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Subject: What's a REAL wargame like? rss

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jumbit
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I've often heard of "sand table" wargames performed in the military. I can't find the rules anywhere on BGG. What are they like? How do you play? How are combats resolved, movement allowances calculated, and so on? Are they of any recreational value, or merely yet another form of training?
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Enrico Viglino
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A lot of the early wargames were refereed.

I know the Japanese did wargaming that way -
I think there was some form of randomization though.
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z morgan
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As a currently serving Soldier, I can tell you that they are used mostly for briefing purposes (on the unit level). I'm sure they "wargame" at the upper echelons though (i.e. the Pentagon). Sandtables at the tactical level give leaders a way to move their elements around a 3D battlefield to explain their plan to subordinate leaders and Soldiers. So to answer your question, no real "rule set" per se, beyond Army doctrine and the rule of thumb for guessing what the enemy will do: "What is the enemy's most dangerous course of action, and what is their most probable course of action?" Incidentally, I use that principle in boardgames to pretty good effect.

As far as the high-level wargaming, I wish my books weren't all boxed up for my move because I have one from my father-in-law (who retired from the submarine force) about how those work. When I can get to it, I'll post the title.
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jumbit
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What does it look like when set up? Are there miniature tanks and so forth? Does the table actually have piles of sand on it?
 
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Charles Vasey
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jumbit wrote:
I've often heard of "sand table" wargames performed in the military. I can't find the rules anywhere on BGG. What are they like? How do you play? How are combats resolved, movement allowances calculated, and so on? Are they of any recreational value, or merely yet another form of training?


Called TEWTs in the British Army back then (Tactical Exercises Without Troops); according to John Masters in BUGLES AND A TIGER the young subaltern would be shown a problem and asked to give his response. It would then be criticised by the senior officer present. There were no rules just the appreciation of inexperience and experience. You can see a variety of this in Swinton's book THE DEFENCE OF DUFFER'S DRIFT where you are cast as a young officer in the Boer War defending an outpost.
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Paolo Robino
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jumbit wrote:
I've often heard of "sand table" wargames performed in the military. I can't find the rules anywhere on BGG. What are they like? How do you play? How are combats resolved, movement allowances calculated, and so on? Are they of any recreational value, or merely yet another form of training?

Some entries to consider:
The British Army Tactical Wargame (1956)
Dunn-Kempf Battle Guide to Simulation
Tacspiel: The American Army's War Game of the Vietnam War
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Hilary Hartman
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As a US Army combat engineer, I took part in "wargames" in the field. It would be interesting to see how the hypothetical versions played out at HQ, as I know several times when our unit achieved its objective (as did the battalion) the "enemy" seemed very surprised.

Take care,
Hil
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Neal Durando
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Depends on the echelon and kind of exercise. I've worked in DIV and BDE CPs and those wargames are all about teamwork, dealing with input efficiently, and cutting good orders on time. When I first attended, I was surprised about how much teamwork is necessary. My observation about civilian wargames is that, with few exceptions, they allow you to plug into a game narrative at several different echelons. Military decision-making is less about brilliance than about bringing decisive force at the right moment. Commanders, in my experience, don't run nearly the same risks as civilian gamers do. They proceed from as much certainty as their staff can muster.

How do they do it in China, Jumbit?
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Neal Durando
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tc237 wrote:




Awesome green laser pointer! (Mission essential equipment).
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jumbit wrote:
What does it look like when set up? Are there miniature tanks and so forth? Does the table actually have piles of sand on it?


Originally they were used by the military as planning models. After WW2 some gamers went on to put sandtables in wargames rooms to model terrain and used miniatures on them. You need a stout table to carry the weight of the sand and it is rarely used these days as they are not very portable and require dedicated space. I have only seen one such table, long ago, in 40 years gaming. You can use any set of rules and figures you choose.
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Bill Eldard
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jumbit wrote:
I've often heard of "sand table" wargames performed in the military. I can't find the rules anywhere on BGG. What are they like? How do you play? How are combats resolved, movement allowances calculated, and so on? Are they of any recreational value, or merely yet another form of training?


My info is a little dated, but here's what I know . . .

Contemporary wargames in the US armed forces are mostly computer-based. They can be played at the at the strategic, operational, or tactical levels.

Field "wargames" are what might more properly be manuevers, in which commands practice the art of manuevering troops, coordinating logistics, testing communications, etc. Most are heavily scripted to fit within a specific period of time available. They not only require a lot of space, but they consume a lot of resources, and require a lot of data collection -- very manpower intensive.

Computer wargames are much less expensive, and teams can play multiple games simultaneously and remotely.

There are some exceptions, mainly at the tactical level. For example, at the National Training Center (NTC), Ft. Erwin, California, Army combat units are tested and evaluated in their performance against an opposition forced (OPFOR). Outside of NTC, small units may also get some "real" wargame training to maintain readiness.

Air and naval forces do similar training.

Tactical pilots, for example, have had access to computerized "trainers" for over 30 years, where the pilot (or aircrew) sit in cockpit simliar to their aircraft's, and "fly" missions.

Naval personnel have had similar tools since at least the early '90s.
One "game" the US Navy had for years was named NAVTAG -- primitive by today's standards, but functional. It was a computer game available on each ship, with data classified as high as SECRET in it -- sort of like an upscaled Harpoon. Players could play set scenarios, or create their own scenarios. The purpose was to hone the tactical thinking and creativity of both officers and enlisted personnel.

If you consider some of the commerical computer games available today, you can imagine similar and better games available to the US military.

Sand tables may still be used for planning and briefings, but computer simulations are getting so much better that I would expect sand tables to be rare.
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Wendell
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US Naval War College has a War Gaming Department. Couple of links below if you're interested.

http://www.usnwc.edu/Research---Gaming/War-Gaming.aspx

http://www.usnwc.edu/Research---Gaming/War-Gaming/Documents/...
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jumbit
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Defense Linguistics wrote:
How do they do it in China, Jumbit?

Ha! Like I would know? angry Anything remotely military is a national secret. The headquarters of the East Sea Fleet is outside the city about 20 minutes, located on a popular resort lake. It's not marked on any map, and indeed many people don't even know it's there. I know several foreigners who blundered onto it by accident, and all of them were detained and questioned, and had to send someone home to get their passports before being released. There are no signs, barricades, armed guards, etc. You're just speeding along the road when all the sudden these guys with guns jump out from the trees and stop you. There was a big brouhaha a few years back when they caught a Japanese "spy" red-handed attempting to "infiltrate" the base. His James Bond car? A taxi. His super-secret spy gadgets? A camera and a notepad were found among his possessions. There was an uproar and he was expelled from the country.
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Byron Collins
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Very cool photos TC, thanks for the post.
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David Dixon
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TC is right on.

A sandtable "game" is used to rehearse action and reaction, to synchronize movements across time and space, and to ensure that everyone has an understanding of what is going on where and when across the battlefield.

We use them frequently before missions and operations, and they are used at every level, from Division (and probably Corps, but I've never sat in on a Corps OPORD to know) to platoon.

The enemy's actions are usually "gamed" by the S2 (intelligence officer) or an assistant S3 (operations officer), but stay within a tight set of parameters--usually what has already been evaluated to be what we call the enemy MLCOA or MDCOA (most likely course of action) or (most dangerous course of action).

Overall, these are rehearsals of the plan, not evaluations or course of action development steps.

Diis
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Robert Stuart
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Defense Linguistics wrote:
Military decision-making is less about brilliance than about bringing decisive force at the right moment.


Isn't that what brilliance is?
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Christopher KrackerJack
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I think there is a lot of confusion of terms here.

A sand table can be any terrain model. They can be used for wargames, rehearsals, briefs, ROC (rehearsal of Concept) drills, etc.

A wargame can mean several things in the military:

As part of the tactical planning process, a wargame is used to test a COA (course of action) to help a commander determine which course he prefers and to refine and improve a COA.

Wargames are also conducted to test new operating concepts against real world problems. Gen Van Riper's famous sinking of the US Navy is a good example.

Wargames are routinely conducted in conjunction with the development of operational plans, similar to tactical wargaming but of much larger scope.

Wargames are used as training tools for young officers and mall unit leaders.

Wargames can involve a few people looking at a map or large formations conducting operations in the field.

Generally a "sand table wargame" is a training tool for young officers conducted around an actual table filled with sand molded to match a specific terrain. Paper cards with unit symbols are usually used to represent units.

The term "sand table wargame" is often extended to mean any wargame conducted with a terrain model. When we used to do CAX's, we would spend a few days conducting a wargame over a huge terrain model with plastic troops arrayed on the board. Calls for fire (including air) were resolved with a laser shot onto the requested grid to determine a hit. We called these "sand tables," but they were officially CAST (Combined Arms Simulation Trainers). I know the Marines have these at Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton as well as 29 Palms.

So, to answer the OP in the longest winded way possible, sand table wargames are conducted differently depending on their purpose and scope.

Also they are not as much fun as commercial wargames. They are actually extremely stressful, long, and the outcomes are usually known in advance.
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Jason Sadler
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KrackerJack wrote:
Also they are not as much fun as commercial wargames.


This is an extreme understatement.
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Colin Hunter
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Wargames Rules 1950-2000 was used by the US and several other armies for training purposes. There may even eventually be a new edition for that purpose as well. For the record it isn't that far off something like TCS, but at squad/fireteam level and with miniatures.
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