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Armor Attacks: The Tank Platoon is a serious gamebook created as "An Interactive Exercise in Small-Unit Tactics and Leadership." The designer and author is colonel (retired) John F. Antal, the former commander of a tank battalion in South Korea. He is better known in the game industry as the Executive Producer at Gearbox, responsible for historical accuracy for the Brothers in Arms series.
Around fifty pages are highly detailed and illustrated specifications of tanks, armored vehicles, procedures, military symbols, definitions and all sorts information to prepare you to be in the mindset of a tank platoon commander. The book is full of military jargon and procedures but Antal does an excellent job of weaving technical explanations into the narrative as you follow your character, US Army 2nd Lieutenant, Sam Jeger, in a series of strategy meetings.
You are battling an unnamed enemy in the desert terrain of the Valley of Tears in the Middle East. You command a platoon (four) of M1 Abrams tanks and also receive support from mobile artillery, various armored vehicles, and some infantry. The enemy is equipped with Soviet technology including the formidable T-72 and T-80 tanks, and similar supporting forces. You manage your resources, greatest being--time, for planning, surveying, rest and more.
Being a gamebook of the programmed instructions genre, there are some design tradeoffs that were made. Unlike most which-way books, there are few choices and each choice leads to a long chain of events. There is only one correct way to play and several key choices are made blindly. Unless you are knowledgeable about military strategy, the multiple choices you face all seem valid. When you choose incorrectly, you and your team die horrifically. Afterwards Anatal lectures you on military strategy and helps you reflect on your choices and then returns you to the last checkpoint for a restart.
What I learned was that war is chaotic and a shrewd tank commander must have a flexible plan. A flexible plan also means that sometime one must follow the intent or goal of the order rather than the exact letter of a command. Armor Attacks: The Tank Platoon is a fascinating way to teach modern military strategy. While Sun Tzu's The Art of War teaches grand strategy, Antal's Armor Attacks: The Tank Platoon teaches modern combined arms tactics in the most entertaining way.
Armor Attacks: The Tank Platoon and If I Ran the Z/o/o/ Con are both gamification via gamebooks. I see great potential in learning via gamebooks.
Originally posted on Play This Thing.
- Last edited Wed Mar 21, 2012 7:09 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:06 pm
I agree completely. This book is entertaining.
However, it is a little dated in its concepts. It was based on the Air-Land Battle doctrine outlined in the FM 100-5 Operations Book from the late 80's to late 90's. (Currently the US armed forces now base their operations on the Network-Centric warfare doctrine.)
In part, the book was designed to teach basic concepts of FM 100-5 in a novel way. The US military had been experimenting throughout the 70's with "programmed learning" modules, like this and had decided they were not useful in teaching junior grade officers. However, I think Col. Antal hit the mark in this series of books. The books are engaging ( unlike their previous predecessors) and were based on real life experiences gained from the National Training Center.
It is an interesting fact that the solution to one of the scenarios in this book is one that actually worked against the NTC's OpFor ( whose tactics were based on standard Soviet Union doctrine of the time) and is described in another book "Dragons at War". For more reading on the Air-Land Battle doctrine, I recommend "The art of Maneuver" by Robert Leonhard.
In any case, before you play Antal's book I would do some reading on the Air-Land Battle doctrine, it will make your play much more enjoyable.
Currently the US armed forces now base their operations on the Network-Centric warfare doctrine.
Are there any good primers on Network-Centric warfare doctrine?
- Last edited Wed Mar 21, 2012 12:22 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Wed Mar 21, 2012 12:21 pm
I don't know of a good primer per se. But just type in DoD and Network Centric Warfare into Google and you can find the original Thesis.
It essentially boils down to 4 things. The boots on the ground and the headquarters elements are networked via an electronic media that allows all sharing information at the speed of light. This provides 1) increased information sharing, 2) Shared situational awareness. No longer do commanders on the ground have to wait for information to be absorbed, analayzed and disseminated by the Headquarters element. Now the commander on the ground, (in theory), is as well informed as anyone else in the chain of command. This then leads to the following warfighting advantages: 1) Self synchronization and 2) increased speed of command. ( ie two commanders can now develop tactics in coordination with each other in real time).
In gaming, this would translate best as imagining a computer based classic hex based tactical board game, in which one player has the advantage of seeing everything on the board, while his opponent is limited only to spotty patches of the board. The player with the better tactical overview, in theory, makes the best informed decision and can exploit tactical weaknesses of his opponent in real time.
Taking our example, the player using NCW has the best situational awareness and because of NCW would not have to overtly tell his units how to act individually, (as they share the same information as him) and need only give very general guidelines for them to follow. Such as exploit developing disorganization at grid AB123456. The units themselves can then coordinate to carry out these orders and issue individual movement orders and coordinated strike information.
Hope this helps.