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"War. What is it good for? Learning from Wargaming." Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP27 Mar 2019 10:08 p.m. PST

""To a wargamer," writes Greg Costikyan in the just published collection Tabletop: Analog Game Design, "wargames are not abstract, time-wasting pastimes, like other games, but representative of the real. . . . You can learn something from wargames; indeed, in some ways you can learn more from wargames than from reading history" (180). I take the theatrical curl of the lip at "abstract, time-wasting pastimes" to be spoken in character, but that aside, what can we learn from wargames? Which is to say, what can wargames teach, or do, that other game design traditions—including serious games, independent games, and art games—cannot? Is brute simulationism—some sort of interactive history textbook, presumably—really the answer?

My investment in this question goes deep, since as an academic and a good left/progressive at that I often find myself wondering about—and occasionally asked to outright explain—my passion for these martial pastimes. A wargamer, especially one who follows military history and current military affairs, looks suspiciously like a closet warmonger, complete with Mission Accomplished banners furled in back behind the winter coats. (It goes the other way too: announcing "I'm an English professor" isn't exactly a conversation-starter when the person sitting next to you is dressed in ACUPAT fatigues.) I've written about some of the appeal and interest of these games before on Play the Past, but the other week I had an opportunity to see how wargaming is presented amid the formal trappings of Powerpoints and plenaries. Connections is an annual conference designed to fit the niche at the intersection of professional and recreational wargaming, with active duty military personnel, hobbyists, academics, designers, industry representatives, and policy wonks all rubbing shoulders. I'd never been to one of its meetings before, but as an academic I'm no stranger to conferences—I have literally hundreds of keepsake badges adorning my office. So, on a sticky August morning I hied me down to the Washington, DC campus of National Defense University at Fort McNair, just across the river from National Airport. There I found lots of people talking about what wargames can and can't do, but very few talking about "representing the real."…."
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playthepast.org/?p=1819

Amicalement
Armand

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP28 Mar 2019 9:49 a.m. PST

"professional wargames are often, by contrast, collaborative and team-based, with a premium on verbal interaction and problem solving"

That's how role-playing games are played.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP28 Mar 2019 11:24 a.m. PST

You are right my friend.


Amicalement
Armand

UshCha29 Mar 2019 2:12 a.m. PST

to be honest very little of this struck a chord.

I see a wargame as a means to test ones ability to say, command a company. One of the issues is I am not a military man. A company commander that knows intimately how a platoon will deploy and can to some significant extent ignore this aspesct. I have seen enough of real platoon commnders to know that I could not easily replace him with a few chosen words in a rule book. Therfore games need to be played at a set of diffrent levels, very simply, as real commanders have a much broader scope. This leads to understanding of the basics of command and deployment.

Learning to be a Platoon commander takes more than ten minutes to understand and learn, more like years in the real world, particularly as certainly the command is backed up by an experienced NCO who may have vastly more experiencxe than a new platoon commander. So a professional "wrgame" taking 10 miniutes to learn and 3 hrs to play is patently a different animal.

A airline pilot can learn to fly with a preponderance of time spent on a simulator. It does not really impact the overall "flying time" needed to qualify.

On that basis the whole of the article is somewhat flawed in not covering all aspects of wargame simulation and then covering only a some aspects.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2019 9:54 a.m. PST

@UshCha: I don't think that the real world gives you years to learn to command a platoon. You come out of the academy or college with a commission as a second lieutenant, spend a year or so as a staff officer, get promoted to first lieutenant in a year, and are given command of a platoon. You spend a year or two doing that, but if you don't get a promotion to captain and a company command or a general staff posting, you're falling behind in your career path.

Disclosure: I have never been in the military. My information comes entirely from conversations with friends who were officers, books, and other reading.

UshCha30 Mar 2019 12:09 a.m. PST

Oberlindes, that sounds like years to me. Plus as I understand it talking to military men new leaders have to rely on senior NCO's who do have years. In the Russian army that does not have a cadre of NCO's there leaders have 2 more years of training compared to the rest.

arthur181530 Mar 2019 1:22 a.m. PST

Perhaps, to repurpose a famous comment about history:

The only thing men learn from wargaming is that men learn nothing from wargaming?

UshCha30 Mar 2019 1:27 a.m. PST

I prefere Thuciadies "often those least familiar with war are the most keen to fight" May be a bit of a paraphreas its a long time since I read the translation. HG wells said similar in Little Wars.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP07 Apr 2019 8:03 a.m. PST

I guess that really depends on the game if you can learn anything. Many of the higher level DoD war games are strategic in vision and simulate logistical support putting the participants through a decision-making process using a matrix that that resembles the manual and processes they actually use. I was a low-level participant in one that was a high-level logistical exercise on the invasion of North Vietnam. I don't know if anyone learned anything but they would have an idea of the logistical process to get two Marine Divisions to land somewhere in Asia.

When you have a war game that uses terminology, rules, abstractions, and nomenclature that no professional military officer would recognize and does not exist in any manual there isn't much for a professional to learn is there.

Because our games cannot realistically simulate the Fog of War, limited intelligence, SNAFU's, C&C Breakdowns, wrong or old intel, false reports, lower level unit initiative (disobeying orders and doing the unexpected), and the weaknesses and unexpected reactions of the human character and personality, attempting to simulate reality is a lost cause.

However, if the game/simulation was able to present a realistic interaction between combatants and show the participants the results of different risk-reward command decisions or how effective their pre-game planning was it may have some value to let the participants know what to expect and what problems they could be confronted with in the real thing and what tools they'll have to solve these problems.

Striving for good entertainment value and the "feeling" of reality (whether you are using design for cause or effect) is somewhat of a noble cause. It seems to me people playing games like to solve problems and use strategies. There is a variety of tool for designers to present these to players for their enjoyment.

Just my opinion, of course, feel free to disagree. I've been to Connections before and I hope to attend this year.

Wolfhag

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2019 2:11 p.m. PST

British WWII Convoy Game: YouTube link

Wolfhag

UshCha09 Apr 2019 4:44 p.m. PST

Wolfhag, I can' agree with all your comments. A measure of effort you can create fog oe war. Its easy to hide your troops and only show them to troops moving if they run into them or fire at them. In a recent incedent a BMP camoflaged used it Machine gun to simulate an Infantry wepon even pretending to be suppressed when it was not. Thus pursuading me not to fire a heat round at it from an overwatching tank. Therfore some elements are simulatable. Not obeying orders is not typical so in reality nmay not be that useful anyway in a simulation which is basicaly a training system for ther players. Silple hight hil rules simplify the real world but do enhance the quality of the simulation.

Even adding blinds not figure helps with fog of war.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2019 8:20 p.m. PST

UshCha,
That's OK, this is TMP, no one has to agree with anyone.

Wolfhag

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2019 1:00 p.m. PST

When you have a war game that uses terminology, rules, abstractions, and nomenclature that no professional military officer would recognize and does not exist in any manual there isn't much for a professional to learn is there.

Wolfhag:
Uh, I am assuming that depends on the learning/testing objectives of the wargame and the professionals involved.

I only say that because the military does use such wargames… "BlockBuster and "Fire & Movement" by Phil Sabin come to mind, but there are others.

Because our games cannot realistically simulate the Fog of War, limited intelligence, SNAFU's, C&C Breakdowns, wrong or old intel, false reports, lower level unit initiative (disobeying orders and doing the unexpected), and the weaknesses and unexpected reactions of the human character and personality, attempting to simulate reality is a lost cause.

Boy, there is painting with a broad brush. Can't be done kind of ends the discussion.

However, if the game/simulation was able to present a realistic interaction between combatants and show the participants the results of different risk-reward command decisions or how effective their pre-game planning was it may have some value to let the participants know what to expect and what problems they could be confronted with in the real thing and what tools they'll have to solve these problems.

But that is what wargames/participatory simulations are designed to do and apparently do it well enough to encourage a growth in military simulations.

I'm not saying that all are effective in providing "problems they[players]could be confronted with in the real thing and what tools they'll have to solve these problems"

But many do.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP17 Apr 2019 7:05 p.m. PST

See the Free book: It speaks directly to the thread topic.

link

On Wargaming: How Wargames Have Shaped History and How They May Shape the Future NAVAL WAR COLLEGE NEWPORT PAPERS #43 by Wargaming

Matthew B. Caffrey Jr. of Connections fame. Here is the content of the free, 450 page book:


Contents
Preface v
Acknowledgments ix
List of Acronyms, Abbreviations, Terms, and Jargon xi List of Figures xxix
Introduction: The Road Not Taken 1

PART ONE: THE HISTORY OF WARGAMING

CHAPTER ONE The Rise of Modern Wargaming:
Prehistory to 1913 11

CHAPTER TWO Wargaming and the World Wars:
1905–1945 37

CHAPTER THREE Wargaming in the Cold War:
1946–1989/1991 71

CHAPTER FOUR Wargaming after the Cold War:
1990s–10 September 2001 129

CHAPTER FIVE Post-9/11 Wargaming: 2001–2011 179

CHAPTER SIX Wargaming in Transition: 2012–2016 and Beyond 219

PART TWO: TOWARD MORE-EFFECTIVE WARGAMING

CHAPTER SEVEN The Taxonomy of Wargaming 261


CHAPTER EIGHT The Utility of Wargaming 277

CHAPTER NINE Wargame Participation 291
iv the newport papers

CHAPTER TEN Wargame Practitioners 305

CHAPTER ELEVEN Leaders and Wargaming 335

CHAPTER TWELVE Wargaming and Your
Personal Objectives 351

Conclusions: Toward Peace Gaming 369

APPENDIX A Contemporary and
Historical Wargames 377
APPENDIX B Chronology 379
APPENDIX C Wargaming Organizations 387
APPENDIX D Key Contributors 403
APPENDIX E Documents 409
Selected, Annotated Bibliography 423
About the Author 425
Index 427
The Newport Papers 443

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP01 May 2019 8:07 a.m. PST

This is a good article that discusses how war games have successfully been used to help develop tactics and strategies that gave an advantage after a war started.


Here is an excerpt:

The best wargames thus seek to create an environment for applying critical reasoning techniques and diagnosing the characteristics of competition under the "fog" and "friction" of war where incomplete and imperfect knowledge prevails. Players should be exposed to the chaos, pressures, and uncertainty encountered in real military competitions, or as closely as can be replicated. Most importantly, players should be able to observe and live with the consequences of their actions (where possible, based on previous rigorous analysis) in the face of a thinking and reacting competitor, and so come to understand dynamic military competition from the perspective of opposing sides. Actions taken by the players on both sides must have tangible consequences that are determined — where possible — by the actual performance of weapons and sensors in the real world, backed by a rigorous adjudication process using the best available analysis and professional judgment.

link

Wolfhag

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