Why Use History?
In a military environment it's still often neccessary to defend the use of the
historical approach. Here are some good points to make, to yourself or your boss.
- History Repeats & Paraphrases- An examination of the historical
record shows that progress is incremental, rarely revolutionary. You can see the future in
- History Validates- Building historical models allows you to validate
techniques used in model. This enables you to try new techniques freely, as you always
have a quick means of checking the new techniques validity.
- History Provides Models for Models- Every historical situation is a
potential model, complete with validation proofs, that you can use for comparing to other
situations that have not happened yet. The 1991 Gulf War will be used, for many years, as
the baseline model for other hypothetical situations.
- More entertaining than calculus- The "game" element should
not be underestimated. Anything that encourages use makes the model more useful.
Short History of Military Modeling & Simulation
In defending the use of historical wargames, it's often useful to have a quickly
recapitulated history of wargames and their success in the past.
- Chess as a Battle Model (antiquity to 18th century)- Chess was
originally an accurate model of pre-gunpowder combat.
- Kriegspiel (19th century)- Germans were the first to adapt chess model
to more recent combat developments. 1700s and 1800s.
- Free Kriegspiel (late 19th century, early 20th century)- Combined
recent combat experience of armed forces and guidance of combat experienced officers to
supplement extensive rules and play mechanics. Made for faster moving games. Major
weakness was breakdown of system validity as officers and armed forces combat experience
grew old and stale.
- Kriegspiel versus the bean counters (1940-1965)- The Operations
Research crowd threw out the baby with the bath water when they applied their talents to
- Kriegspiel meets Rock & Roll (1965-1980)- Historical simulations
came back with the baby-boom generation. These caught the attention, and loyalty, of many
junior officers who bought, played and eventually began designing them.
- Kriegspiel goes electric (1980-present)-Microcomputers enabled models
to be created more easily and cheaply.
Simplicity & Effectiveness of Historical Models for Instruction and Research
Here are the key points if you are dealing with wargames to be used for research or
- Visibility- You can see all aspects of what's happening
- Validation- You can see if, and how, the model accurately simulates the
historical even. Enables you to freely test new ideas without having to worry or argue
about validity. Historical proof is always handy.
- Versatility- Useful for training and testing. "What If..?"
possibilities enable research and analysis to be performed.
Data Sources for Creating Wargames
Afraid of not being able to do the research needed to create a game? Here are the key
points to constantly keep in mind.
- Same as for history book- Start with a good secondary source
bibliography, then work down to primary sources as needed.
- More analytical data needed- Books with lots of charts and tables are
- Electronic databases for contemporary subjects. These are becoming more
prevalent and useful than paper sources.
- Create a data model first- As in my "How to Make War" and
"Quick & Dirty Guide to War" books.
- Model building will smoke out more data needs. A model is working when
it begins to raise questions. This often happens before the model begins providing any
Types of Wargames
Table of Contents
Chapter 9 Contents