War, What is it Good For? Learning from Wargaming

“To a wargamer,” writes Greg Costikyan in the just published collection Tabletop: Analog Game Design, “wargames are not abstract, time-wasting pastimes, like other games, but representative of the real. . . . You can learn something from wargames; indeed, in some ways you can learn more from wargames than from reading history” (180). I take the theatrical curl of the lip at “abstract, time-wasting pastimes” to be spoken in character, but that aside, what can we learn from wargames? Which is to say, what can wargames teach, or do, that other game design traditions—including serious games, independent games, and art games—cannot? Is brute simulationism—some sort of interactive history textbook, presumably—really the answer?

My investment in this question goes deep, since as an academic and a good left/progressive at that I often find myself wondering about—and occasionally asked to outright explain—my passion for these martial pastimes. A wargamer, especially one who follows military history and current military affairs, looks suspiciously like a closet warmonger, complete with Mission Accomplished banners furled in back behind the winter coats. (It goes the other way too: announcing “I’m an English professor” isn’t exactly a conversation-starter when the person sitting next to you is dressed in ACUPAT fatigues.) I’ve written about some of the appeal and interest of these games before on Play the Past, but the other week I had an opportunity to see how wargaming is presented amid the formal trappings of Powerpoints and plenaries. Connections is an annual conference designed to fit the niche at the intersection of professional and recreational wargaming, with active duty military personnel, hobbyists, academics, designers, industry representatives, and policy wonks all rubbing shoulders.  I’d never been to one of its meetings before, but as an academic I’m no stranger to conferences—I have literally hundreds of keepsake badges adorning my office. So, on a sticky August morning I hied me down to the Washington, DC campus of National Defense University at Fort McNair, just across the river from National Airport. There I found lots of people talking about what wargames can and can’t do, but very few talking about “representing the real.”

But more about that in a moment. Wargaming, as I suggested or at least implied above, is a distinct game design tradition. Indeed, the Connections conference advertised itself as being held on the 200th anniversary of the “invention” of wargaming. What can this mean, with games like Chess and Go dating back to antiquity? In the early 1800s, the Prussian staff officer Georg von Reisswitz formally introduced his Kriegsspiel, a game played by laying metal bars across maps to mark troop dispositions (derived from a set his father had made up) to his fellow officers. “This is not a game! This is training for war!” one general is said to have exclaimed. (The authoritative account of the origins and development of Kriegsspiel is to be found in Peter Perla’s excellent The Art of Wargaming.)

An example of the Von Reisswitz Kriegsspiel, played using a modern set

The game used dice to resolve random events like combat within a spectrum of probabilistic outcomes, and featured formal rules and procedures. It was quickly adopted and became the foundation for the German use of wargaming (Kriegsspiel) which persisted through World War II (these are the very “sand table exercises” of which Friedrich Kittler gnomically writes in his preface to Grammaphone, Film, Typewriter). By the end of the 19th century, the game had evolved two major variants, so-called “rigid” and “free” Kriegsspiel. The latter attempted to replace the elaborate rules and calculations of the von Reisswitz game with a human umpire who made decisions about combat, intelligence, and other aspects of the battlefield.

This design fork between rigid and free Kriegsspiel was to find itself echoed in the 20th century’s evolution of tabletop RPGs from historical miniatures wargaming, as chronicled by fellow Play the Past contributor Rob MacDougall. Likewise, the same basic schism governs wargame design today. While the hobbyist fascination with recreating Gettysburg and Waterloo with rules and charts and hexes and counters persists in the best tradition of rigid Kriegsspiel, professional wargames are often, by contrast, collaborative and team-based, with a premium on verbal interaction and problem solving. They are umpired. Players do not have complete information about the scenario, and scenarios can be abruptly modified by “injects,” developments introduced in mid-play by the game master. Most of the action seems to involve sitting around a table and talking (sometimes colloquially referred to as BOGSAT, “Bunch of Guys [and Girls] Sitting Around a Table” by those in the know). Such games, which are staged not only by the Pentagon but also by corporate consulting firms like Booz Allen Hamilton, can be about response to a global pandemic or an interruption in the supply chain for a manufacturing process as well as military operations and contingencies. Wargaming, increasingly, is a term as likely to be encountered in a business leadership seminar as inside a Beltway think tank.

And indeed, at Connections, the emphasis was consistently placed on expanding wargame design methodology to new subject spaces and domains. NDU President Vice Admiral Ann E. Rondau who opened the conference asked, “What happens when Yemen runs out of water? How do you game that?” Indeed, over and over again, wargaming was presented as a tool not for learning or simulating history, but for teaching critical decision-making; on this there was near complete consensus.

"What happens when Yemen runs out of water? How do you game that?"

The combination of mathematical descriptions of events (specifically the strain of quantitative modeling known as operations research) coupled with a heavy emphasis on the behavioralist tradition in political and social science was the chief epistemological axis in play at Connections, while games topics under discussion ranged from terrorism and counter-insurgency to the global energy crisis. Neither Jane McGonigal’s World Without Oil nor Mary Flanagan’s POX would have been greatly out of place there. The gathering at NDU stands in marked contrast to Costikyan’s insistence on hawkish simulationism as the hallmark of wargame design versus other game design traditions. The Connections presenters focused not on a given game’s predictive value, but on its potential as a vehicle for its participants, either through role-playing or the arbitrary rule-based constraints of the game world, to critically examine their own assumptions and decision-making processes. The best games, concluded one speaker (Roger Mason, who designs game for law enforcement and emergency responders), were those that could be learned in under ten minutes and played in under two hours, and which sought to engage participants through a combination of competitive play, social interaction, and suspense or uncertainty regarding the eventual outcome.

Nor can we simply ascribe the disconnect between the Connections crowd and Costikyan to a schism between the world of professional game research and the hobbyist community of which the latter was speaking. One internet discussion group which I frequent was recently the site of vociferous debate over how history is modeled in various game designs about the Napoleonic era. The epitome of the simulationist tradition, a venerable game system known as La Bataille which dates back to the 1970s and whose hex-grids have overlain many a grognard’s table, was challenged for its obsession with the minutiae of battlefield phenomena such as formations, the dispositions of individual battalions and gun batteries, and even the accuracy of the uniform depictions which grace its distinctive unit counters. By contrast, the more desirable and historically rewarding games, it was suggested, were those that aspired to a gestalt view, manifested (in the words of Charles Vasey) in a “belief that the individual actions of sub-units (a Brownian motion of battalions) can be swept up into much larger outcomes without the need to determine the individual actions individually.” Most of the more successful Napoleonic game designs of the last twenty years or so hew to the latter model (dubbed “dynamicist” on the forum) as opposed to the La Bataille drill-book formula. This discussion is not unrepresentative of hobbyist trends in general, where an obsession with rivet-counting (as it is sometimes called) is far less fashionable than shorter, quick-playing games which seek to model an overall commander’s decision-making amid the chaos and uncertainty of the battlefield. Richard Borg’s very popular Command and Colors series of designs is emblematic of this trend, as is the emergence of the CDG (Card-Driven Game) school, epitomized by cross-over games like Hannibal and Twilight Struggle.

By any measure, wargaming is in an interesting place right now. On the one hand there is a documentable design tradition that goes back at least decades (to Charles S. Roberts and the founding of Avalon Hill in the early 1950s) or centuries (to von Reisswitz), or, if you like, even further back than that, to the clay figurines discovered in Egyptian tombs. But as wargaming seeks to expand the purview of its design space beyond only martial topics and themes, its relationship to other areas of game design becomes more nebulous.  What does a “war” game about the water supply in Yemen or influenza teach us that a newsgame on the same subject might miss? If wargaming is indeed applicable to any contemporary situation that seeks to examine decision-making amid an atmosphere of crisis, uncertainty, and conflict or competition, then it seems important to be able to discriminate its capabilities vis-à-vis other game design movements.

Jim Dunnigan, who founded the legendary SPI in 1969 (where he was also Costikyan’s first boss) gives us some starting points in his own contribution to the new Tabletop anthology, in which he lays out  primitives that–while forged amid hex and counter belligerence–are applicable to any game design situation. These include such variables as scale, environment, “intensity,” basic and special aspects to be modeled, and unknowns (“fog of war”); the primitives also include game design objectives, which might be analytical or exploratory or pedagogical; interface and physical systems; basic research; the sequence of play; resolution of conflict (“combat”) and adjudication of victory; and so on. These underlying precepts, which have been honed through hundreds of hobbyist designs, might be used to recapitulate the Battle of Kursk, but they might also be used to teach wilderness navigation, as in Dunnigan’s own Outdoor Survival, or to model the tensions and dynamics behind the 1999 WTO protests, as in Brian Train’s Battle of Seattle.

Map from Brian Train's Battle of Seattle, a game about the 1999 WTO protests

It’s worth noting that Dunnigan cultivated an extremely strong internal design culture at SPI, with core sets of rules and procedures codified and underlying games on a wide variety of topics at varying levels of complexity. The sheer output of SPI—dozens of games a year at its heyday—makes it an important study in the leveraging of a centralized game design process.

If Dunnigan gives us methodological primitives, Rex Brynen, Professor of Political Science at McGill and proprietor of the excellent PaxSims blog, offers additional essential insight. In his own coverage of Connections, Brynen suggests that “[W]argaming is much more policy- and planning- oriented than most other gaming. It also has much more rigorous traditions of design, validation, adjudication, instrumentation/reporting, and analysis.” This seems fundamentally right to me, and an excellent start. Wargame design, if not “realistic” in a mimetically simple or brute simulationist sense, does have a responsibility to “storyboard” its products, that is map a game’s findings to known or historically plausible outcomes. This storyboarding injects an element of ground truth into the design process that is very different from the obligations of, say, a Eurostyle game, which, regardless of theme (trading, settling, railroading, etc.) is not meshing its mechanics with any external measures of validation, at least not beyond those of the marketplace.

Likewise, as Brynen notes, wargames have also developed precedents and formats for the dissemination of game sessions and their outcomes, in the form of after action reports and debriefings. These might assume greater or lesser degrees of formality in their presentation, but conflict and resolution is, as any narratologist will tell you, the essence of story-telling, and so just as the competition and contest inherent in warfare lends itself to game situations, so too does war (and games about war) make for compelling narrative experience. (So, storyboarding and storytelling: maybe that’s why I keep getting drawn back into my bellicose little cardboard worlds. I am, after all, an English professor, and that makes me something like a professional connoisseur of stories, wherever we may find them.)

Finally, let’s remember that wargaming was the first real laboratory for independent games in the commercial marketplace. Charles S. Roberts at Avalon Hill had no desire to compete with Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley. Today outfits like GMT and Victory Point Games are able to survive, even thrive, on thin market margins because they produce and print games either on subscription or on demand. This means that designers can work on marginal topics without any immediate economic peril.

Staff assembling games at Victory Point Games

Likewise, Philip Sabin, who uses wargames in his military history courses as King’s College, London is able to turn each student into his or her own independent game designer, partly as a result of the dissemination of the design tradition to which I refer above (from which students can borrow and steal ideas) and partly because of the DIY access to basic tools and physical systems, be they cardboard and glue or computer platforms such as VASSAL and Cyberboard.

So what can we learn from wargames? Where Costikyan sees realism and historical fidelity and validity in simulation, I see a contemporary player and design community (both hobbyist and professional) that values attention to process in the procedural or quantitative representation of complex, often literally contested phenomena. Where Costikyan sees a focus on outcomes, I see a focus on the in-game experience, and the after the fact analysis and discussion of what happened and why.

Cover of Wargame Design, a compendium by SPI designers published in 1983

Perhaps most importantly I see a game design tradition with a remarkable amount of open source material (collected in magazines, some books (like SPI’s 1983 Wargame Design), and today on the internet) that engages with its own practice and craft, one which is the scene of often sharp disagreements and ongoing critical self-reflection. Designer’s notes are commonplace in wargame rulebooks, rare in computer game manuals and Eurostyle rulebooks. The impulse that’s at work here seems fundamentally pedagogical to me, and perhaps that’s also why I respond to it so deeply.

Wargaming must do a better job of outreach to neighboring design communities, and to vetting and evaluating its own contributions. There is, at present, no peer-reviewed journal to serve the professional wargame design community; the closest is a SAGE publication, Simulation and Gaming. Connections, as a well-established conference (its been meeting for almost twenty years now) would do well to make deeper inroads into both the serious games movement and academic ludology—there was precious little awareness in the discussions I heard of the outpouring of game scholarship in the last fifteen years or so. Blogs like Play the Past and PaxSims should recognize their kindred interests and audiences. Most of all, though, we need to engage wargaming as a living tradition of game design, one has responded to changes in the games industry and the world around it, one that is no longer simply about hexes and zones of control, and one that has preserved a space for critical, independent game design addressing a broad spectrum of contemporary issues and topics. War, it turns out, is good for lots of things—just so long as no one is actually fighting one.




  1. “There is, at present, no peer-reviewed journal to serve the professional wargame design community”

    Stay tuned… 🙂

  2. Matthew, my feedback is that your writing is superb and your overview of war games is invaluable for a novice like myself.

    You state that “wargaming was presented [at Connections] as a tool not for learning or simulating history, but for teaching critical decision-making.” This theme – ably explained over the course of the essay – is seminal not only for war games but all serious games and heuristic learning. Bravo Matthew

  3. Great post. Having played Avalon Hill and SPI games since the 1970s (but no face-to-face gaming in at least 10 years), I really enjoyed reading this. I’ll have to direct my old ftf gaming friends here for a read!

  4. A well argued post, Matt. I do feel I’ve been set up a bit as a straw man; note that my purpose in characterizing wargames as “about the real” was to contrast them with other schools of boardgame design (abstract strategy, Eurogame, and Ameritrash); the simulationist impulse is indeed core to wargaming in a way that it is not to those others. Nor is this belied by your otherwise valid point that the trend in wargame design is away from picayune detail; the extreme of that style would be Richard Berg’s Campaign for North Africa, in which you do such things as keep track of the amount of water available to individual battalions. This is intensely simulationist in a sense, but in another sense, that level of detail sabotages the game’s depiction of reality; Rommel and Montgomery surely did not concern themselves with something so picayune, any more than, say, Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO and my ultimate boss at present, reads my game design specs. Simulation fidelity is often improved by simplicity, since this allows players to focus on the actual issues and concerns of the situation.

    1. Author


      Thanks for stopping by; straw man certainly wasn’t my intent. I think one relevant distinction underplayed in both your essay and in my post here is that between historical and hypothetical gaming; with a historical situation we have recourse to the kind of storyboarding that I mentioned, which in turn feeds the simulationist impulse. The better games (and I think that hobby wargaming in general has gotten better about recognizing and articulating this) are able to make a distinction between simulation in the brute force mode of Campaign for North Africa (tracking water supplies for individual battalions) and “simulation” of a few key aspects of the gestalt (c.f. Vasey’s comments above).

      For a game on a hypothetical subject (which accords with the popular understanding of wargaming, as in “What happens when the ICBMs fly,” as well as “What happens when Yemen runs out of water”), we are on trickier ground. Here, lacking the ground truth of the historical record, simulation has a tendency to creep into “prediction,” which is what the Connections crowd seemed keen to disavow; hence the emphasis on process and analysis rather than outcomes per se.

      Ultimately I think “simulation” is a term that just comes with too much baggage; the burden of expectations is too great, and it becomes too easy to dismiss the insights any individual game has to offer because of a perceived flaw in its fidelity to the “real” world, either historically or subjunctively construed.

      1. Matt:

        The emphasis on process and outcomes at Connections, I think, was partly by the driven that (professional) wargaming has something of intellectual value to offer. It was also driven, I think, by a certain degree of professional tribalization: a desire to somehow mark out the boundaries of “professional wargaming” as something distinct from that of rival tribes. The main rival, moreover, is a somewhat parochial one–the I/ITSEC electronic S&M tribe (the annual trade conference in Orlando draws 20,000 attendees and almost 600 company exhibits—the GenCon of military simulation). These drivers aren’t entirely unrelated, of course.

        (Part of the secret tribal ritual too is that the majority of Connections participants push cardboard, lead, or plastic across a table for fun.)

        In addition to these two drivers, there are also two competing impulses that emerge. One is the desire to acquire the trappings of a profession (or better yet, a guild)—a print journal, professional certification, academic conferences, and so forth. The other is to view the challenge in a completely different way–not one of building a guild, but rather of fostering networks and facilitating the flow of ideas across disciplinary and professional boundaries. You and I seem to both be firmly in the latter camp on this.

      2. All right, I’ll accept that “simulation” can be a problematic term. And yet, to take “What if Yemen runs out of water?” as an example, a “wargame” approach is still tied to reality. A wargame asking the question would, I’d hope, be informed by a serious research attempt to understand what’s going on in Yemen now, what the hydrography is like, and what options might be available to the roles the players take. By contrast, I could take Puerto Rico and retheme it for “a game set in Yemen with water as a critical resource,” and it might well be fun to play, but it would cast no light on the issues involved. Similarly, I could invent some fictional roles for power opponents in Yemen, and devise a system with lots of backstabbing and dice roles, and probably come up with an entertaining game that similarly had nothing to do with the real — an Ameritrash approach.

        Even historical games are, in some sense hypothetical; if I’m playing a game about Gettysburg, the purpose is not to re-enact the battle, but to explore what-ifs, and perhaps to try to do better than the historical commanders.

      3. Author

        Maybe what we see here then is that simulationism is best employed in defining the *parameters* of the game, as opposed to measuring its outcome or serving as a crutch for validating the exercise . . .

  5. Great article! It is particularly interesting to distinguish wargaming from boardgaming. Perhaps the closer analogy to wargaming (worldgaming?) would be better found in the world of LARPs (Live Action Role-Playing games) and jeepform(?) (Greg C. is often on about this).

    There does seem to be a core distinction between games as systems or rule-drive (rigid) and games as story-making enterprises (free). The games that NDU seems to be more interested in are in the latter category which have much more to do with (real) role-playing and story exploring than any of the SPI games we all grew up with.

    1. Author


      You’re right about the free/rigid distinction. One way of framing what’s happening at the moment, though, is the realization that the traditions of “rigid” gaming (precisely because there *is* a tradition, i.e. ideas and precedents that can be recycled) impose lower overhead than free-form games, which require large groups, an umpire, etc. So hex and counter gaming is opening up to some non-traditional subjects, which in turn brings it into closer proximity to alternative game design communities, such as newsgames or art games.

      When we have a hex and counter game about Waterloo it’s clearly a wargame; but what happens when we have a hex and counter game about Seattle 1999 or London 2011 or immunization policy or . . . ? This forces the question of what wargame design has to offer to the rest of the gaming world.

      1. But why are we focused on hex/counter games? I assume other board/map metaphors (from the Game of Life or Monopoly to Risk or TV Wars) are valid? (or am I missing something?)

        What about card-based games a la Magic?

        Are you focusing on tight, rules-based systems?

        The lowest overhead is something like Monopoly, not a hex game… look at all the darn X-opoly games that use “The Landlord Game Engine”.

        Designers Notes and such are really tied to the rise of Authorship which became more visible in the “hex” wargame community earlier than in more social board games.

        The “hardcore” “free” wargames would seem to me to be in a different category as they rarely are played repeatedly (though I’ve participated in training courses that used game elements) and the interest is less on the design of the game and more on the Guys Around The Table Talking portion.

        (I guess there is/was “How to Host a Murder”) 🙂

        So, what do YOU want to learn about? Better game design (free or rigid), understanding “games” themselves or what can be learned through games and how that process can be improved?

      2. Author

        Yeah, I knew someone would ding me for “hex and counter.” It’s really just a shorthand for, well, wargame, which could certainly includes cards or areas or whatever . . . But to the larger gist of your question, why limit the scope of inquiry to just wargames, whatever we finally decide they are: mostly for what I would deem “social” rather than “formalistic” reasons. In other words, “wargaming” encompasses various groups of people who self-identify with the term, who often know (or know of) each other and interact, and who leave documentation where others with kindred interests may find it. Those “social” factors are ultimately more important to me than identifying particular traits and characteristics with wargames themselves.

  6. Great review and great points! I’m glad that you posted a link to this on the Game For Change list serve. I strongly agree that both of these communities can benefit by looking at what the other has to offer.

  7. As always, nice post. It strikes me that an important distinction between the kinds of war-games you are describing from the conference and much of the kinds of things that happen in educational games has to do with what both intend as the nature of learning. The talk driven war games seem to me to be much more hermunitic in nature. They effectively serve as thought prompts for working through senarios. This is very much a kind of learn by doing without the doing. In contrast, much of the world of educational gamming needs to (as part of a “facts” focused educational standards regime) focus on “covering” content. Do you think this difference, between decimating wrote knowledge and generating new knowledge is in play here?

    1. Author

      So are we ultimately back to something like learning outcomes, which (as you’re suggesting) are necessary for educational games but more amorphous when it comes to wargames, at least of the BOGSAT variety?

      I’ve always been fond of the story that’s told about Herman Kahn, the real-life defense analyst and futurist who is often cited as the inspiration for the Dr. Strangelove character. Kahn, when accosted by a general who questions his (civilian) credentials to be discussing matters of nuclear war is said to have replied, “And how many thermonuclear wars have *you* fought in, general?”

  8. Good stuff.

    Let me pick up one of your themes. For me at least, a wargame has value if it passes the test, “Does it impart something worth knowing about its subject?” This is a pretty low bar, though, and indeed it might even be lower than it looks. As Rex Brynen has pointed out, for example in his review of GMT’s Labyrinth game, even occasional weaknesses in a game’s model can by exploited by a skilled teacher, so long as the basic structure is sound.

    The more interesting test is I think, “Does it add something to the sum of our knowledge on its topic?” In this regard, though apparently lacking somewhat in rigour, the attempt by John Prados to “prove” hypotheses using multiple plays of the SPI Cobra game is a heroic recent effort. (In “Normandy Crucible: The Decisive Battle that Shaped WW II in Europe.”)

    Even should a game fail to meet the stringent conditions of Test 2 in their entirety, I do not believe that its value would be necessarily limited solely to the classroom. La Bataille can possibly provide an example of what I mean. The precise meaning and nuance of the language in Napoleonic military history source material has eroded over the years, to the point where even an informed reader must spend much time scratching his head in frustration. When does the apparently ubiquitous phrase “column” mean one of a number of specific formations, and when does it mean a body of troops, to pick one obvious example of many.

    By providing the tools to test alternate interpretations of the source language in a virtual cardboard model, a La Bataille game (or more properly, fragments of the game) may provide clarity, or even insight, not easily obtainable through other means. Whether La Bataille is acting as a “game” in such an endeavour is a question on which I would defer to the more qualified voices in this forum.

    1. Author

      I think this is all very well put. Hobbyists often talk about the way that games lead them to go and read up on a subject, thereby making them better people or at least better students of history. In my own case, I’ve read up on those low level Napoleonic formations precisely because I realized that, for all of its vaunted “detail,” I still couldn’t visualize what was happening inside the La Bataille hex. In fact, as we’ve discussed elsewhere, I know of *no* board wargames on the market that operate at a true drill-book level of detail, at least in this period. What’s interesting to me is not validating the investment in gaming through recourse to books (“Look, the game made me read a book, it must be educational!”) but rather the way in which the formal limitations of the game and its mechanisms exposed the edges of the simulation and revealed to me (if we can evoke Donald Rumsfeld) a known unknown.

      1. The prospect of throwing some light on the known unknowns is what makes Phil Sabin’s work so encouraging, I think.

  9. Excellent post Matt, and thank you for the hat-tip for Battle of Seattle. I designed that game just a couple of weeks after the actual events, to try and teach a couple of simple points about how it wasn’t so much what you were doing, but where and who saw it – for good or ill; and the easy availability but ultimately counterproductive nature of violence in mob-confrontation situations. The game is still available from my website for free but it has popped up on some places on the left side of the Net. I don’t mind as long as I still get the name-check….

  10. Great article: There is educational value in designing and playing games. There seems to be a current move away from pure military subjects to representing society and economy. The common thread seems to be enabling interactive decision making by the players.

    There are many types of game. The Wargame Developments (WD) website (attached) has a handbook-


    Tabletop, map-figures, committee, cardboard simulator and live role play all feature. Subjects covered include the intrigues of the contemporaries of Tutankhamun, history current events and the shapes of things to come. The conference that WD runs each July in England is unique as a forum for multiple play tests of these. A well tested system of interactions is the key of a successful game.

  11. To be honest very little of this struck a chord.

    I see a wargame as a means to test ones ability to say, command a company. One of the issues is I am not a military man. A company commander that knows intimately how a platoon will deploy and can to some significant extent ignore this aspesct. I have seen enough of real platoon commnders to know that I could not easily replace him with a few chosen words in a rule book. Therfore games need to be played at a set of diffrent levels, very simply, as real commanders have a much broader scope. This leads to understanding of the basics of command and deployment.

    Learning to be a Platoon commander takes more than ten minutes to understand and learn, more like years in the real world, particularly as certainly the command is backed up by an experienced NCO who may have vastly more experiencxe than a new platoon commander.

    So a professional “wrgame” taking 10 miniutes to learn and 3 hrs to play is patently a different animal, wargame but “Not as we Know it Jim”.

    A airline pilot can learn to fly with a preponderance of time spent on a simulator. It does not really impact the overall “flying time” needed to qualify.

    Wargames are to some extent a poor mans “Miles simulator” where guns are replaced by lazer beams. The US even use 3D VR to do similar. Wargames can be a mixture of this and basic l;earning of how to deploy in time and space. This is wildly diffrent to a set of folk siting roiund chatting. This is more like a risk assessment we do in engineering where we look at potential routes and hazards for a particular proiject. All experts looking at some basics but it is in no way a simulation of the enginnering taks or even basic planning. Therfore not I submit anything in co0mmon wih at least some tabletop games.

    On that basis the whole of the article is somewhat flawed in not covering all aspects of wargame simulation at all and then covering only a some aspects in detail.

    Avlon hills Advanced Squad leader, though perhaps too detailed and too low level, is a commecially succcessful type of game that is not realy represented well in this papaer. It CANNOT SHOULD NOT BE ten Minutes to learn and 3 hrs to play. That would be ridiculus as the real world is not like that and the plaer would learn nothing of the basics of understanding the tactical issues.

  12. : Here I like strategic or operational level games. I want to learn history. I am looking for wargames (or history games) with clear easy rules (don’t want to spend my time reading the rulebook), that have fast turns (so I can see history unfolding)and that simulate the war accurately. I play reasonably fast, not doing factor counting. I don’t identify with one side or the other. I am a neutral observer. Every once in a while I will stop moving counters and study the situation for one side or the other, and try to understand the strategic decisions that were made historically. Then I play a couple of turns fast to see what unfolds. I expect a good solo wargame to be able to recreate the historical result effortlessly (without special rules to guide the game). This gives me confidence in the game’s ability to predict the result of “what if” decisions that deviate from history.

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