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Subject: National advantages: Realistic, or sterotypical? rss

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Joseph
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Hi Gang.

I've been pondering the whole concept of national advantages when it comes to wargames. Weapon specifications aside, it seems to me that there were real differences between the Russians, Germans, Japanese, Americans, etc. I'm uncertain if any nation, equipt with the same materiel, could have achieved the same historical results as another.

The Japanese army, transplanted to the Russian front, would not have displayed the same tolerance for hardship as the native Russians.

The Russians, transplanted to North Africa, would not have displayed the same adeptness at maneuver as the Brits and the Germans.

The Germans, transplanted to Burma, would not have been able to deal with the claustrophobic fighting conditions in the jungle as well as the Japanese.

So what are your thoughts on the whole subject of national advantages?
Do national advantages represent real factors that can be assessed in wargames, or are they really just a fantasy?

Poll
Are national advantages / quirks a real factor? Examples: Russian tenacity; Japanese ferocity; German efficiency, etc. Pick the answer that best matches your view. Note that I didn't provide "yes" or "no" shortcuts, you have to actually read the description.
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
These differences are purely subjective and anecdotal.
4.2% 12
Some nations are better at certain things than others.
15.1% 43
Materiel and command are the only deciding factors.
1.4% 4
Geography, politics, and tradition are the only relevant influences.
0.7% 2
Combination of geography, politics, tradition, materiel, command.
25.7% 73
Guns, germs, and steel - some variant of that.
2.8% 8
Too complex a subject to pin down with a poll.
10.2% 29
No poll can properly account for my complex and multifaceted views.
3.9% 11
I am a great old one, and don't analyze nations - I devour them.
3.5% 10
Stop romancing the Wehrmacht!!!!!
4.2% 12
I am a contrarian, and must disagree with whatever you're putting forth.
1.1% 3
Other.
2.1% 6
I'm mad at you from another thread, and just want to yank our chain.
0.0% 0
Generic rage at some tangental issue.
2.8% 8
What kind of world is it, where a man, dressed as a bat...
2.1% 6
42
12.3% 35
I like clicking buttons. CLICK CLICK CLICK. I'm a button clicking fool!
6.0% 17
I'm passive agressive, and this is as close as I'll ever get to lashing out at you.
1.8% 5
Voters 284
This poll is now closed.   284 answers
Poll created by falloutfan
Closes: Tue Mar 31, 2009 6:00 am




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Hunga Dunga
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Finally, a scientific poll.
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Jaroslaw Kuczynski
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If there were Busen Memo as one of the answers I would immediately the whole thing... without it it just feels a little bit flat...
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J H
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Here you go:

Poll
If it were down to these choices, which would you choose?
Busen Memo
Anything but Busen Memo
      156 answers
Poll created by MIB 8686
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Eric Jome
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This is now my all time favorite poll on BGG. I love you, falloutfan.
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Eric Jome
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So, a serious answer then;

I dunno... national character must exist I guess. We describe a nation as a traditional inheritance of common norms and values. So, I suppose it is possible to say that perhaps the Russians are more accustomed to hardship than perhaps... I dunno... the Jamaicans? I guess it would be a climate thing there.

But can you really say that the Russians are somehow meaningfully tougher than say, the Germans? Or the Japanese? I guess I don't think so... not at the level of abstraction you see in a wargame anyway.

In that time, with that leadership and those conditions, they were perhaps "tough enough" rather that just plain "tougher". I think that is usually seen in die rolling or some other semi-random or player skill based mechanic. I don't think it's wrong or racist or anything to include "Russian units get +1 on defense." in the rules. But I also don't think it is really that important either.
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Joseph
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I am encouraged by the number of great old ones who are also wargamers.

Thanks for dropping by dudes!
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Scott Smith
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I think there are examples where national advantages were very real as a function of doctrine, organization, and technology.

The first that comes to mind is the T34 tank in WW2. It was designed with 2 men in the turret-a loader and the TC. The T34 TC both scanned for targets in a wide field of view and then narrowed down to a small field of view to engage with the large calibur gun.

Compare that to the German tank that had 3 men in the turret--a loader, gunner, and TC. This arrangement allowed the TC to stay primarily in the wide field of view acquiring targets and have the Gunner focused on putting big rounds on targets.

This small difference of doctrine between the 2 countries resulted in thousands more T34s lost than Germans--in spite of the fact that the T34 is normally acclaimed as the best designed tank in mass production in WW2.
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Jason Sadler
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This poll is broken, stupid, and unfair. It also sodomizes freedom wherever she lays her beautiful, innocent head.
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Ralph T
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Answer: Stereotypical. The Japanese depicted by Clint Eastwood in Letters from Iwo Jima didn't appear to have a natural advantage to banzai attacks as depicted in games such as Code of Bushido: ASL Module 8 or Banzai.
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Joseph
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ChemEng wrote:
I think there are examples where national advantages were very real as a function of doctrine, organization, and technology...



Absolutely. The rather rigid and antiquated French command and communication system at the beginning of WW2 being a prime example. It was WW1 era technology and command. Totally unable to deal with a more mobile and unpredictable enemy. What the French had in materiel, which was more than enough to repulse the Germans, was squandered by a static line defense mentality. The French were simply not able to react any better than they did due to their own inertia.

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Joseph
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ralpher wrote:
Answer: Stereotypical. The Japanese depicted by Clint Eastwood in Letters from Iwo Jima didn't appear to have a natural advantage to banzai attacks as depicted in games such as Code of Bushido: ASL Module 8 or Banzai.


Would you agree that they were culturally more prone to futile gestures such as Banzai charges? (Military culture) It's certain they didn't have an advantage, they got cut to pieces by machine guns just as readily as anyone else.



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Adam Siler
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Chesty Puller had a great respect for the Japanese soldier and his ability to maintain in the climate of Manchuria. He thought that they trained far harder than his own Marines or the Chinese. I think that they were resiliant in any place.

They were simply outmatched by the Soviets, who were more modern and had better commanders.
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Joseph
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cosine wrote:
So, a serious answer then;

I dunno... national character must exist I guess. We describe a nation as a traditional inheritance of common norms and values. So, I suppose it is possible to say that perhaps the Russians are more accustomed to hardship than perhaps... I dunno... the Jamaicans? I guess it would be a climate thing there.

But can you really say that the Russians are somehow meaningfully tougher than say, the Germans? Or the Japanese? I guess I don't think so... not at the level of abstraction you see in a wargame anyway.

In that time, with that leadership and those conditions, they were perhaps "tough enough" rather that just plain "tougher". I think that is usually seen in die rolling or some other semi-random or player skill based mechanic. I don't think it's wrong or racist or anything to include "Russian units get +1 on defense." in the rules. But I also don't think it is really that important either.


I think acclimitization is important. I do think that the human body and mind get tougher in response to their environment. From what I understand of the typical Russian fighting man, he was a hearty soul that was very well adapted to his environment.

I would definately give the Russians the advantage of being "Winter Fighters" over most other nations. The only other group I'd place over them would be the Fins, who are some truly scary people.

In Vietnam, a captured US soldier told the officer in charge of the prison camp he'd need half a chicken a day to stay healthy. The Officer replied that half a chicken could keep one of his men alive for a week. The point being, in terms of supply, the Vietnamese fighting man required far less calories per day, and therefore less supply. Ideal for fighting a guerilla style conflict. That and improvised weapons.

Respectfully

Falloutfan

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Anthony Sr
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BeatPosse wrote:
This poll is broken, stupid, and unfair. It also sodomizes freedom wherever she lays her beautiful, innocent head.


For some strange reason. after seeing so many responses here on the Geek....I'm really not sure if he's being completely sarcastic of serious help me!
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Anthony Sr
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Where your live Geographically and where you fight does have some kind of factor. The Finnish held off the Soviets for some time with one hell of a kill ratio before being overwhelmed by superior numbers. but having B-52's 50,000lbs of bombs. Bombers that cant be seen, A big frickin nuke. and Ion Canons sure the hell can take the fight out of anybody.
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Joseph
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neverwhere68 wrote:
BeatPosse wrote:
This poll is broken, stupid, and unfair. It also sodomizes freedom wherever she lays her beautiful, innocent head.


For some strange reason. after seeing so many responses here on the Geek....I'm really not sure if he's being completely sarcastic of serious help me!


After reviewing Jason's "games owned" list, I'd say he's dangerously close to becoming a geek buddy.
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Mark Luta
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An extensive study on this issue was undertaken 30 or so years ago, in the HERO project. See Colonel Dupuy, 'Numbers, Predictions & War' for an extensive overview of the results. Using the Italian campaign of 1943, they attempted to quantify the effects of weather, terrain, weapons, supplies, amount of planning, and so on, and as a result came up with a sort of 'national modifier' which has been used a great deal in wargame design over the years. The results have been applied to many other campaigns, with reasonably consistent results. It does remain arguable whether the methodology is valid, since the values for some variables have to be determined empirically by fitting the best numbers to produce the results for a particular campaign, and then those numbers are used to extend the analysis and predict outcomes of other battles of the same era and opposing troops. So whether the numbers, such as a 'national characteristic' which fall out of the analysis, are solid, or merely statistical artifacts, is open to debate.

However, since most wargames outside of miniatures rules are laden with 'for effect' rules (i.e., the simulated troops can be reasonably counted on to repeat their historical performance, without significant changes in strategy or tactics by the players), there almost have to be various national advantages inherent in these designs. Otherwise, Prussian infantry will not reliably be able to outperform French in the 18th Century, nor will the situation be reversed in the early 19th Century, just to give an easy example.
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neverwhere68 wrote:
BeatPosse wrote:
This poll is broken, stupid, and unfair. It also sodomizes freedom wherever she lays her beautiful, innocent head.


For some strange reason. after seeing so many responses here on the Geek....I'm really not sure if he's being completely sarcastic of serious help me!


My serious answer.

Different nation's soldiers have different strengths. American (I believe the same is true of many nations fighters, but am using America from my own experience) fighters are very tactically savvy because of all the schools and scientific approach to warfighting. Right off the C-130, I think we are often a bit softer than our opponents because of the wonderful conditions we live under during peace time.

It doesn't take too many 26 day unmounted patrols to turn a spoiled American that drinks soda and eats steak at his FOB into a lean beast that eats sand. He may never be as comfortable in the desert as people that live there all their lives, but the difference diminishes over time.

I think the combat environment tends to create a sort of equality of toughness between the two sides in any conflict. The Marines that were fighting in the Pacific and the Japanese they were fighting were both shaped by the environment that they fought in. The initial differences at the scale of the small unit and individual fighter tend to even out as the war carries on. I bet that some of the "civilians" fighting at Stalingrad were some of the most fearless, tactically savvy warriors that ever lived. I bet that the Marines that got to Okinawa were some of the leanest, close-to-the-bone warriors that ever lived.

After a great deal of time, both sides hone the butcher's craft to similar levels. People start being able to do all kinds of hinky shit to aid in their quest to kill or subdue their enemies in the moment of the firefight (or knife fight, etool fight, etc.).

At the point when forces are close to parity in the realm of professional murder, the telling differences between forces are mainly in the command apparatus of forces and how they interact with the forces available to them. How much supply is available? How are assets used? Does doctrine flex and bend to conform to the war that is being fought? What demands are made of units?

I think that the answer is yes, there are differences, but that many people draw the wrong conclusions about what is being modeled. Often, "poor" troops suffer more from their leadership than from individual fighting prowess. Also, the generalizations that can be made are not necessarily about the national character of the individual fighter. American soldiers in North Africa and American fighters at Okinawa are different in so many ways that I think the war itself is the defining factor more often than the national character of those fighting it.



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falloutfan wrote:
I think acclimitization is important.


I guess I agree... but how much of the military strength is technology, which could presumably just be handed to another people who would do just as well with it. Or training. Or leadership. Or morale.

You ask if there is something inherent in the Russian character that makes them tougher than peoples of other nations? I guess I don't agree. Are they better at surviving Russian winters because they have practice and are prepared? Sure. But if you gave the same practice and preparation to Indians, wouldn't they be able to do the same thing?

It seems that technology, morale, and leadership grossly outclass mere national character in any historical conflict to date. Is there some component of national specialization or advantage? I suppose. Does it matter? Not enough to bother with in most cases, I think.
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Jason Sadler
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When you cannot anticipate a units moves because they think warfighting different, it is impossible to get inside their OODA loop (in english: can't tell if they will zig or zag). Banzai Charges were probably very effective the first time they caught Marines with only 25% of their forces on firewatch. I bet the next time they Banzai charged, someone was waiting for them with a M2 and they executed a Final Protective Fire that left the barrels cherry red on all guns.

I think modeling a learning curve for forces would be a cool way to do business. The OCS system does this with some of the ANZACs in DAKII. They slowly become more effective as they train in the desert environment. Of course, this is easier at this eagle eye view of an operation than it would be in a game of Beyond Valor. This is modeled at the lower scale by the player learning his forces and (hopefully) beginning to use them in their best capacity.

falloutfan wrote:
ralpher wrote:
Answer: Stereotypical. The Japanese depicted by Clint Eastwood in Letters from Iwo Jima didn't appear to have a natural advantage to banzai attacks as depicted in games such as Code of Bushido: ASL Module 8 or Banzai.


Would you agree that they were culturally more prone to futile gestures such as Banzai charges? (Military culture) It's certain they didn't have an advantage, they got cut to pieces by machine guns just as readily as anyone else.



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I think the advantage of the fighter in his home region is largely impossible to quantify. Finns knew how to do things in the snow that allowed them to move faster, survive in vicious conditions, and do weird shit like piss on the snow in front of their rifles so that it would turn into ice and not kick up when the rifle was fired.

A lot of the Roman armies advantages were grounded in the fact that they could move very fast, under a heavy load, and still set up a camp at the end of the day. Doctrine made them the baddest army on the planet for years, but it is difficult to model this kind of advantage into a game that models only combat.

All the wars in Afghanistan reveal how amazingly resourceful, tough, and intelligent the locals are. Plunk down some M1A2 counters and a Marine Line Company on a map with some Mujahadeen fighters with Kalashnikovs and some crappy old RPGs and the game would show that the Marines can completely destroy them every time. To try to capture the local fighters advantages on the home turf, it would certainly be possible to increase the numbers on their counters to give them a fighting chance. This, however, doesn't reveal the ways in which these desert fighters can be so hugely frustrating in that space.

The fact that they choose to fight is possibly a national characteristic, maybe an ideological one, and maybe even a product of their religious beliefs. Their effectiveness as individual fighters is predicated on their doctrine (or lack thereof), a built in unit structure to their culture of tribalism, and other intangibles that would be very, very hard to model.

I think the GBoH system of games is good at illustrating the ways in which the military doctrines of different cultures may have interacted. This project is made easier by a distance in time that allows a more objective approach.

It is harder to enumerate the strengths and weaknesses of the fighting capability of warriors from cultures that are still extant because it can be a touchy subject. However, the focus on warfighting doctrine of various militaries, as opposed to inherent characteristic difference in the individual fighters gives a much better view of the kinds of things a commander may have been dealing with.

There is a rebuttal built into my own argument and I think it is interesting enough to bring up myself. It is easy to argue that national character defines military doctrine. If this is the case, it is easy to argue that the individual soldier, as a product of doctrine, is shaped by national character. I don't know how I would answer that.

cosine wrote:
falloutfan wrote:
I think acclimitization is important.


I guess I agree... but how much of the military strength is technology, which could presumably just be handed to another people who would do just as well with it. Or training. Or leadership. Or morale.

You ask if there is something inherent in the Russian character that makes them tougher than peoples of other nations? I guess I don't agree. Are they better at surviving Russian winters because they have practice and are prepared? Sure. But if you gave the same practice and preparation to Indians, wouldn't they be able to do the same thing?

It seems that technology, morale, and leadership grossly outclass mere national character in any historical conflict to date. Is there some component of national specialization or advantage? I suppose. Does it matter? Not enough to bother with in most cases, I think.
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Joseph
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BeatPosse wrote:

My serious answer....

...I think the war itself is the defining factor more often than the national character of those fighting it.


I think I can safely agree with everything you've written. Thanks for the insight!
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Joseph
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BeatPosse wrote:

There is a rebuttal built into my own argument and I think it is interesting enough to bring up myself. It is easy to argue that national character defines military doctrine. If this is the case, it is easy to argue that the individual soldier, as a product of doctrine, is shaped by national character. I don't know how I would answer that.



Maybe we can follow that line of thought a bit then. Japanese Military indoctrination taught them that they would be handled savagely if they had the misfortune of being captured by the Americans. While this was largely untrue, could we safely say that their beliefs led to national differences? Combining that with the belief that the Emperor was a god, and that death in battle was the highest calling for any warrior, perhaps we have the basis for modeling national differences.

There are two sides to this coin however. One side is recklessness, and the other is fanaticism. Recklessness may give you positive attack mods, but fanaticism certainly increases casualties. Surrender is a good thing when the only alternative is to die in your cave at the hands of a soldier with a flamethrower.

Grist for the conversational mill.

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Quote:
All the wars in Afghanistan reveal how amazingly resourceful, tough, and intelligent the locals are.


Back a decade ago or two I was doing some research on the Martini-Henry rifle, and remember reading somewhere an estimate that the Afghans had produced something like 3 times as many as the British themselves. I thought that perhaps a bit odd but went on. A few years later I was watching a documentary about the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and they showed Afghan tribesmen sitting in their little houses with crude forges making AK-47 copies. Resourceful indeed.
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