Types of Wargames
While commercial wargames fall into only two types; manual map based exercises and
computer versions of same, there is a far wider variety in the professional level. Models
and simulations are another matter, many wargames containing a little of both. In wargame
parlance a Combat Results Table (CRT) is an "attrition model" and the more
elaborate CRTs are indeed models in a very real sense due to its replicability and static
representation of a process. Wargames usually contain several (or many) models linked
together in a system. This, of course, is the classic description of a simulation, along
with a simulations ability to handle multiple scenarios in a more interactive manner. The
primary difference between a wargame and a simulation is fuzzy, based on the concept that
a wargame is not capable of multiple runs from which statistically significant results can
be derived. For many manual games, this is generally true, in a practical sense. However,
once a manual wargame is turned into a computerized version, you can let it play it self a
sufficient number of times to obtain statictically significant results. The advantage of
the manual wargame is that human players can obtain broader insights from it and become
better able deal with the intangibles of a situation. That said, some of the wargames
described below are simulations and all these wargames contain models.
The following list shows the major types of wargames and their primary characteristics
(for comparative purposes).
Manual Model with Map
What is normally thought of as a "commercial manual wargame". (The original
military wargames were of this type. But that was before computers and beltway bandit
- Forces- Order of battle, all units involved in simulation. Must be
consistent with scale of model. Optimum for playability is no more than 20 units per side.
- Movement- Each unit assigned a numerical value representing its ability
to move across terrain.
- Combat- Each unit assigned a numerical value for combat ability.
- Map Display- Choose scale carefully. Optimal size of map is 20 by 24
inches, or the distance that players can reach units without assuming awkward position.
Hex grid is used to regulate movement and combat. Each hex cell contains a discrete type
of terrain which shows up on Terrain Effects Chart with its effect on movement and combat.
- Rules of Use- Explicitly written out procedures to operate model. This
also gives insight into the underlying process that drove the situation being modeled.
- Easiest model to create- Best preparation is simply extensive playing
of existing games.
- Inexpensive- Paper is most common raw material.
- Paper computer- System organizes processing of information in much the
same way as a computer, only much more slowly.
- Easy to maintain- Procedures are largely self documenting because they
are made obvious to the player. Otherwise, the model would be unplayable.
- Labor intensive to use- An average size game will take 2-4 hours to
play to a decision. Larger ones take much longer.
- Not highly iterative- Time required for each game takes too long.
Replaying individual turns has value, and proceeds much more quickly. Numerous iterations
are required of a game in order for its results to have statistical significance.
- Precursor of Computerized version. Programmer needs a manual model to
- Time Required- 500-2000 hours- Varies considerably with skill of
creators. My personal record for a published model is 12 hours from cold start to tested
prototype ("Battle for Germany" in one session from 6 PM to dawn, 1975). Another
hundred hours required for testing and finishing rules. Lack of sufficient skill will make
successful design impossible no matter how much time is used.
Manual Model without Map
Can be described as either a "commercial manual wargame without a map", or as
a staff study with easily modified parameters.
- Forces- Same as model with map.
- Movement- Deduced as a result of force on force calculations.
- Combat- Adjusted force ratios compared and results computed.
- No Map Display- Spatial positioning is derived from player decisions
and results of combat. Somewhat abstracted.
- Rules of Use- Same as model with map.
- Easiest model to create- About as easy as the one with a map.
- Paper computer
- Easy to maintain
- Labor intensive to use
- Not highly iterative
- Precursor of Computerized version
- Time Required- 400-2000 hours- Can be less time than map version
because map does not have to be developed. Can be more difficult for the same reason if
the model is complex.
Spreadsheet Combat Model
A "manual model without map" put up on a spreadsheet program.
- Similar to Manual Model without Map
- Forces- A larger Order of Battle can be handled because the computer
keeps track of details rather than the player.
- Combat- More complex combat routines can be used, again because of the
- No Map Display- One can be used off line for reference purposes.
- Rules of Use built in- Allows users to be trained much more quickly.
- Some graphics capability (charts)- Depends on the spreadsheet you use.
Most have a graphics capability.
- Highly iterative- Lotus spreadsheet products have a data table feature
which makes it much easier to do sensitivity analysis.
- Constructed on Spreadsheet Program- Recommended ones are 123, Quattro,
and Excel. Improv also good.
- Time Required- 300-1200 hours
Cost/Benefit Model- A Spreadsheet Combat Model optimized for evaluating individual
weapons (or other item) performance.
- Similar to Spreadsheet Combat Model
- Measures effectiveness of weapons systems
- Forces- Extensive list of weapons systems and variations can be
- Combat- System on System, duel type engagements. Synergism of many
systems must be abstracted.
- No Map Display
- Some graphics capability (charts)- Important for this type of analysis
as a large amounts of numerical data is processed and graphics makes all this easier to
- Rules of Use built in- The "rules" are the formulas for
processing the numbers.
- Constructed on Spreadsheet program- 123, Quattro or Excel are best for
this because of its full array of spreadsheet commands. Also has windowing and easy to use
and powerful command language. Any other spreadsheet will handle the essentials. 123 is
still particularly good for these jobs, particularly because of the large number of add on
programs available for handling Linear Programming, database file access and other tools.
- Highly iterative
- Time Required- 300-1500 hours- Depends on how elaborate you want to
Expert System Combat Model
Models of expert knowledge on various aspects of combat operations.
- Forces- Generally not modeled as extensively as in other simulations.
- Movement- Abstracted.
- Combat- Handled in richer detail, usually in form of interrogation.
- Normally No Map Display- Not needed in most cases, but can be added.
- Rules of Use Built In- Especially decision making rules and options.
- Highly Iterative
- Heuristic- Depends on how you set it up.
- Natural language interface- Most of the Expert System Shells allow user
to communicate with system in plain language.
- Created on Expert Systems generator
- Can be made part of computer wargame- Works best as complement of other
forms of combat models.
- Can be written from scratch in LISP or PROLOG- This takes much longer
than using shell, although shell version can be done first as a form of prototype. This
will make it cheaper to do in LISP or PROLOG as the systems analysis and design will be
much more complete.
- Time Required- 200-2500 hours- Depends on several variables. Namely use
of shell and degree of elaboration.
Computer Combat Model with Map
Computerized version of "Commercial Manual Wargame".
- Similar to Manual Model with Map
- Ideal model for senior decision maker- Powerful model with easiest user
- Can be easiest to use (if done right)
- Very expensive to create and maintain
- Highly interactive
- Forces- Can handle larger number than manual model.
- Movement- Can be more elaborate than manual model.
- Combat- Can be more elaborate than manual model.
- Map Display- Can be more elaborate than manual model.
- Rules of Use Built In
- Time Required- 2500-12000 hours- This can be done using a workstation
or high end PC based development system). If the coding is done in C, that code can be
ported to other machine environments (Unix).
Computer Combat Model without Map
The infamous, traditional, "black box" model. Or something very similar to
- Similar to Manual Model without Map and Spreadsheet combat model.
- Very expensive to create and maintain
- Can be highly interactive
- Forces can be as large as you want.
- Highly iterative, unless it chews up too many cycles doing its basic calculations.
- Movement, but usually abstracted
- Combat, usually abstracted
- No Map Display
- Rules of Use Built In
- Time Required- 1500-12000 hours. In practice, some of these projects have gone on for
years, apparently acquiring a life of their own.
A Quick Check List: Important Things to Remember When Creating Models, Simulations
- Pay VERY close attention to the user- If they can't use the model, it may be the last
one you'll do for them. (Not generally the case for Department of Defense contracts.)
- Don't exceed your capabilities- Try to do more than you're capable of and you'll make a
mess of it.
- A modest success looks better than a grand failure. Know your limits. Start With simple
task. This is particularly essential if it is your first effort.
- Use Previous Examples. No need to reinvent the wheel. Good ideas and techniques can be
constantly be recycled.
- You can never test enough- Testing should use the same procedures applied to software.
There are several levels of testing.
- Unit Testing-Test individual rule for soundness. Example, test map for completeness and
- System Testing- Test rule along with other rules that it normally operates with.
Example, test map with movement and combat rules.
- Integration Testing-Test all rules together to see that all parts fit correctly.
- Validation Testing- Test entire system to see that all user requirements are met.
- Acceptance Testing- User tests to see that all requirements are met.
- Experience makes a big difference- Life experience (someone who is careful, persistent
and thorough) is valuable, more valuable than a lot of experience with using games. The
techniques of modeling are simple. But they must be followed carefully in order to work.
Carelessness can easily be fatal.
- The model is never completed- You will always be coming up with new techniques. User
will continually come up with new requirements. Much the same experience as with software
products in general. Bugs will continue to appear, although of a less severe nature over
time. User will almost always require enhancements and other modifications. Use of the
model will point towards more efficient ways of doing things and will indicate that it is
cost effective to make revisions.
Use of Historical Data in Models, Simulation & Gaming
It's often a less than perfect fit between historical data and modeling requirements
for military professionals. There are numerous techniques that can ease the process.
Here's a check list. If you run into a snag while trying to develop a game, run through
this list again, and again, if need be.
Differences Between Hobbyists
Table of Contents
Chapter 9 Contents