#RockyReads for #Wargame – C3i Magazine Nr. 34, @RBMStudio1, 2020

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If you’re buying C3i Magazine for only the feature game than you are missing out on a great deal of highly interesting wargame-related content. Even if you don’t own the subject game there is still plenty of useful content between the covers.

A Hobby Gem

We are very fortunate in the hobby wargame community to have the excellent gaming publication C3i Magazine from RBM Studios. Not only because every issue ships with a nice game (or two), but it also holds to a high editorial standard in the writing it prints.

What, you didn’t know that C3i Magazine has articles (gasp!) to read? Surely, you don’t just buy the magazine for the game, right? I hope you don’t because there is lots of wargaming goodness inside every issue.

Issue Nr. 34

From the Editor’s Desk (p.2) – Heads up from Rodger MacGowan on Deluxe versions of games. I’m looking at those C3i-themed dice because, uh, who doesn’t need a few more dice in their collection, right @ACDragoons? For our European gaming partners there is good news about Hexasim and their efforts to bring C3i Magazine across the pond in an affordable manner.

“Lessons Learned” by James Dunnigan (p. 4) – The Godfather of Wargaming gives us his thoughts on happenings in the commercial and professional wargaming worlds. Nice to read more about the history of our hobby and the profession of wargaming from somebody who has been in the business for 30 years…or longer.

“A Developer’s Look Back at 20 Years of the Great Battles of History” by Alan Ray (p. 10) – I personally own only one GBoH title, Samurai (currently on sale for $35), and don’t play it enough. I still found the article an interesting romp through the history of all the titles in the series. A few might even be adding to my wishlist….

“Infantry Tactics Behind Fields of Fire: Part 2 – Offensive Tactics” by Ben Hull (p. 14) – Another title I don’t own; nonetheless it was very interesting to read and see how the game system of Fields of Fire is used to portray infantry tactics. If I find a copy at a decent price I could be tempted….

“The Hunters: C3i Expansion Pack Nr 1” by Gregory M. Smith (p. 19) – Alas, I own another solitaire wargame by Greg Smith, Amerika Bomber: Evil Queen of the Skies (Compass Games, 2020) and not The Hunters. The background and rules for the Type XI U-cruiser are very interesting and makes me more curious about the base game. So this article and the attached insert goes into my “need the base game” collection.

“Battle of Agrigentum, 262 BC – C3i Renaissance Battle Scenario #3 for SPQR Deluxe” by Dan Fournie (p. 20) – Yes, another title I don’t own (and at $105 a bit too rich for my wallet) but the history article and playtesting and design notes that goes along with the scenario card in the magazine are excellent.

“Mark Herman’s Clio’s Corner, Nr 11 – Designing unbalanced games or how to create strategic surprise” by Mark Herman (p. 24) – If you want to be a wargame designer or, heck, if you just want to be a game designer you cannot go wrong reading Mr. Herman’s columns. Yeah, we all can’t put together a game design as often or as cleanly as Mark does, but we can read and get inspiration to design or even just understand a design better. Oh yeah, don’t we all wish we could be taught the mastercraft level of game design through something like Mark’s CBI Blitz? (If you are not an Empire of the Sun fan you may not know what that is but suffice it to say that if Mr. Herman runs the CBI Blitz on you then you have really arrived in the hobby).

“Undaunted: Normandy – Walking in the Footsteps of the US 30th Infantry Division” by David Thompson (p. 34) – This is a beautiful, in many ways intimate, look at the history of the U.S. 30th Infantry Division and the design of Undaunted: Normandy from Osprey Games. It is not often a gamer gets to honor their very own relatives like David was able to with his design. We are all fortunate he was able to retrace his grandfather’s step and give us a great wargame out of that experience.

“France 1944 – General Strategies, Objectives and Guidelines – Compass Games” by Judd Vance (p. 40) – Mr. Vance was the Game Developer for France 1944. Think about that a moment; a developer for a Mark Herman title! Again, I don’t own this game but reading the article revealed much of the thinking behind the game design to me. I may never play the game, but I still learned a bit of history and game design from this article.

“OCS – Wargaming with a Purpose” by Steve Carey with Peter Mogensen (p. 43) – Only in the past year have I gotten into the Standard Combat Series (SCS) from Multi-Man Publishing. I did purchase Operation Mercury last year which is part of the Grand Tactical Series. I’ll admit it, the physical scale of the game is intimidating daunting to me. After reading this article I may be encouraged to dig back into it…maybe.

“Harold Buchanan’s Snakes & Ladders, Mr 1 – Why do we play what we play?” by Harold Buchanan (p. 46) – I’ll admit it, this is actually the primary reason I purchased this issue of C3i Magazine. I had heard/read Harold mentioning his taxonomy of a player (his Historical Simulation Engagement Profile) on his podcast and maybe on a forum. I was ver curious. He asked for thoughts, and in the coming weeks you will probably see what I thought about this very interesting column. I was especially pleased to see that Mr. Patrick Carroll, who wrote an article 31 years ago that inspired Harold, was able to add his comments too.

I’ll admit it, this is actually the primary reason I purchased this issue of C3i Magazine.

RockyMountainNavy on Harold Buchanan’s Snakes & Ladders

“C3i Interveiw: Chad Jensen” by Sam Sheikh (p. 51) – Sadly, Chad Jensen passed from this world in 2019. This interview is a very nice and fitting tribute to a fine designer, husband, and father. I missed out on his Combat Commander titles but they rightfully occupy prominent positions on my wishlist.

“Opening Waterloo Strategy – Waterloo Campaign, 1815” by Mark Herman (p. 55) – Waterloo Campaign, 1815 was the feature game in C3i Magazine Nr. 33. If you have never heard or read Mark talk about his “distilling history to it’s essence” then you really are missing something. Both Waterloo Campaign, 1815 and Gettysburg (C3i Magazine Nr. 32) are real lessons in taking a huge topic and distilling it down to the bare bones to get an easy-to-learn and quick-to play wargame design that remains very engaging.

“Drop Zone: Southern France – Designer’s Notes” by Daniel Fournie (p. 60) – This game languished on the GMT P500 for a while with little movement. At the end of 2020 Dan announced that this game was moving to Worthington Publishing for release in 2021.

“Post Cold War: Making of Post-Cold War World Order” by VPJ Arponen (p. 66) – This article is basically the Designer’s Notes for the game Post Cold War. From the looks of it the game is a commercial wargame that has professional wargaming uses. Hmm….

Don’t Forget…

France 1944 Game Errata. A countersheet with 114 counters for Battle for Kursk (this issues feature game), 16 replacement counters for Issy Campaign (C3i Magazine Nr. 33), and counters for several more games.

…the Games!

Two complete games; Trevor Bender’s Battle for Kursk: The Tigers are Burning, 1943 and Firebase: Vietnam, a solitaire game by Pascal Toupy.

C3i Magazine Issue Nr. 34 is available direct from RBM Studios on the web though I have also bought issues through Amazon in the past.

#RockyReads for #Wargame – The Craft of Wargaming (Naval Institute Press, 2020)

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The title of this book, The Craft of Wargaming: A Detailed Planning Guide for Defense Planners and Analysts tells you exactly who this book is aimed at and who will get the most use out of it. This is a book for professional wargame practitioners, not casual wargamers.

Come Here, My Young Apprentice

The introduction of The Craft of Wargaming makes it quite clear what the authors goals are:

This book is designed to support defense planners and analysts on their journey from wargaming apprentices to journeymen in the craft of wargaming. Our focus is on providing those individuals a window into wargaming, which is part of their professional development. Despite the book’s focus on wargaming apprentices, we believe that professional wargamers, senior leaders, and all decisionmakers in government and industry will gain something from the principles covered in this book. Hopefully, these individuals will acquire new insights or wargaming techniques to augment their capabilities or simply a better understanding of what wargaming can do for them. Despite our focus on the Department of Defense (DoD), the topics covered in this book will apply to the whole of government and any groups or individuals wrestling to gain insights into complex or wicked problems. We also believe that hobby or commercial designers will find part II of the book, with its focus on designing the wargame, of particular interest int he design and development of their own wargames.

Introduction, p. 2

Analytical Wargame

If you are a hobby wargamer and pick up The Craft of Wargaming you may get lost. This book focuses on analytic (or analytical) wargames which are quite different from what many wargamers may may think when they hear the word “wargame.”

An analytic or analytical wargame focuses not on educating the players but on extracting knowledge or information from the game to support a sponsor who is seeking answers or insights to a particular problem. The primary products of an analytic wargame are the insights and findings that address the sponsor’s problem, usually communicated with a written analysis report. Planning wargames, many of which seek to assess different COAs [Courses of Action] as part of the U.S. Armed Forces’ formal planning process, are arguably the most important type of analytica wargames as they seek to identify risks and vulnerabilities, enabling the organization to produce viable, executable plans for future military operations.

Introduction, p. 6

Breaking it Down

Part I of The Craft of Wargaming cover the “Foundations.” Here are the necessary definitions and the obligatory “What is a wargame?” content along with the historical review.

Part II is more a “doer’s” section which gets into the mechanics of how to design and run an analytic wargame. Here the authors use a five-step process of Initiate-Design-Development-Conduct-Analysis. This is the section that the authors think has applicability to commercial wargame designers.

Part II covers more of the management of wargames and other wargame forms. There are sections covering Course of Action Wargaming and other “less structured” wargames (like the BOGGSAT – Bunch of Guys & Gals Sitting Around a Table). There is also a section on Educational and Experimental Wargames which is where the use of commercial hobby wargames for education comes up. The authors also have a section of Best and Worst Practices which further supports their “teaching an apprentice” approach.

Appendix 1-6 in The Craft of Wargaming is a practical exercise in developing a Matrix Game. It is literally a ready-made lesson plan showing the process of developing an analytic wargame from beginning to end. Appendix 4 is the “Wargaming Gateway Exam” that tests you on the content of the book! Appendix 5 includes eight case studies; I really want to see these designs! Appendix 6 is The Crisis of Zefra: A Matrix Game.

Useful for Wargamers?

If you are a defense planner or analyst who uses or is charged with wargaming then The Craft of Wargaming can be an invaluable resource, even a “bible” of wargaming in some respects.

If you are an educator, inside or outside the military and looking to teach wargame design, there is much of value in The Craft of Wargaming.

If you are a wargame designer, even commercial, the approach used in The Craft of Wargaming is probably worth studying.

If you are a commercial hobby wargame player, and especially if you are a historical conflict simulation/wargame player, then the Craft of Wargaming may be of limited value. If you are looking for a history of wargames the authors themselves recommend Matt Caffrey’s On Wargaming: How Wargames have Shaped History and How They May Shape the Future (Naval War College Press, 2019).

On Wargaming

Citation

Appleget, Jeff (Col., USA (Ret.), Col. Robert Burks (USA, Ret.) and Fred Cameron, The Craft of Wargaming: A Detailed Planning Guide for Defense Planners and Analysts, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2020.

Rocky Reads for #Wargame- China as a Twenty First Century Naval Power (Michael A. McDevitt, 2020)

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A very thorough analysis of the present capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy). This is perhaps the best single-source compilation of open source analysis on the PLA Navy presently available. Persuasively argues that the PLA Navy is a “blue-water” navy – today. Analytical breakdown offers many opportunities for wargaming.

Naval Institute Press, 2020

Not your father’s PLAN

How often do we hear about “China rising?” If you subscribe to that school of thought then you are in for a surprise if you read China as a Twenty First Century Naval Power: Theory, Practice, and Implications by Michael A. McDevitt, RADM, US Navy (Ret.). In this very recent (late 2020) publication from Naval Institute Press, RADM McDevitt argues that fifteen years of anti-piracy patrols has already made the PLA Navy the second most-capable naval power in the world. He further argues that the PLA Navy is well on track to be a true “world class navy” but 2035, a deadline set by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Rear Admiral McDevitt starts out with a discussion of where China’s maritime power ambitions come from. The sources he uses are nothing special; everything is publicly available (although some needed to be translated). This is good grist for wargame designers; understanding what China wants to do on the high seas supports good scenario design.

The second chapter, “Getting Started: Learning How to Operate Abroad” contains the core argument in the book. McDevitt shows how fifteen years of overseas anti-piracy patrols has directly contributed to the development of a highly professional and capable blue-water navy. For wargame designers this is a challenge; so often wargames looking at the PLA Navy seem to dig into the whole “China rising” meme and don’t acknowledge (or refuse to acknowledge) that the Chinese Navy is not “coming soon” but “already here” and far removed from a second-rate coastal defense force that couldn’t even deal with Vietnam.

The next several chapters are probably the best for wargame and scenario design. RADM McDevitt addresses area denial, anti-access and a Taiwan campaign, the South China Sea, and the Indian Ocean in turn. In each section he discusses the what the PLA Navy is charged with accomplishing and the doctrine and equipment they developed to meet the challenge. His discussion of equipment is particularly helpful for wargame designers as each piece of kit is evaluated against what its mission is. This evaluation is far more helpful than just comparing it to the US Navy. The breakdown by area also can be useful for scenario design, and if one puts it all together a larger campaign view is possible.

Pacific Trident III

This book is not the only writing on China’s navy that Rear Admiral McDeveitt delivered in the past year. In February 2020, RADM McDeveitt wrote the final report for the unclassified Tabletop Exercise (TTX) Pacific Trident III sponsored by the Sasakawa USA Foundation. The goal of Pacific Trident III was to explore challenges to the US-Japan and US-South Korea alliances. In that final report, RADM McDevitt foreshadowed some of what he was going to write in China as a Twenty First Century Naval Power. Like in his book, some of the policy recommendations from the TTX are good wargame fodder:

  • Recommendation 3: The United States should consider the merits and risks of adopting a position on the conflicting maritime claims in the South China Sea, persuade other countries to support this position, and develop diplomatic strategies as well as military contingency plans based on these positions (emphasis mine).
  • Recommendation 4: The United States should conduct a policy review of its responses to Chinese aggression against occupied or unoccupied features in the South China Sea. While the details of military actions should be classified, the United States should make it clear that treaty obligations would be invoked by aggression, and could under certain circumstances result in military intervention (again, emphasis mine).
  • Recommendation 6: Planning associated with US military options in support of the TRA [Taiwan Relations Act] recognize the requirement for a rapid expansion of consultative and cooperative mechanisms with Taipei.

Other Views

The Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) was kind enough to publish Toshi Yoshihara’s article, “China as a Composite Land-Sea Power: A Geostrategic Concept Revisited.” The article is adapted from a report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), Seizing on Weakness: Allied Strategy for Competing With China’s Globalizing Military. Yoshihara’s thoughts go hand-in-hand with McDevitt:

Imperial overreach is not as farfetched as one might assume, despite China’s impressive wealth creation over past decades. As a classic land-sea power, which faces the seas and shares contiguous borders with its neighbors, Beijing must always stay alert to threats in the continental and maritime domains. This inescapable two-front challenge imposes perpetual opportunity costs: every yuan spent on one area is one fewer yuan available for the other flank and vice versa. The trade-offs between its landward and seaward commitments could impose built-in limits on China’s global plans.  

Toshi Yoshihara, “China as a Composite Land-Sea Power: A Geostrategic Concept Revisited”

Rocky’s Thoughts

Best Value

Up-to-date capability assessment mixed with analysis of doctrine and mission.

Weakness

Read it now because the PLA Navy is growing so fast the data will be outdated sooner than later.

The PLA Navy from Office of Naval Intelligence (2015) – sorely out of date

Wargame Application

Harpoon V (Admiralty Trilogy Games, 2020)

The discussions in “Chapter Four – Area Denial” and “Chapter Five – Keeping the Americans Away: Anti-Access and the Taiwan Campaign” have lots of potential Harpoon V (Admiralty Trilogy Games, 2020) scenario material. One part in particular that struck me is RADM McDevitt’s assertion that the anti-access strategy doctrine of the PLA Navy is not too unlike the Soviet Union in the Atlantic during the Cold War. This made me immediately think about a 21st Century version of Dance of the Vampires, the Harpoon scenarios and campaign that Larry Bond and Tom Clancy used to support the writing of Clancy’s Red Storm Rising novel. It would be great to see a new 21st century version starring the PLA Navy!

Dance of the Vampires from Admiralty Trilogy Games

“Chapter Six – The PLA Navy and the South China Sea” is perfect update material for South China Sea (Compass Games, 2017). The same can be said for “Chapter Seven – The PLA Navy in the Indian Ocean” and the forthcoming release of Indian Ocean Region: South China Sea Vol. II (Compass Games, 2021).

A 21st Century VitP?

As I read China as a Twenty First Century Naval Power, I appreciated how RADM McDevitt broke down the problem geographically. At the same time, it made me realize that many (all?) modern naval wargames take that same approach. We have wargames on the invasion of Taiwan and confrontation in the South China Sea or Indian Ocean. We also have wargames that can deliver a very fine tactical simulation of a modern conflict. What is lacking (in the commercial hobby wargame space, at least) is a wargame that shows the entire campaign. What I’m thinking about here is something like a Victory in the Pacific-type of overview. Although McDevitt breaks the PLA Navy problem down into discrete geographic areas they are all interrelated: the flow of shipping in the Indian Ocean must travel through the South China Sea to get to the mainland. I can think of no commercial wargame that looks at rolling back the PLA Navy across the globe, or even across the Pacific. Just what is the Plan ORANGE wargame for the 21st century?

Victory in the Pacific (Avalon Hill, 1977)

Citation

McDevitt, Michael A., China as a Twenty First Century Naval Power: Theory, Practice, and Implications, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2020.


Feature image: 200818-N-KF697-3150 PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 18, 2020) Royal Brunei Navy Darussalam-class offshore patrol vessel KDB Darulehsan (OPV 07), Royal Canadian Navy ship HMCS Winnipeg (FFH 338), Republic of Singapore Navy Formidable-class frigate RSS Supreme (FFG 73) and Royal New Zealand Navy ship HMNZS Manawanui (A09) maneuver during a division tactics (DIVTACS) exercise during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC). Ten nations, 22 ships, one submarine, and more than 5,300 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from August 17 to 31 at sea around the Hawaiian Islands. RIMPAC is a biennial exercise designed to foster and sustain cooperative relationships, critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The exercise is a unique training platform designed to enhance interoperability and strategic maritime partnerships. RIMPAC 2020 is the 27th exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Isaak Martinez)

#RockyReads for #Wargame – Instruments of Darkness: The History of Electronic Warfare 1939-1945 by Alfred Price (Frontline Books, 2017)

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A good general history of electronic warfare in Europe during WWII that tells not only the technical advances but also the intelligence battle behind them. Efforts to expand the story into the Pacific feel incomplete and tacked on. Possibly a dated account; no references.

EW Past

My first assignment in the US Navy was with a Tactical Electronic Warfare aviation squadron – EA-6B Prowlers. Since then I have always had a soft-spot in my heart for the “Battle of the ‘Trons.” There is much talk in military circles these days about cyber warfare, but at the same time classic Electronic Warfare, EW, keeps coming up again. Somewhere I stumbled upon a recommendation for this book and put it on my wishlist. Christmas 2020 it arrived in the RockyMountainNavy home.

Instruments of Darkness: The History of Electronic Warfare 1939-1945 is a good, easy narrative to read. Although billed as account of EW in all of World War II, the book is clearly focused on Europe first. The Pacific parts feel very tacked on and incomplete. Instruments of Darkness is also in many ways an intelligence story. The “Battle of the Beams” was not only a see-saw battle of technical innovation and advancement vs countermeasures but also the story of the cat ‘n mouse battle between scientists and engineers and the airmen they served. In many ways this was the enjoyable surprise of Instruments of Darkness and is a good deal of the appeal the narrative delivers.

According to the front matter of the book, the original was first published in 1967, expanded in 1977, and revised in 2005. Although this edition was printed in 2017 it appears to be straight reprint of the 2005 version. The dating of Instruments of Darkness is important to me because it gets directly to the sources Dr. Price may have used. I say “may have” since the sources are unknown given there are no footnotes or endnotes (not even a References section). The Author’s Acknowledgments to the first edition (reproduced in this edition) credit several individuals and some official records. The end result is a book that appears most likely to be based on oral histories and declassified records of its day. With today being 2021 meaning more than 15 years past the 2005 “revision” I have to wonder what other information may be available.

Rocky’s Thoughts

Best Value

General history; intelligence angle.

Weakness

Possibly dated account; lack of references.

Wargame Application

Chapter 1 “Battle of the Beams” is, to the best of my knowledge, not really reflected in any Battle of Britain wargame. Later chapters covering the protection of bombers over Germany is likewise not depicted in any wargame I know own.

Citation

Price, Alfred, Instruments of Darkness: The History of Electronic Warfare 1939-1945, Yorkshire: Frontline Books, 2017.