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"The 3-Apostles of Historical Wargaming" Topic

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Personal logo Analsim Supporting Member of TMP19 Jun 2022 12:53 p.m. PST

Happy Father's Day to ALL,

As I mentioned on TMP the other day, I am doing a couple wargame seminars at this year's Historicon in July. I thought the TMP membership might be interested in hearing about and discussing a couple of topics I'm presenting.

References: (for the TMP 'Game Police') ;^)

1. Wargame: A physical or mental competition in which the participants, called players, seek to achieve some objective within a given set of rules.

2. Historical: 'Having once existed or lived in the real world', opposed to being part of legend or fiction or as distinguished from religious belief

3. Historical Wargame: A wargame based upon or reconstructed from actual events, documents, customs, styles, & etc., emanating from the real world domain.

4. Historically 'Valid' Wargame: The end product of validation. Which relies upon real-world facts to conduct a comparison intended to validate a model or the results of a simulation. These data come from empirical sources such as test ranges, live exercise results, or historical records, from outputs of other simulations that were previously validated, or from the knowledge of Subject Matter Experts (SME).

"The Three (3) Apostles of Historical Wargaming"

In my 30 years working in the US Army/DOD Simulation & Analysis community, I've noted that the majority of the Combat Models & Simulations being designed & produced were the products of these three (3) Players (i.e., Apostles):

1. Historians – Researching/Documenting Historical data
2. Analysts – Operational Research & Analytics
3. Military – Doctrine, Corporate Culture & User Experience

Granted, many of these individuals may possess more than one of these disciplines, but rarely do you see all three (3) disciplines in one person.

In addition, Paddy Griffith identifies two (2) design/influences/approaches (that may also be present within the three Players listed above), that he calls: 1) Hardware (i.e. numbers, weapons, tactics) as exemplified by COL Dupuy's work and the 2) Compassionate (i.e., focusing on human factors & combat experiences) such as SLA Marshal's work, but recognizes that neither of these approaches on its own, can give us good tactical history.

Each of these Players have their own strengths (Pro) and weaknesses (Con) especially when it deals with the three (3)
Problem solving & Research related 'States of Nature' listed below:
1) Known-Knowns: Recognized, reliable data/information
2) Known-Unknowns: Identified data/information shortfalls
3) Unknown-Unknowns: Lack of awareness, due to knowledge and/or experience shortfalls.

- Knowledge of 'Primary' (existing) data/information sources.
- Human factor focus (i.e. People, make History).
- Possible foreign language skills (e.g. French)
- Limited knowledge/experience outside field of expertise
- Limited mathematical skills
- Limited knowledge of military doctrine/culture.

- Math/Analytical Skills
- Formal Modeling & Simulation skills/training
- Formal Problem Solving skills/training
- Focused/limited field of knowledge/experience
- Limited 'Human Factors' knowledge/experience
- Quality of Products are often impacted by available resources (i.e. time, money and customer objectives/bias)

- Soldier's Perspective
- Combat, Weapons, Tactics, & Doctrine
- Military 'Corporate' Culture (i.e. insiders perspective)
- May have limited Analytical/Math skills
- Knowledge/experience may be affected by short tenure in job/duty assignment
- Subject to Command Influences

As I mentioned before, a particular individual may possess more than one Apostles' knowledge, skills and/or traits, However,..the collective perspectives, strengths, knowledge and experience of ALL three (3) of these Apostles is a powerful factor in researching, designing/developing successful 'historically valid wargame' systems.

Which is my purpose in making this known to you.



advocate19 Jun 2022 3:10 p.m. PST

I think you need to consider the 'game' aspect of the equation…

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP19 Jun 2022 5:47 p.m. PST

Seems to me that you are making an enjoyable hobby very complex.

Rakkasan19 Jun 2022 6:10 p.m. PST

I notice that fun is not listed in original post and this an important aspect of any game I plan to play on my own time.

I've participated in wargames for work; as someone being trained and as a red-team role player. I have also served as a facilitator to assist the organizer in achieving their desired objectives. While these were all interesting, I would not exactly call them fun.

Grattan54 Supporting Member of TMP19 Jun 2022 7:52 p.m. PST

There are such things as military historians. I don't think they would lack knowledge of military doctrine/culture. Also, there are historians who have served in the military.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP20 Jun 2022 3:05 a.m. PST

Careful and diligent study of a period is surely a pre-requisite for writing any set of wargames rules so you can hardly fault someone on doing that thoroughly.

Taking a systems approach to the problem is a valid methodology but I do take the point that others have made that there is little useful in describing all these parameters & methods to the potential players. Only the final result (i.e. a set of rules) is what matters to them, not how you got there.

It can seem rather pompous to some but I don't really feel that is how he sees it – just being open and inclusive in how he is going about a task many of us have tried at some time or other.

I don't actually start thinking about 'fun' at the early stages of building a ruleset – that comes much later in the process where appropriate mechanics are being developed. Also a good set of rules that might be a bit dry but produce a believable result can be enlivened by good scenarios.

A complex process can often lead to a result that is clear and simple – in this case the process is unimportant to the end user but some of us are interested in the 'hows' and the 'whys' as well as the result.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2022 9:08 a.m. PST

From my playing and GM experience the fun for the players comes from creating a realistic Fog of War (creates surprises) and generating suspense when the dice are rolled because there is a small chance of a SNAFU. Also giving players Risk-Reward Tactical Decisions (taking chances that can backfire) to seize the initiative, out smart their opponent, or do something unexpected seems to be fun.

I've participated (in a somewhat administrative role) in high level military exercises/simulations that were dry and boring but the goal was for the participants (O-4 and above) to exercise their command responsibilities while coordinating with others and the GM throwing unexpected problems at them. The goal was to learn something and not have fun. I've watched other high level simulations at the US Army War College which were somewhat interesting but at a very high level with historical events included. They reminded me somewhat of "Twilight Struggle."

Writing a game for the participants to learn something can be difficult. I wrote a game using the real military manual nomenclature and terminology but quickly found out that most players, especially new ones, weren't familiar with them or how they could be used. However, former military took to the game right away. I needed to find a way to work around that by using more accepted game terminology that players could understand.

I wrote an ACW Battle of the Crater game and one for the Charge of the Light Brigade for a gaming group for a convention. They wanted something that was historic. After researching and analyzing the scenarios I wrote the rules and game mechanics that would almost guarantee a historic result. Everyone was pleased. However, I'm not sure if the rules would scale to other battles of the same period.


evilgong22 Jun 2022 8:19 p.m. PST

Does any historical wargame not consider itself 'valid'?

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