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"All warfare is based on deception ...." Topic

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23 May 2020 4:51 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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Wolfhag22 May 2020 11:11 p.m. PST

according to Sun Tzu.

So I'm looking for historical and wargaming examples and anyone willing to think out of the box. Any examples of scale from 1-1 to geographical strategic examples welcome during any time frame but I'm most interested in post-1900. This can include tactics, hidden placement/movement, cards, or dice mechanics.

Anyone having ideas of simulating maskirovka, intel, electronic deception, dummy positions, demonstrations, feints, deception attacks, probes, etc welcome. Especially something like pre-game scenario shaping operations that would determine how the players are going to deploy their units on the table and which ones will make it or get fooled by the deception and get lured away from the focal point of the battle.


Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP22 May 2020 11:48 p.m. PST

Sun Tzu was wrong.

Not ALL warfare is based on deception.

Played a Falklands War sub hunting game with my son one time. The Argentines got 5 or 6 subs vs. the 2 x RN escorts with helos.

Of course, only one of the subs was real, but put 4X – 5X dummies on the table to aid the real sub commander, and you get a real pucker factor for the guy(s) playing the surface targets, errrr, I mean surface vessels.

It's really interesting how cautious one quickly becomes when you no longer have good intel on the whereabouts of a major threat that can sink you in short order.

To make it even more "fun", the "real" position of the sub in relation to the one "real" model on the table was hidden too, e.g. within a 6" radius, or so, IIRC, and in a clock face position previously written down, in order to make it more difficult for the ASW helos to detect it with sonobuoys and dipping sonar.

It made for a very interesting scenario.

Doing that also made use of the many extra subs I got in the pack from the manufacturer. Seeing multiple subs on the tabletop, at least to me was far preferable to chits or tokens.

I suspect the RN captain was less thrilled with the idea.

Wolfhag23 May 2020 12:08 a.m. PST

Well done, that's the kind of stuff I'm looking for.

It's really interesting how cautious one quickly becomes when you no longer have good intel on the whereabouts of a major threat that can sink you in short order.


Yellow Admiral23 May 2020 12:54 a.m. PST

An obscuring (rather than hidden) movement system for black powder era approach marches: link

- Ix

Yellow Admiral23 May 2020 1:28 a.m. PST

I've run many one-sided WWI Baltic naval scenarios (GM vs. all players). You can see a couple here. I have a few techniques I use to introduce some serious fog of war and even out very lopsided scenarios:

  • I often use generic "blips" to represent the defending Russian ships outside visual confirmation range as indistinct shapes seen through the mist. My blips are sanded down popsicle sticks in two sizes (small and large), stained and lettered/numbered. A blip can't be shot at, and only resolves into a model ship at some specified range (usually something like 12k-18k yards).
  • I secretly record the positions of minefields. The Germans always come with minesweepers and most of the time I've told them approximately where to find some known minefield edges (but not all of them), so they have an idea where to begin.
  • The Russians often had small (and old and slow) torpedo boats around, and I give these an ambush ability they do not use blips, they just suddenly emerge out of the mist at half the visual spotting range.

The idea isn't to make it possible for the Russians to win as much as to make it hard for the Germans to accomplish their bombardment/landing at a reasonable cost, emphasizing coordination, care and planning as a team and discouraging independence and naked aggression. Losing a major unit to a minefield will put a real pall over the proceedings.

- Ix

Yellow Admiral23 May 2020 1:34 a.m. PST

Over the years I've played in a few Guadalcanal naval battles (run by other people) where each player mapped out his patrol route with his own squadron, and the GM placed ships on the table where they established visual contact. I like playing games like this, and sometimes there are real surprises and setbacks that make things exciting, but there is a very real problem leaving some players with nothing to do. This approach is really better for a small number of players (say 2-4, plus referee).

- Ix

Yellow Admiral23 May 2020 1:41 a.m. PST

I am very interested in WWII gaming at the colonel's and general's aerie, and at this level the battlefield should indeed be empty at the start of a battle. I have yet to see any WWII game that actually enables this, but one of the things that got me excited about Rommel (by Sam Mustafa) was the potential to use the gridded table for recording hidden unit placements. I have yet to try this myself, but I'd be very interested in hearing about anyone else who has figured out a way to make the empty battlefield a fun feature of the game.

- Ix

Timbo W23 May 2020 4:55 a.m. PST

As a skirmish scenario in a forest, the Germans were all on board, while partisans were represented by triple numbers of Russian infantry until 'seen' at close range or firing. Decoys disappeared, the 'real partizans' were replaced by partizan figures.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2020 5:33 a.m. PST

I used comint in a pre-game brief. The defending team
was given a fairly comprehensive collection of
messages 'from' the attacking team, covering a period
of 2-3 weeks prior to the attackers' launching their

The attacking team had the option of sending messages
via courier (which they did). They continued radio
comm but all the traffic was false. Traffic analysis
was provided to the defenders with the caveat that
comint was sometimes used as a ruse while authentic
information was hand-carried and unit briefs were
done FTF.

It worked too well. The game (hardly that) was a
cakewalk for the attacking team.

mckrok Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2020 9:46 a.m. PST

Play double-blind with a referee and the players have to execute reconnaissance to develop their own intelligence.


Aethelflaeda was framed24 May 2020 9:16 a.m. PST

I often have created quite variable starting OOB's for each force, even for well known historical battles. I will make 3-5 sealed envelopes with some of the forces varying by plus or minus 20-40% in numbers or quality and reinforcement schedules that are sometimes earlier or later. Each player randomly draws and then keeps his OOB secret during the whole game. Smaller OOB's have extra dummy stands (we use dominoes)so the opponent is never quite sure of what is faced until sighted, seeing the same number of "stands" in the distance. Even terrain, might get diced to see if it really is bad going or clear or might get randomly placed by event later during the game. Nothing like seeing a charging squadron of horse hit that hidden sunken road no one knew about.

Random events that allow bonus movement of units outside of the normal turn help to alleviate the omniscience of players about positions. Try to lose a your whole brigade to a charge of some polish lancers coming out of the mists onto your just exposed flank because you wheeled to engage known infantry in a game of Albuera without it. Stop a battalion of Syrian tanks with a some 50 cal equipped jeeps without it. Or like at Salamanca retreat forces through the lines because the British units thought those Frenchies were Spaniards. Fred's Leuthen and Boney's Austerlitz victories totally relied on allowing the opponent to make a mistake based on faulty intelligence. Chasing some of Bluecher's forces with Grouchy to Wavre, instead of going for the jugular on Wellington.

Rational omniscient players couldn't possibly make the same mistake.

Intentional deception of the enemy, and errors in intelligence gathering are pretty damn important. Think of the pains taken by the Allies to protect the fact that Axis codes were broken on the strategic level, and the efforts of camouflage an individual soldier will take to hide his presence. Nothing is as important.

Sadly, covid19 games are for the most part solo affairs for me. My old fault intelligence simulation tools have denigrated to random events tables. Never allow for a sure thing on a morale check or CRT, or even to move.

Henry Martini24 May 2020 8:23 p.m. PST

I don't believe you.

Robert le Diable25 May 2020 2:06 a.m. PST

Not to disagree with anything already written here, I'm just adding that [active] deception is one thing (or, of course, a whole lot of things…), and lack of information leading to errors, misdirected marches, inactivity rather than preparation, and so on, quite another, though each can/does lead to problems, as "Aethelfleada was framed" addresses in conclusion. Interesting to see where this goes.

USAFpilot25 May 2020 11:31 a.m. PST

"All warfare is based upon deception." I always thought of that in terms of war as Clausewitz's described it as an extension of politics by other means. And part of politics is manipulation of the masses. This thread is really asking the question at the operational level of war and not the strategic. The thread is about using a ruse in "battles" to deceive the enemy. I believe that Sun Tzu may have been not just thinking at the tactical, operational, and strategic level of warfare when he made that statement; but also at the political level which implies it is just as important to deceive your allies as much as it is to deceive your enemies. In modern military parlance, Information Operations (IO) is key to success, and needs to take place at every level. And the modern media is the largest contributor to IO. Control the press and you control the war.

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