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Strategic "level" of wargames

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  • #16
    The generalization of defenitions for Strategy and Tactics that I often use is the following:

    Method to wage war

    Method to effectivly use your forces in battle.

    Then there is the operational level mentioned in my other post that binds them all together.

    Originally posted by Patrick Carroll View Post
    So, which are you doing when you sit down to play a game of -- well, most any wargame? You're working out how to "meet the enemy in combat under advantageous conditions" and you're "disposing and maneuvering forces in combat." Even in a stylized wargame like chess, you're doing both. And in any real-life military engagement, you're doing both.
    The execution of an engagement is on the tactical level while how your forces ended up in that particular battle was something that happened on the strategic level. Moving armies around and choosing battlefields is about strategy, but leading the elements of these armies in combat, that is about tactics.

    That is a good rule of thumb. It may fail, though, when dealing with ancient or medieval "tactical" battles, since all weapons may be hand-to-hand weapons.
    The ability to observe the enemy has always been vital on the battlefield, regardless of era or arena. If I cant observe the enemy I have no clue to what he is doing, if he is retreating or advancing.

    It can also fail when the game designer decides to "zoom in" or "zoom out" when determining the game's scale. Storm over Arnhem seems like a tactical game, but because of the area-movement system, IIRC there are no LOS rules needed. Battle of the Bulge (1981) is more "operational" in level, but it still has some LOS, as artillery units can fire into non-adjacent hexes.
    The LOS can just as well be interchanged with combat information (unprocessed intelligence) that serve the same purpose, giving information on the enemy. Another problem is the level of abstraction that one encounters in a wargame where a batallion is a small counter trapped in a hex. In reality this counter would have scouts way ahead of it in the advancing direction reporting back all kinds of information. This is however often abstracted in the rules. Besides, the both games you are describing sounds more like operational level games (altough I have never played them).

    I guess I can see your line of thinking, but it seems to me you're trying too hard to impose historical-military terms on wargames. In some of the classic operational-level Avalon Hill board wargames (e.g., Waterloo), there was little that could be called explicitly logistical; there were no support elements. Others (e.g., Afrika Korps) did have unit-counters representing support elements. That just means it's designer's choice: sometimes a designer will choose to "abstract out" or ignore supply and logistics; other times a designer will choose to make these things explicit and give players control over them. Either way, IMO a wargame that covers the whole Waterloo campaign is clearly an operational-level game.

    As to "strategic goals," IMO all games have them. But they vary widely depending on the scale of the game. In Victory in the Pacific, a goal might be to capture the Philippines. In ASL, a goal might be to defend a crossroads. Either way, that becomes your "strategic goal" for the game, and then you have to devise and exercise the tactics that will lead to achieving that goal.
    In ASL you have your small enclosed battlespace where you do you best to complete your objective. You use tactics to achive that goal, but the objective (the crossroads for example) is not a strategic goal in its own. That is not simulated in the game, but knowing the background to the scenario you could of course think one step beyond the board to see that you have accomplished an "operational goal", and a step towards the greater "strategic goal" in the theatre or the war. Its not like you will make Germany surrender in a ASL game, but you might at least cross the Rhein.

    But to me, the only real difference between these kinds of wargames is the size of the engagement being represented. Tactical wargames represent skirmishes or small battles; operational wargames represent huge battles or small to medium campaigns; strategic wargames represent huge campaigns or entire wars.

    And the scale is all relative. The Battle of Marathon was huge for its day and played such a key role in the whole campaign and war that it seems to almost take on strategic dimensions. Yet if you superimpose the Battle of the Bulge onto it, Marathon looks like a little skirmish in comparison. Similarly, any war in earth's history might look miniscule in comparison to galactic warfare of the future.
    I couldnt agree more!
    "The secret of war lies in the communications" - Napoleon Bonaparte


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