Sunday, 29 May 2016

Zones of Control: A further progress report

I am still slowly reading my way through this book. I usually read books at quite a phenomenal rate, but so far each section and contribution in this book has given me something to think about, and in some cases I have felt compelled to re-read them before moving on to the next to ensure that I have fully understood what the writer was trying to communicate.

  • War Engines: Wargames as Systems from the Tabletop to the Computer by Henry Lowood
  • The Engine of Wargaming by Matthew B. Caffrey Jr.
  • Design for Effect: The “Common Language” of Advanced Squad Leader by J. R. Tracy
  • Combat Commander: Time to Throw Your Plan Away by John A. Foley
  • Empire of the Sun: The Next Evolution of the Card-Driven Game Engine by Mark Herman
  • The Paths of Glory Lead but to the Gaming Table by Ted S. Raicer
  • New Kind of History: The Culture of Wargame Scenario Design Communities by Troy Goodfellow
This section examined the development and use of what have become known as 'war engines'. In other words, the mechanisms or systems that drive the wargame along. Matthew B. Caffrey's contribution was extremely interesting in that regard, and provided an overview that I found easy to follow and which dealt with 'war engines' that I know something about. I did have concerns as I read J. R. Tracy's article that the chapter was going to become dominated by all things ASL, but once I began to read Mark Herman's contribution about card-driven systems I was reassured, and this was born out by what Ted S. Raicer wrote.

  • Operations Research, Systems Analysis, and Wargaming: Riding the Cycle of Research by Peter P. Perla
  • The Application of Statistical and Forensics Validation to Simulation Modeling in Wargames by Brien J. Miller
  • Goal-Driven Design and Napoleon’s Triumph by Rachel Simmons
  • Harpoon: An Original Serious Game by Don R. Gilman
  • The Development and Application of the Real-Time Air Power Wargame Simulation Modern Air Power by John Tiller and Catherine Cavagnaro
  • Red vs. Blue by Thomas C. Schelling
  • Hypergaming by Russell Vane
As one would expect, Peter Perla's contribution was succinct, informative, and well-written ... and I wish that it was more widely available than just through the pages of this book. Brien Miller's article may have a long title, but the content is an excellent exposition of the importance of validating the models one creates, and Rachel Simmons' explanation of the thinking that went into the design of Napoleon’s Triumph is one that will resonate with anyone who has every tried to design a wargame. Whilst I agree that Harpoon is a very good naval wargame, I'm not sure that it could be described as wholly 'original'.

The contents of Red vs. Blue resonated with me, and put me in mind of a wargame about the Cuban Missile Crisis that the Jockey's Field Irregulars played some years ago. The various teams were separated by a considerable distance (one team was in London and the other in Sheffield!), and had to communicate with each other and the umpires using texts or notes. When one is face-to-face with an opponent, one can 'read' their reaction, whereas when one has to do so by trying to read the subtext of their messages, miscalculations and misunderstandings don't so much creep in as hurtle in! Add in the additional problems of information and transmission delays, and one has a real cooking pot full of problems.

Russell Vance's Hypergaming describes Game Theory, what Hypergame Theory is, and then explains how it was applied to the First Gulf War. As such, it more than justifies the use of gaming to examine what one's enemy might do, why they might do it, and what the best counters to that would be.


  1. This book sounds more and more interesting with each report.

    1. Ross Mac,

      From what I have read so far, this book will be of great interest to anyone who wish to develop their understanding of wargame design at all levels, but especially for that growing band of academic and/or professional wargamers. As a result, I suspect that it will become one of the basic references used by academic and/or professional wargame designers.

      All the best,