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"Incorporating Logistics into Wargames with Dr. Hank Donnelly" Topic

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emckinney06 Aug 2020 11:45 a.m. PST

Dr. Hank Donnelly (IDA) will discuss the use of logistics in wargames and various design approaches for incorporating logistics in wargames.
About this Event

Logistics are often left out of wargames because they are considered to be either too hard or too boring. This creates a critical blind spot in the results of many wargames, with the potential that concepts of operation derived from the play of these games may be logistically undesirable or, even worse, un-executable. After describing the case that we, as game designers, can make for including logistics in our wargames, I will discuss various approaches that can be used during design and development to either include logistics in game play or make them the focus of the play. Then I will highlight some of the potential pitfalls and obstacles—and some potential work-throughs—that can be encountered during game execution. Finally, I will discuss what I see as the way forward for the community at large.

Dr. Ralph "Hank" Donnelly

After getting his doctorate in Astronomy & Astrophysics and then spending 12 years as a working Astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Hank Donnelly moved to the National Capital Region to take a job working as a defense analyst. He has been in that career path for the past 15 years, working first at CNA and now at IDA. During that time—amongst a host of other areas of focus—he has been building wargames, most of which have been centered on logistics. The sponsors have included OPNAV, DLA, TRANSCOM, INDOPACOM, and the Joint Staff and have spanned issues related to everything from fuel to medical supplies.


RudyNelson06 Aug 2020 1:43 p.m. PST

Breakout and Pursuit by SPI is all about the logistics. Pipelines supplies etc.
Even the early Afrika Korps by AH players needed supplies in order to move or attack.
The use of BPs and production points is a key component of many games.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Aug 2020 5:09 p.m. PST

I don't know what he's been doing for 15 years at IDA if he hasn't seen games that integrate logistics.

Legionarius06 Aug 2020 6:53 p.m. PST

There are several good board games that center on logistics. Examples include A Race to the Rhine, Supply Lines of the American Revolution, and Splendid Little War. This last one is a very good game at the strategic and operational level about the Second War for Cuban Independence. It may or may not evolve into the Spanish American War depending on the success or lack thereof of the Cuban insurrectos. One way to win is no y denying supply points to the enemy. As in real life, without supplies tactical proficiency is for nought.

pfmodel06 Aug 2020 10:44 p.m. PST

I must admit for year finding logistics boring, but after getting heavily involved in Corps Commander and the off-shoot rules from that set, I have discovered that logistics is very important. IN the beginning I tended to play meeting engagements, which involved almost no movement, so the only logistics of worth was artillery. However as very little occurs in a meeting engagement, unless you want to lose, this had minimal impact.

Then I started playing unbalanced games, with one side with a 2-1 advantage in the first half of the game and the other side getting an advantage in the 2nd half. Thus resulted in a lot of movement, I would often advance 60 cm on a flank and then wheel to roll up the line. What is caused was an understanding of how to use supply. Corps Commander had a supply system which encouraged you to take road networks, so supply could flow. If and element was cut off the effects took a while, but in my games it was often easier to drive up a flank, cut off the supply and then roll the enemy up. Enemy elements began to run out of supply and become easy targets. IN addition I needed to ensure my own supply lines. I also use in supply elements to determine control which effected victory.

IN summery, if you games involved minimal movement there is no need for supply, but if you experienced a lot of movement then supply became critical and effects your deployment and attack paths.

Legion 407 Aug 2020 8:27 a.m. PST

Yes, I'd think it would depend on the scale and turn times in the game. I normally only do 6mm at Bn/Bn TF or below. And the time of the turns are not that long in that you would run out of ammo, etc.

That being said, "Amateurs study tactics … professionals study Logistics.", as the saying goes. As an Infantry Officer I was a Rifle Plt Leader then Bn Air Ops Officer in the 101.

But it appears my "strength" really was in Logistics. I.e. after leaving the 101. Being a Mech Bn S4 Log Officer, in the ROK, with 2ID. Back at Benning started as Mech Bn Motor Officer, Mech Hvy Bde Motor Officer and finally a Bde Asst. S4. I commanded a Mech Co. somewhere in there.

But it seemed all my Bn and Bde Cdrs didn't need me to be a tactician but someone who was efficient and effect Logistics guy … 😞 My Bn Cdr in the ROK became my Bde Cdr. So I was destined to be an S4 and BMO …

But as we were told you have to be able to shoot, move & communicate, to fight a war.

pfmodel07 Aug 2020 4:06 p.m. PST

Very true. If a game completed within a 60 minute game-period, then it would be rare to run out of ammo. Corps Commander played an entire day, so it was possible to run out of ammo in a game, if in heavy combat and without an ability to resupply. Its all about scale.

Dennis08 Aug 2020 7:29 p.m. PST

Because of the level of conflict generally modeled by a miniatures game (individual or skirmish conflict to single battle, as campaigns are more of a boardgame or map exercise), logistics are not generally a major part of the game-the most frequent logistics matter I can think of in miniatures games is ammo supply. Some miniatures games may have an offtable logistics element whereby troops not in supply may have their effectiveness reduced or some such, but in my experience that's about it for miniatures games. Although Jeff Knudsen's (the War Artisan) naval miniatures rules "Away, Boarders!" does contain the logistic element of assigning crew to specific ship functions with never enough crew to do all the commander wants-very good rules BTW, see here:

Boardgames, on the other hand as several others have mentioned, often include logistics as part of the game. So, for example, Hollandspiele Games, has TWO games focussing on the logistics of the American War of Independence. See:




There may be a few types of human interaction that have not yet become the subject of a game, but I can't think of any at the moment.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2020 8:08 p.m. PST

Logistics can be very different from war to war. For instance, during the Napoleonic Wars, particular before 1809, both sides in a campaign would send officers ahead of the columns to secure supplies for the troops when they arrived. Both sides tried to scout out where the enemy was buying up supplies to ascertain where they were going.

During the Ulm and Jena campaigns, the French bought up supplies in areas where they weren't planning to go to through off the Austrians and Prussians. I have never seen that represented on the game table.

Legion 414 Aug 2020 6:48 a.m. PST

Of course napoleon didn't need ammo for MGs and MBTs ! evil grin

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