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Subject: Operational Art of War and gaming situations rss

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Kev.
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this thread got me thinking...I know rare but always amusing.

What does the term Operational Art of War mean to you in the following context:

1. Versus Classical Strategy
2. As a wargame relates to strategy

It seems that the above thread and the recent thread on "Meta Gaming" have some value to be explored in conjunction.

I think one of the reasons that for instance the Eastern Front of WWII is as interesting as it is, at a strategic level is, due to the Soviet development away from Clausewitz style strategy of annihilation.
Obvious?
Yes?
Represented in wargames and victory conditions?
Sometimes.
I'd like to expand upon this momentary nugget....but it appears I am being summoned to familial duties.

I wanted to share this thought with you before it was swept away in rule book clauses and sleep.

Love to hear what you think. More on Friday once I return.
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Kev.
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One of the great practitioners of the Operational Art of War.

http://www.warhistoryonline.com/featured-article/the-greates...
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Eric Walters
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"...the art of manoeuvering armies...an art which none may master by the light of nature. but to which, if he is to attain success, a man must serve a long apprenticeship." -- G.F.R. Henderson
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Hipshot,

This is a pretty complex question. So I'm going to try to deal with this a little bit at a time:

Quote:
What does the term Operational Art of War mean to you in the following context:

1. Versus Classical Strategy
2. As a wargame relates to strategy

It seems that the above thread and the recent thread on "Meta Gaming" have some value to be explored in conjunction


First of all, the Operational Level of War is a realm for action and the Operational Art is how you conduct that action. Operational Art--or "Campaigning" (which is how I prefer to think about it)--really is about deciding when, where, and why to have battles and when not, where not, and why not to fight battles. There's an element of freedom of action that underlies this...and this often translates into logistical questions as well just the combat capability of the units involved. Another leitmotif is how fast you can campaign compared to your opponent, and whether or not the situation rewards that kind of speed (or will turn it into a disadvantage, "tortoise versus hare" style (the Germans in Russia, 1941, comes to mind).

Military Strategy sets the Strategic Aim and provides the means (forces) and ways (deployment/employment) parameters. Hopefully these are not out of balance.

Operational Art/Campaigning translates these into objectives and actions across the theater of operations.

Quote:
I think one of the reasons that for instance the Eastern Front of WWII is as interesting as it is, at a strategic level is, due to the Soviet development away from Clausewitz style strategy of annihilation.


Not sure I'm following here. I don't see "the Soviet development away from Clausewitz style strategy of annihilation"--if anything, the Soviet development in 1944-5 becomes much the same as the Germans in 1941-2...a strategy of annihilation. The Germans intended in 1941 to achieve a decision in a single battle on the borderlands/frontier; in 1942 through taking the oil in the Caucasus (or winning at Stalingrad, take your pick). The Soviets intended to achieve a decision in OPERATION BAGRATION (and they arguably did--the rest was anticlimactic after that) in 1944. If you don't buy that, then the final drive to Berlin certainly did the trick.

Quote:
Represented in wargames and victory conditions?
Sometimes.


For me, Operational Art in wargaming has always been one of the strengths of the genre. Even the earliest titles, such as Afrika Korps, were all about choosing when, where, and why to conduct battles...and--of course--when not to, where not to, and why not to (usually because of odds in the short term and logistics in the long term). Strategic aims are set in victory conditions (sometimes translated into operational objectives for the players, but the best games let you develop your own).

Some might argue with this characterization; after all, aren't we doing much the same thing at the tactical level? Deciding which units/weapons systems will engage their opposite numbers, figuring out the sequencing and rationale for fire, maneuver, and shock? And decide what threats to avoid or just maintain potential threats instead of mounting actual ones? Well there are some "fractal" similarities in the art of war applied at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.

But to me, tactical games are best when there is a very high degree of unpredictability and uncertainty due to the very nature of this level of war. The best operational level games have unpredictability and uncertainty due less to the nature of warfare at that scale and more due to the richness of the situation/options available to both players. It's what makes operational-level games "operational"...you don't win by just fighting one decisive battle or a couple/few key battles in a campaign...it's using all sorts of tactical actions to get you the final victory (and often leveraging purely local defeats to do it at times).

We tend to judge tactical games on the "feeling" of unpredictability and uncertainty through game mechanics (e.g., double-blind devices, dummy units, weapons breaking down, random unit performance/proficiency, morale, etc.). In the best operational games, it's generally the situation--less the game techniques--that provide these. There are, of course, exceptions to that generalization, but players I know tend to think less of games where game chrome and/or devices tend to rob them of the illusion of coming up with a solid operational design and improvisational skill in executing it. They want to feel like they are fighting the opponent's plan and his ability to improvise.

Tactical games typically are prized for the narrative they produce out of the heavy doses of friction and fog. Operational games are prized for the mental and immersive experience they give the players in problem solving...and insights into the problems their historical commanders and staffs had to deal with.

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Eric Walters
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hipshot wrote:

One of the great practitioners of the Operational Art of War.

http://www.warhistoryonline.com/featured-article/the-greates...


There's little doubt of that (even despite OPERATION MARS). But I think there are others who are even less credited, if not less well known.

I always thought's Ike's finest moment as an operational artist was in pressing for (and getting) ANVIL-DRAGOON staged despite serious British attempts to cancel it. His arguments for the operation are marvelous in their clarity, forcefulness, and iron-clad logic in translating strategic ends, ways, and means into operational-level objectives and conceptions.

Alexander Patch's conduct of the subsequent campaign is also one of the most noteworthy, in my book. Few know who he was.

The Union Tullahoma Campaign in the 19th Century was simply masterful and William Rosecrans is at last getting some long overdue appreciation for that which his reputation never really enjoyed before. All we remember "Rosie" for now is losing at Chickamauga.

But I think it's Bill Slim who is the most under-appreciated operational artist of the 20th Century. The CBI never had a priority for resources and yet he was able to pull a rabbit out of that hat time and time again, even in the face of near-certain disaster. He did an amazing job of deciding when, where, and why to fight and when, where, and why not to.

It would be interesting to hear about whom other BGG posters think are masters of operational art but whose names are relatively obscure, at least in the popular history sense.



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Kev.
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Eric,
I guess the point I was trying to make was perhaps from an ill informed perspective, so let me clarify, and firstly agree with your points.

Let me explain what I think I read about and the images it formed in my brain as to the differences in the 2 models and how games represent them.

I had read that Classic Strategy, like that used in Ancient times thru really the end of the 18th Century had not really changed that much. Military strategy usually boiled down to a strategy of the single point. Greek States at Marathon, Alexander’s Issus, Caesar’s Pharsalus, Napoleon’s Austerlitz etc.

In essence bring more and or better men to battle and defeat the enemy. Or perhaps there was a period of asymmetry due to weapons or formations or tactics, but barring that it was a significant battle at a single point in time and by the time of Napoleon it was the concept of annihilation of that enemy force.

I thought that Clausewitz and Jomini wrote and defined Modern Classical Strategy as just that: destruction, “concentrated war” and import of ‘decisive strategic points.’ Driving your enemy to engage you as you threaten their key decisive points or your primary objective. Allowing the decisive battle to be had that effectively ends a war.

Whilst The Axis struck across a broad front in '41 it was not a battle of annihilation so much as it was a series of linked key objectives driven around isolation of the enemy and capture of key locations.

This means that the enemy must be maneuvered or your forces maneuvered for positional advantage, so as to allow the decisive fight. Which boils down to:

Classical Strategy for Dummies is then reduced to the following:
a. The battle of annihilation is the ideal model for warfare.
b. The enemy forces are found, located at a decisive point or center of gravity
c. The concentration of forces at a single point in time and space
d. Movement for positional advantage over the enemy

What I was trying to understand was the concepts of Operational Art of War and how games apply them. As other armies copied Nappy, he lost his edge and well eventually met his Waterloo in 1815.

By 1865 the American Civil War had generated new thinking. With most armies having perfected this Classical Strategy, war became truly symmetrical. Thus attrition war was based as both sides grinding on each other.

Prussia made early strides using the concept of distributed forces, encirclement etc. In the USA Grant realized that the war of attrition would destroy the country, and his application of the concept of Operational Art was a true innovation in its time from what I have read.

But what was it? And how was it different from Classical Strategy?

Deep, distributed forces co ordinated across the theater of war were used not for location based advantage but to retain,/obtain freedom of action (as you mention) against the enemy forces by Grant.

Unfortunately I am not a student of the ACW, so I cant comment on the veracity of the next statement but apparently the Wilderness War campaign was a classic example of this. Grant and Sherman were coordinated conflict wide and had driven the Confederates to eventually converge in the Carolinas to be defeated.

The Industrial revolution aided this, rail, telegraph etc etc. Grant was therefore the first modern practitioner of the Operational Art of War.

My comment about the Soviets harks back to their efforts to modernize post WWI. A Russian dude, Svechin (sp?) wrote a book called Strategy in the 30’s I think. This was a major departure from Classical Strategy and leveraged experiences from the Russo Japanese war and his study of Napoleonic era fighting.

Svechin and other writers and Generals came to the conclusion that defeating an army in a single battle was no longer possible. WWI had shown everyone that.

Some new method was required. Triandafillov (sp) a follower of Svechin’s work came up with practical applications for the Soviet army. It was however Zhukov who applied them to great effect.

Those concepts were similar to Grant – deep penetration of the enemy to unbalance, and destroy their ability to hold territory, fight effectively and counter the enemies moves.

Initially this type of fighting used massed artillery to penetrate/suppress the line, exploit, then destroy in detail. The concept of the Shock Army came from this some say.

Operational Art would have forces converging along separate axes, penetration of defenses in depth via exploitation as core expressions of the Art. It would have distributed objectives all supplied carefully and kept in constant contact in a tight OODA loop. These maneuvers were all part of a linked series of battles versus the single point battle of Classical Strategy.

So the Operational Art of War for Dummies for me looks like this:

a. Your operations are distributed
b. Your campaign is distributed
c. You have continuous logistics
d. Sophisticated C&C
e. Operational Vision - clear understanding of objectives, targets and goals
f. Distributed Deployment

I think many games such as you mention bring some of these elements to the table inherently. Others add additional layers. When I look at the larger games I am currently exploring there is much to be gained from thinking in Op Art terms versus Classical.

This was driven home for me by playing OCS’s GBII, and to a lesser extent reflecting upon past games of The Russian Campaign.

In both cases the games rewarded, enabled and made possible the distributed operations and grander sweep of strategy that is the modern operational mode.

Tentative Turn 1,2,3 play of a 14 turn scenario in Guderians Blitzkrieg II (GBII) left me wondering how I could win as the Axis player in GBII. Kind advisers showed the way. My perspective was too limited! I was seeking the destruction of forces in front of me, in a linear fashion.

Where as I could be, and should be much bolder. Identifying key locations that served as a hub of supply provided access to high-speed transport and limited reinforcements movement. I was striking literally 50 miles short of where I could!

A true distributed strategy. The rest of the forces at the Axis disposal were to support the Schwerpunkt, the bold movement, the follow up supply and keep Soviet forces pinned in place elsewhere.

My revised turn one would have Grant smiling. I could for the first time appreciate the difference is approach the value of that approach and the historical ‘feel’ of that approach.

I paused and thought back to TRC (The Russian Campaign), it too provided both sides at certain times the ability to play the Operational Art of War strategy, versus the Classical mode.

Encircling, isolating and pocketing large pockets of forces via deep drives to key objectives. Not seeking the killer blow, but opening the way for decisive victory via the 6 principles above.

It has been enlightening to me, to re read some of this and to pull threads out as I play various new systems at a higher scale than tactical.

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