Saturday, 8 October 2016

Professional grid game...

best game ever?

Ha, that's a loaded question! However, let's start at the beginning......

RAND Baltic game, hex grid overlay
I read with great interest the recent RAND organisation report on their Baltic wargame. Using lots of military types and what, to me, looks like a fairly standard NATO/Next War type game with 10km hexes, they have concluded that the Russians can overrun the Baltic states in 60 hours. Recommendation? Put in 7 brigades of additional troops including 3 armoured brigades as a deterrent. You can find the report here.

I mention the RAND game first because they have used a mix of a standard boardgame with little cardboard units that we are all familiar with in a combination with current military experience. The report is good, the concepts are great and the recommendations are probably very sound. Also, if you are interested in current developments in the east, their report is a great basis for some Cold War Commander battles.

According to Paxsims (one of my favourite sites): 
“full documentation of the gaming platform will be forth-coming in a subsequent report.” 
That will be very cool, can't wait.

The reason for mentioning this first is that RAND have been doing military analytics for at least 50 years, if not more, and they know what they are doing. The Baltic stuff is top notch. However, I have now found something that looks and feels like a major step forward. This is C-WAM!

Turkish M60s on the Iraqi border
The US Army have developed their own wargame, it is a map based game using a grid and counters. I don't have any pictures but General Dynamics IT have used the Freedom of Information Act in the US to get a copy of the rules. I have read them and, in my opinion, they are brilliant.

"Oh, alright, I surrender then!"
You can find the whole story here but, essentially, C-WAM (Centre for Army Analytics- Wargame Analysis Model) is a paper and dice based game. While its outputs are fed into a major IT system (Joint Integrated Contingency Model - big campaign management system), it is a battle simulation system that can be used in a very simple way (although you don't seem to be allowed just to do stuff unsupervised in the US Army!).

TOW: Great BBQ starter!
You can find a link to the rules here. I highly recommend reading them, Any experienced board or figure wargamer will feel very comfortable with the concepts. Just to convey some of these:

  • They use a square grid on a map;
  • Squares are 1 by 1 inch;
  • All units that take up space are represented on the map;
  • A grid square represents the area a brigade would occupy when deployed defensively;
  • Time scale is one or three day turns;
  • Squares may represent different sized areas depending on predominant terrain in the combat area e.g. 5km in rolling terrain;
  • Units are brigades;
  • Weather effects are very important, this is the first phase in a turn;
  • Cyber/Space/EW effects are included, you might be successful in dealing in a turn with information attacks and attacks on your space assets (satellites) but you may suffer degradation of in electronic warfare terms;
  • Intel/Surveillance/Recce effects are merged into a targeting value, if you are moving in a J-STARs area you are detected! Otherwise you are detected it there is a targeting value success. Special forces are primarily an information gathering/targeting device!
  • Deep strike bombardments (ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, air packages), atmosphere penetrators (oooer missus);
  • Integrated air defense system "gates" and air to air combat;
  • Forward Area Logistical Supportability: supply to you and me;
  • A major naval warfare sub-system (not useful in the desert but...);
  • Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration (RSOI) Operations: reinforcements anyone?
  • Manoeuvre and stacking (that would be "battlespace limitations"!);
  • Force Multiplier Combat Values: artillery support;
  • Ground force combat with tables and die rolls!

Syrian forces exposing themselves to ISR detection
It says in the rules that they are not to be used without appropriate support. I agree. They are not a complete set on their own but, rather, a tool kit that needs to be carefully managed.

Are they the best game ever? No, but they are such a major insight into real-world wargaming and current US doctrine that they are extremely important. if you don't wear green pyjamas, reading these rules is the closest you will get to the smell of gunpowder. Oh, by the way, they use a square grid, how interesting is that! 


Duc de Gobin said...

Great post and some VERY useful links there.

It seems that cold war wargaming is back on the menu...(for the worst reasons)...

Norm said...

Very interesting, there is surprisingly little 'conversation' about the cross-over between military and domestic wargaming.

I need to back as far as 1980 to recall when such link was openly aired and this was when SPI brought out Firefight (which had largely white maps an masses of open expanse, though the top down view of the units looked good). I can't remember which way around it was, but either the US army bought the game in big numbers from the 'domestic market' or the US army commissioned the print and the domestic market got the 'print overrun'.

Thought Firefight was a hex based game, perhaps square grids are a more natural way for the forces to relate to simulation due to their involvement with maps and co-ordinates.

I do hope the army don't make wargaming cool ...... I have a reputation to maintain :-)

Mike said...

There are a number of professional wargames here:


Old Trousers said...

Hi Guys,

Thanks for your comments. What I found interesting was how close C-WAM looks to a commercial wargame. If GMT brought out something like this I would not be surprised. While Firefight was the first close military/civilian collaboration, it seemed to fail commercially because the military requirements (weapons effectiveness at range) didn't look right to us (armchair types that is!). C-WAM looks good to me as an average wargame punter and, I suppose, the US army, so that's a first.

Thanks for the reminder Mike about John Curry's site. I think it proves that C-WAM is the first professional game to look like a commercial game. The military are catching up with us! Only joking, C-WAM looks very cutting edge military, makes us look cool tho Norm!