In conjunction with his new book, Dr. Phillip Sabin has started an e-list called “simulating war“.
Dr. Sabin writes of Dr. Perlas distinction between “Artist”, “Architect”, and “Analyst” game archetypes:
While Peter was speaking during the recent telecon, I was thinking of what to ask at the end, and it struck me that a good angle would be to explore what UNITED the different wargame archetypes he identified. It seems to me that a key element of any wargame worth playing (especially from an educational or professional perspective) is to explore the dilemmas and trade-offs facing the real antagonists. The whole point of having a player decision element rather than just an automatic simulation is that there exist alternative tactical or strategic choices each with their own pros and cons. Dilemmas over what to do may be caused by a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the following:
– limited resources, and the consequent need to balance concentration at some points against economy of effort elsewhere;
– the respective merits of offence and defence, with seizing the initiative being offset by the costs and risks of leaving one’s own lines;
– uncertainty, and the issue of whether to lose time by waiting for better intelligence;
– risk, which means that certain actions may have a high payoff but may also have high costs if things go wrong;
– interaction with an active opponent, so that one’s own best strategy depends on the enemy’s actions and dispositions;
– tension between military and political factors, making it hard to weigh up what balance to strike between them.
I discuss this issue of dilemmas and trade-offs throughout my book, especially in chapter 8, but in retrospect I should probably have made even more of it than I already do. Without clear alternative choices grounded in one or more of the above tensions, wargames risk becoming mere ‘experience games’ analagous to simply reading a book or watching a movie about the real conflict, but with random variation changing the story to a greater or lesser extent.
What do people think about this idea of the encapsulation of dilemmas and trade-offs as being a core defining element of any wargame worth playing? The trouble is that, the more evenly balanced the alternatives, the more ahistorical and hypothetical the game will tend to become, while the more clearly the historical tactics are privileged, the fewer real dilemmas the players face and the more they are simply ‘along for the ride’.
Several responses broadened this from “wargames” to “games in general” or at least “strategy games”.
I find it interesting that the dilemmas Dr. Sabin invokes deal with many of the “principles of war” (particlualry the UK variety)
The first seems to put “concetration of force” at odds with “economy of effort”.
The second seems to put “offensive action” at odds with “security”.
The third seems to put “maintenance of the aim” at odds with “flexibility” – assuming an implied “waiting for better intelligence to do ‘something different than I’m doing now’ – opportunistically adapting to new aim.
The fourth seems to put “surprise” at odds with “sustainability” and perhaps “cooperation”.
The other two are more realted to gaming as a tool (an active opponent) and particular situations – each has its own weighting of political vs military constraints and restraints.
I’m assuming the definitions in each case per the wikipedia link.
I’m not sure if I’m reading too much into this, but would be interested in others take on whether there are natural tensions between principles of war in general, or if these are situational constructs that are local, not universal?