The military doesn't design wargames the same way commercial wargames are put together. There are a host of special situations and problems they must contend with. Since the late 1970s I have been called upon to give lectures, lasting from half an hour to several days, on how I feel it should be done. These lectures are quite popular and I get invited back to some venues year after year. More importantly, I constantly run into military wargamers who have been successfully using the guidelines presented in these lectures. What follows is the advice I have been giving to military wargames designers over the last fifteen years. This material has always been given in the form of a lecture, so it's about time to get it all into print. There are ideas here that even the designer (or player) of commercial wargame will find useful. There's no better way to understand the differences between military and commercial wargames than to compare what follows with the later chapter on designing commercial wargames. There are some interesting differences.
Some of the lectures last half an hour, some go on for several days. What follows is a recapitulation of all the items I try to cover. When I have more time, I go into more detail. Otherwise, I present a checklist format.
The Golden Rules
All situations can be easily modeled using a half dozen design rules and past experience with similar situations. The rules are:
- Determine the Process to be modeled. Many different aspects of your model must be defined before you can proceed. Scale (Strategic, Operational, Tactical), Environment (Land, Air, Naval, Combined), Intensity (Low, Medium, High), Basic Aspects (Movement, Combat, Order of Battle), Special Aspects (C3I, Logistics, Doctrine & Tactics, Fog of War--Is the situation highly dependent on one, or both, sides being in the dark about what is going on? If so, you will have to model this aspect of the situation.)
- What do you want it to do? There are several different tasks you can direct your modeling towards. These can include training, research, analysis, etc. For example:
Test a hypothesis. This can be historical, contemporary or future). It can be about weapons, tactics, organization or whatever. Be rigorous in defining your hypothesis. A model will eat you alive if you are sloppy.
Define a process. You may want to break down an existing system into its essential parts. A model building exercise is excellent for this.
Provide training. There is no better way, other than actually going into the field with the system.
- Area of Operations- Where, in time and geography, is the conflict to take place.
- Scale- What is to be represented on the map, a few square miles or a continent.
- Significant Terrain. For the Terrain Effects Chart, this is a winnowing process, in which you reduce all the terrain information you have gathered into a usable format.
- Order of Battle. Units involved, their movement capability, combat capability and other characteristics.
- Victory Conditions. This is a critical element, and often slighted or overlooked. What were the goals of the combatants?
- Combat Results. Attrition rates in combat, with adjustments for other factors as needed and likely distribution of results for use with non-deterministic (unpredictability of combat) procedures.
- Sequence of Play. Sequence that appears to work best in most situations is: 1-Planning and preparation operations, 2-Movement, 3-Combat, 4-Post operations checks (victory, morale, command control, etc).
Wargames and the 1991 Iraq War
Differences Between Hobbyists and Professionals
Table of Contents
Chapter 9 Contents