once was observing a tank combat game and remarked at how slowly the action was playing out. After about 90 minutes the tanks on both sides had barely moved. The response from the GM was, "That's the price you have to pay for realism". I'll pass.


Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP11 Sep 2017 5:42 p.m. PST

They do it because they think they are simulating war. That does not mean they are. If their game includes incorrect assumptions then their games will be meaningless.

Again, garbage in, garbage out. And yes, the military use simulations because they think they are simulating PARTS of war. And they think that because of 1. experience, 2. testing the results against the real thing, 3. Decades of simulation development in a wide variety of industries and subjects and purposes and 4. If simulations didn't work, they would have abandoned them by now. The military, with life and country on the line tend to ask "So What?" a lot. So do businesses, education, entertainment, research and other arenas where simulations are used.

Bad simulations are created and even good simulations are used incorrectly, but that can be said of games too and no one has abandon playing games yet.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP11 Sep 2017 5:47 p.m. PST

I once was observing a tank combat game and remarked at how slowly the action was playing out. After about 90 minutes the tanks on both sides had barely moved. The response from the GM was, "That's the price you have to pay for realism". I'll pass.

Me too, but was it the price for realism? Who in the Bleeped text wrote that rule? That was a design decision that has very little to do with the nature of 'realism' in wargaming--assuming that you use the definition that most simulation designers use in the various industries.

Wolfhag11 Sep 2017 9:55 p.m. PST

I don't remember the rule set they were using. They seemed like a bunch of old fart "rivet counters" that kept congratulating themselves on the high level of detail in the game and their knowledge of WWII minutia.


Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Sep 2017 12:48 p.m. PST

Rivet counters… Hmmm. That only works if you are simulating rivets, one, some or all of them?


Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP12 Sep 2017 1:49 p.m. PST

Models military history better than war. No one dies wargaming or at least not very often.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Sep 2017 5:57 a.m. PST

War doesn't accurately simulate war. Why should wargames?

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Sep 2017 9:44 a.m. PST

When you can see all of the enemies units on the board any semblance of a "real" war goes out the window.



Wolfhag13 Sep 2017 10:31 a.m. PST


I was talking about miniatures games, not computer games.

Those beautiful displays did not help in Millennium Challenge 2002 against Marine General Van Riper. ROE's will probably still dictate positive visual ID before shooting or you may shoot down another Jumbo Jet filled with civilian passengers.


Pages: 1 2 3